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Goleta Council Decides to Put Farmland Initiative on November Ballot

Residents will vote Nov. 6 on whether to approve a measure affecting agricultural lands within the city

Avocado trees set down roots on an agricultural parcel at Glen Annie and Cathedral Oaks roads in Goleta. The Goleta City Council voted Tuesday night to put the Goleta Heritage Farmlands Initiative, which would affect agriculturally designated parcels such as this, on the November ballot.
Avocado trees set down roots on an agricultural parcel at Glen Annie and Cathedral Oaks roads in Goleta. The Goleta City Council voted Tuesday night to put the Goleta Heritage Farmlands Initiative, which would affect agriculturally designated parcels such as this, on the November ballot.  (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

The Goleta City Council decided Tuesday night to put the Goleta Agricultural Land Protection Initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot, a move applauded by the Goodland Coalition and Environmental Defense Council.

The council members had the option of adopting the initiative outright at Tuesday night’s meeting, but approved the impact report and unanimously agreed, with virtually no discussion, to let voters decide the issue.

If passed, the initiative would amend the city’s General Plan Land Use Map so that re-designating any agricultural land more than 10 acres in size would require approval through a vote of the people.

The ordinance would be effective for 20 years, and exempt land needed for the kind of housing the state is required to provide under state law, and wouldn’t limit public school or park development. The city estimates that it will cost about $15,000 to have the ballot in the consolidated election.

Proponents claim the measure, also known as the Goleta Heritage Farmlands Initiative, “will protect our city’s small-town character and its unique agricultural and naturally scenic setting” and ensure that farmland isn’t rezoned without public debate.

They gathered enough signatures to put the item on the ballot and received a $10,000 grant from The Fund for Santa Barbara to educate voters on the initiative, Goodland Coalition spokesman Bob Wignot said.

There are only six parcels to which the initiative would apply, including Bishop Ranch and neighboring parcels, Fairview Gardens, a parcel in Ellwood Canyon and a parcel near the Glen Annie Golf Club.

Environmental Defense Center staff attorney Nathan Alley said the group was inspired by the council’s action against the proposed Bishop Ranch project last fall. The council voted against a residential and commercial project planned for the 240 acres of open space off Glen Annie Road.

Click here to read the initiative impact report.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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» on 06.20.12 @ 11:17 AM

Agriculture is more than just a land-use designation, it is also a business for the property owners.

For the public to be able to dictate to a property owner that he/she may not cash out of their business when it becomes unprofitable, or for any other reason, seems somehow anti-American.

» on 06.20.12 @ 11:33 AM

A close reading of the impact report shows that the intent of this is to cause increased costs to a landowner to stifle attempts to develop their property. That certainly sounds like an unconstitutional “taking” of property. Just to get this measure on the ballot seems to be costing 15,000 + another 10,000 to “educate the voters”. So it might seem reasonable to assume that a landowner would spend far in excess of that to first gain signatures for a ballot initiative, get it on the ballot, and wage a campaign to educate the voter about his point of view when wanting to convert his land to another use. Note the duplicitous exemption for the local government to avoid a ballot approval for any land it wants to convert, and just “self-approve”, while a landowner must be held accountable to a very expensive vote to gain a change in use. This type of “law” diminishing the value of property has already been ruled unconstitutional, and the lesson should have been learned and not repeated.

» on 06.20.12 @ 11:35 AM

Art, zoning is American.  Deal with it.

Surprising Noozhawk here would not report the vote outcome for this by the Goleta city council.

» on 06.20.12 @ 11:59 AM

Another big brother issue? 

Reminder to the residents of Goleta, you are the people who strenuously objected to cattle operations on the Bishop Ranch resulting in demise of that operation.  The only reason for the ongoing attempts to cut 217 (Ward Memorial) is the very questionable “we need to unite the city.”  Except for a very small strip of commercial property there is ag. land in the form of lemons.  What happens when the City of Goleta continues to raise water rates?  Every acre foot is the same as square foot triple net increase for commercial.

Not so simple.  But then again the same types that would hammer the basis of ag. are the same ones that assure the final crop (housing).

What do residents of Goleta want?  Taking of open space and killing ag. land with your tax dollars?  Killing ag. land operation with every raising costs of water etc.?  Objecting to smells and activity like pest spraying making ag. profitable?

The slippery slope.

» on 06.20.12 @ 12:44 PM

Yes, zoning is American.

But this initiative goes beyond simple zoning since it would require an affirmative vote of the public, rather than to use the standard process of zone change, for these property owners if their agricultural business was no longer sustainable.

It has the potential to lock them into owning a useless piece of property with no ability to employ the value in their land to move, start a new business elsewhere, etc. if the public doesn’t approve. And the process would cost them much more than the normal (already expensive) process of zone-change. That doesn’t seem free and in the American tradition.

» on 06.20.12 @ 12:47 PM

Yeah, I suppose this is un-American.  But, what would be American would be to put the fields under some parking lots and build a few big-box stores that sell foreign-made trinkets that people don’t really need and will eventually end up in our land-fills and oceans.

» on 06.20.12 @ 01:47 PM

Oh snippy that. Propose a ludicrous alternative that you don’t like (big box store) to make the over-reach of forcing a property owner to eat the cost of oppressive law seem “reasonable”. Why did you offer a big box store as a counter argument? Why not housing? Why not “green industry”? Why not try thinking outside the box?

It is often the case that those who want to “control” at the expense of others find there is only one alternative (a bad one) unless they get the oppression passed into legislation. And in finding just one negative alternative, they want to justify their over-reach.

» on 06.20.12 @ 04:56 PM

If Goleta home owners want to “preserve” ag land, which by way of Art’s logic, really means abandoned open space, then they should pony up the money for that property and buy it, at market value. Then they will know the true cost of their open space fetish in an urban area.

It is preposterous that the same 4 decade old and tired development clichés are still being used by the no nothing nevers here. Swizard101 you hit the nail on the head. Bishop could be developed, done so beautifully, adding needed housing and wealth generating industry and providing the revenue to fix Goleta’s asinine arterial circulation system which was scuttled decades ago by the same idiots who don’t want anything to change.

The Goleta valley has a population of 75,000 residents and a net influx of some 11,000 UCSB and industry workers every day. Hardly a small town people, get over it. Let’s get back to being a thriving community where the streets are completed and handle the existing capacity. Make the 800 pound gorilla, UCSB pony up for 45 years of infrastructure negligence and then take care of the other 800 pound gorilla sitting in our lap, SBA, and force them to pony up mitigation fees for operating a high impact facility in someone else’s neighborhood. Do that instead of this insipid whining over how some else is developing their property you are to cheap to buy.

» on 06.20.12 @ 05:23 PM

I always attempt to enter arguments like this with a philosophy that is consistent, not an ad-hoc “this is what I want”. I formed this philosophy back while in elementary school when urban migrants to my small town wanted to zone out of existence a junk yard a block from my house, so that their property values would rise at the expense of putting one man out of business. It never seemed the “Christian” thing to do, to be welcomed into a community, and then complain that the property they bought at a fair market value (with the junk yard in place) was somehow adversely impacted. The adverse impact was imaginary, they did not lose, but rather wanted to acquire greater value at one man’s expense. No different than the lame brains who buy a home under an airport approach, and then want the airport to cease “depressing” the value of what they bought so cheaply due to the noise.

» on 06.20.12 @ 07:55 PM

I’ve lived in Goleta for 40 years, and definitely support this. The Bishop Ranch folks have spent 30 of the last 40 years trying to convince us that agricultural usage isn’t viable, by purposefully firing the ranch manager, razing the worker housing, not protecting their orchards from coming frost, selling off their water rights, and negotiating with potential tenant farmers in such a manner that no farmer in their right mind would sign on with them. If they’d spent half as much time and money actually running their farm as a farm, we would have a world-class urban agriculture destination.

If you don’t treat me like I’m stupid, I’m more likely to consider your point of view. When you spend decades purposefully destroying viable agricultural usage, we’ll call you on your BS.

» on 06.20.12 @ 10:15 PM

The above writer seems to think that the AG use should be preserved because “he” thinks it is viable and profitable. What detailed study brought that to mind? Why do you think the landowner would endure 30-40 years of unprofitable land use just to find another use even less profitable (oh, you actually agree he might find another use more profitable, but you want to deny that use for “your pleasure” at “his expense”). Stand up and be a man. Start a public drive to collect funds from people voluntarily to buy the land. Get some billionaire to fund conversion into a conservancy. But, darn it, stop asking the landowner to subsidize a community benefit at his own expense.

» on 06.20.12 @ 10:33 PM

Not to mention that buying ag zone land is much cheaper and the property taxes are far lower. They got it cheap and they want to have it rezoned? Pay the retroactive costs, too?

» on 06.21.12 @ 01:12 PM

Very good points swizard101! Much of the damage done to our urban circulation system was done with that very selfish attitude you describe in mind.

Becky, as I said, pony up the money and buy the Bishop property, then you can do what ever the rest of us tell you, you can do. Get the picture?

» on 06.21.12 @ 02:00 PM

There is something missing in this discussion, a basic understanding of zoning and its purpose. Those who have written that an owner should be able to do whatever with their property need to answer me this: Is it OK for me to have the absolute right. without any consent of a government body, to turn my house, located in a residential neighborhood, into
a. a drive in restaurant
b. a sewage treatment plant
c. a nuclear waste facility?
d. none of the above

OK, if you said d, then you agree that the public has a right to be protected via zoning laws.

OK, so where does zoning come from? We have had not one but 2 general plan processes where the public overwhelmingly agreed that certain properties should be zoned for residential and commercial development, mostly on the Hollister corridor. But it said that for the next 20 years or so, certain other properties should KEEP their ag zoning.

The proposed initiative doesn’t change that, but makes it harder for developers to overturn the General Plan, which developers can currently do just by electing 3 pro-development council members. Yep, that’s right, our General Plan can be overturned any Tuesday with only 3 votes.

Now it might be OK to add a tax or a crosswalk with only 3 votes because, if we don’t like the result, we can elect a different council member next time and remove the offending tax or crosswalk. 

BUT once land is re-zoned and developed, you can remove the offending council member who voted for it, but the land stays developed FOREVER! You can’t rezone land that’s been developed.

So the initiative just says that if you want to change the zoning on the only 6 remaining ag parcels in Goleta, the people need to approve.

You may disagree with that but please apply the facts, not some fatuous notions about absolute private property rights. The public has rights too, and THAT is what zoning is about.

» on 06.21.12 @ 02:46 PM

Richard, you are exactly correct about the process - general plan, zoning, government decisions based upon those. The issue here is to add another layer of approval requirements - an additional vote of the people -  on the ag property owners that would not be applied to any other property owners.

If the proposal was to require a vote of the people for ANY requested change of zoning designation (residential, commercial, manufacturing, etc.) then it would be at least be fairly applied. Not smart as the cost would insure that almost nothing got done except for mega-projects.

The case at point singles out only certain property owners for additional, expensive procedures if they want to change the use of their property.

» on 06.21.12 @ 03:01 PM

For RichardSaunders: My objections, and I think most of the rest here agree, is not against zoning at all. It is against making the zoning process even more difficult via a “vote” that allows the public, not keenly aware of applicable laws and constitutional protections, a substitute for zoning via elected officials due consideration of public needs and constitutional rights of the landowner. It forces the landowner to appeal to the public to either agree or disagree with some plan he might have, and the public can simply ignore any constitutional right he might have to follow that plan with appropriate mitigation that might be worked out in a zoning committee. So if a zoning committee understands such a plan is appropriate, has the appropriate mitigation, allows the landowner his consitutional right to use his property in a manner that is not confiscatory, the public can still via the vote deny that constitutionally protected use, and force the landowner to keep the land idle due to excessive land use regulations. We already see land use regulations being promoted that want farmers to ensure the water running off their fields meets the same standard as tap water for purity. I am not against zoning altogether, I am against making a ballot box available to voting away a landowner’s right to fair use of his land without public compensation for those limits. You want public limits on his ability to profit from what he owns, then be ready to pay for that benefit to the public.

» on 06.21.12 @ 03:08 PM

AN50 made me think of another point: Yes Becky, why don’t you envision that some “conservancy” should buy the land. And then the voters should still have the right to approve or disapprove anything the conservancy plans to do with a property, and if the plans are disapproved and the property becomes “not viable” to the conservancy, they can sell it to some developer. Or the public can approve whatever the conservancy plans, just because the word “conservancy” sounds good, so no matter how bad those plans may be for public benefit, the voters can approve based on “feel good” as opposed to “is good”. Why should a conservancy have any less oversight than any other owner? Have you considered that?

» on 06.22.12 @ 07:58 PM

Take a good look around you folks. Goleta is an absurdity and contradiction. The little hamlet endured 2 decades of unfettered suburban sprawl, which left it a patchwork of housing tracts, featureless sprawling shopping centers and open spaces, unfinished roads and surface street circulation with that characteristic low rise flat featureless landscape devoid of character, then it endured 4 decades of no growth hysteria which resulted in urban planning by just saying no to everything. In the midst of that you have an airport operated by a hostile condescending and aloof neighboring city and a state university that does what ever it damned well pleases with no concern whatsoever for its surrounding community.

And still what is the main concern here folks? “Oh, how will we preserve the small town charm we lost 60 years ago?” Good friggen grief. The only thing more appalling than zoning by voter approval is having those living here become more engaged than they already are. Richard the place is a mess. It’s a mess because people who have no clue how to do urban development (the public) are in cahoots with those who believe urban development should include coercive behavior modification (current planners). And no one will force the 8000 pound gorilla UCSB to make up for 40 years of growth with little or no mitigation to the community it impacts because everyone here has the lunatic belief that any improvement to the infrastructure is growth!

We add a net population of Carpentaria every friggen week day to this town because we have more jobs than housing. Meanwhile the urban social engineers continue to do these idiotic “lane diets” reducing roadway capacity on already handicapped unfinished arterial routes in some lunatic idea that it will preserve our small town charm. There is nothing charming about gridlock or the inability to get around your own damned town because the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

I don’t expect my exasperation to change the absurdly stubborn attitude of the no growth, anti tall, don’t widen, preserve the god-awful status quo crowd because after 40 years and two generations it’s just bloody well pointless. The Bishop Ranch is a beautiful piece of property and if it were mine I would build a wonderful addition to our community that added much needed housing, retail and commercial space while closing arterial loops, widening roads and providing the community with much needed revenue. I would use the development as a crowbar and motivator to UCSB and force this wonderful academic institution to ante up for 40 years of neglect including a much needed southern valley east-west arterial.

Yes I understand that there are those who are so crippled by the thought of any change at all that they prefer leaving an unfinished cobbled together patch work community with loads of 40 year old stick and stucco alone. I just disagree. I know what I say about the competency of my neighbors comes off sounding offensive. But let me ask you this, would you have your car, house, appliances, phone or any other complex item involving multiple systems designed by public consensus? No you wouldn’t. Your town and community is no different yet we plan by consensus which means you get the lowest common denominator and the mediocre and nothing friggen works.

The train wreck of unfettered development in southern California that drove me to study urban development my entire life did not destroy my desire to build and create. Unfortunately, in this town, I stand alone.

» on 06.23.12 @ 10:33 PM

Of all the violations of basic private property rights I have seen during my (only) 15 years in California, this is the worst.  It amounts to eminent domain without the financial compensation.  Goes WAY beyond zoning.

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