An aerial view of the area shows the proposed site for a new apartment complex in Goleta.
An aerial view of the area shows the proposed site for a new apartment complex in Goleta.  (City of Goleta photo)

The Goleta Planning Commission began taking public comments regarding a proposed 332-unit apartment complex Monday evening.

The Heritage Ridge Residential Apartment Project, which is being proposed by The Towbes Group, Red Tail Multifamily Land Development, and the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara, is the third phase of the Willow Springs I and II development project and would be built on a 17.36-acre vacant site north of Camino Vista and east of South Los Carneros Road.

According to the staff report from the city, the proposed project plans to include 104 affordable units — 41 for low-income seniors and 63 for low-income families — and 228 market-rate units. A 2-acre public park is also being proposed as part of the project.

Several community members spoke during the public comment period of the Goleta Planning Commission meeting, including both those in support of the project and those opposed to elements of the project.

Many of the people opposed to the project voiced concerns about impacts on Los Carneros Creek and wildlife habitat in the area.

“If allowed to move forward, the current design would encroach into the streamside protection area of Los Carneros Creek. It would also destroy important wildlife habitat and diminish the value of an important wildlife corridor,” said Eddie Harris with the Santa Barbara Urban Creeks Council. “We support affordable housing and don’t want to stop the project, but an approval must also respect the needs of Goleta’s natural environment.”

These concerns come from the project’s proximity to the creek and the streamside protection area, which requires a minimum of a 100-foot buffer.

“[Our biological consultant] concluded that the upland vegetation in the SPA (streamside protection area) — which is in the natural condition but would be removed by the project — is important for wildlife. Removing this vegetation to build the sound wall in the SPA would cause a significant impact to the creek,” said Brian Trautwein, senior analyst and watershed program director for the Environmental Defense Center. “Given the general lack of vegetation to act as cover for wildlife and to buffer the creek, this means the SPA needs more space to buffer the creek, not less.”

Other members of the public commended the applicants for the inclusion of affordable housing in the project, which was not a requirement from the city.

“The League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara strongly supports this project and believes that after eight years of planning and listening to community concerns, it is time to move forward to get this housing ready to serve its much-needed purpose,” said Linda Honikman, chair of the housing committee for the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara.

Several written public comments can also be found with the item’s staff report.

The Planning Commission did not make any decisions on the project proposal Monday and will discuss it again at an April 25 meeting. 

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at