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Santa Barbara County’s Housing Element Update

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County received positive feedback from the State over its Draft Revised Housing Element for 2023-2031.

Lisa Plowman, SB Co Director of Planning and Development (Herb Tuyay/KEYT)

"It's only a little over four pages, so that was good news," said Lisa Plowman, Director of Planning and Development. "We didn't see any surprises in the letter and we think we can move fairly quickly to respond to it."

Word came last week. The County posted the updated information on its website.

"We don't see any major changes in the document. They're mostly clarifications or additional information."

Housing Element Update Map (SB County)

Plowman said the State is asking for more details, mainly about County-owned sites. For example, how soon could housing be expected on land near UCSB (included when building housing for faculty) and, on the former Juvenile Hall parcel off Hollister Avenue?

The State is also asking for more information about the "diversity and preservation" of existing units.

"They had a few questions about the Affordable Fair Housing section of the housing element, which is not uncommon."

Also, questions were raised about rezoning larger sites identified, such as Glen Annie Golf Club and, San Marcos Growers on South San Marcos Road.

San Marcos Growers (Herb Tuyay/KEYT)

"Historically, what we've seen in our county is when you see a larger project like that, the developer will carve off an acre or two acres and they will give that to the County Housing Authority or People's Self-Help Housing, and they will develop it separately for the lower income category. We have a lot of examples of that that we will share with the State to back up our assertion that those sites would produce low income housing and majority are the bulk."

For those questioning the need for new housing units, County Public Information Officer, Kelsey Gerckens Buttitta, included the following information in a press release:

The Housing Element Update is one of the mandated components of a General Plan. It directs local governments to plan for the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community.

For this cycle, State HCD requires that Santa Barbara County identify sites to accommodate 5,664 new housing units in unincorporated portions of Santa Barbara County between 2023 and 2031.  This is an 8-fold increase from the last cycle. That housing needs allocation, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), is further broken down to require 4,142 units in the South Coast region and 1,522 units in North County.

The State requires the County’s Housing Element to accommodate 2,818 very low, low- and moderate-income units.  The new public and private sites following the public comment period added nearly 1,200 units in these categories.  

"I think the Housing Team worked very hard to make sure that the document met the State's criteria and the State was very flexible in working with us during the 90 day review period and gave us a lot of feedback," said Plowman. "It's been a really productive relationship."

Site of former Juvenile Hall (Herb Tuyay/KEYT)

Plowman anticipates the County will take roughly one month to respond. Then, the County will undergo a 60 day review period. Revised drafts will be posted on the County website.

The public has been actively involved in the ongoing process.

"I think there's concern in the community about the changes that would result from the Housing Element," said Plowman. "And change is obviously challenging. And so we see some comments about that. And I think we'll know more about how the community feels when we go into hearings on the Housing Element and the rezones."

Plowman is hopeful that adoption hearings will begin in the Fall.

Huntington Beach is one jurisdiction that voted not to comply with the State and submit a Draft Housing Element. The coastal city now faces legal action.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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Beth Farnsworth

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