A Primer on the Race for 2nd District Supervisor
Four candidates are vying for the county Board of Supervisors seat being voluntarily vacated by Susan Rose as she finishes up eight years representing the 2nd District. Embracing the great unincorporated eastern Goleta Valley and large portions of the two cities that flank it like bookends on either side, the 2nd District also includes four Channel Islands — San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, and tiny Santa Barbara — and a swath of Los Padres National Forest. Beginning in the east at the base of Hot Springs Road and just tickling the bottom of Montecito, the district snakes along the Santa Barbara waterfront, following the coastline to just beyond Goleta Beach. Expanding northward it takes in the Old Mission and West Camino Cielo before diving south along Fairview Avenue. Within its borders are communities as diverse as Hope Ranch and Painted Cave, but the focus of this race has been the unincorporated eastern Goleta Valley. That is where the greatest changes are likely to occur, and where the residents are most divided.
Each of the contenders — Joe Guzzardi, Dan Secord, Das Williams, and Janet Wolf — brings a distinctive approach to solving problems, including the usual budget issues. The thorniest of these problems, however, is the need for affordable housing on the one hand, and the countervailing urgency on the other hand to protect open space.
Of course, supervisors affect issues beyond their own districts. The candidates’ positions on San Marcos Growers and More Mesa have become emblematic of their interest in protecting the vast and varied countryside of the Gaviota Coast, lying to the north in the 3rd District. While all four candidates describe themselves as environmentalists — some more than others — placing a strong environmentalist in the 2nd District seat, to keep company with 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, is something less than half the battle. Two North County supervisors with a great deal of respect for land development rights and no pronounced commitment to preserving the Gaviota Coast still occupy the 4th District and 5th District seats; with the 3rd District seat filled at least until 2008 by Brooks Firestone, a moderate with an inclination to veer right. Clearly, this configuration complicates the role of the 2nd District supervisor, who must be counted on to do more than simply vote in the minority. What follows is an overview of the views of each candidate, in alphabetical order.
Budget Last month, the county accepted a report from a team of five financial experts — the Blue Ribbon Budget Task Force — which predicted that the budget would start dipping into the red within the next five years due to rising healthcare and pension costs. Its suggestions for increasing revenue ran the gamut from the promotion of oil mining to auto malls and “village centers,” stand-alone communities of about 2,500 people dotting the rural landscape. Cost-cutting ideas included more job outsourcing and “careful scrutiny” of programs that the county supports in excess of minimum matching-funds requirements.
Wildland The largest single unprotected wildland in the 2nd District is More Mesa, a birdwatcher’s paradise located above a historically nude beach. The 300 acres of rugged coastal blufftop has been the subject of preservation versus development battles for more than a quarter century. Most of it — 265 acres — is owned by the Sun Mesa Company, whose plan to build hundreds of luxury homes on its residentially zoned land was clipped back through a series of intense legal and political battles to zoning for 70 homes on 40 acres, but it’s not over yet. For one thing, the owner has litigation pending against the county for reducing the zoning; and for another, the More Mesa Preservation Coalition is intent on preserving the entire 300 acres in perpetuity as a nature park.
Housing The Board of Supervisors has adopted a state-mandated housing element committing them to dedicating space for 1,235 affordable homes in the county’s unincorporated areas. The supervisors agreed to rezone 62 acres for high-density housing, though the particular acres have not yet been chosen. The 62 acres will satisfy state mandates only through 2008.
Agricultural Land Many Goleta Valley residents are up in arms over the distinct possibility that farmland — especially along Hollister Avenue west of Turnpike Road — will be rezoned for housing. Most of this land is leased by farmers, many of whom grow organic fruits and vegetables. None of the property owners are participating in the Williamson Act, which offers tax relief in exchange for keeping land in agricultural use. For the farmers, this is an ominous sign.
Joe Guzzardi Guzzardi believes the county should disobey state housing mandates, which, according to him, would create far more market-rate housing than affordable housing. Regardless of whether they house the poor or the middle class, high-density housing developments are particularly anathema to Guzzardi, and he is alone among the candidates in failing to be moved by arguments that the South Coast must house its “critical work force.” He argues that commuting is a perfectly acceptable choice for some workers, including firefighters and police. Nonetheless, he has suggested that some firefighters could be housed on county-owned or U.S. Forest Service property; and that housing for teachers could be built on campuses, for example on the second or third story of school buildings, above classrooms.
Guzzardi is also alone among the candidates in adamant opposition to building high-density housing on the agriculturally zoned, MTD-owned property at Highway 101 and Turnpike. Affordable-housing advocates have zeroed in on these 17 acres, which are not currently being farmed, as a low-income housing site. The acreage’s most passionate champion is Steve Musick, who claims he built up the soil so well as to have transformed at least five of those “non-prime” acres to “prime” when he was farming them. To this, Guzzardi adds that non-prime ag land can be used for agricultural support industries. Guzzardi held the press conference announcing his candidacy from the MTD site, with his rallying cry, “Not another square foot of ag land zoned for development.”
Sometimes Guzzardi tacks on open space to that mantra. At the forum moderated by the More Mesa Preservation Coaliton, Guzzardi did not sound optimistic about purchasing the 70 acres now zoned for development. “I wish I could wave a magic wand … but as a realist I realize we’ll have a tough task to try to purchase it from the developers.”
Guzzardi touts himself as a guardian of private-property rights; his evidence is that he will not change current zoning — a stance that would mostly defend existing ag land. As a member of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance ad hoc steering committee, he has battled fiercely to keep houses small in the City of Santa Barbara, thwarting the desires of property owners who want to build bigger homes.
Guzzardi dismissed as absurd the Blue Ribbon Budget Task Force’s recommendations for generating tax revenues, seeing the county’s insatiable hunger for revenue as part of a vicious cycle that constantly demands more development. For that reason alone he is a stringent fiscal conservative.
Born in 1954 and raised in a modest tract home in the San Fernando Valley, where his mother still lives, Guzzardi attended a parochial high school in Encino, then majored in natural resources management at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo because he wanted to become a professional forester. But eventually he learned carpentry, building “big, beautiful homes in Pacific Palisades” and large commercial projects in Santa Barbara. He then became a county health inspectorw for 10 years until 1998, when he switched over to the Office of Emergency Services, where he now does emergency planning and acts as the liaison for Homeland Security, coordinating pertinent agencies and distributing grants. He and his wife, who works as a legal secretary in the Public Defender’s office, have 12-year-old twins.
Dan Secord Secord is the only Republicanrunning for the 2nd District seat, and although the office is nonpartisan, it is also true that Secord’s sympathies for private developers are more pronounced than those of any other candidate. During this race, Secord has taken up the popular dictum, “We don’t need any more million-dollar condos.” Yet during his two terms on the Santa Barbara City Council, Secord stood fast against pressure to require developers to include a greater percentage of affordable units in their condo projects.
Secord was also the only candidate who did not participate in the More Mesa Preservation Coalition’s forum, although he did show up before the forum began to answer a few questions before leaving for a sheriff’s campaign event in support of Jim Thomas. Despite his acknowledgement that open space is “a boon to the soul,” he must have figured that he’d already irretrievably lost the wildlands vote, and besides, the forum took place on the More Mesa property, in full view of the rather conspicuous Cape Cod-style luxury home for which Secord helped clear the way when he was on the California Coastal Commission. Secord said he would support efforts to buy More Mesa, but would not “put the squeeze on the developer” with more restrictive land-use policies.
Secord has also distinguished himself as the only candidate who does not wholeheartedly support Measure D, insisting that he is not against it but that he thinks it cannot pass. He wishes it had been split into a simple renewal of the half-cent tax, with alternative transit separated out as an additional quarter-cent tax. Because Measure D needs a two-thirds majority to win, critics are dumbfounded that he would use his candidate’s megaphone to cast doubt on the measure, which, if it fails, will leave road maintenance and added freeway lanes in the same sunken boat as the bike lanes and commuter rail plans that he disdains.
Secord spoke favorably of rezoning agricultural lands for housing development if they have sub-prime soils. That would apply not only to the fallow MTD-owned property, but to several other farms currently producing tons of produce and flowers on sub-prime soils. Secord clearly rejected the notion of using public funds — for example, transfer-of-development fees — to buy, and then lease to farmers, agricultural lands that the owners find unprofitable to continue in agriculture.
Secord does not by any means score a perfect anti-environmentalist record. For example, he actively participated in expanding the city’s recycling program, to extend the life of the Tajigas landfill. “That landfill is going to last a long time,” he joked at an early forum, “especially if we don’t put anything in it.”
A budget deficit would inspire him to cut county spending, Secord said, including “sacred cows” that he did not specify. He said he favors enhancing the business climate by reducing the size of government and easing up on taxes. Village centers throughout the countryside are “probably something we are not going to do,” Secord said, but he stopped short of disavowing auto malls. He is more partial to high-tech startups by UCSB graduates, and other well-paying jobs, than to industries employing low-wage workers.
Secord said he approaches the 2nd District without any particular ax to grind, just his fair judgments and his vast experience in government and in life. Secord was born in a Salvation Army orphanage in Kansas City, Kansas, and adopted nine months later. An only child raised first in eastern Washington and then in Redlands, California, Secord ran away at age 15. “They didn’t know what they had,” he explained. He worked in the Army Medical Corps in the late ’50s, put himself through college and medical school, and came to Santa Barbara in 1969 from Los Angeles with his present wife in the same red Mercedes two-seater convertible that he still drives. He delivered about 5,000 babies before retiring, and during the past 17 years has served on the Santa Barbara Harbor Commission and the Planning Commission, in addition to the Coastal Commission and, for the past eight years, the Santa Barbara City Council. He has five grown children from two marriages.
Das Williams Das Williams’s clarion call is environmentalism. According to him, the most likely sources of large grants to purchase More Mesa are the Coastal Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation. Adding more constraints to coastal bluff development, he added, would decrease market value for public acquisition. Examples of such constraints are stronger habitat protection and visual resource policies, and maximum square-footage for homes. Transferring development rights to other properties could reserve still more of the acreage as wild parkland. Williams vowed to pursue a combination of strategies in an effort to reduce the number of houses “from 70 to zero.”
Williams expressed willingness to sacrifice the uncultivated MTD-owned ag land at Turnpike and 101 to build low-income housing. Rezoning conversion fees could then be exacted toward the purchase of other endangered ag land, such as San Marcos Growers, which many Goletans fear will be converted to infill housing.
Better than converting ag land, though, is replacing commercial development, according to Williams. “Rezone La Cumbre Plaza,” he said at one forum, “not San Marcos Growers.” Yet he led a City Council majority to reject Barry Berkus’s high-density housing development on upper State Street, which had been hailed by “smart-growth” architects — smart growth meaning high-density, mixed-use near transit corridors, a concept Williams embraces, as distinguished from sprawl. Williams explained that the project had too much commercial footage and too many market-rate condos, and besides it was too close to the street to accommodate a bus or a turn lane.
Williams disputed the Blue Ribbon Budget Task Force’s claim that the county must develop its way out of a looming budget crisis. He said the pension funds supposedly creating a structural deficit actually comprise a slush fund that would only need to be 100 percent funded if 100 percent of county employees retired immediately. Rejecting the task force recommendations for auto malls, oil development, and village centers, which he claimed induce sprawl, Williams said that the county’s Cachuma Reservoir could follow the example of privately owned El Capitan Ranch, which rakes in millions of dollars renting out yurts and other environmentally correct facilities for special events. He suggested opening up the lake to benign uses that are currently disallowed, such as kayaking and kiteboarding.
Raised in Ventura until he was 9, Williams then moved to Isla Vista, attending Ellwood School, Goleta Valley Junior High, and Dos Pueblos High. His father was a well-known radio DJ for KTYD and KCSB; his mother is a teacher. Williams dropped out of school at the age of 16 and lived in a VW bus at Leadbetter Beach while surfing and attending SBCC. During that time, he became a born-again Christian and ardent environmentalist, going to work for legendary 3rd District supervisor Bill Wallace and the campaign to save Ellwood Shores from development. He attended UC Berkeley, then UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, where he majored in land-use and planning. He then taught, worked as a legislative aide in Sacramento, and managed a precinct for the African National Congress in Capetown. Williams was elected to the Santa Barbara City Council in 2004, and if elected to the Board of Supervisors would be leaving halfway through that term.
Janet Wolf Wolf has pounded the drum more insistently than anyone else in the campaign for critical workforce housing. The county should use its own land to build homes for firefighters, police, and other emergency workers, according to Wolf. Government-owned land is also the best bet for building other low-income housing, she said, because privately owned land is already too expensive. Similarly, the most promising way to supply private workforce housing is for businesses to provide it for their own workers, as Cottage Hospital is doing by converting the former St. Francis Hospital into a subsidized condominium complex. Wolf is the moderate’s moderate. Her essential promise is to use her best judgment in the issues brought before her, to listen to all sides, and to encourage compromise between warring factions. She explained that she does not come in with a strong agenda, any more than she did when she ran for the Goleta school board, where she served for 11 years. Her campaign slogan then was “Maintain Quality Education” — which she saw as being threatened by ideologues — and she approaches this campaign with the same attitude.
In response to suggestions by Blue Ribbon Budget Committee Task Force, for example, all four candidates rejected the idea of oil development, but Wolf said she is willing to consider auto malls, especially in the North County, where several already exist. Nor does she slam the door on the idea of village centers, depending on where they are located. She was interested in exploring higher bed-taxes, but dismissed the idea of more outsourcing.
Wolf cites the compacted San Marcos Foothills residential plan as a model for resolving battles regarding open space. At More Mesa, Wolf said that the zoning density pattern — 0.7 units per acre close to the ocean cliffs and 3.3 per acre farther back — might be amended even more, so that “a portion of those 70 acres could be kept as they are now.” In addition to pursuing state and federal funds, she expressed interest in establishing a tax-deductible donations fund to buy parks and other open space, including More Mesa.
On rezoning urban agricultural lands to provide housing, Wolf was vague, saying she does not have enough information to take a position. In chorus with all the other candidates, she deferred to the community planning process, but said she is open to the possibility of affordable housing on MTD’s ag-zoned property at Turnpike and Hollister.
Wolf grew up in Culver City, majored in political science at UCSB, earned a master’s degree in kinesthesiology and a teaching credential at UCLA, and briefly taught PE and English at Pacifica Junior High in San Francisco. She and her husband, an attorney specializing in business litigation, moved to Santa Barbara in 1981, where they raised three children. She is a team athlete, favoring soccer and roller hockey. A self-employed vocational consultant, Wolf frequently serves as an expert witness in work-related injury lawsuits and in divorce cases, where she helps the court determine the divorcing parties’ earning power. Her proudest accomplishments on the school board include convincing the board to bar the Boy Scouts from recruiting on campuses as long as they did not accept gay scouts, initiating pesticide-free landscaping and the first elementary school recycling program in the county, passing a school bond, and keeping the El Camino campus open.