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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 8:18 am | Fair 44º

 
 
 
 

North Fairview Neighborhood Balks at Goleta’s Influence

Residents step up their campaign against inclusion in Goleta's Sphere of Influence and will take their case to LAFCO.

The foothills neighborhood along North Fairview Avenue is close to the hustle and bustle of Goleta but has a rural, bucolic feel. That's just the way residents like it and many have come together to fight the city's Sphere of Inluence plans.
The foothills neighborhood along North Fairview Avenue is close to the hustle and bustle of Goleta but has a rural, bucolic feel. That’s just the way residents like it and many have come together to fight the city’s Sphere of Influence plans. (Michelle J. Wong / Noozhawk photo)

When you drive north on Fairview Avenue from the city of Goleta, you head into the country. The sidewalk disappears, horses peer out at you from their corrals, the sleepy neighborhood rolls up and down the foothills north of Cathedral Oaks Road.

And the neighbors like it this way. Ask Tracy Reynolds, who spent her childhood in this unincorporated area.

“I grew up here,” she said of her family home, which she left in her early adult years, only to return later to take care of her aging parents. Not much has changed, she noted.

So when she and her neighbors found out that Goleta was planning to include their area in its Sphere of Influence proposal, they weren’t too thrilled.

“Actually, we found out by accident,” said resident Gail Shannon.

When the city of Santa Barbara more than a year ago proposed to include the eastern Goleta Valley in its Sphere of Influence, a move that was turned down by the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission, the North Fairview residents assumed they were part of that group. So they didn’t expect to be part of the Sphere of Influence that Goleta is proposing as part of its work on the General Plan, and for more than a year have been fighting the possibility at city meetings — seemingly to no effect.

Currently there are three primary areas Goleta is exploring for inclusion in its SOI, which is a boundary set by LAFCO in accordance with what the city sees as the nearby areas that most likely would have impacts on a municipality. One of Goleta’s potential tracts is Glen Annie Golf Course, whose owners want it to be part of the city. The area known as the South Patterson “ag block” is another, and so is the North Fairview neighborhood.

The main concern, say North Fairview residents, is that inclusion in the city’s sphere will lead to inclusion in the city’s urban limit line, which could open the rural area to more density and development.

“What is at stake is the character of the neighborhood,” Shannon said. “We like things the way they are.”

Last year the neighbors presented a petition to the city against inclusion in the sphere. It was signed by the vast majority of the residents in the area.

For Goleta, the issue is also one of future development — and its impacts to the city. These areas are reachable only through city streets. Should any development or other activity occur within the area, city streets and services are likely to be affected. While other parts of the 2nd Supervisorial District are under a development freeze pending an updated Goleta Valley Community Plan, the North Fairview neighborhood is not.

According to City Manager Dan Singer, inclusion in Goleta’s sphere does not necessarily mean more development.

“There’s no change in the services provided or change in the character of their neighborhood,” he said. “It just gives us a chance to be at the table with the county if there’s some major development there.”

The North Fairview Avenue area can only be accessed through the city of Goleta, which says it's concerned that the neighborhood could someday see additional development — along with increased impacts for the city.
The North Fairview Avenue area can only be accessed through the city of Goleta, which says it’s concerned that the neighborhood could someday see additional development — along with increased impacts for the city. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

What might be at the heart of the dilemma is perhaps what inclusion in a Sphere of Influence implies. While the city believes inclusion in the SOI does not necessarily mean annexation, the prevailing thought that the neighbors have is that inclusion will eventually turn into annexation.

History has been mixed on the South Coast. The city of Santa Barbara once had a Sphere of Influence that extended well beyond its boundaries, but never pursued annexation. About 18 months ago, however, when Santa Barbara made a bid to LAFCO to include the eastern Goleta Valley up to Goleta city limits, the agency turned down the request. LAFCO said that any municipality — Goleta or Santa Barbara — wishing to include the so-called “Noleta” area in its sphere would have to provide a concurrent annexation proposal.

“They decided that for the area between the two cities the policy is that we would amend the Sphere of Influence only with a concurrent annexation,” said Bob Braitman, LAFCO executive officer. Because an annexation is decided by a vote of the people, it would be up to residents in the eastern Goleta Valley, in this case, to decide if they want to be in anyone’s Sphere of Influence.

In the case of North Fairview, however, there is no access outside of Goleta city limits. At the same time, Goleta has no annexation proposal for the North Fairview area.

For the North Fairview neighbors, who have all along been hoping that Goleta would drop them from their Sphere of Influence plans, it may well come down to an appearance before LAFCO.

“I guess we’re just going to have to keep fighting this,” Shannon said.

The agency may grant Goleta’s Sphere of Influence proposal, although there is indication that LAFCO might want to give Goleta the same response it did Santa Barbara. According to both Braitman and Singer, however, the actual annexation, if any, will still come down to a vote of the people.

“The people are totally empowered in this,” Singer said.

Goleta’s Sphere of Influence proposal is scheduled to come before LAFCO on March 5.

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