On Oct. 2, something special happened at Goleta City Hall ...
A development project was approved based on the city’s General Plan — a planning document that took years to create, with maximum public engagement. Four of the five City Council members stood their ground, applauded the review process and voted “yes.”
They are to be congratulated.
The project is proposed for a flat lot that has sat vacant for decades, across Hollister Avenue from Camino Real Marketplace. Proposed by developer Westar Associates, the project is unique in that it consists of 266 units of one-, two- and three-bedroom “condominium”-style rental apartments.
Nearly all recent housing in the Goleta Valley has been for-sale units, and while we wholeheartedly endorse such product coming online, rental housing is a welcome addition to the mix. A diverse set of workforce housing options is critical to helping our businesses and their employees find what’s right for their needs.
Moreover, this is what the General Plan calls for. Located along Goleta’s main business corridor, Hollister Avenue, Westar’s “villagesque” housing will be both convenient to our businesses and the other indicators that constitute a high quality of life: walkable and attractive commercial shops and restaurants, nearby parks and open space.
To live in suburban Goleta and not have to get in your car to go to dinner or the movies, or to be able to bike or walk to the Ellwood bluffs to see the monarch butterflies, is special indeed.
Those who were there to oppose the project evidently were not aware of the General Plan designation. This is significant, and underscores why all citizens should take ownership in their new city.
Members of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce attended the hearing and expressed their support in other ways. The innovative business community along the Hollister corridor stepped up, calling this housing the kind that will attract current employees.
At the 2012 State of the City, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the City of Goleta and UC Santa Barbara announced the launch of “GEM,” Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet: a collaboration of business, government and education whose mission is to strengthen the local economy by working together to support new and growing technology entrepreneurs.
Our collective desire is that Goleta be recognized as a world-class regional center of excellence for entrepreneurial technology development and growth. The efforts of GEM will help foster a better business climate for not only start-ups, but existing innovative companies — large and small. By growing the best companies and the best talent, it is our belief that such public-private cooperation will further strengthen and sustain the economic vitality of our area.
What does this have to do with the Westar development? A critical component to recruiting and retaining an exemplary employment base is to provide attractive and diverse housing options for employees and their families.
This valley is beautiful for its location, character, city governance, and an economy that drives the engine for future generations. The delicate balance of a sustainable business environment, high-paying jobs, workforce housing and well-designed in-fill projects allows for the high quality of life that we collectively have as citizens of this community.
The Westar project is an important piece of this equation, and we applaud the City of Goleta for its leadership in implementing the collective wisdom of our General Plan.
— Kristen Amyx is president and CEO of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.