Candidates, Start Your Engines

Secord and Wolf Rev Up for 2nd-District Runoff

by Martha Sadler

A burst of fire from the environmental community pumped some
adrenaline into a Second District supervisorial runoff that had
been moving slowly ever since the June primaries. Members of the
Sierra Club and other like-minded organizations gathered in front
of the county courthouse during the lunch hour on Tuesday to
endorse candidate Janet Wolf and excoriate her rival, Dan Secord.
Wolf and Secord are competing for the seat being vacated by Susan
Rose.

The pièce de resistance was offered by the Sierra Club’s Mark
Massara, who damned Secord’s voting record on the California
Coastal Commission (CCC). Secord served as a commissioner in 2005,
earning a 38 percent approval rating on the CCC Conservation Voting
Chart, which has been compiled for the past 19 years by an
association of statewide organizations including the Surfrider
Foundation and the League for Coastal Protection. That compares to
a 60 percent approval rating for the commission as a whole that
year.

Particularly galling to Santa Barbara environmental warriors was
Secord’s minority vote against even hearing an appeal of a proposed
five-home subdivision abutting the More Mesa coastal blufftop. The
More Mesa Preservation Coalition wanted the homes to be
single-story. Secord responded that the project — which allowed for
some two-story homes — had been passed by the supervisors 4-1.
Massara also deplored Secord’s lone vote against supporting
legislation meant to hinder backroom lobbying of coastal
commissioners. The bill — ultimately vetoed by Governor
Schwarzenegger — would have required that commissioners report ex
parte communications within three days instead of seven.

In response to the criticism, Secord said that he supports the
Sierra Club and values Massara’s innovative ideas for saving the
Gaviota coast. However, he has characterized the annual
conservation list as skewed by the political agenda of Massara, an
influential environmental attorney. The 50 or so votes it analyzes,
from among the hundreds of votes commissioners cast annually, are
selected to cudgel particular politicians up for election. More
Mesa activist Valerie Olsen responded that Secord’s approval rating
was a mere 24 percent based on his first six months as a
commissioner, but improved when Rose announced she was quitting and
Secord started considering a run for supervisor.

Over the past couple of weeks, Secord and Wolf both have been
subjected to arm-twisting by the Coalition for Sensible Planning,
which has become a force to be reckoned with since it formed last
year to fight development in the eastern Goleta Valley suburbs.
During separate meetings with the CSP, both Secord and Wolf tried
to wriggle away from making specific commitments — with differing
degrees of success. The CSP managed to extract from Wolf a promise
to champion — sight unseen — the planning recommendations of the
Goleta Visioning Committee, whose membership she agreed was
representative of the valley. As it turned out, that report called
for a maximum density of seven units per acre for any future
development. One week later, after listening to a wide range of
concerns from CSP members and expressing sympathy, Secord avoided
promising anything. At one point, he seemed to indicate that he
would support the CSP’s positions if they supported him, saying, “I
will represent the constituents that elected me: That’s the name of
the game.” However, he quickly added, “I’m not going to agree with
you all the time and I’m not going to make you happy all of the
time.” Under close questioning, he agreed that the 400 units of
affordable housing proposed for a 20-acre parcel on Calle Real
owned by the Metropolitan Transit District would represent too high
a density, but that 200 units seemed reasonable. He merely nodded
when members pointed out that, at the seven units per acre that the
Goleta Visioning Committee prefers, the number of units would have
to be 140.

The candidates differ on the establishment of a planning
commission for the eastern valley, which would give the residents a
stronger voice in development decisions for that unincorporated
region. Secord favors the idea, calling for a number of planning
commissions representing various unincorporated communities. Wolf
calls instead for the bifurcation of the existing Santa Barbara
County Planning Commission into one for the north county and one
for the south county. Bifurcation is favored by environmental
groups seeking to save the rural Gaviota coast and foothill lands
from development, because it might allow county planners to steer
development away from the Gaviota coast and into more urbanized
areas.

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