County Considers Westmont Master Plan

An updated campus master plan for Westmont College is under consideration by Santa Barbara County planning officials, who have determined that the plan will not cause significant environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated.

The first public hearing on the plan was held July 23 at El Montecito Presbyterian Church in Montecito. More than 80 people attended the hearing, where Westmont and planning officials outlined the plan in detail. A number of neighbors expressed concerns about impacts such as potentially obstructed views and increased traffic on area roads. County planners explained that all of the potentially significant impacts were mitigatable. In other words, there are steps the college can and will take to resolve the concerns.

The revised master plan has been in development for nearly seven years and is integral to Westmont’s long-term plans to complete its campus. The proposed update was submitted to the county in April 2000.

The plan, which updates a 1976 document, seeks no additional enrollment, residential students or parking permits on campus. It does call for modifications in the master plan that will incorporate contemporary planning and environmental requirements, and provide facilities that better respond to the needs of Westmont’s faculty and students. Ranked among the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation, Westmont must make these improvements in order to stay competitive in the 21st century.

The 1976 plan included several new buildings that are not yet constructed but are desperately needed. The college hopes to build two of those facilities in the near future: a new science building to house the mathematics, physics, computer science and psychology departments, and a new center for the visual arts.

Westmont has just completed a successful five-year capital campaign to fund the buildings, which raised nearly $57 million.

Longer-term projects include renovation of the campus’ student center, a new bookstore, a chapel/auditorium, and construction of a fifth and final residence hall to ease severe crowding. Most of Westmont’s students live in “triples,” though the rooms were originally designed to hold just two students.

Seven years ago, the college embarked on a three-year process with faculty, staff, students and outside consultants to refine the long-range college plan in a way that fits current needs and the future vision for Westmont.

College officials held meetings in neighborhoods surrounding the college and noted neighbors’ suggestions and concerns, then refined the proposed master plan to meet the college’s needs, respect its neighbors, and respond to current environmental and planning standards.

Westmont believes the proposed master plan update will make the Westmont campus more compatible and consistent with Montecito, and will enable the college to continue being a good neighbor and an attractive part of the community.

For more information, please contact Randy Jones, director of campus planning, at (805) 565-7048, or the office of public affairs at (805) 565-6051.