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Future housing needs could lead to 5000 more units in Santa Barbara County

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – A long list of possible rezoning areas and future housing sites are in front of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors with a deadline looming to meet state requirements and update the county's housing element.

A Friday morning meeting came with an extensive and detailed report on the sites and their potential for low and moderate income homes in the future.

Some of the sites are owned by Santa Barbara County and include the former Juvenile Hall and Food Bank properties on Hollister Avenue west of Modoc. There was also a vacant site off El Colegio in Isla Vista.

One of the larger properties would be the conversion of the Glen Annie Golf Club near Dos Pueblos High School to about 1000 units of many sizes and price ranges.

Issues within the proposals known and unknown are housing densities, price ranges, traffic, fire department approvals and components such as parks and open space.

The hearing had 93 scheduled speakers in person and many others via zoom. Board Chairman Steve Lavagnino chose to limit the time from the normal three minutes down to two minutes per person in the full hearing room.

The meeting was coordinated with information from county planners and the county counsel's office.

Supervisor Laura Capps said 75 percent of the proposed sites were in her district, and in a tight area of just over three miles.

Recalling her exit from Orange County years ago after seeing rural areas widely developed Supervisor Joan Hartmann explained how this was a struggle to make sure housing obligations were met but without losing the character and open spaces that define the county in many locations.

Goleta City Councilman James Kyriaco said to the board, "resist the temptation to  put all the housing in one area because it is a lower income area or because they are at their jobs. I am not here to say no to housing in my backyard I am here to say yes to housing in my backyard." He says the housing was needed, and required but favored a wider plan to spread out the sites.

Some residents spoke out about a development at the end of Patterson Avenue where it sits in the flight pattern for the Santa Barbara Airport. They spoke about the risk to residents in a plane emergency and also the amount of pollution from the landing route.

Another group worried about escape routes during major fires if more residents were added to already tight neighborhoods including near Ward Drive.

Hayes Commercial Group owner Steve Hayes said the housing needs are felt by many business owners throughout the area. "One of the major challenges that companies are faced with  is to provide workforce housing  historically and currently this continues to be the biggest issues for CEO's of  local companies and divisions of the larger companies that are located on the south coast."

Developers of the San Marcos Growers site said their current plan with homes for low and moderate income residents could be increased more than originally presented. Supervisor Capps said that was "breaking news" for the meeting.

The Santa Barbara Tenants Union representative Stanley Tzankov said, "please rebuild all south county sites  and emphasize true affordability and prioritize the use of publicly owned land with 100 percent deed restrictive affordable housing."

Sites in question in the Carpinteria Valley outside of the city limits on Bailard and two other parcels were included after the public hearing.

Supervisor Capps also said she has information in front of her on a regular basis that reminds her Santa Barbara County is the sixth most expensive county in America. That information also shows rental costs have gone up by over 30 percent while wages remained the same.

The housing increase is part of a requirement by the state across California. Some governmental agencies have been pushing back and the County Director of Planning & Development Lisa Plowman says that will likely lead to legal action by the state. Some areas have already tried it and lost. It could also mean the loss of future state assistance in key areas including for grants and homeless funding.

Today's hearing was just over seven hours and held in Santa Barbara. Another hearing was held in Santa Maria earlier this week.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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