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Willow Springs II Housing Project to Proceed Without Development Agreement with City of Goleta

Council also delays its decision on whether to join the regional effort for a single-use plastic bag ban

The Willow Springs II housing project will move forward without a development agreement with the City of Goleta.

Two of the three City Council members present at Tuesday night’s meeting didn’t support the agreement, so the original approved project will move forward.

The 100-unit housing project was approved by the council in July, but developer Michael Towbes and Goleta staff members negotiated a development agreement to potentially change the fee structure.

The 100 units will be built adjacent to the existing 235 units at 60 Willow Springs Lane. The Towbes Group will pay $1,010,600 in Quimby fees up front and have no requirement to make Willow Springs II condominium rentals. Quimby fees benefit parks and recreation capital projects.

The development agreement — which was recommended for approval by the Planning Commission at its Aug. 13 meeting — would have required the housing units of Willow Springs I and II to be rentals for at least 10 more years and, in exchange, forgive $590,600 worth of the Quimby fees. Some units rented at below-market rates would keep those low rates for an additional three years.

Mayor Ed Easton and Councilwoman Margaret Connell said they wanted the full $1 million to fund parks projects and opposed the agreement.

Easton argued that the agreement would essentially fund housing subsidies with the fees that would otherwise go to park acquisition and capital projects.

“It may be a fine and reputable thing to do, but it’s not what I thought Quimby funds were for,” he said.

Councilman Roger Aceves argued that their opposition was short-sighted. He said the development agreement would guarantee hundreds of rental housing units for the next 10 years and also help coordinate an easement for a proposed commuter rail stop on Castilian Drive.

Aceves added that Goleta voters and business owners want a commuter rail stop in town, and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments has identified that parcel as the best and likely only good option for one.

When council members offered to delay the vote until the full five-member council was present, Towbes instead withdrew his application for a development agreement.

“It’s an offer we’ve made because we think it moves in a direction the city would like to see, with longer-term rentals,” he said, adding that he has no hard feelings. “I’m neutral about this and am more interested in getting a decision, so we’re prepared to withdraw our request, because I don’t think delaying a few weeks will change the outcome.”

Also on Tuesday night, the City Council discussed joining the regional effort for a single-use plastic bag ban. The council decided to delay a decision until the ordinance committee could discuss whether the city even wanted to pursue a ban, and whether that ban would bear resemblance to the model being used for BEACON’s environmental impact report.

BEACON — the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment — plans to conduct an environmental impact report for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and cities within them. The EIR will be based on the model ordinance drafted by the City of Santa Barbara, which in turn was developed after considering legal challenges to similar laws throughout the state.

Carpinteria’s ordinance, for example, was swiftly challenged when the City Council included a ban on restaurant takeout bags, but the lawsuit was dropped when that clause was also eliminated.

Santa Barbara County, Ventura County and the City of Ventura have agreed to pitch in $8,000 each toward the EIR effort, according to Goleta management analyst Claudia Dato. The City of Santa Barbara is expected to contribute money as well, and the Orfalea Foundation has given a grant of $5,000 toward the cause.

The Santa Barbara draft ordinance is the one used for the scope of the EIR because, “this is the one we think is state-of-the-art and with the EIR backing it up, would be the best one to have in place,” BEACON Executive Director Brian Brennan said.

Environmental advocates from Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and the Community Environmental Council said education efforts such as the “Where’s Your Bag?” campaign are helpful but won’t solve the problem on their own.

The most impressive example from “Where’s Your Bag?” — Tri-County Produce — has 43 percent of customers bringing in reusable bags, while jurisdictions with bans show more than 90 percent of people bringing in their own bags to stores, the CEC’s Kathy King said.

She said it would be great to use education to make habits change, but legislation is the best way to go.

Aceves argued that the city should decide on whether it wants to pursue a ban at all before joining BEACON’s EIR. If Goleta’s idea for a ban differs too much from the draft, the EIR could be useless to them, he said.

Easton and Connell said joining BEACON’s EIR would most likely be the least expensive way to do environmental review for a single-use bag ban, but agreed on the need for public input.

Brennan said BEACON can wait for an answer from Goleta until its November meeting, so the city can put the issue to its ordinance committee and ask for public input before committing money to the regional EIR.

The basic outlines of the ban in the draft ordinance are:

» The ordinance would generally apply to stores that are 10,000 square feet or larger and that sell a line of dry grocery or canned goods or non-food items and some perishable food, or that has a pharmacy. The ordinance would also apply to any other retail store that sells a limited line of grocery items, including stores that possess a liquor license.

» The ordinance would prohibit a store from providing a customer with any plastic carryout bags with the exception of product or produce bags (for meat, vegetables, bulk food items, prescriptions, etc.).

» The ordinance would require stores to provide reusable bags to customers, either for sale or at no charge.

» The ordinance would require that stores proving a recyclable paper carryout bag to a customer charge the customer 10 cents for each bag provided.

» The ordinance would not apply to restaurants or other businesses that sell prepared carry-out food, or other retailers which sell no food items, such as department and clothing stores.

» The ordinance would exempt clients of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program and other food assistance programs.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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