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The Otay Ranch Co. announces plans for largest, most ambitious village

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For its largest and most ambitious village to date, The Otay Ranch Co. is looking to one of California's most beloved communities for design inspiration.

Artist's rendering of one of the main thoroughfares in Montecito, the new Otay Ranch village that is inspired by the architecture of Santa Barbara.

The village of Montecito, located on a mesa between Olympic Parkway and Wolf Canyon, was inspired by Santa Barbara's architecture and ambiance.

Montecito is the fourth village in the 5,300-acre community of Otay Ranch, which unveiled its first village in 1999. The 838-acre village, planned for approximately 2,800 homes, is projected to receive project approval early next year. Home sales are anticipated in 2006.

"We're bringing forward the best aspects of village design and integrating them with Montecito's unique topography," said Kent Aden, executive vice president of The Otay Ranch Co., who is spearheading the design of the village along with Vice President Ranie Hunter.

"The relatively flat terrain of the mesa top is enabling us to create a grid system, which is favored by advocates of Traditional Neighborhood Design, throughout nearly 90 percent of the village.

"Montecito's location gives the village a seclusion and intimacy that will reinforce its pedestrian-friendly design," Aden said. "The village is nearly surrounded by a wide greenbelt buffer and the 280-acre Wolf Canyon, part of the Otay Ranch Land Preserve." Montecito is Otay Ranch's first village to actually border the land preserve, the largest urban open system in San Diego County, destined to encompass 17 square miles.

The heart of the community is designed to feature a traditional town square, an elementary school, two city parks totaling 14 acres, multifamily residential housing and two commercial areas with an estimated total of more than 300,000 square feet of shopping, entertainment venues and community facilities.

Anchors are expected to include a major supermarket, drug store and specialty food store, which will serve Montecito and adjoining villages. Many of the shops will face onto the street with inviting display windows and canopies or arcade entrances.

The village's architecture will be modern adaptations of what is known as Santa Barbara style -- a fusion of Mediterranean, Spanish, Moorish, early California, and Prairie designs -- that has become one of the most beloved architectural styles in the world.

Santa Barbara architecture is famous for taking advantage of its Mediterranean climate, which is shared by the village of Montecito. Therefore, the village will have a proliferation of plazas, porticos, courtyards, patios and balconies. Landscaping, too, will reflect Santa Barbara's preference for Mediterranean-style plantings of palms, California pepper trees and bougainvillea spilling over white-washed walls.

While Montecito will have a distinctive architectural ambiance, many of the features that have made Otay Ranch the top-selling planned community in San Diego County year after year will remain in center stage. Pedestrian parks are positioned throughout the village, giving residents easy-to-walk-to places for recreation and relaxation. And, like all villages in Otay Ranch, Montecito will have a private swim club for residents and their guests.

Forty-three acres in Montecito have been set aside for a city of Chula Vista community sports-oriented park planned to feature a swimming pool, gymnasium, and multiple athletic fields. The 43-acre site constitutes the first phase of the park, which is ultimately planned to encompass 70 acres. Grading for Phase 1 is expected to commence in early 2005.

Otay Ranch's emphasis on pedestrian-friendly design will also be fully articulated in Montecito. The village's grid system with tree-shaded sidewalks and bike lanes makes it particularly easy to navigate the village on foot or bicycle.

Otay Ranch's extensive regional trail system runs along the open space buffer that borders Montecito. The trail system is complemented by village pathways, a series of 10-foot-wide, specially colored walkways designed especially for bicycling and electric carts. Eventually the pathways will connect all of the village cores in the community. When residents are on the village pathway, they can walk or bike from village core to village core and never cross any major arterial at grade.

"Otay Ranch's commitment to public transportation is also apparent in Montecito," noted Aden. "Plans call for a stop in the town center for a bus rapid transit route being proposed by Sandag."

Despite all of the pedestrian-friendly amenities in Montecito, automobile drivers won't get short shrift. The grid system will provide multiple options for navigating around the village. Drivers entering the village will encounter large, beautifully landscaped roundabouts. These traditional traffic circles are effective at slowing traffic -- and keeping it moving -- all at the same time.

"Overall, Otay Ranch is designed to slow traffic within villages and to move large volumes of traffic quickly via major arterial roads once outside the village," Aden explained. "On roads such as Olympic Parkway, which borders Montecito to the north, well-designed intersections and the absence of driveways, stop signs, and strip retail maximize traffic flow to and from the village."

Montecito is designed to continue Otay Ranch's tradition of offering a wide variety of residential options and an array of home prices. Homes are expected to range from one-bedroom flats atop stores on the main street to executive-size residences on 10,000-square-foot lots overlooking Wolf Canyon.

"Montecito will feature the widest variety of homes ever offered in Otay Ranch," Aden said. "The grid system and intimate streetscape will allow us to build row homes along streets in the urban core, contributing to the area's vitality. The village center is also designed to feature a variety of condominium configurations and triplexes."

Stepping out from the urban core, single-family homes on smaller lots will proliferate. Because of the popularity of alley-loaded homes in previous villages, Montecito will feature a number of neighborhoods that are served by alleys. The company is also planning to expand this concept into areas with larger lots.

Nearing the perimeter of the village, larger single-family homes on spacious lots will predominate. Many of these homes are planned to feature panoramic views of Wolf Canyon and the mountains to the east. Home prices have not been set.

Although the opening of the village is at least a year away, Otay Ranch's commitment to build public facilities concurrent with need has resulted in the acceleration of several key facilities. Otay Ranch High School, located on a 50-acre site in Montecito, opened in 2003 and a fire station that will serve Montecito and surrounding villages is fully operational.

"Montecito combines the latest innovations in regional planning with the pedestrian-friendly convenience of traditional neighborhood design," Aden concluded. "It will be the culmination of our efforts to create a highly connected, pedestrian-friendly village with a sense of place and high standards of environmental protection."

Metz is principal of Metz Public Relations.

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