“How do we ratchet down our dreams and start going for what can be accomplished?”
That question, asked by Goleta City Councilmember Ed Easton, was at the heart of a hearing on Tuesday night about what City Hall can do to continue revitalizing Old Town, despite the slashing of the redevelopment funding by the state last year. There wasn’t a clear answer, but the consensus was summed up by Mayor Roger Aceves, who opined, “We can’t just roll up our carpet and not do anything.” By the end, the council decided to move toward creating a subcommittee to examine the issue in the months to come.
The hearing began as a swan song of sorts to the numerous successes that redevelopment funding has had in the 595 acres designated as Old Town Goleta, ranging from storefront improvements and affordable housing initiatives to the ongoing San Jose Creek restoration project and traffic enhancements, like the plan to put roundabouts on Hollister Avenue on each side of Highway 217. Then came the dire news, that the long-awaited plan to buff out the rest of Hollister as it cuts through Old Town — adding better bike lanes, wider sidewalks, fixing high curbs, and more — was underfunded to the tune of $8 million without a redevelopment agency, and that other future initiatives would also have to seek new sources of funding, for which competition from across the state is only growing.
But the best news of the night came from one of the public speakers, Bill McReynolds, who is working with his company, City Ventures, to plan for a residential development on property owned by the Page family, which had formerly been considered for a large hotel and conference center. “I work with a variety of agencies, and no one is having this conversation,” said McReynolds of his work across Southern California and how no other government body has determined what to do about lost redevelopment funds. “You are way ahead of the curve.”
The staff was directed to return to the council in two weeks with specifics on creating a subcommittee to stay ahead of that curve.