The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Friday approved its 2023/2024 budget, which includes key funding to support District 2 and Santa Barbara County.

Following are a few highlights in areas of public safety, housing assistance, and accessing funds for climate.

“It has been a productive first six months for my district and Santa Barbara County,” said Santa Barbara County District 2 Supervisor Laura Capps.

“From atmospheric rivers and floods in January, to a mass eviction in March, ongoing challenges with housing and homelessness, and improvements for public safety throughout the county, I am proud of the work of my team and my fellow supervisors, grateful for the involvement of my constituents, and motivated to tackle the challenges ahead.”

Housing Rental Assistance

The budget includes $46.1 million to address critical housing needs, including rental assistance, outreach, support, facilities, a workforce housing study, and an encampment strategy. Santa Barbara County is the sixth most expensive place to live in the country.

“We have a 1 percent rental vacancy rate and skyrocketing housing costs that have forced some into homelessness and caused hardship for many,” Capps said. “Housing is the top issue our office is tackling on a variety of fronts including the Housing Element that will be addressed later this year.

In an effort to relieve some of the pressure on low-income renters, the Board of Supervisors in the May Budget Workshops identified the priority and approved an enhancement to the Health and Human Services Plan Prevention,

Diversion and Re-Housing Programs for Relocation and Move-In Assistance payments. The funding provides restricted ARPA one time move-in costs — security deposits and first month’s rent — under certain criteria for unincorporated county areas. This will be an avenue to assist renters in the barriers of high cost security deposits and provide access to more of a rental market, Capps said.
“A lot of people don’t immediately have the cash on hand to afford to security deposits, first/last month’s rent, which adds up to thousands of dollars,” said community housing advocate Mahil Senathirajah. “However, they do have the income to afford monthly rent payments.  Many are essential workers who saw us through the pandemic.

“This is a solvable Santa Barbara housing problem and this program is an effective solution for both landlords and tenants. It removes the security deposit barrier and gets people into housing.”

Public Safety

“Keeping the people of Santa Barbara County safe is the highest priority of local government,” Capps said. “The one key aspect of safety is transportation infrastructure, specifically street lighting which serves as a deterrent to crime while reducing traffic accidents.

“Included in today’s budget is $11.9 million for capital projects, and the Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $250,000 to provide lighting to the area of Isla Vista as requested and prioritized as a dire need from Isla Vista Community Services District and Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District.”

Capps’ district includes the unincorporated area of Isla Vista. In an effort to make Isla Vista safer at night, particularly for pedestrians, she brought the issue of lighting to the Board of Supervisors. Public Works will fund the project from Community Service Area 31 funds.

“For decades, lighting, sidewalks, and getting home safely at night in Isla Vista has been a major concern for many,” said Marcos Aguilar, Isla Vista Community Services District Board president.

“We are grateful to Supervisor Capps, who walked with us at night around Isla Vista to indicate the need for more lighting, especially pedestrian lighting, and push to allocate funding for our lighting plan to be implemented,” he said.

Access to Climate Federal & State Funding

The global community of scientists has issued an unequivocal alarm and evidenced-based time frame for action to address climate crises: one short decade. The message is clear: we need to pick up the pace.

The good news is we are now experiencing the strongest tailwinds for climate progress that the United States has ever had thanks to historic action in Congress as well as bold moves by the California Legislature.

Today’s budget includes investments in electrification of the county’s fleet and EV infrastructure and energy efficiency upgrades to increase the County’s renewable energy profile.

With the Santa Barbara County 2030 Climate Action Plan (CAP) and Climate Adaptation Plan in mind, the Board of Supervisors also approved funding for a Sustainability Grant Writer to access these unprecedented resources.

”We will need the help of ALL our community members and collaboration with regional agencies, cities, nonprofit organizations, and businesses,” said Sigrid Wright, Community Environmental Council executive director.

“With additional funding, only then we can reach our regional goal of reducing 50% below 2018 levels of greenhouse gases by 2030,” Wright said.

“The 2030 Climate Action Plan isn’t just for the county, it’s for all our communities,” said Ashley Watkins, head of sustainability at Santa Barbara county. “With a grant writer and the ability to access federal and state dollars, we can make aggressive strides towards reaching our ambitious climate goals.”