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Goleta Votes to Consider General Plan Request for Westar Property

A 23-acre parcel on Hollister Avenue is targeted for a new commercial and residential project.

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The Goleta City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday evening to look into a potential General Plan amendment at the request of the owner of a 23-acre property along Hollister Avenue across from the Camino Real Marketplace.

Only council member Margaret Connell, uncomfortable with the height limit increase that is part of the amendment initiation request, and its potential impact to the rest of city planning, voted no on the proposal, which is still in its conceptual stages.

Right now, the site is an empty lot, zoned residential, with a view to the north of the Santa Ynez mountains. Peter Koetting of the Goleta Hollister LLC, property owner, presented a vision of a “horizontal mixed-use project,” on what is known as the Westar property, that essentially would divide the property into north and south portions, keeping the multifamily designation of the 15-acre north end while changing the 8-acre south portion, which includes the existing Univision building and Bank of America ATMs, into a small commercial area.

The amendments needed would allow for the change in land use, and an increase in height limit in the commercial space from 25 feet to 35 feet.

“Mixed-use is the ultimate green design,” Koetting said. The commercial portion would help pay for the residential project behind it, he said. “We think we can bring that to you.”

The planning staff and applicant still have to consider the compatibility of the new designation with the surrounding properties, which are typically industrial or office space. The new land use also would take out of Goleta’s supply land designated for housing, and block views to the north. Much of the would-be commercial area fronting Hollister is also in the Santa Barbara area approach zone, and the city planners would have to take that aspect into consideration.

Neighbor and housing advocate Jennifer McGovern came out in support of the project, saying it could supply much-needed housing options for the different populations of the city.

Meanwhile, another neighbor aired his concern over the parking that would be needed in the area.

“I’m afraid of turning the area into Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks,” Ira Gladnick said.

“I never thought one of the first things I would do at a council meeting, when I first got on council, would be voting to initiate a General Plan change,” said newly elected council member Ed Easton, who historically has been fiercely protective of the original General Plan and many of its policies. “But this is an idea worth looking at and taking further.”

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