Wednesday, October 17 , 2018, 11:31 pm | Fair 56º


Goleta Council Candidates Talk City Finances, Other Issues at Forum

Two incumbents, two newcomers are vying for three open seats

The four candidates vying for three open seats on the Goleta City Council attended a forum Monday night sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara County Education Fund and talked about everything from traffic to the Bishop Ranch property.

Incumbent Councilmen Roger Aceves and Michael Bennett are facing newcomers Paula Perotte and Reyne Stapelmann. Councilman Eric Onnen isn’t running for re-election.

Monday’s forum was held at the Goleta Valley Community Center on Hollister Avenue.

All four candidates emphasized the importance of financial oversight, especially amid the current economy. With a 4.4 percent unemployment rate, Goleta is doing better than most of the county, Aceves said.

He said his priorities lie with keeping city government a “lean machine” even if revenues recover, pushing zoning updates to align with the new General Plan and getting to work on revitalizing Old Town.

Bennett lauded the General Plan as a guide for future development and stressed the importance of finishing the San Jose Creek Capacity Improvement Project so that other capital projects could get on their way. He said updating the sign ordinance and coastal plan also would help guide the city into the future.

Perotte, who works with the Community Action Commission, said members of the City Council need to be responsive to resident issues and concerns. She said her priority issues are managing the city’s growth, and being fiscally prudent while maintaining vital services and supporting local businesses. A former PTA president, she is also involved in national and local efforts to ensure safe routes to school for children.

Hoping to replace Onnen with some small-business experience of her own is Stapelmann, a broker/Realtor and city planning commissioner. Embracing the community’s business sector — which includes high tech, medical device and computer companies, among others — and getting the Old Town projects on their way are among her priorities, she said, adding that long-term vision and broad experience is needed to handle the wide-ranging city issues.

The Bishop Ranch property has been a point of contention for both the City Council and Goleta residents, and while Bennett joined the majority in voting for a study on the land in August, Aceves said the city needs to question whether it’s a viable option to convert the land’s zoning designation from agricultural, as well as looking at whether it’s necessary to build so much additional housing.

Bennett said the process has been full of biased facts, so the study will help the city determine what can be done with the land as well as give the project its due process. Perotte said the land should stay zoned agricultural, while Stapelmann said no decision should be made until the fact-finding study is complete, but added that it would be ideal if the city could buy the 240-acre property.

On traffic, the candidates urged citizens to use alternative transportation as much as possible and discussed capital projects for overpasses and additional bike paths throughout the city. UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan, which projects an increase of 5,000 students and about 1,000 staff members, now includes traffic mitigation measures, Aceves said. Highly impacted intersections — such as Hollister and Fairview avenues and the Hollister Avenue and Storke Road area — are included in that, which is long overdue, he said.

Related to traffic issues are concerns about the city’s growth and availability of affordable housing, and Bennett said it’s impossible to provide affordable housing for everyone who wants to live in Goleta, but the city should support projects such as The Village at Los Carneros, even though it’s changed a lot from its initial plan. The only truly affordable housing is in rentals, the candidates said. Ninety-five percent of people who own a home here couldn’t afford to buy one now, Perotte said.

Stapelmann emphasized the amount of planning and oversight that goes into development, often including input from local Native American groups, to ensure projects are thoughtful of the environment.

Click here for more on Aceves’ campaign. Click here for more on Bennett’s campaign. Click here for more on Perotte’s campaign. Click here for more on Stapelmann’s campaign.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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