Goleta’s new planning director is a familiar face around the county: Peter Imhof, currently head of planning and the deputy executive director for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG). Previously, Imhof was with the county’s Planning and Development for eight years and the Coastal Commission for nearly two years before that.
“Goleta is a young and dynamic city, with a freshness and sense of possibilities not seen in longer established cities,” Imhof said. “I’ve worked with the planning departments of all nine of the county’s jurisdictions” through SBCAG, Imhof said, “and have enjoyed working with Goleta’s staff.” Of the role of his planning department, Imhof stated it would help facilitate public discussion and dialogue on development in a city with coastal resources and a prosperous business climate, as well as a proud agrarian past and a “high-tech ultramodern future.” The new director starts August 15, city spokesperson Valerie Kushnerov said. He holds a law degree from Boalt Hall and also earned his master’s in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley concurrently.
Of the Citygate report, a review of Goleta’s planning department that came out in June, Imhof had read it and thought it gave “not just a license but a mandate for the planning department to reinvent itself.” The report, written after a year’s worth of research and interviews with planning staff, residents, and developers, found the city had a General Plan and zoning code that failed to dovetail with each other, the first formed in 2006 after city incorporation and the latter brought over from the county; the variances caused a need for interpretation. A new zoning ordinance is in the works.
A history of the city’s growth during and after the General Plan process gave perspective to its trials through the Great Recession, and the report looked to the future as Goleta moves more toward renovation of older buildings and adaption for business. Imhof’s work seems bottomless as the report recommends seemingly simple fixes like the anachronism of triplicate carbon copies for building applications and adding executive summaries to staff reports, and more complicated ones like fixing the multiple “bites at the apple” that have happened during reviews, which tend to add new requirements a long way down the process, and making environmental review more efficient.
Imhof replaces Jennifer Carman, who left the city this past January, as did then-city attorney Tim Giles. At the time, it had come to light that a developer on the Village at Los Carneros project had been allowed to back out of an agreement to build affordable units and project amenities without notification to the City Council, which had hammered out the agreement.
How that change occurred remains murky. According to Jennifer Carman, currently the community development director in Morgan Hill, her department had discussed the project with Giles, who crafted the agreement and signed it with City Manager Michelle Greene.
Giles’s view was much more complicated. Currently of counsel with Casso & Sparks in the City of Industry, Giles recalled developer Red Tail Acquisitions had drafted an estoppel document, which he called a “snapshot in time” of changes to the Development Agreement that had been made in an Operating Memorandum. The City Attorney office would have verified the accuracy of Red Tail’s document with Planning, he said. A discussion about the number of permits involved was had — being able to hold off on issuing building permits at a certain point in construction is the heart of the Development Agreement — but he claimed attorney-client privilege when asked for details. According to Giles, it would have been the city manager’s call on whether the terms conformed with the Development Agreement to such a degree that she could sign it without notifying the City Council, which is standard operating procedure for routine changes to such agreements.
Greene stated the numbers had not been made clear to her, a responsibility of the other two. She added that the original developer on the Village at Los Carneros project, Comstock Homes, was making excellent progress.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this story has been replaced as new information became available.