Friday, October 19 , 2018, 8:30 pm | Fair 75º

 
 
 
 

State Denies Millions for Goleta’s San Jose Creek Project

The city loses out on $18 million in funding necessary to complete the restoration work

The city of Goleta has been denied just over $18 million in state funding necessary to complete its San Jose Creek restoration project, which was slated to be finished later this year.

City officials got the bad news Tuesday in a letter from the California Department of Finance, in which the state refused to allocate nearly all funds the city requested for the project, City Manager Dan Singer told Noozhawk.

Just how that will affect the project—designed to widen the creek to improve fish movement and relieve some flooding and drainage issues—is something officials on Wednesday were still trying to “digest” and determine, Singer said.

“They’re pretty much denying everything that we did with the redevelopment agency,” he said. “It’s so predictable. It’s kind of the same thing so many agencies are dealing with.”

The state is disputing just over $18 million, $14 million of which is related to redevelopment bond proceeds, according to the state’s letter.

City estimates total project construction costs at $18.4 million and overall costs at $24 million.

The city has five days within receipt of the letter to request a “meet and confer” with the Department of Finance, which has 10 days to respond and then set up a meeting, Singer said.

If the meeting goes well, Goleta gets its funds. If not, the Goleta City Council could decide to take legal action against the state – something Singer says dozens of other cities already have done.

Singer said the council will be meeting in closed session in the coming days to consider its options to complete the two-year project, which is supposed to be immediately followed by a two-year Hollister Bridge replacement project.

The bridge replacement, which could be placed on hold depending on the San Jose Creek project, will be funded by federal money and a local match of $6,000 to $7,000, Singer said.

“This could become a policy call that City Council would have to make,” Singer said. “We’re going to fight for what we think is right.

“I would think that they’d want to keep moving full speed ahead,” he continued, noting that health and safety are at risk if the project is not completed.

Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves told Noozhawk the City Council needs to commit to completing the well-vetted project, especially because the money has already been spent.

“This project is exactly why redevelopment agencies were created – to eliminate blight,” Aceves said Wednesday. “We have a huge flood zone problem that we’re addressing. Now the Department of Finance is saying this doesn’t qualify? It doesn’t make sense.

“We’d certainly have to look at a lawsuit as a possibility,” he continued. “We need every dollar to complete it. It’s not like we have all that cash in the bank to give them.”

Work on the San Jose Creek project was supposed to recommence May 1 after the end of rainy season and be complete before the next rainy season begins, likely in October, Singer said.

While Singer said he’s hopeful it won’t come to litigation, he’s not optimistic.

“We obviously want to see the project completed,” he said. “We’re not going to just accept the state’s finding. The sky’s not falling, but it’s a disappointment that they’ve made this determination. We think we’re in a pretty strong position.”

Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce President Kristen Miller said it’s upsetting to think that the state is trying to derail a project meant to help the city’s most vulnerable residents in Old Town.

“The chamber has been a supporter of this infrastructure project for many years,” she said. “Without this, they get flooded. This appears to be another attempt from the state to put money into their coffers that has been legitimately raised locally.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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