Goleta’s new fire station crossed a major hurdle on Thursday when the California Coastal Commission gave unanimous approval to the project. Located where Cathedral Oaks crosses the 101 and touches the west end of Hollister Avenue, the site falls within the coastal zone and thus needed a Coastal Development Permit to proceed. Completion of the station will enable firefighters to reach West Goleta residents within five minutes and also provide more emergency coverage to the area.
“I can’t tell you how much it means to me. I am so excited that this has come to fruition,” said Michael Bennett after speaking to the commission in favor of the project. A former Goleta city councilmember, Bennett was the county fire marshal when his chief asked him to find a new station location. Goleta was growing rapidly back in the 1980s, and the lot across from Sandpiper Golf Club was the best among four others. “There are a whole lot of reasons why the project didn’t go forward back then, among them the lack of available funding,” Bennett said.
“I was mayor in 2008,” said Bennett, “and Salud Carbajal was chair of the Board of Supervisors. The Revenue Neutrality Agreement, painful though it can be,” said Bennett, ended up providing the majority of the funds to finally buy the site, which had previously been a Chevron gas station. That agreement obligates the city to give the county a share of its sales and property taxes, which the county lost when the city incorporated. The payments are no small burr under the city’s saddle. But Bennett and Carbajal negotiated one compromise. The county had floated a loan to the city to get it on its feet, and Bennett and Carbajal’s deal enabled Goleta to keep about $1 million of that, which it used to buy the land for the fire station.
“It’s a historic day,” Mayor Paula Perotte said of the Coastal Commission’s approval. “This is such a benefit to our residents, council, and staff, and all the hard work they put in these many years.” The station plans go next to the council for approval and then on to bidding.
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