UCSB’s forest of high-rise housing and the Goleta Water District’s January flyer explaining how building in the Goodland is peaking during the worst drought in California history are cause to reflect on when this stupidity started. Faced with similar circumstances, in March 1991, district president Katy Crawford proposed a contract with a Canadian company to ship water to Goleta: “The main thing that would stop us is the permitting process … which is horrific, but it has to happen because [in a year] Lake Cachuma will be dry.”
“We won’t look so smart” said board member David Bearman, “if it rains.” The Canadian contract never happened, the rain came, and Bearman was right — Goleta Water District was not smart.
Crawford and Patrick Mylod abandoned Goleta’s longstanding water moratorium and drove our community into the abyss of state water. State water brought with it the hungry, too little, bourgeois City of Goleta and fueled the ambition of UCSB’s economic forecasters and their banker sponsors. State water created an Orange County traffic jam at the Storke and Glen Annie intersection that will only get worse. State water is why Goleta Valley’s largest employer — UCSB — is expanding housing at a breakneck pace while contributing nothing to the county tax base. State water is why building is booming while agriculture goes bust and the rest of Goleta rations water. Worst of all, five years into a statewide drought, Lake Cachuma stands at 16 percent of capacity; state water will not save the Goodland.
Crawford and company knew that a statewide drought would cut the supply of water, yet they chose that form of relief in lieu of a permanent locally controlled alternative such as a desalinization plant. Twenty years later, mired in the worst drought in California history, Goleta is building like wildfire. The Goodland is being desecrated so that the $26 billion UC behemoth and greedy developers can transform our beautiful coastal community into Orange County stucco-land while water conscious residents cut use by 20 percent, get rid of their landscaping, and ask for water at restaurants. Farmers paying 300 percent more for Goleta water will be run out of business in another year — leaving more vacant land for developers. Is this really what is best for Goleta Valley? Do we really want to live this way? So that UCSB can increase enrollment?
Goletians must reflect on what got our community into this mess in the first place — state water and politicians who betrayed their constituents. For Goleta Valley the drought offers a silver lining. Now is the time to resurrect the water moratorium and cut off permits for all ongoing housing projects. The drought is a statewide emergency, and building in a community without any water is irresponsible if not illegal. Why should a thousand toilets in UCSB’s San Joaquin towers receive water when there is none? Now is the time to make UCSB and developers pay for permanent solutions before they complete their building s —namely a desalinization plant. The drought is an opportunity for Goleta to turn back the clock, end our relationship with the incompetent Department of Water Resources, withdraw from the Central Coast Water Authority, rid our community of state water, and stop the desecration of the Goodland.
Peter Neushul is a 30-year Isla Vista resident and property owner.