Friday, November 27 , 2015, 4:29 am | A Few Clouds 44º

Eric Onnen: Beware the Hidden Agenda Behind Goleta’s Measure G

By Eric Onnen |

Goleta voters will be voting on the Measure G agriculture initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. Once again, the initiative process has enabled a small group of people the opportunity to make the choices for all of us. Once again, the name and purpose of the initiative really misrepresents its true intent. The real purpose here is to limit (eliminate) the use of urban properties, not to preserve agriculture.

Eric Onnen
Eric Onnen

Goleta cityhood was championed by a small group of people who had the determination and fortitude that finally allowed our city to become a reality. I admire that effort and am thankful these folks got the job done. The primary motivation for them was local control of land use and apparently, if possible, the avoidance or elimination of all future development. This extreme position has resulted in many significant, long-lasting policy decisions.

The first of these damaging policies is demonstrated by the Goleta revenue-neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County. This small group of people was so fixated on the need to control land use and growth that they agreed to mortgage forever the future financial well-being of Goleta. They did this by agreeing to make mitigation payments to the county forever! These mitigation payments to the county will total $100 million in the next few years, and each year commits millions of dollars in city revenues to the county for no benefit of the citizens of Goleta.

In 2006, this same group successfully crafted a General Plan that was packed full of prohibitions, internal contradictions and overzealous protections. The restrictions were so onerous that something as simple as adding a bedroom to your house would require hiring a team of land-use professionals and still take years to get approvals. This plan was adopted by the city council, the same folks that locked Goleta into the revenue-neutrality agreement. Since the General Plan’s adoption, the city has been updating and correcting this plan to make it practical and legal. This scope of work has been ongoing for the last six years and has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. It has also prevented Goleta from accomplishing other needed and required actions on which a new city should be focused — all because of a single overriding goal of stifling growth at all costs.

That cost has been way too high, wasting huge amounts of property owners’ money and consuming city resources and our tax dollars without need. Goleta has an open and comprehensive planning process that will ensure development is done well and at a pace that protects our quality of life!

In this election, our city founders once again are willing to sacrifice anything to prevent the possibility of growth or development. They are willing to impose a 20-year policy because they fear elected officials might not uphold their growth agenda. This policy is written with such a narrow focus and intention that the opportunity for damage far exceeds the potential for benefit. It will impede future city recreational opportunities. It could prevent needed and community-supported housing options. It could encumber the opportunities to move properties into protected open space, create trail access or build transportation alternatives to avoid traffic problems and create emergency options.

Many of the impacts of this initiative will not be known for years! It does not matter what side of growth you support, this policy is bad! It is not needed to protect our community, it will do nothing to protect agriculture and it will lead to more wasted time, money and city resources. I am furious that this small group believes it has the only solution and will mislead us into allowing it. This is our city, not just your city! Allow all of us to participate in crafting policy in a thoughtful, open process! Do not saddle Goleta with another folly for the sake of one limited agenda.

Vote No on Measure G.

— Eric Onnen is a local businessman and former Goleta mayor and city councilman.

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» on 10.19.12 @ 09:08 AM

Thanks Eric, now I know to vote yes on Measure G.  You might want to consider moving to Orange County, there aren’t any restrictions on development there.

» on 10.19.12 @ 11:19 AM

Nice response joerak, the typical stupid intelligence devoid remark of our haft wit, knee jerk nimby’s. No-nothing-never, N3’s the hall mark of ass backward planning by ballot box and reactionary knee jerking. As Eric pointed out, the kind of Orwellian draconian requirements this city implemented to stifle growth, made a simple addition or change to ones own home a bureaucratic nightmare. We have the worst surface street traffic circulation and with SB’s airport, UCSB and this idiotic revenue neutrality agreement, no money to effect change as a result.

Why, because a bunch of whiny retirees and leftist kooks think any change at all is bad. Anyone no matter who they are if they dare challenge the narrow minded group of lunatic is instantly demonized as an “evil Orange County developer.” I have watched in horror as these people accost home owners, trying to get an addition approved, over the choice in back yard lighting fixtures. Are you kidding? No growth is not a preservation mantra with these people its an obsession, a disease and it is destroying our valley as it is destroying the city of Santa Barbara.

This measure is just the latest attempt from this minority of ding bats to impose a fascist state upon our small community. A city is a living entity, it must be allowed to live and breath, which means grow, shrink and change in response to its inhabitants. There is no place for preservation in a city on the scale these people want. Preservation, like preservatives is for dead things.

» on 10.19.12 @ 12:22 PM

The Bishop misses the point in his reckless headlong attacks. This measure is about Ag land being re-zoned as commercial/residential.

Having a certain amount of Ag land in an area is an important element of land use planning. Local farming is important to a majority of the residents.

When you own land zoned agricultural, you get a much lower tax basis. This goes on for years. To pay the reduced taxes, some owners sell their water rights. Why not, when they fully expect to re-zone later, and never intend to do agriculture? Now they have Ag land with inadequate water rights, but they could make millions if the can get it re-zoned commercial/residential and put in 1200 or so houses.

I don’t hear any of them offering to pay pro rata back taxes. And what about the prior owners, who may have sold the land cheap, since it was zoned Ag? Do they get a cut? Maybe they will want to sue somebody.

Bottom line, if you don’t intend to farm, don’t buy Ag land.

» on 10.19.12 @ 01:20 PM

Evidently Mr Onnen believes it was a mistake to become a city, in that revenue neutrality is a requirement in that process.
Secondly, it is insulting to every voter who every voted in this city when he persists in saying a small group did this or did that,  One would think that as a former Council Member who represented the Pro Growth segment of our community very well, he would realize one does not become elected by a small group rather by a vote of the majority of the electorate.
Measure G does nothing but make sure special interests with big revenue buy a canidate with large infusions of pack money.
Thirdly, if his concern is the econmic welfare of our City then he should opose all housing developments because they create far greater demand for services than they fund and in almost all cases create more jobs that pay less than it would take to buy into the new development.
The reality is we do not have a housing shortage, we have a job surplus relative to Santa Maria or Ventura.  It makes as much sense to say the shortage is due to employers who fail to pay their employees a wage commiserate with our areas cost than to say we have an affordable housing shortage.
I know one of Mr. Onnens former employees who moved out of town.  He spoke well of Mr Onnen as a person but he said he would never be able to buy a house here, which he was able to do in another state.
The answer is not more unaffordable houses, nor more public housing.  Paving over every ranch from here to Gaviota will not make coastal housing cheaper but it will produce huge traffic problems.
Of course, when things become grid locked at least you could ride on of Mr Onnens Airbus’s to LAX to avoid any irritation behind the wheel.

PS I do think the Santa Barbara Air Bus is a great service that makes travel more pleasant. And in the grand scheme of things, rapid mass transit makes more sense than building more houses.

» on 10.19.12 @ 04:51 PM

Again, ballot box zoning has been an unmitigated disaster on the south coast; the fact that supporters of this measure won’t see that is reason enough to reject the measure.

This is about leaving zoning to the representative government we have not to the voters at large who have proven to be the worst urban planners on earth. Having 25,000 people cram in here every work day on a surface street transportation system that is inadequate for the permanent residence here to begin with is proof enough that we don’t need zoning decisions made by voters. The fact that these same voters have been scammed by UCSB for 4 decades now into accepting their growth with no mitigation to the community “because it will look like growth”, is more proof.

Trying to preserve a vacant undeveloped property in your community for your viewing pleasure with no compensation to the owner is hostile to private property rights. The fact that so many here tolerate government nosing around in their back yard says a lot about the sheeple mentality that drives such hostility.

There is a slippery slope in politics. We are sliding down one here. When we have mob rule dictating how you live and what you live like maybe then you will see the value of a democratic republic rather than mob rule democracy.

» on 10.20.12 @ 01:57 AM

Yes! Listen to Bishop ANchove! We have too many people crammed into this area already, so we need more houses! We must destroy the village to save the village!

» on 10.20.12 @ 12:45 PM

Here we have another fine example of one who plants his knee through his forehead.

» on 10.21.12 @ 06:36 PM

Mr. Onnen is a bright, caring guy, so it’s good to see that he’s staying involved
after leaving Goleta City Council.

But in this case, he could be wrong.

The City of Goleta already has hundreds of thousands of feet of new buildings either approved, or moving silently forward through the bureaucracy.

That’s more like the mid-90s “surprise” that suddenly hit the Goleta Valley a few
years after the S&L collapse, where an entire decade’s worth of new projects began to sprout suddenly, approved while no one had been watching.

Most parts of Ventura County have been functioning under agriculture and rural
open space protections for over a decade now, and no one seems to feel that
Ventura County is anti-business.

So why would it be any different or worse if Goletans try a similar approach?

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