Secord and Wolf Rev Up for 2nd-District Runoff
by Martha Sadler
A burst of fire from the environmental community pumped some adrenaline into a Second District supervisorial runoff that had been moving slowly ever since the June primaries. Members of the Sierra Club and other like-minded organizations gathered in front of the county courthouse during the lunch hour on Tuesday to endorse candidate Janet Wolf and excoriate her rival, Dan Secord. Wolf and Secord are competing for the seat being vacated by Susan Rose.
The pièce de resistance was offered by the Sierra Club’s Mark Massara, who damned Secord’s voting record on the California Coastal Commission (CCC). Secord served as a commissioner in 2005, earning a 38 percent approval rating on the CCC Conservation Voting Chart, which has been compiled for the past 19 years by an association of statewide organizations including the Surfrider Foundation and the League for Coastal Protection. That compares to a 60 percent approval rating for the commission as a whole that year.
Particularly galling to Santa Barbara environmental warriors was Secord’s minority vote against even hearing an appeal of a proposed five-home subdivision abutting the More Mesa coastal blufftop. The More Mesa Preservation Coalition wanted the homes to be single-story. Secord responded that the project — which allowed for some two-story homes — had been passed by the supervisors 4-1. Massara also deplored Secord’s lone vote against supporting legislation meant to hinder backroom lobbying of coastal commissioners. The bill — ultimately vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger — would have required that commissioners report ex parte communications within three days instead of seven.
In response to the criticism, Secord said that he supports the Sierra Club and values Massara’s innovative ideas for saving the Gaviota coast. However, he has characterized the annual conservation list as skewed by the political agenda of Massara, an influential environmental attorney. The 50 or so votes it analyzes, from among the hundreds of votes commissioners cast annually, are selected to cudgel particular politicians up for election. More Mesa activist Valerie Olsen responded that Secord’s approval rating was a mere 24 percent based on his first six months as a commissioner, but improved when Rose announced she was quitting and Secord started considering a run for supervisor.
Over the past couple of weeks, Secord and Wolf both have been subjected to arm-twisting by the Coalition for Sensible Planning, which has become a force to be reckoned with since it formed last year to fight development in the eastern Goleta Valley suburbs. During separate meetings with the CSP, both Secord and Wolf tried to wriggle away from making specific commitments — with differing degrees of success. The CSP managed to extract from Wolf a promise to champion — sight unseen — the planning recommendations of the Goleta Visioning Committee, whose membership she agreed was representative of the valley. As it turned out, that report called for a maximum density of seven units per acre for any future development. One week later, after listening to a wide range of concerns from CSP members and expressing sympathy, Secord avoided promising anything. At one point, he seemed to indicate that he would support the CSP’s positions if they supported him, saying, “I will represent the constituents that elected me: That’s the name of the game.” However, he quickly added, “I’m not going to agree with you all the time and I’m not going to make you happy all of the time.” Under close questioning, he agreed that the 400 units of affordable housing proposed for a 20-acre parcel on Calle Real owned by the Metropolitan Transit District would represent too high a density, but that 200 units seemed reasonable. He merely nodded when members pointed out that, at the seven units per acre that the Goleta Visioning Committee prefers, the number of units would have to be 140.
The candidates differ on the establishment of a planning commission for the eastern valley, which would give the residents a stronger voice in development decisions for that unincorporated region. Secord favors the idea, calling for a number of planning commissions representing various unincorporated communities. Wolf calls instead for the bifurcation of the existing Santa Barbara County Planning Commission into one for the north county and one for the south county. Bifurcation is favored by environmental groups seeking to save the rural Gaviota coast and foothill lands from development, because it might allow county planners to steer development away from the Gaviota coast and into more urbanized areas.