Now in its sixth year of existence, the City of Goleta held its inaugural State of the City on Thursday, hosted by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn on Calle Real. The hotel’s banquet room was packed, as more than two hundred people turned out, eliciting praise of the small city by its leaders for having generated so much interest. While the event was a celebration of the many accomplishments of the fledgling city, it was also an appraisal of the challenges which must be met in the future, not least of which is an ongoing discussion with the County regarding revenue sharing.
The biggest achievements noted by Goleta’s leadership were public safety and infrastructure improvements, as well as the adoption of a general plan. “We’re really in much better shape than we were six years ago,” said City Manager Dan Singer. “It was difficult for the County to keep up with Goleta’s needs.” He also said that since the initiation of Goleta’s contract with the County Sheriff’s Department, response times are down and the number accidents and even tickets has gone down significantly. “People are behaving because they know the police are out there,” he said. According to the statistics on a slide presentation shown at the conference, Goleta spends 40 percent of its budget on public safety expenditures, which includes fire, emergency medical services, and the county’s first police motorcycle patrol.
Road improvements were a big item on Goleta’s to do list, and over the next several years, there will be numerous projects in Goleta, said Steve Wagner, the Director of Community Services. “In the next three to five years, $60 million in capital projects is going toward construction,” he said. “There’s not a corner of the city that isn’t going to be touched.” Included in the construction plans were freeway interchange improvements, as well as better access between the north and south sides of the freeway.
Although Goleta is required to share half of its revenue with the County, it has managed a high degree of success in funding programs and projects. “The conservative budgeting and spending practices the City has adopted have made us able to withstand the slowdown of the economy a lot better than other cities in California,” said Finance Director Tina Rivera. However, Mayor Michael Bennett suggested that even this will become insufficient as the City expands programs – such as much needed family recreation programs – and continues to provide public safety and infrastructure improvements. “It’s going to hit us in 2009 or 2010, when the City is projected to go into deficit,” he said. Despite worries about the revenue neutrality agreement with the County, Bennett said that negotiations for a reworking of this plan are underway, and he expects positive things in the future.
Bennett also had words of praise for UCSB, ATK, and other area businesses, saying that Goleta must ensure that they maintain the incentive for business to stay in Goleta. “Measure A in the upcoming ballot is absolutely critical,” he said. “We will never be able to provide the necessary housing for all of the people who want to live here, but for those who work in our community, we must develop transportation.” La Sumida Gardens and the Village at Los Carneros are affordable housing developments that City officials equated to another feather in their collective cap.
Development is a concern for many Goletans, especially as Goleta is known as a bastion of slow growth principles and environmental activism. “This is a community that cares a lot about its environment, and that doesn’t like rampant growth,” said Singer. “Any project is going to be carefully studied, so hopefully as these projects go through the public process, the result will be something the community can stand behind.” The general plan addresses many of these issues, although it is currently undergoing a rather thoroughly scrutinized update procedure. Further development at Bacara and UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan are also on the radar, and will undergo much review in the near future. Mayor Bennett said that the City has plans to provide funding from development in Goleta to go toward transfer of development rights (TDR) bank “deposits” to help offset potential development on the now-pristine Gaviota Coast.
The State of the City was primarily sponsored by Marborg Industries, one of Goleta’s primary recycling and refuse disposal providers, with corporate sponsorship coming from Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, La Sumida, Venoco, and Allied Waste among others. Kristin Amyx, head of the Chamber of Commerce, indicated that, in light of this year’s success, the State of the City in Goleta will become a regular occurrence.