School Board Developments

by Ethan Stewart

After nearly a year of researching and polling local teachers,
UniDev finally presented the draft results of a controversial
feasibility study to the Santa Barbara School Board about the
possibility of building high-density affordable homes for school
employees on two district-held properties. The presentation was
attended by nearly 75 neighbors of the Hidden Valley and Tatum
properties, all of whom — despite living in Santa Barbara and
Goleta, respectively — expressed their concern and upset over the
possibility of increased density in their neighborhoods.

Faced with tight budgets in both the elementary and high school
districts, as well as annual drops in attendance and teacher
retention difficulties, the district contracted UniDev — a
Maryland-based development firm — to conduct a study on the
building potential of their 12.5-acre Hidden Valley holding and the
22.8-acre Tatum site. A majority of this week’s hearing was
dedicated to the explanation of high-density affordable teacher
housing with 99-year ground leases. The 75-page study suggests that
the Hidden Valley area could generate anywhere from $8.6-$20.1
million. For the Tatum site, UniDev speculates funds generated
could run from $11-$25.5 million. However, it was the increased
density and affordable options that was the subject of ire for
dozens of attendees. Speakers rallied against the increase in
traffic and resulting safety issues, as well as the loss of
beautiful open space. Several speakers questioned the integrity of
the study, as UniDev stands to make 6 percent of any revenue
generated from building projects. Their concerns were echoed by
board member Dr. Bob Noel, who said, “Structurally you don’t go to
a company that has vested interests to get unbiased answers.” This
week’s hearing marked the beginning of a 60-day comment period on
the draft study that will conclude later this fall with a public
presentation of UniDev’s final results.


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