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South Coast Housing Workshops welcomes community input

Communities are looking for public input as they plan to meet new housing goals

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – When it comes to housing, Santa Barbara County's supply doesn't meet the demand.

Experts like Dan Klemann call it a "severe jobs housing imbalance."

He is the deputy director of the long-range planning division of the Planning and Development Department of Santa Barbara County.

He said there is housing, transportation, and climate change trifecta that needs to be addressed.

There is a gap between population and housing that needs to be narrowed by local communities.

The state mandates the process through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, known as RHNA.

Each region has a blueprint for development that is divided up between communities.

The blueprints lay out goals that elected officials pay attention to, despite some "not-in-my-backyard" constituents.

There is an eight-year planning period.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments came up with the regional number of satisfying demand in the entire county.

That regional number is 24,856.

Carpinteria needs to allocate or plan for 901 housing units, Santa Barbara; 8,001 units, Goleta; 1,837 units and the unincorporated areas of the South Coast need to plan for 4,142 units.

Klemann explained the fairly complicated process to a packed house at Wednesday's South Coast Housing Workshop held at the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Central Library.

Supervisor Das Williams opened the free program by asking the question. "Do we want to live in a community where multiple generations live, where there is generational continuity?"

The overwhelming answer was "yes."

Planners from Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, and the county took questions and talked about the constraints created by the mountains, the ocean, and agricultural areas.

Dan Gullet, the principal planner for the city of Santa Barbara said, "We have been fairly successful getting market price units in the current cycle, much less success getting affordable units."

Elected officials including the Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse, who said one of his grown children moved to the more affordable community of Orcutt.

"It is always going to be hard to accommodate those basic jobs in industry," said Rowse. "It has been that way in Santa Barbara for as long as I've been here, which is about 50 years."

If areas don't certify plans for housing needs they can lose out on state grant opportunities, and lose local permitting authority. They may also face fines.

A court can place a community in receivership that will run a housing program until a city or county can comply.

During a slide show, Klemann said housing production levels are as low as they were in the 1960s.

He said the state of California needs 3-4 million new housing units to narrow the population and housing gap.

That's why every local jurisdiction has housing in its mandatory general plan.

Carpinteria Community Development Director Steve Goggia was a panelist during the workshop.

Goggia said, "I'm here to get the word out and to also get ideas we are engaging the community right now to get ideas on how to best show the state that we can get those numbers."

Participants shared their thoughts during break-out sessions for each jurisdiction.

Goleta renter Jason Chapman said he is worried about himself and others.

"Housing is getting unaffordable. The rent goes up every year, so, but I also worry about other people, all the people that work and commute here and want to live here and are driving on highways and there is a huge climate connection, too," said Chapman.

Speakers said the need isn't just for low-income housing, it is for moderate housing, too.

Planners said removing local restraints on developments and rezoning will help the supply meet the demand down the road.

It also helps to offer developers incentives by streamlining the approval process and relaxing development standards such as parking and landscaping requirements.

For more information visit SantaBarbaraCA.gov/HEU.

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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