Areturned sense of camraderie marked the first actions of the new Goleta City Council on Tuesday, December 2, as councilmembers selected Roger Aceves as mayor and Eric Onnen as mayor pro tempore. They also voted unanimously to purchase a parcel of land on the western end of Hollister Avenue, presumably to use for a fire station to service western Goleta at some point in the future. Before relinquishing their seats, outgoing councilmembers Jean Blois and Jonny Wallis-both pioneers of Goleta cityhood and members of the first City Council-delivered heartfelt thanks to Goletans and the colleagues they have worked with for more than six years. Blois went a step further, advising the new council to be mindful of what she said is growing tension between the state and cities. “I encourage all councilmembers to pay attention to the League of California Cities,” she said.
The Goleta City Council chambers were packed as several members of the public chimed in to thank the two departing councilmembers as well. Lee Muldaver, a regular at community meetings all over Santa Barbara County, highlighted the City of Goleta as what to do right “in these challenging times of war abroad and recession at home.” Notable Santa Barbara politicos in attendance included Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, Santa Barbara City Councilmembers Helene Schneider and Roger Horton, and Goleta Water Board director-elect Lauren Hanson. Newly elected Councilmembers Margaret Connell and Ed Easton offered their thanks as well, with Connell calling Wallis “an anchor on the council.”
The new council does indeed step into a busy shop, as several proposed developments-most notably the Marriott Residence Inn and Camino Real Hotel projects, and the Haskell’s Landing housing development being propounded for the parcel north of the Sandpiper Golf Course-are currently winding their ways through the approval process. Furthermore, Goleta officials old and new have stated a need to negotiate a new revenue neutrality agreement with the county. How well this new set of councilmembers cooperate will have a notable impact on the outcome of these issues, but they all seem hopeful of more consensus votes and compromises. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see people who are used to being in a majority having to make compromises. We’re going to figure out how we can work together in a positive way,” Connell said.
Although the two new councilmembers were just elected, neither of them is new to Goleta’s issues. Easton moves from his seat on the Goleta Planning Commission to the City Council, and Connell sat on the original council and was Goleta’s first mayor. The addition of the two to the board could result in very different outcomes to the recent spate of 3-2 council votes with Onnen, Bennett, and Blois often voting as a bloc favoring development-the three have close ties to the Goleta Chamber of Commerce. Easton and Connell bring a slow-growth philosophy to the new council, while Aceves said, “I ran to be the voice in the middle.” Goleta’s new mayor expressed the importance of citizen participation, saying, “There are actually six councilmembers. You may only see five, but the sixth is Goleta’s citizens.”
Onnen predicted that there will most likely be some differences regarding General Plan amendments, but that he expects collaboration regarding other topics. In the past year, the city’s General Plan has come under intense scrutiny as many amendments were added by business interests during its update process. “A general plan affects the whole city, not just one project,” Aceves noted. “General Plan changes should be vetted out in public.” He cited Bacara as an example, noting that although the resort has submitted amendments, no concrete plans have been shown to the public pertaining to their plans for expansion. He estimated that there are approximately 40 General Plan amendments that still need to be examined.