The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission recommended Wednesday that the Board of Supervisors adopt the 2023-31 Housing Element update, with a 4-1 vote.

The one vote against the recommendation was made by Commissioner Laura Bridley, who represents the Second District and said she was concerned about the amount of housing slated for the district. Bridley said that 55% of the potential units identified — 4,700 units — would be in the Second District.

“The Second District is the smallest geographic area with the most number of units, so it hurts,” Bridley said. “I have a district that is going to freak out when they understand what is going to be built near them or could be built near them.”

The county is required by the state to have a Housing Element — which plans for current and future housing needs by identifying sites where housing could be built and details programs that planners and staff are using to address the housing needs — that is updated every eight years.

The Planning Commission addressed and took action only on the Housing Element itself. The process of rezoning sites identified in the plan is separate, with public hearings set to take place in early 2024.

County staff said all of the housing doesn’t necessarily need to be built, but the county needs to demonstrate that it has the sites or land on which to build housing.

Bridley said her vote also was a protest vote to the State of California.

“I don’t like the way the state has taken the local planning and completely tossed it in the trash,” Bridley said, referring to the mandates imposed by the state. “The quality of our neighborhoods will be impacted in the Second District more than any other district.”

The county’s regional housing needs allocation determined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development is 5,664 residential units. That means that, with the county’s current land inventory, there is a shortfall of 1,403 lower-income housing units along the South Coast and 357 lower-income units in the North County. The South Coast also has a shortfall of 703 moderate-income units.

With the sites identified in the county’s Housing Element, there is a potential for 5,848 units along the South Coast and 2,300 potential units in the North County. Nine county-owned sites also account for 32o potential housing units.

Meanwhile, additional dwelling units can account for up to 800 potential units.

The presentation by county staff during Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting said that Santa Barbara County has the sixth-highest average cost for rental housing in the United States, and about 47% of total households in the county are renters.

The presentation added that in order to afford a two-bedroom unit priced at $2,667 per month without being cost burdened — spending more than 30% of gross income on housing costs — a renter would have to make a wage of $51.29 per hour, or $106,680 per year. According to the presentation, the average renter wage is $29.82 per hour, or $62,086 per year.

Some of the programs described in the Housing Element update include a workforce housing study, an inclusionary housing program — which can now also be applicable to rental housing — a program to offer incentives for developers to include public recreational amenities in housing developments, incentives for developing affordable housing, and several more.

The Housing Element update is now set to go before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 5 for adoption before it is submitted to the state for final certification.

Public hearings to rezone sites to allow residential housing developments will take place before the county Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors in early 2024.

More information on the county’s Housing Element update, including an interactive map showing the potential rezone sites, is available on the county’s website here.