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Santa Maria looking at infill opportunities, city expansion to meet housing needs

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Posted at 4:43 PM, Aug 15, 2023

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, California has the least amount of vacant space available for housing compared to every other state.

That's why, in Santa Maria, city leaders are looking at different ways to expand.

“We are at the point in our city where we are running low on land inventory for housing,” said Chuen Wu, City of Santa Maria Community Development Director.

He says every eight years, as part of Santa Maria’s General Plan, the state mandates the city find space for roughly 5,000 housing units.

However, with minimal vacant space for new developments, Santa Maria is considering other options.

“Looking into the future, we have to look for land outside of the city boundaries and/or look at infill opportunities,” Wu said.

Wu says multiple infill developments are already in the works in Santa Maria, including the renovation of the former Fallas store into a new apartment building, as well as a couple of city parking structures downtown that could be repurposed as other future housing sites.

santa maria expansion
The City of Santa Maria is looking at annexing agricultural land east of Highway 101 for future housing.

As far as an expansion of Santa Maria's city limits, Wu says the city is also looking at an annexation of agricultural land east of Highway 101 that could be used for potential residential developments.

Locals have mixed feelings.

“Actually, that would be a lot better. Get a lot of houses out there because they really need it. They need the housing here,” said Robert Madrigal of Santa Maria.

“I don’t care for that because that is a lot of farming... That is producing food. We need food,” said Ileen Barberena, who lives in Tepusquet.

Wu says his department takes community concerns like these, as well as the overall feasibility of these projects, into account in their extensive search for open land for housing.

But he admits the shortage of Santa Maria’s vacant spaces has created additional challenges.

“It is a balancing act. We will encounter residents who say they like things just the way they are,” Wu explained. “But on the other hand, we will get comments that say we need more affordable housing. To achieve affordable housing, you need more supply.”

Wu says the Santa Maria City Council and Planning Commission will provide guidance on the city’s plans for expansion later this fall.

However, he adds that housing developments east of Highway 101 should not be expected in the coming year, but rather for long-term future planning for the city.