The City of Goleta sent a revised housing element to the state this week, hoping that a series of legal language updates, technical tweaks, and other fine tuning work to the plan will get official approval from Sacramento. State certification is not required for the housing element — which outlines the community’s residential plans and defends the balance between affordable housing and constraints such as environmental protection — but it is required for the city to qualify for future housing and transportation money in the years to come.
“We are about to submit a housing element that we feel very comfortably will satisfy the needs and dramatically get it done in the community,” said Goleta’s planning director Steve Chase. “I’m not telling you that as a bureaucrat, but as a professional planner who wants to see housing for all income groups not just talked about but actually constructed and occupied. I think we’ve got that now.”
Chase explained that the certification process involves both bureaucracy and politics. On the former, the city must show how it is in full compliance with state laws, particularly related to affordable housing, while also balancing such housing with other community concerns, such as environmental protection. Chase said having an assistant city attorney with experience in housing element law was particularly helpful in this regard. “That is a giant leap for us because now we have looked at it not only through the eyes of us planners, but through the legal lens that should have been looked at all along,” said Chase.
Politically, Chase explained that the housing element law is a “developer’s dream,” which means that there any influential developer can throw a wrench in the certification process if he or she does not like the way a particular community has outlined its plan. Chase did not mention whether that was the case in Goleta, but did say that the city did not want to “pick a fight” with anyone.
As to whether he expected the state to certify the housing element this time around, Chase laughed, explaining, “I wish the world was, quite frankly, that black and white.” In the meantime, he said that the city will continue working with developers and the large employers to build affordable homes whether the element gets certified or not.