Looking for a genuine consultation from state officials, local government officials decided Thursday not to accept the housing mandate dumped on Santa Barbara County from on-high, but rather to seek modifications to the mandates which would lessen the required allocation of housing units or perhaps eliminate them altogether.
Representatives from each of the eight county jurisdictions and the five county supervisors who make up the board of the Santa Barbara Association of Government (SBCAG) said they liked the idea of just ignoring the requirements altogether, but were hesitant to do so because of unknown legal consequences that might come as a result of violating the statute.
Since a response to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) was due by August 10, SBCAG executive director Jim Kemp sent a letter to HCD requesting additional time to review the draft allocation as well as for a meeting with HCD officials for a true consultation, as required by law. While the HCD has met with SBCAG once in the past - when the latter received its allotment of 13,312 new housing units between now and 2014 - SBCAG officials didn’t feel the meeting reflected the “consultative spirit of the law.” The law requires HCD to “meet and consult with the regional agency regarding the assumptions and methodology to be used to develop the Regiongal Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) determination.” Instead, the board feels the housing mandate is part of an unaccountable, out-of-touch state bureaucracy that is imposing itself on local jurisdictions where it doesn’t know or understand the layout or problems facing the potential for housing in those places.
HCD develops a RHNA as housing need targets for each city and county. SBCAG’s RHNA was last done in 2002. Of the nine jurisdictions throughout the county, Goleta is the only considered to be out of compliance with the state. The city is currently in the compliance review process by HCD.
Many committee members expressed interest in declining HCD’s allocation and informing the department that SBCAG wouldn’t be completing the RHNA requirement. “We don’t want a revised allocation,” said Carpinteria’s Joe Armendariz. “We don’t want an allocation at all.” But the others agreed there was a need to exhaust possible administrative remedies before filing a suit. SBCAG currently has no legal contingency fund.
Kemp pointed out in the letter that, while the population growth rate for San Luis Obispo County is 46.9 percent for 2000-2050, Santa Barbara County which currently has about 140,000 more people - is expected to be 33.2 percent. But Santa Barbara County has been allocated more than 8,000 more homes than its neighbor to the north.