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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 12:26 am | Fair 41º


County Supervisors Approve Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan

After dozens of meetings and years of planning, Santa Barbara County Supervisors approved the Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan Tuesday, which will guide planning for decades for the unincorporated county area between Santa Barbara and Goleta.

The plan has been in the works since 2006, and covers the area between the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara and the north to south area from the Pacific Ocean to Camino Cielo.

The supervisors ultimately signed off on the plan, with a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino dissented, taking issue with the plan's allowance for a rezoning that could affect commercial properties in the area.

The document details the community’s vision for its future and has 18 goals addressing a mix of issues, like housing needs, local economic activity and the area’s transportation network.

To read the plan in its entirety, click here.

The community plan includes an encyclopedic amount of information, but only two items proved to be sticking points with an array of public speakers that came out Tuesday.

By far the most controversial was a move by county staff to classify chaparral as environmentally-sensitive habitat, which raised concern among farmers and those concerned about wildfire.

Creating 100 feet of defensible space from structures would be allowed to protect buildings from wildfire under the plan.

County staff determined that chaparral is to be considered environmentally-sensitive habitat and could be home to endangered or threatened animals. 

If an investigation determines that those animals are present or the chaparral supports rare vegetation, the chaparral could not be removed.

Another issue that brought out fewer speakers but was still significant was a move to convert an area of Hollister and State Street to mixed-use zoning in order to revitalize that area.

The area would affect 55 parcels along Hollister Avenue and State Street, and the rezone would make the area more “attractive, safe and vibrant and pedestrian oriented,” county planner Julie Harris said.

The plan would also allow 177 residential units, including condominiums, live-work units and five housing opportunity sites were also designated as a place for affordable housing in the plan.

Gary Anderson, a doctor and avocado farmer, said he was in strong favor of not designating chaparral as habitat because of wildfire concerns, while Kathryn Mullen of the Sierra Club of Santa Barbara said that chaparral protects local watersheds.

“We will be seeing the direct consequence of this when mudslides and flooding make headlines during the coming El Niño,” she said.

As for the zoning changes along Hollister, Russell Steiner commented that he’d just bought several properties in that area for use as a research facility and that the plan to rezone would effect his investment.

“It greatly harms us,” he said. “I want to see the property use as designed, which is for commercial zoning and not mixed use.”

Other property owners said that they were not notified of the changes.

County staff said that some of the uses allowed under commercial zoning will be allowed under the new designation, but Steiner’s research facility use would not be one of them.

There would be no requirements to shut down immediately, and sometimes those businesses that don’t conform after the rules are changed continue to operate for decade, but with the ultimate goal of winding down the activity, county planner Alan Bell said.

Fifth district supervisor Steve Lavagnino commended the community plan but said that the people creating the plans might not have understood all that a re-zone would entail.

“I don’t think all of those people understand the implications for that landowner,” he said. “Zoning is there for a reason.”

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, whose district contains the area covered by the plan, said that the plan would help enhance quality of life for residents in the area.

On the chaparral item, “the protection of the watershed is crucial,” she said, and that unauthorized brush clearing has been an issue in the area.

Wolf’s home burned down in the Painted Cave fire, and she said she understands the importance of defensible space around a home.

But “I don’t like seeing the clearcutting that has gone on and is unauthorized,” she added.

She asked staff to reach out to property owners that live in the affected areas, and asked that a separate chaparral mapping and enforcement project would need to go before the board at a time in the future as well.

When Supervisor Peter Adam said he didn’t approve of the zoning change, Wolf said while she appreciated the point, “the flip side of this is that this process has been going on for almost a decade.”

“It pains me to see so many people on this corridor come today, when they did not show up before…. This whole process is so well-known in the community,” Wolf said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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