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Local leaders on Santa Barbara County's South Coast voice concerns over future housing plans

County admin
Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 07, 2023

By the year 2031, California is mandating that Santa Barbara County find space for more than 5,000 new housing units.

The County's Planning and Development Department's draft housing plan, released just over a month ago, has resulted in fervent public feedback from local leaders on the South Coast.

Of the 5,600 incoming units that must be planned for over the next eight years, more than 70% fall within southern Santa Barbara County. Goleta city leaders say the proposed zoning has left their city taking on the brunt of it.

"There are several thousand units that are immediately adjacent to the City of Goleta in what are currently zoned for agricultural land," said Goleta City Councilmember Kyle Richards.

"For most of us, rezoning farmland is our last option in terms of preference. I would prefer to rezone commercial land, but the county does not have a lot of commercial land," said Santa Barbara County District 1 Supervisor Das Williams.

He says that as the county looks for future housing sites, they are prioritizing areas that would cut down on commutes.

Joyce Adriansen, President of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association, adds that the rising cost of living in the South County has amplified the issue and resulted in high turnover within local school districts.

"Teachers can’t afford to stay in this area. They commute as far away as Arroyo Grande, Camarillo," she told KSBY. "I myself commute from Buellton because [of] Santa Barbara rents, and owning a house for the average working person is just out of reach."

In the 2023-2031 Housing Element Update, roughly 40% of the required units for the South County fall under the low-and-moderate income range, but Adriansen and a collective of school districts are calling on supervisors to approve more affordable housing developments as soon as possible.

Goleta city officials, meanwhile, are urging the county to explore housing rezones in other parts of the South Coast.

"We are hoping they are able to identify parcels that are elsewhere in the county that aren’t so impactful for the City of Goleta. That would be in Montecito or other unincorporated areas throughout the county," Richards added.

Supervisor Williams says the coming year will be spent conducting environmental impact reviews of the proposed housing areas and that the sites will be finalized come next February.

"My message for our workforce, our working Santa Barbarans that are desperate for housing, is that you should have hope. We hear you. We hear about the need. And my message for folks who maybe are afraid of housing: usually, people are opposed to housing because they fear the impacts of it, namely traffic. If housing is brought closer to jobs, it can actually reduce the impacts that people are usually scared of," Williams said.

Since the City of Goleta raised its concerns to county leaders, the owners of the Rosewood Miramar Hotel in Montecito have proposed future employee housing on their property, which will now be included as part of the county's list of rezoned sites.

County officials say potential housing locations are limited to areas where property owners have expressed interest in rezoning.