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Letter to the Editor: Please Oppose Up-Zoning in the Eastern Goleta Valley

I am writing in support of conserving the agriculturally zoned land in the eastern Goleta Valley area of Santa Barbara County for agriculture, as a critical resource for our community. This includes the San Marcos Growers property that is under pressure from developers, although not currently recommended for development. It is being farmed and supplying local produce to the community. In addition, it is important to support longer-term preservation of local agriculture by re-inserting the agricultural land protection language back into the county’s Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan in Section LUA-1.6: Urban Agricultural Land Use Conversion.

Why is so important to conserve our local potential for food production? Our research at UCSB has shown that currently less than 5 percent of the produce consumed in Santa Barbara County is grown in the county, even though we grow nine times the amount consumed; almost all produce grown in our county is exported while we import 95 percent! This disconnect between production and consumption in our county is associated with high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition, negative environmental effects (due to greater transport, packaging and processing), and dependence on imports of food using increasingly scarce fossil fuels.

Other research has shown that it is the small urban and periurban farms such as those in the eastern Goleta Valley that are most likely to grow a variety of vegetables, fruits and other products, market directly to the community, and use organic and other environmentally sustainable production methods. Many of the farms in the EGV match these criteria.

These farms have the documented potential to contribute to improving the diets and nutrition of local residents, strengthening the economy by keeping money spent on food in our county, helping our county meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and reducing water pollution due to fertilizer and pesticide runoff.

They can also make important contributions to increasing our food security in a future that is sure to bring more volatile food prices, increasing oil and shipping costs, systemic food contamination, and breakdowns in transport networks due to natural and human-caused disasters.

Thus, the agricultural areas of the eastern Goleta Valley offer us the opportunity to develop food production integrated within an urban community in ways that could make Santa Barbara County a leader in defining possibilities for a future food system that is truly local and sustainable.

I therefore ask the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission to oppose the proposed up-zoning of the eastern Goleta Valley.

David A Cleveland
Professor, UCSB Environmental Studies Program

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