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County Supervisors to Consider Studying Higher Densities in Eastern Goleta Valley

The board sets aside three hours of Tuesday's meeting for discussion of proposed changes and whether to grant the go-ahead for an environmental review

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has set aside three hours of Tuesday’s meeting to hear from county staff and the public about proposed changes to the Eastern Goleta Valley that could see the area become more dense with residential housing.

The supervisors are being asked to give the go-ahead to begin an environmental review for the draft community plan for the area, which spans from the eastern border of Goleta to the northwestern border of Santa Barbara.

The Goleta Valley Community Plan for the Eastern Goleta Valley would amend the plan that was last updated 19 years ago and provide guidelines for future development in the area.

But some worry that changes enforced by the state could make the semi-rural area a more dense and congested place to live.

Under its current housing element, the county is obligated to consider the residential zoning of at least two sites totaling 20 to 30 acres zoned for 20 units an acre. Last summer, the county received a letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development that the county’s housing element was conditional on this rezoning, and that the draft plan “does not appear to include sufficient and realistic opportunities for higher density residential development.”

If the county fails to implement the new zoning by July, its housing element would no longer comply with state law.

The county Planning Commission recommended that the densities go forward last year, and staff have said that studying the higher densities in the environmental documents is not a commitment to rezone the properties.

The county is now studying seven specific properties where that density could be increased to 20 units per acre. The draft community plan keeps two parcels designated as urban agricultural areas,  with one on South Patterson Avenue and one at San Marcos Growers, near Hollister Avenue and Turnpike Road.  But many are still worried about the possibility of those parcels being converted for other uses besides farming.

A letter from Good Land Coalition chairman Bob Wignot was sent to the Board of Supervisors last week, encouraging the board to follow Goleta’s lead on preserving open space and agricultural land. The City Council gave a resounding no to Bishop Ranch developers last September and voted unanimously not to proceed with a public planning process.

“Agricultural land is a precious local resource in any community and is worth fighting for,” Wignot wrote. “When it is paved over, it is gone forever. We hope that the voice of the Eastern Goleta Valley is heard just as clearly by the county as ours was heard by the City of Goleta.”

Another letter sent from the Environmental Defense Center called for the supervisors to uphold the Planning Commission’s decision not to include the San Marcos Growers site for a rezone, as well as a parcel on South Patterson zoned for agriculture.

Also included in the public comment is a letter from Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash. The district owns a 23-acre property in the Eastern Goleta Valley that was planned for another junior high school in the 1960s but has since been vacant. The site is zoned for residential development, however, and was identified by the county that it could be rezoned for more units.

”The redesignation of this site would provide an opportunity for the district to pursue future development of the site as a means of obtaining significant revenue and to provide the community with much needed housing, including below market,” Cash wrote.

A letter from Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting Services in support of the changes was sent on behalf of the owners of the triangle parcel on South Patterson Avenue, and said the property has potential for a residential in-fill project. Elledge asked the supervisors to uphold the Planning Commission recommendation to study residential uses in the area.

“It would be unreasonable and premature to outright reject it,” she wrote.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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