Some issues that have been a part of City of Santa Barbara planning for the past 20 years, but new ones – such as public health, sustainability, climate change, and energy costs – bring a new bundle of concerns to the process of updating the general plan, the zoning blueprint that will guide Santa Barbara’s development for the next 20 years and Santa Barbara residents have the opportunity to voice their perspective on issues that will determine the direction of community growth.

At the Santa Barbara City Council meeting today, public outreach program You Plan Santa Barbara and a few concerned community interest groups will present an update on the process and summarize a compilation of community feedback gathered from approximately 150 people at the April 2008 Development Trends Public Workshops. Old policies for local growth will be revised at the end of 2009 and Santa Barbara residents have valuable and influential perspectives to offer the revision discussion. Plan Santa Barbara is spearheading the incorporation of community opinion with elected officials and city planning staff in the drafting of preferred planning policies.

Principal planner John Ledbetter encouraged community members to attend Tuesday’s meeting as well as workshops later this month on July 17 and 23. He hopes that the entire community will engage in this discussion which will determine Santa Barbara’s future. “With the critical issues facing us today such as climate change, sky rocketing fuel prices and housing affordability, we need to look at how we live,” Ledbetter said. “It is important that people understand the connections and that people come out and look at the changes we’re making for the next 20 years.”

Those with an eye on the future of the city have emphasized the need younger generations of Santa Barbara residents to give input these issues because these decisions will impact them most. Many young people, for example are pushing for smart growth policies, which would grow Santa Barbara upwards instead of outwards. Residents advocating against urban sprawl are comfortable with increased density in order to alleviate issues of housing affordability and traffic. To encourage alternate transportation, they frequently favor construction of downtown housing walking or biking distance from the workplace and intense development along public transportation routes. Santa Barbara must start the wheels turning on developing a plan to address the intensifying problems of peak oil prices, global warming and energy sustainability. Other cities, such as Ventura, already have plans on the book.

Ledbetter says that Mesa Architects will present Tuesday to City Council a plan for a more complete neighborhood to offer Mesa residents the opportunity to walk or bike places instead of drive. Their vision of a sustainable neighborhood includes connected parks, enhanced sidewalks and bike paths, a Mesa Library branch, and Mesa farmer’s market. With elements such as these close to home, Mesa residents would have a reduced need to drive elsewhere.

The discussion on how the construction of Santa Barbara can encourage people to use alternate transportation and improve public transit, among other issues, will continue in the workshops later this month. But, as the process continues on its way towards policy recommendations to the Planning Commission, the number of people affecting policy options is narrowing. The set of preferred policy options will be presented to the Planning Commission in early September. It is incredibly important that public input be expressed now.

“We often don’t hear from neighbors and community organizations until new development projects have proceeded through a number of public hearings. Now is the time for the community to share their opinions on requirements for future development. This will shape the future of Santa Barbara. By updating the General Plan, we – as a community – are delineating the guidelines for future residential and commercial growth, affordable housing, transportation, open space, and historic preservation,” said Paul Casey, community development director for the City of Santa Barbara, in a written statement.

The July Draft Policy Preference workshops will be similar to the April 2008 Development Trends Public Workshops, but the hope is that more Santa Barbara residents will attend and emphasize to the Planning Commission the necessity for Santa Barbara to make a city growth plan that will focus on the pressing issues of today.

Plan Santa Barbara: July Update & Workshops

July 1, 2008: City council Update

City Council Chambers

735 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara

July 17 & 23: Second Round of Public Workshops

6pm-9pm, Faulkner Gallery at Santa Barbara Central Library

40 East Anapamu St, Santa Barbara


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