Two pieces in the Santa Barbara Independent‘s October 25 issue regarding the election for Goleta mayor mischaracterized my position on growth in Goleta. I’d like to provide some context to my position on development of agricultural lands in Goleta, including Bishop Ranch. To be clear, I voted against development of Bishop Ranch every time it came before me on the City Council. I’m opposed to large-scale development of agriculture lands, including Bishop Ranch. Agriculture is a leading industry throughout the county, providing jobs, producing food and fuel for the community. Ag lands provide a valuable buffer between urban neighborhoods and coastal chaparral/oak woodlands. Agriculture is an important part of the special character of Goleta.
Measure G2012 was an important issue for Goleta residents. It overwhelmingly passed with 72 percent of the vote and remains in effect through 2032. I agree with the sentiment of those 72 percent of voters and share their desire to keep development out of certain areas. I did not campaign against Measure G, nor do I believe there was any organized opposition to it. The reason I favored the No on Measure G position back in 2012 was because of the potential for unintended consequences that I foresaw. Ballot box initiatives tend to simplify complex issues without providing the flexibility necessary for public policies to work. Measure G2012 did not secure long-term agriculture in Goleta. It did not address our housing/jobs imbalance. Simply stated, the reason for my position was that I was more concerned that UCSB would purchase Bishop Ranch, take it into their land holdings portfolio, and usurp the City of Goleta planning process in any future development.
In the late 1950s, the county designated lower Bishop Ranch for housing and highway commercial development. Its designation as ag land did not occur until the late 1980s or early 1990s during the Goleta Valley Community Plan update. A promise was made by the county to revisit in 10 years the issue of development, thus avoiding a fight with the landowner over the new designation. The future of this large, privately owned property set the stage for a renewed push for local, self-determined control of land use. It was an impetus for Goleta cityhood because residents felt that politically polarizing representation at the Board of Supervisors would result in dumping development in unincorporated Goleta.
During my first term on the City Council (2006-2010), two proposals were put forth to develop Bishop Ranch with housing and small neighborhood commercial use — and I voted against both. During the 2010 Bishop Ranch development proposal, a study was done by the developer, and it came out that owners of Bishop Ranch had worked to sell — and then buy back — 50-acre-feet of water to the University of California. This concerned me because UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan had recently been completed and included comments that the university might start looking for land outside of its traditional landholdings for future development.
Measure G applies to any private developer, but it does not apply to UCSB if it purchased Bishop Ranch or the landowner chose to donate it to the UC Regents. I didn’t want to push the landowner into a situation preventing all development for 20 years, thus incentivizing transfer of Bishop Ranch to an entity such as the university, where residents of Goleta would have no participation in pending development. I made it clear in my opposition to Measure G that I had faith in any future City Council to deny development in the near future and that if any development did occur it would be an open community process.