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

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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