Fighting for Goleta Valley’s Good Land
Working to Reduce the Concentration of Housing
As many know, California’s effort to increase the supply of housing is requiring cities and counties to submit a state-mandated Housing Element identifying parcels that could be rezoned for housing. The state requires that unincorporated South Coast must zone for 4,142 new housing units. Santa Barbara County’s revised Housing Element will be submitted to the state by March 31 for the first round of review.
The county’s current draft is significantly improved from the initial draft circulated to county supervisors and the public for comment. The first draft drew ire throughout Goleta and much of the South Coast. The improvement is in large part from Supervisor Capps’s and my efforts to prevent so much valued farmland from being included for potential rezoning.
We both hustled to identify and include a far wider array of non-agricultural parcels. Our goal was to preserve agriculture and open space — Goleta’s Good Land — and reduce the concentration of housing proposed for the Goleta Valley.
We studied state requirements (https://www.hcd.ca.gov/community-development/housingelement/docs/sites_inventory_memo_final06102020.pdf), consulted with concerned residents and local housing experts, identified additional potential parcels, and collected the evidence of intent to develop that the state now requires.
Working together we’ve had considerable success. This will be highlighted at the April 4 Board of Supervisors meeting when the board will review proposed changes to the state-mandated Housing Element.
With these added parcels, the revised Housing Element now includes 19 new parcels for a total of 2,151 additional units. In addition, assumptions about the production of accessory dwelling units increased from 100 to 150 per year, further reducing the need for the county to do so many rezones. And an entire new section was added to the Housing Element — a “Second Sites List” — that serves as a placeholder for future conversion of commercial properties to mixed-use zones that would contribute more residential units. Between now and when the board must ultimately decide on rezones, if an owner of a property on the Second Sites List applies for a project that includes very low, low, or moderate units, those could be counted toward our required numbers.
Like the vast majority of people in Santa Barbara County, and especially those residing in the Good Land, I place enormous value on our county’s agricultural lands and heritage. Many have witnessed the loss of agriculture in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, which through the mid 1950s were the top producing agricultural counties in the U.S. I grew up in Southern California and watched as orange groves and vegetable farms were replaced by housing tracts and freeways.
Agriculture is our county’s largest economic sector, with a value of about $2 billion, up 5 percent between 2021 and 2022, despite issues related to labor, water, and climate. Our county ranks in the top one percent of all U.S. counties for the value of agricultural production. This includes the most nutritious foods such as nuts, berries, and salad bowl crops. Farm and ranch lands also provide us with many other valuable benefits, like creating fire breaks, water recharge areas, and connecting us to the systems that sustain us.
I began my political activism in Santa Barbara County in 2008 fighting a proposal to develop the farm and ranch lands surrounding Buellton. We passed Measure E, requiring a vote of the people before Buellton can expand its boundaries, the first such initiative in our county. It was followed by Goleta’s Measure G, similarly designed to protect Goleta’s farmlands.
I understand the acute need we have for housing, especially for those who already live and work in our county. However, I believe we can and must develop in a way that preserves our farm and ranch lands. That’s why I remain committed to doing everything within my power to resist rezoning our agricultural lands for housing.
Joan Hartmann is 3rd District supervisor for Santa Barbara County.