Kyle Richards, an Old Town Goleta resident for eight years and the Commissioner and Chair of Goleta Parks and Recreation for three, announced his candidacy for Goleta City Council on Monday.
Richards’s announcement marked the first time since 2010 that a new candidate has run for a position on Goleta’s City Council.
With a crowd of more than 30 supporters behind him on the steps of the Goleta Valley Community Center, Richards stood next to Margaret Connell, Goleta’s first mayor, who kicked off the announcement ceremony with a personal endorsement.
Connell described Richards as “a strong new candidate” and an individual “who’s ready to stand up and respond to the concerns of city residents and prepared to change the direction of the city.”
Richards works as a policy analyst for UCSB, and worked previously as director of its Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity. Richards also served as boardmember and co-chair of the Fund for Santa Barbara for six years. UCSB’s College of Creative Studies staff member Marianne Morris and local businessman and cosmetologist Robert Johns have known Richards for over a decade, and stood among the supporters, touting signs with slogans like “Defending What We Love About Goleta.”
Richards’s “new direction” centered on topics of overdevelopment, water scarcity, and traffic that many residents of Goleta have expressed increased concern about.
The new candidate asserted his belief in “access to a safe and dependable supply of drinking water, recreation, and roads that all Goletans have a right to expect,” to the applause of his supporters.
“I want someone who will uphold [Goleta’s] mission statement, which was to preserve the community and not let growth go unchecked,” said 20-year resident Jerry Sorich, who attended Monday’s announcement with his wife, Dee. The Soriches, who live in Goleta and own property in Isla Vista, pointed to the upcoming Rincon Palms Hotel, as well as the Village at Los Carneros, as the root of community conflict.
“The current city council is looking to have the growth so they can show more income, but we’re not benefiting as a community commensurate to the amount of development that’s going on now,” said Jerry Sorich.
The concern about development, for both Richards and local residents, lies in the already limited water resources available to the Goleta area. Jim Wilcox remembered the crippling effects of Goleta’s last major drought in the 1990s. “We had a water crisis 20 years ago that dropped us to our knees, and we didn’t have nearly the population we do now,” said Wilcox. “We’ve done nothing locally in that time to increase our water supply. The way things are looking now, we’re headed right back to where we were.”
Barbara Gaughen-Muller, president of the United Nations Santa Barbara Tri-County Chapter, also expressed concerns about development, traffic, and water. But most important for Gaughen-Muller, who moved to Goleta in 1969 and has lived in her home across from Brandon School ever since, is the preservation of the little things that make the “Good Land” great.
“My husband is buried in Goleta,” said Gaughen-Muller, “and people ask me why is he buried here and not in New York? Because it’s peaceful. I don’t want to be in a fancy cemetery. I want to be in one where I can sit and look at the mountains.”