SYVA Urges Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to Oppose Latest Mattei’s Tavern Development Plan

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will be considering the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern development project at its hearing of Dec. 19th. Although Mattei’s Tavern itself is now a County Historic Landmark, there remain many reasons why the development project should not be approved as currently proposed. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) identifies some of these reasons and includes many concerns expressed by members of the public regarding safety, access, traffic, noise, visual impacts, groundwater contamination, and historic preservation.

[NOTE: Reader's may read the entire text of the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance's 15-page December 11, 2012 brief to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission by clicking here.]

[Link to simulated photos of proposed project, prepared by Ron Stevens Interacta, Inc., 28 March 2011; 6.8 Mb]

Many commenters pointed out the danger of the Hwy. 154 / Grand Ave. intersection and the hazard of adding more traffic to the location of so many accidents and fatalities. The intersection has an accident rate twice the statewide average for similar intersections. The conflicting turning movements of the adjacent Grand Ave. / Railway Ave intersection, which will undoubtedly be used by much of the project’s traffic, multiplies the problem. The project proposes no improvements or changes to either intersection.

Many residents use the Hwy. 154 / Calkins Rd. connection to Railway Ave. to cross, exit or enter the state expressway due to better sight distance. The project now proposes to leave this access point open, but driving through the project’s parking lot on an easement smaller than the existing road will undoubtedly discourage and impede the public’s use of it.

Caltrans has expressed “concern about this proposed project and the SR 154 / Calkins intersection. It is Caltrans’ perspective that if the intersection is to remain open, the project should be conditioned to improve the intersection by adding left turn channelization or two-way left turn striping…” Despite a higher than average accident rate and Caltrans’ concerns, no improvements are proposed.

Caltrans has also questioned the allocation of traffic and the threshold of significance (used to evaluate impacts) for the state highway, used in the project’s traffic study.

The project proposes to install an onsite wastewater treatment system in a Special Problems Area although the County is proposing a community wastewater treatment system for Los Olivos. The project proposes to connect to the community system if and when it is constructed.

Residents have pointed out that the projected wastewater flows the system is based on, are unrealistically low. The average flow is estimated to be only 19% more than the existing restaurant and cottages, even though the new restaurant will be expanded and a 64-unit hotel and spa developed. Despite the lowballed flow rate the proposed system will exceed the recommended nitrogen discharge flow rate established by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Basin Plan.

The project proposes to triple the development on site, for a total of almost 50,000 sq. ft. and add twenty-one new structures. The project’s location alongside a scenic highway and at a gateway to Los Olivos, supports the FEIR’s determination that the visual impacts of the project will be dramatic.

“The project’s contribution to the transformation of the (community’s) visual character is considerable. Therefore, the cumulative impacts associated with visual effects on visual character would be significant and unavoidable (Class I).”

The FEIR concludes that a reduced density version of the project would have fewer impacts and would be the “Environmentally Superior Alternative.”

The project assumes the abandonment of 11/2 acres of public right of way (most on Railway Ave.) that will be dedicated to project parking, access, construction and wastewater disposal. Considering Los Olivos’s ever-expanding parking problem, increasing traffic, and the hazard posed by the limited number of safe Hwy. 154 access points, it would be foolhardy for the County to abandon all of Railway Avenue.

Citizens who believe public safety and public health should be considered before private profits, should attend the Planning Commission hearing or write the commissioners. E-mail can be directed to SB County Planning Commission, c/o David Villalobos – dvillalo@co.santa-barbara.ca.us

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