Have Your Say on Goleta’s General Plan

Last Chance to Comment on the Good Land's Future

Goleta City Hall
Margaret Connell

The final workshop last week on the Goleta General Plan amendments brought out a record crowd of close to 100 people. They were there to comment on a proposed 77 amendments to the General Plan, a plan that had been adopted by the previous council (upon which I served) one year ago. I missed this meeting, but by all accounts, the overwhelming majority spoke in favor of keeping the current plan with very few changes. There was strong support for the environmental preservation and protection policies.

There is still time to submit written comments. You can email them to awells@cityofgoleta.org or mail them to Ann Wells, 130 Cremona Drive, Suite B, Goleta CA 93117. Comments must be received by October 31, 2007.

This is what Goleta's General Plan amendments look like.
Margaret Connell

The current plan:

• allows for slow to moderate growth in housing, and commercial and industrial development

• includes strong environmental protections for wetlands and environmentally sensitive habitats

• requires new projects to be compatible in character with existing nearby neighborhoods

• proposes traffic policies that would require development to mitigate its impacts, but would limit simply adding more lanes to an intersection as a solution

• seeks to keep our streets pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

I agree with the many who testified that the proposed amendments would weaken many of these policies by changing wording from a definite “shall” to a loose and probably unenforceable “should.” Changing “shalls” to “shoulds” would allow policies to be mere guidelines rather than standards. Instead of clarity, it introduces uncertainty, and for everyone: applicants, staff, and the council. Every outcome will be subject to interpretation, and projects that could have been dealt with expeditiously at the planning counter are much more likely to be challenged and end up as political issues before the city council.

In addition to the weakening of environmental protections through changing “shalls” to “shoulds,” several specific amendments have been proposed that would further reduce environmental protections. For example, some would significantly reduce setbacks from creeks, bluffs, and butterfly habitats.

Thirty-three of the changes were initiated by the Bacara Resort, most geared to facilitating its desired development of condos and time-shares at the beach. Some also would threaten public access to Haskell’s Beach, which was an important condition to the approval of the hotel in the first place. Bacara is suing the city over the General Plan, along with a number of other developers. If Goleta knuckles under to the mere threat of lawsuits, this would just invite more lawsuits. This is not how a General Plan should be written.

Other proposed General Plan amendments would allow a new regional big box center in Goleta, which would be a magnet for distant shoppers in search of a bargain. Such a change would only make worse the already difficult traffic congestion on Hollister and on Highway 101. And another regional big box could have significant negative effects on Goleta’s homegrown businesses.

Council members and Steve Chase, Goleta’s Director of Planning and Environmental Services, have said more than once that the current plan is a good one and just needs a few changes. The existing General Plan was the result of numerous workshops, hundreds of hours of staff time, public hearings, and deliberations of council. In considering any amendments, the council should give the most weight to the views of the people who live and work in Goleta. They are the ones who will have to deal with the impacts of any changes.

Next steps include a discussion at the November 19 city council meeting of a summary of all public comments since April 16, when council first began to address potential amendments to the plan. The summary will include letters, comment forms, emails, and workshop and workstation comments. Final recommendations and selection of General Plan amendments will follow at a later meeting.

If you want your voice to be heard on the General Plan that will set the policy course for Goleta for at least the next ten years, you need to make sure that your written comments are received in Goleta City Hall at the address above no later than October 31, 2007. Send in your comments today.

LEMONS! LEMONS! LEMONS!: This past weekend at Girsh Park, the Lemon Festival was in full swing and there were lemon concoctions on tap of every variety, whether it be ice cream, cotton candy, lemonade, or lemon pie. I spent some time at the booth of the Goleta Valley Historical Society, where labels from the old Goleta Lemon Packing Plant were on display.

Old cartons of Goleta's finest lemons.
Margaret Connell

The Historical Society is the guardian of the Stow House and the legacy of Rancho La Patera where, in 1875, Sherman Patterson Stow planted the first 3,000 lemon trees in Goleta. His son, Edgar Whitney Stow, who managed the ranch in the early 1900s, researched lemon varieties and grafted them on grapefruit stock, which made them resistant to root rot.

Rancho La Patera in Goleta
Margaret Connell

While the heyday of Goleta lemons passed in the early 1960s, there are still more than 1,600 acres of lemons in Santa Barbara County, many in the Goleta foothills. And lemons ranked number 12 in value among locally grown crops. So we can count on enjoying lemony things in Goleta for many years to come.

Email the author at margaretconnell@earthlink.net.


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