“Well you guys have made it pretty clear that you don’t want any new housing here.”
So reads a comment on last week’s Goleta Grapevine. It was in response to a concern in the article that more big box centers would create jobs for low-income workers without anywhere affordable for them to live. It reflects a general perception that Goleta has been hostile to any kind of new housing.
In fact, Goleta has a good record of providing new housing, with a significant amount being rental and affordable units. This is what we need for our workforce and to provide housing for all income levels in the community.
In December 2007, there were 403 residential units pending with city planners, 206 approved, and 108 under construction, for a total of 611. Goleta, since incorporation, has not been opposed to housing but wants it to be in the right place, sensitive to environmental constraints, and for the people who really need it.
Last week Michael Towbes‘ Sumida Gardens project, in the Old Town Redevelopment Area, broke ground for 200 rental units, 34 of which will be affordable and remain so for 55 years. In addition, condo conversions of the market rate rentals are prohibited for 55 years. These units, off Patterson Avenue, are within a mile of 2,000 jobs, including Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and Mentor Corporation, so that many residents will be able to walk or bike to work. For-profit developers generally shy away from rental projects because, unlike for-sale housing, this is a long-term investment, without a quick turn around. Yet low and moderately priced rental units are sorely needed in Goleta. In order to make it “pencil out,” Towbes requested, and was given, a $6.8 million subsidy from the City Redevelopment Agency.
In another part of Old Town, 37 for-sale condos at Willow Creek (pictured at top) have been built next to the Community Center, with one unit in the affordable range; and in 2006, People’s Self Help Housing completed 8 affordable rental units on Ellwood Beach Drive; and the county’s Housing Authority has a proposal for a four-bedroom house for people with disabilities near the new Armitos Park.
At The Bluffs at Sandpiper, near Santa Barbara Shores, 62 houses are under construction. These are all large, expensive houses, but the developer, Bob Comstock, contributed $1 million in impact fees to the city housing fund. This project was the result of the land swap that moved housing off the Ellwood mesa to a site further inland and so allowed the establishment of the Sperling Preserve. In addition, 275 residential units are in the planning process for Villages@Los Carneros with 63 being affordable rental units. This project is proposed for a site rezoned from office/industrial to residential at 20 units to the acre. Citrus Village, on Calle Real in El Encanto Heights, is planned for 11 townhouses, including two affordable units.
Most of these projects were approved or going through the planning process during the tenure of the prior council. The General Plan designates sites for 2,619 units and rezones 312 acres of manufacturing and office sites off Hollister as residential at 20 units/acre. This more than meets Goleta’s current housing allocation from the state, but coming up with the required numbers for very low, low, and moderate units is much more difficult.
Non-profit developers such as Peoples Self Help Housing or Habitat for Humanity are very skilled at putting together funding from a number of different sources. But the options for for-profit developers are more limited. We are told that without a whole variety of concessions, low to moderate-income housing is not financially feasible. Now that the housing market is softening, perhaps for-sale houses will fall into a range affordable to some middle-income buyers. But, for many, rental housing of various types may be the answer for working people and families to afford to live on the south coast today.
Soon the City of Goleta will be reviewing and revising its housing element in the General Plan with the goal of getting it certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development. In addition, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) has been given a new target of 11,600 housing units by the state for the period 2009 through 2014 and is just beginning the allocation process for each jurisdiction. Last time the City of Goleta was required to zone for 2,388 units. The City is hoping this time for a lower allocation. SBCAG will be reviewing the factors influencing how the numbers are assigned and there will be a number of public hearings before they become final. We will include notice of future meetings regarding this topic in The Goleta Grapevine.
S.B. Women’s Political Committee Turns 20
Last Sunday at SOhO, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (SBWPC) celebrated its 20th anniversary. In 1988, a group of women, including myself, formed this organization to promote a public policy agenda on issues important to women and to encourage and endorse women and men who supported our goals in running for public office. Since that time, SBWPC has become a force for change in Santa Barbara. Many candidates have been endorsed over the years, and the following are currently serving the Goleta Valley: Supervisor Janet Wolf, Goleta Councilmembers Jonny Wallis and Roger Aceves, Goleta School Board member Susan Epstein and Santa Barbara School Board members Nancy Harter and Annette Cordero.
Continued hearing on City of Goleta General Plan Amendments
Tuesday, January 29, 6 p.m.
Goleta City Hall
130 Cremona Drive Suite B, Goleta