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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 10:49 am | Partly Cloudy 52º


Letter to the Editor: Is Goleta Becoming the New West Covina?

Some say watching local government work can be like watching the making of sausage and – for those unfamiliar with the process – it can be pretty ugly to watch and, inside the sausage, can be some hidden "surprises."

If you attended the Goleta City Council meeting evening session on Oct. 20 or watched it on video, you saw some serious sausage making.

With a vote of 3 (Aceves, Farr, Vallejo) to 2 (Perotte, Bennet) the Goleta council approved the "Old Town Village Mixed Use Project," which will construct 175 town homes on a 12.3-acre parcel of land situated about 1,000 feet south of Hollister Avenue, between Pine Avenue on the west and South Kellogg Avenue/Kellogg Way on the east.

Known to long-time Goleta residents as the "Page Site," the parcel has been farm land for almost 100 years. The proposal is to replace that with nearly 175 two- and three-story town homes – "major high-density housing," as one opponent termed it – and little or no parking and lots of vehicular traffic.

The sausage-making came during the "public hearing" part of the Old Town Village discussion. Twenty individuals, 17 of whom were citizens of Goleta, spoke to the council on the issue. Council members also acknowledged that they received both email and physical mail from Goletans opposing the project.

Mayor Paula Perotte even had citizens visit her at her home to express their reservations about the project.

Speaking in favor of the project were: a representative for the applicant/developer, along with Kristen Miller, president of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, and a UCSB student.

The president of the Willow Creek Townhomes Association also spoke, but was neither for or against the project. He only expressed concern on behalf of the 37 Goleta residents he represents about traffic flow once the project was completed. 

The other 16 persons who spoke were all citizens of Goleta opposed to the project. You can bet that if more than a dozen people screwed-up the courage to come speak at a council meeting, there must have been scores of other Goletans who were also not enamored with the Old Town Goleta Mixed Use Project.

Each person who spoke in opposition was given three minutes. At times, it was hard to listen to some of these citizens' heartfelt opposition to something they believed was going to continue to change Goleta from the "Goodland" to the "Maybe-Not-So-Goodland."

Resident Linda Slice seemed almost in tears as she spoke to the council and asked them to vote the project down. I could really see the sausage grinder in high gear when Julie Rego, a 35-year resident of Goleta, stepped up to the microphone to state her feelings.

She was so anxious about speaking during this public hearing she was shaking. Exactly why all these people were opposed varied somewhat, but Julie, her voice wavering, summed it up best when she closed out her plea to the council to not approve the project by saying that she believed that Goleta, "...had grown too fast. We don't want to be LA. We want our city back."

I get the property owner's right to apply to the city to develop that land, but I also get Goleta's citizens' rights to influence the type and pace of development.

The amount of development currently taking place in the city, along with additional proposed development, such as this Old Town Village Mixed Use Project, begs the question: how a community the size of Goleta can assimilate so much development in such a relatively short period of time?

Goleta is a nice city with 30,000* population. Five years from now, is it going to be as nice a city with 35,000 or more population, and the problems with come with such an increase? Some, myself included, think not.

One of the reasons I moved to Goleta from West Covina in the mid-'00s was to get away from constant development, creeping high-density housing, increasing traffic, decreasing public safety and decreasing resident satisfaction with decisions the West Covina City Council made on development.

After watching this meeting, I'm wondering: Is Goleta the new West Covina?

And what of the hidden surprise inside the seemingly spicy sausage that will be the Old Town Goleta Mixed Use Project? You had to be watching closely because there was no mention of this from the developer, staff or the council.

During the PowerPoint presentation, there was one slide that showed the two traffic circles that are part of the project but have not been widely (or even narrowly?) publicized. They reportedly will cost as much as $5,000,000, will drastically change traffic flow along Hollister in Old Town, and will not improve safety of motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians any more than would conventional and less-costly signaled intersections.

Are there those who are disappointed in a Goleta City Council that, in the face of such strong opposition, approves a project which could be responsible for some drastic change in Old Town?

Apparently, so. Best way to change that is for Goletans to vote some new council members into office.

Hib Halverson

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