With large, professionally printed poster boards displaying colorful graphs and informational figures on subjects from residential land use to parks and trails, the Eastern Goleta Valley Community Planning workshop got underway last Saturday, July 11, at Vieja Valley School. The air was heavy with talk about bicycle routes, housing densities, and electric cars as clusters of eager pink faces – roughly 50 people, the majority of them appearing to be over the age of 50 – sat at tables around the room offering constructive ideas for improving their community. “One of the things I like are the bike paths. One of the things I would like to improve are the bike paths,” said Brigitta Van der Raay. Others suggested better access to the Los Padres National Forest, which has been a problem due to limited rights of way through public property in the foothills.
Since the City of Goleta was formed in 2002, the unincorporated Eastern Goleta Valley – that large slice of suburbia sandwiched between Goleta proper and the Santa Barbara city limits – was left to fend for itself with an outdated community plan. Last updated in 1993, that plan is up for renewal, and members of the community, in concert with the Santa Barbara County Office of Long Range Planning, are determined to have something concrete to send to the County Planning Commission within the next year or so. Mary O’Gorman, chief of staff to 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf – whose district covers the Eastern Goleta Valley – said that by the end of two years, the Planning Commission will most likely present the plan to the County Board of Supervisors.
Erika Leachman, a planner with the Office of Long Range Planning, used to live on Vieja Drive before moving downtown, and said she still feels connected to the progress of the Eastern Goleta Valley. Preparations for this weekend’s event, she said, began two-and-a-half years ago, but went into overdrive when the Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) met on June 2. That body, made up of seven community members appointed by Supervisor Wolf and her staff, will take the information gathered at this and other meetings in order to make recommendations to the Planning Commission next year. The Goleta Valley PAC members are Edwin (Ted) Adams, Thomas Elliott, Kenan Ezal, Bonnie Freeman, Kenneth Mineau, Valerie Olson, and Kimberly True.
County planners said they have been reaching out to the large Latino population living in the area. “It’s a challenge to make a planning process as inclusive as possible,” said Peter Imhof, one of the planners, adding that while television and newspaper advertisements have been used to get the word out about the meetings, his department has had the best luck by distributing flyers in the neighborhoods falling under the plan’s umbrella.
Categories covered in Saturday’s meeting included parks, recreation, trails, and open space; residential land use; environmental protection and stewardship; public safety services and infrastructure, commercial land use; mobility, circulation, and parking; and agricultural land use.