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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 11:41 am | Fair with Haze 65º


Clark Vandeventer: Planning Commission Decision a Blow to Local Families, Business

It adds insult to injury during tough economic times by upholding the appeal of a development that meets all city requirements

Unemployment in the state of California is at a whopping 12.2 percent. Thatʼs the highest since the Great Depression. Santa Barbara County is not immune to the economic woes of our time, with unemployment near 9 percent, according to August reports.

In a time when local businesses and families are struggling, it behooves local governments to foster an environment that promotes jobs and economic development. In Santa Barbara, thatʼs not the case.

Clark Vandeventer
Clark Vandeventer

On Sept. 17, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission upheld an appeal to halt a development previously approved by the Architectural Board of Review.

Developer David Lack and the architects at AB Design Studio spent two and a half years working on the project, which meets all of the requirements imposed by the city. It features green architecture and includes solar panels on the roof. While code allows building height in the district to reach 60 feet, Lackʼs development would top out at 30 feet.

The decision by the Planning Commission is alarming in more ways than one. It circumvents a responsible system of community planning and project review and places all questions of development into the realm of personal preference. It sends a message to anyone who would do business in Santa Barbara that even if you play by the rules, you still could be kicked out of the game at anytime. And the decision demonstrates how out of touch the Planning Commission is to the plight of local business and their families.

If you are in the trades, you are sucking wind. I know this because my father-in-law is a sheet metal contractor in Santa Barbara. Every day is a struggle to just hold on. His business is down 70 percent from a year ago, and he has gone from 13 employees a year ago to only two part-time employees today. As if it’s not enough that the state of California levies taxes on equipment he is leasing yet losing money on, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission adds insult to injury when it halts a plan such as this that would create hundreds of local jobs.

This is business as usual throughout California. Earlier this year, water pumps supplying water to much of Californiaʼs agricultural land was shut off by a judge based on reports from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The issue at hand was whether the pumps endangered the delta smelt. While findings are inconclusive, what we do know is that the decimated farm lands will cause food prices to go up, and that unemployment is souring in areas that depend on ag-jobs.

Areas affected by the court-ordered water shortage are now facing an unemployment rate of 14.3 percent. Some rural communities are facing rates of more than 40 percent. The Wall Street Journal quipped that San Joaquin Valley farmers are a new endangered species.

How dire does the situation have to become before our governments at all levels begin to take a practical approach to jobs and economic development? How bad does the situation have to become for tradesmen in Santa Barbara before the city comes through on its pledge to fast-track permitting for rebuilding homes destroyed in recent fires? How high does unemployment have to get in Santa Barbara before we allow reasonable development projects such as the one proposed by Lack?

The Santa Barbara City Council will have an opportunity to answer these questions. Lack can appeal the commissionʼs ruling to the council, and he has said he will.

By allowing the project to move forward, members of the council can send a statement that they are for responsible community planning and job creation. By opposing the project, they would send a message that they are beholden to special interests and out of touch with their constituents, who are doing all they can to get through these tough times.

— Clark Vandeventer is a social entrepreneur and is the founder and chairman of The Vandeventer Group. He’s committed to developing practical ideas that make government work and make government work for us.

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