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‘Santa Barbara Community Indicators Report’ Examines State of the Region

Annual UCSB Economic Forecast study is designed to give a snapshot of community’s well-being

Peter Rupert, executive director of UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project, speaks Tuesday during the 2017 Santa Barbara County Community Indicators Report. He presented environmental, social and economic data pertaining to the county. Click to view larger
Peter Rupert, executive director of UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project, speaks Tuesday during the 2017 Santa Barbara County Community Indicators Report. He presented environmental, social and economic data pertaining to the county. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

A report released Tuesday by UC Santa Barbara’s Economic Forecast Project shows that Santa Barbara County’s population growth has been consistent for eight years, but has slowed to slightly less than 1 percent annually. 

According to the Santa Barbara County Community Indicators Report, the county’s growth rate was 0.72 percent in 2015.

The North County and South Coast have followed a similar growth path in recent years, the report states.

The North County’s racial and ethnic profile shows a higher Hispanic population compared to other ethnic groups or races, according to the data.

The South Coast has a greater percentage of white residents, followed by a “substantial” number of Hispanics, according to the report.

The population data provided was defined through the U.S. Census Bureau geographic boundaries, according to the report.

“Population growth has a major impact on many aspects of life in Santa Barbara County, from economic growth to social and environmental problems,” the report says. “The racial and ethnic make-up of our community shows an aspect of its diversity.”

More than 60 attendees gathered at the board hearing room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building in Santa Barbara to hear the free presentation outlining the report’s topics: social factors, the environment and the economy.

The project incorporates statistics from the North County and South Coast. It’s designed to give a snapshot of the community’s well-being, as well as information pivotal to the county’s future and quality of life, said Peter Rupert, executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.

The Environment

In the past five years, water quality violation days have remained “relatively” stable, but there has been a “small” increase in fecal coliform.

Data from the Santa Barbara County Ocean Water Monitoring Program shows less than 10 percent of water tests had results where bacteria exceeded federal and California standards. 

The report notes how the amount of rainfall can affect the numbers because storm runoff flushes pollutants and bacteria from the creeks into the ocean. 

The communities of Montecito and Santa Ynez have the highest personal water use in the county.

Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara have the lowest per-capita water consumption. Residential water consumption is at its lowest rate in 10 years. 

The county experienced three days of ozone violation during which the air quality exceeded the state 8-hour standard, an increase compared to one day in 2015.

The number of businesses in the county that release airborne toxic contaminants exceeding the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District’s health risk thresholds dropped to zero in 2015. 

The total pounds of pesticide use in agriculture throughout the county has grown slightly. Pesticide use is mostly in the North County, the report says.

Since 2013, pesticide use has increased slightly to 4.78 million pounds. 

The lowest levels of pesticide usage were observed in 2009, with 3.73 million pounds. The largest spike was in 2012 – amounting to 6.18 million pounds.

The strawberry crop is the leading area of use in the county, with 2,532,990 pounds of pesticides applied in 2014. 

“The past two years have had a dramatic increase in the number of workplace pesticide-related illnesses,” according to the report. 

The countywide report cites a 200-percent increase in the number of pesticide-related illnesses from 2012 to 2013. Data in 2014 reveals a decrease to 47 cases, but the numbers are higher than cases in pervious years. 

The majority of workers in the county desire to commute alone by car. 

The number of trips taken in Santa Barbara on the Metropolitan Transit District buses declined to 7.6 million in 2014 — the lowest ridership levels since 2006. Ridership numbers peaked in 2009, with 8.3 million rides.

The Economy

According to the report, 15 percent of all jobs pay less than the federal poverty guidelines.

The median household income in the North County decreased in 2016, falling from $63,887 to $63,694. South Cooast household income increased to $78,076, rising 4.15 percent last year. 

Twenty percent of households could afford a median-priced home in 2016.

“The South Coast tends to be wealthier than North County and California, with higher percentages of its residents falling at the upper end of the income distribution range,” according to the report.

The report reveals 83 percent of the 6,714 North County households living in poverty are families with children, and 77 percent of the 2,081 South Coast households living in poverty are families with children. 

The number of people utilizing the county's Health Care for the Homeless, a federally funded program allowing homeless people to receive medical attention, has seen a downward trend since 2011. 

More than 2,000 men and more than 1,000 women used the program in 2015, compared to 3,173 men and 1,860 women in 2011. 

Teni Adedeji, UCSB Economic Forecast Project research assistant, provided data about poverty and education in the county. She spoke about the California Assessment of Student Performance Progress and Standardized Testing and Reporting exam system. 

The event closed with remarks from Bhupi Singh, executive vice president of Goleta-based Direct Relief

The Santa Barbara Community County Indicators Report states that contributions from private sources were the highest amount for the fifth consecutive year in 2014.

South Coast nonprofit fundraising grew from $384 million to $973 million inflation-adjusted dollars from 2000 to 2014. The countywide nonprofit fundrasing grew from $424 million to $1.05 billion inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the report.

The 45-page digital publication outlining categories such as demographics, housing, education and business vitality will be available for free on the UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project website, Rupert said.

The report's financial support is provided by the Hutton-Parker Foundation, the Mosher Foundation and Montecito Bank & Trust.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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