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Haskell’s Landing Ensnared in Unease over Goleta General Plan Changes

City Council postpones decision on 101-unit project to focus on amendment reconciliation

After hours of discussions and deliberations, the Goleta City Council this week postponed a decision on the residential project known as Haskell’s Landing.

“I’d like to be sure we know what we’re doing when we change the General Plan in as substantial a way as is proposed here,” Councilman Ed Easton said during Tuesday’s lengthy meeting.

Haskell’s Landing is the third incarnation of a residential project on a triangular piece of land of about 14 and a half acres in western Goleta. Back in the 1990s it was called the Aradon project, a105-unit residential plan that lapsed when the area was still Santa Barbara County territory. It subsequently became the Residences at Sandpiper, which was the subject of litigation between the developer, Oly Chadmar, and the newly formed city of Goleta. The project came to the council as a result of a Goleta Planning Commission stalemate earlier this year that occurred when one commissioner missed a meeting.

Today the Haskell’s Landing project is a 101-unit project with housing sizes ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. The council weighed the benefits of the project — affordable housing, restoration of a seasonal creek that runs through the center of the property, and most notably, the $1.5 million contribution to a fire station in the neighborhood — versus possible General Plan changes to accommodate the project’s plans, environmental impacts and air quality.

The two General Plan amendments the developer is requesting come at time when the city is still reworking its General Plan. One deals with the rather contentious issue of creek setbacks, which in this case dictate how much space the project has to allow between the development and Devereux Creek. The applicants are requesting an amendment to the 100-foot policy to change it to a 50-foot setback, the same as in Carpinteria or the county.

The other amendment request deals with the city’s as-yet unapproved General Plan Housing Element, and how many affordable units the project is required to provide. Current policy dictates there should be 30 percent, while the project proponents are asking for 20 percent.

Members of the public supporting this project included Ron Bruns, a retired firefighter who emphasized the fire station money that comes along with the project.

“The need for this station has been a known need for many years,” he said.

Meanwhile, others urged the council to wait before initiating any amendments related to the project, saying the concurrent work on the General Plan with the two policies up for amendment should be tackled first, along with environmental concerns.

“The 50-foot setback that is proposed, and the General Plan amendment that is under consideration are a step backward for the environment, for clean water and the vision that brought the city into being,” said Eddie Harris of the Urban Creeks Council.

As far as city planning staff are concerned, the project was a good one. According to Goleta planning director Steve Chase, a 20 percent inclusionary housing ratio is still one of the highest in Californian suburbs, and scientifically, he said, a 100-foot setback is little more effective than a 50-foot setback.

“I think we would all benefit from moving these decision points back a bit and having the time to go into it in depth,” said Councilman Eric Onnen. Outside of the weight of the General Plan amendments, which would change the rules for similar properties throughout Goleta, he said, there is a history of litigation between the developer and the city.

The council voted unanimously to meet on the matter again on April 21 in closed session. There will be another public meeting May 5. Meanwhile, city staff will be taking the comments presented on the project and finalizing its recommendations.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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