Daniel Hochman, a member of the Girsh family, persuaded Goleta's City Council and Planning Commission that high-density zoning for parcels at 7190 Hollister Avenue would be built as senior housing with low traffic impacts, adding a potential 205 lower-income units to the city's Housing Element. | Credit: Courtesy City of Goleta

City of Goleta officials met for a second time on July 25 to attempt to hammer out the issues of adding lower-income zoning to a city made largely of single-family residential tracts that grew during the post-war boom. That and the separation of the city by Highway 101 created segregated areas, Planning Commissioner Jennifer Smith pointed out as the commission and City Council discussed one parcel in particular. It is set amid single-family homes to the north of the highway, a situation that is a historical relic of a time before Civil Rights and the Fair Housing Act, Smith observed.

The issue before the decision-makers was not all that different from the concepts embodied in those social-equality laws — trying to find spaces in the city that could hold housing for people on the lower economic rungs, pursuant to state laws passed largely to remove NIMBY-ism from local residential planning — or the irresistible Not In My Backyard instinct. Some in California political circles wonder about developer influence in those new laws, too.

For the benefits at the Dara Road neighborhood in question — such as walkable schools, library, and parks — were downsides such as no public bus service or shops within walking distance. The 10 members of the two groups debated this at length, hearing from a number of neighbors as well, all of which pushed this meeting, like the one before it on Thursday, July 20, toward 11 p.m., a good hour past some of the participants’ exhaustion level.

During the first of these meetings last Thursday, as the two decision-making bodies weighed the pros and cons of siting moderate- or high-density housing at about 10 properties, they arrived at a total of 838 lower-income units. It should be noted that the math that gets a city to this criterion in the state’s Housing Element requirement makes little rational sense. Zoning a property “high density” allows a city to use all the units calculated toward its “lower income” requirement from the state. In reality, what the landowner intends to build is likely to be an entirely different thing, a detail that seems to not interest the bureaucrats at the state level.

The impetus for both meetings was the state Housing and Community Development department’s pushback on Goleta’s proposed rezones for lower-income homes, which centered around the question of whether the property owners were interested in developing their land. In an effort to accommodate the state and get the city’s Housing Element closer to certification, planning staff had eliminated problematic parcels by 637 lower-income units; the city needs to reach the state’s required number of 1,006 homes.

In response to letters from residents, city staff on Tuesday clarified that although a large programmatic environmental review would take place for the rezoned properties cumulatively, a closer examination would occur once each of the properties submitted plans and began the development process. Planning Manager Anne Wells also assured that no Measure G sites were included, or lands that were protected as agricultural lands.

Action on the list of seven “alternative sites” to consider for high-density zoning on Tuesday was mostly limited to “contact the owner.” No high-density, lower-income-qualifying changes occurred for the properties.

The two address-less parcels known as “east of 7190 Hollister Avenue” elicited a passionate argument from Councilmember Stuart Kasdin during both meetings, as they contain a large swath of environmentally sensitive habitat and are also the only remaining parcels with unobstructed mountain views on the north side of the road. The location hit all the criteria for walkability to shops, schools, and transit, but Mayor Paula Perotte agreed with Kasdin that it would cause a definite increase in congestion at the already massively congested Storke-Hollister intersection. “That intersection is horrible,” the mayor said, “and it’s only going to get worse.”

But the landowner is Daniel Hochman, a member of the Girsh family that donated the eponymous park land and helped Mark Linehan develop the Camino Marketplace — both immensely popular and the cause of the intersection snafu and Highway 101 onramp backups. His ideal project would build senior housing, Hochman said, which he believed generates fewer car trips. His partner on the project, Derek Westen, an old hand at land use planning, offered that a master plan for the three properties — the third is 7190 Hollister — would take longer but allow them to site the bulk of housing away from the sensitive wetlands and preserve the view corridor.

[Click to enlarge] Credit: Courtesy

To the group’s majority “yes” votes for the 7190 properties, Kasdin responded that he was disgusted and that the area would turn into another Orange County or Los Angeles. However, the discussion for 625 Dara Road that took place a couple of hours later included a request to staff to attempt an overlay for the proposed senior housing, which would be a carve-out in the existing special needs category. If an overlay could be added to 7190 Hollister, too, Kasdin stated, there would be a greater measure of certainty that traffic impacts could be allayed.

In the discussion of Dara Road — which resulted in a straw vote for a change from 12 single-family residences, to possibly 84 moderately dense homes, but not 127 high-density ones — Planning Commissioner Katie Maynard said that after taking a job at UCSB, she’d moved south of the freeway for the better bus service. Maynard stated she didn’t want to give up on the area north of the freeway gaining better bus service and that lower-income housing at Dara Road would add ridership. Mayor Perotte, who is on the bus agency’s board, agreed that the reason they stopped service on Cathedral Oaks Road had been a lack of riders.

The meeting stopped at that point, as the participants asked for the tally; they wanted a chance to consider the lower-income housing total before adding any to Dara Road. With Councilmember Luz Reyes-Martín recused for a conflict, the remaining councilmembers deadlocked as the meeting resumed, while the planning commissioners leaned toward moderate density zoning. The need for recusals, as most commissioners and councilmembers live near a proposed site, impedes the group’s ability to talk about switching high density around. At that point, the four public speakers still in the room patiently waiting their turn to object to the Kenwood project complained vigorously that they might not be able to speak that night. They were heard

The availability of water meters, a discussion during the previous meeting, had piqued developer interest. If the moratorium lifts, it would the first time in nine years that the Goleta Water District will permit them. The Water District’s General Manager David Matson told the Independent this week that when drought conditions were alleviated, as much as 150 acre-feet of water — enough for 1,000 multi-family dwellings — could be awarded to parcels without existing or sufficient water entitlements. In any given year, Matson added, if a drought recurs and the water supply is short, various restrictions would be necessary again.

Goleta’s City Council, Planning Commission, and planning staff will reassemble at City Hall on Monday, July 31, at 5:30 p.m. to begin what everyone hopes is the last workshop on this draft of the Housing Element. Public comments may be made, and the group should be making their last nonbinding decisions on how much housing of what income level will go to which parcels. The revised draft Housing Element will go to the state, and the public will have opportunities to comment to the Planning Commission and the City Council during the adoption period in the city. For more information, visit the city’s Housing Element page or email housingelement@cityofgoleta.org; sign up for project notifications here.


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