Tuesday, September 1, 2009

County staff has ideas for Botanic Garden plan


September 1, 2009 6:56 AM

Development of a plan for rehabilitation at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is set to go before the County Planning Commission at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the County Engineering building. The commission will receive a handful of recommendations from planning and development staff that differ from proposals submitted by garden officials.

The Santa Barbara Garden Vital Mission Plan was developed after the Jesusita Fire scorched 60 of the garden's 73 acres, and several elements of the plan have sparked disagreement.

The mission plan proposes to move the garden's cottage outside of garden boundaries; however, Planning and Development recommends that the cottage stay within the garden because an environmental impact report shows that removing it would have a "significant impact."

Planning and Development also suggests that paving in the garden be limited to a ten percent increase, although the mission plan recommends that pavers be installed on all existing trails.

The rationale behind the contradicted recommendation is that pavers are not necessary to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and paving every trail would represent a significant impact to the garden's historic design landscape.

The mission plan suggests constructing an all-weather six-foot wide Cavalli path with vertical retaining walls.

Planning and Development recommends this path be narrower and unpaved with no vertical retaining wall because the Mission Canyon Area Specific Plan prohibits development on 30 percent slopes unless it precludes a reasonable use of property. Furthermore, Planning and Development reasons that its recommendation fits better with the natural topography.

The mission plan also proposes the construction of a Cavalli residence and office with a private septic or public sewer system, while Planning and Development recommends only the public sewer system, citing compliance with the annual Environment, Health and Safety report.

The two entities disagree on parking pullouts as well, as the mission plan proposes constructing two parking pullouts along the Gane House driveway, and Planning and Development recommends pullouts be designed to avoid 30 percent slopes, again referring to the Mission Canyon Area Specific Plan.

The mission plan also suggests increasing the number of fundraisers in the garden, the number of private parties, the number of classes and the attendance for lecture series.

Conversely, Planning and Development recommends that none of these things be increased; pointedly, part of the reasoning behind this recommendation is that keeping these events at their current limit will reduce impacts related to fire hazards.

In August, the County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission was presented with the mission plan and made recommendations of its own, including that there be no paving of trails in the garden, calling such an action "completely incompatible with the naturalistic trails that have been an important character-defining feature of the garden throughout its history and... a substantial deviation from the historic landscape design concept of the garden."

At that meeting, public commenters spoke out against the construction of new buildings in the garden.

Marc Chytilo said that "new buildings do not belong in the landmark," and Paulina Conn said she agrees and finds the new buildings "very, very massive."

Planning and Development staff will be present at the meeting to respond to questions and comments from the Planning Commission as well as members of the public.

1 comment:

  1. The Vital Mission Plan was not developed in response to the Jesusita Fire. It has been underway for many years. The Botanic Garden has spent between $4 and $6 million on various iterations of the plan over the years (the figures vary depending on who you talk to). So far it has been a nearly complete waste of money in the opinions of many who are involved with the process.