The City of Goleta took a giant step toward converting its remaining agricultural lands into urban use, starting with the Shelby Trust’s 14-acre parcel on the city’s edge. On a 3-2 vote-with Roger Aceves and Jonny Wallis dissenting, and against the recommendations of City Planning Staff-the council chose on Tuesday, February 19, to initiate 12 General Plan amendments that will allow the trust to build 75 homes on its land at 7400 Cathedral Oaks Road.
City staff had recommended denial of the Shelby proposal on several grounds, one being that the city already has an excess of residentially zoned parcels and a dozen large housing projects underway. Additionally, four previous Environmental Impact Reports concluded that the property is viable agricultural land. Last but not least, the city’s General Plan calls for the preservation of the city’s remaining urban farmland. In fact, one of the dozen passages that the Shelby Trust will now work with Goleta City staff on amending currently states that conversion of agriculturally zoned lands to other uses “shall not be allowed.” The Shelby Trust’s proposed amendment changes that to “may be allowed.”
Architect Mark Lloyd and attorney Chip Wullbrandt spoke on behalf of the Shelby Trust, which not only sued the city over its general plan last year but also contributed financially, along with other agricultural landowners, to the present City Council majority election campaigns. They told the council that the Shelby property is not viable for agriculture because of underlying clay and, moreover, is not economically viable because it is too small and too close to urban development.