UPDATE: The meeting scheduled for Monday, March 24, has been postponed until April 7.
Some people are asking where we are with the numerous proposed amendments to the City of Goleta General Plan. The answer is that the process to make these significant changes to the Plan is moving forward right now.
First up, the City of Goleta Planning Commission is looking at Track 2 amendments to the General Plan on Monday, March 24. These are amendments that, in the judgment of staff, are minor changes that do not require further environmental analysis.
Ten of the original Track 2 items are now deemed to require full environmental review, including six Conservation Element policies related to stream, habitat, and tree policies. These have been moved to Track 3 to be considered later in the year, which means that there will now be full consideration of the environmental impacts of these proposed changes. However, 30 amendments plus 14 related revisions remain to be considered by the commission on Monday night.
Reviewing 44 amendments to a General Plan that was three years in the making, followed by 10 public workshops and hearings, seems like an overwhelming task for one evening. Our hope is that the Planning Commissioners takes their time and continues items to a subsequent meeting if necessary, rather than making hasty decisions.
While the March 24 Planning Commission meeting will be over before most people read this article, the public can still speak to these issues when the City Council takes final action in April.
Several of the proposed amendments have far reaching impacts, and were opposed by many participants at last year’s workshops. For example, the original General Plan discouraged new development of large regional commercial centers because of traffic and their impact on existing local businesses. It is now proposed that regional shopping centers would be encouraged as priority projects for new commercial uses.
Amendments needed by the Bacara Resort & Spa in order to build hotel condominiums and time-shares will also come before the commission, though with regulatory language to ensure that these units are also available to the general public and that the city’s bed tax is protected. The proposed language is consistent with California Coastal Act requirements for these forms of transient lodging ownership. More disturbing is the deletion of a policy capping the number of lodging units or rooms. This potentially opens the door to increased density of development in the main coastal beach access area in the City of Goleta. On the positive side, staff is recommending requiring that any new development avoid impacts to beach access ways unless there is no feasible alternative.
Ever expanding intersections, unfriendly to both cyclists and pedestrians, were also a concern at the public workshops. Happily, staff is proposing keeping the limitation of seven lanes, including through travel and turn lanes, at city intersections, with the exception of the Storke Hollister intersection, which has already exceeded this number.
Of more serious concern are the Track 3 amendments, many of which would seriously affect environmental protection efforts. Watch for these in the summer and fall. It is going to take dedication and stamina to stay with this process to the end.
Meanwhile, people concerned about impacts of development in Goleta should also be concerned about UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). It proposes 5,500 additional beds for students and 1,900 new campus-housing units for faculty and staff. The draft plan and EIR are now out and should soon be on the web at ucsbvision2025.com. A public hearing for comments will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, April 29 at Embarcadero Hall in Isla Vista.
Finally, if you are a resident, property owner, or business owner in any part of the Goleta Valley not in the City of Goleta, you have an exciting opportunity. You can apply for appointment to the Goleta Valley Planning Advisory Committee (GVPAC). This group will work with county staff and the community in development of a draft Goleta Valley Community Plan. There will be a public GVPAC Information Workshop at 6 pm on Tuesday April 29, 2008 at 267 Camino del Remedio. Contact Derek Johnson at 569-2072 with any questions.