Santa Barbara County is driving forward with its plan to rezone the Glen Annie Golf Club, San Marcos Growers, and other spots to build thousands of new housing units.
The county Board of Supervisors will meet on Tuesday to talk about the proposed sites and the county’s Housing Element update, which includes plans to construct more than 5,600 new homes between now and 2031.
Among the most contested sites are the Glen Annie Golf Club, near Dos Pueblos High School, and the San Marcos Growers‘ two sites on Hollister Avenue west of Turnpike Road.
The Glen Annie Golf Club could house up 1,536 units; another 821 units would go at San Marcos Growers.
Tim Nightingale, who was born in Goleta, expressed concerns about losing an affordable golf course for working class individuals, and one used by the Dos Pueblos High School golf team.
Families such as his, he wrote in a letter to the board, can’t afford country club golf prices.
“I am also very concerned about the impact development on that site will have on everything around it, not to mention the traffic, which is already bad in that area due to the high school, the Hollister/Storke commercial area, and the large amount of new housing development that has already gone up in that area over the past 10 years,” Nightingale wrote.
California and the region are battling a housing crisis, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has mandated that communities zone land to build new housing.
The county, for example, must build about 5,600 units; 4,142 of those must be on the South Coast.
Separate from that, the city of Santa Barbara must find land to build another 8,000 housing units.
While some elected officials grandstand about not losing another generation of people in Santa Barbara to a housing crisis, the reason the state has mandated development is because those same government leaders have not approved enough housing over the years.
“We have been upside down on housing for decades; that’s what 50 years of no-growth gets us — a self-inflicted disconnect between supply and income,” said Jay Higgins, a planner and consultant, and member of Santa Barbara’s Planning Commission.
“So the State is just pointing out the obvious, but now they’re using a sledgehammer to articulate that severe up-zoning is the price to pay.”
Higgins said that the up-zonings for apartments or condos on active ag land, or in established neighborhoods, presents huge challenges for elected officials and area planning commissions, not to mention immediate neighbors.
The state’s grip is so tight that, for the first time, it is requiring cities and counties to not only find sites to rezone, but to get reasonable buy-in from the property owners that if they make the rezoning list, they would be willing to redevelop.
Joan Hartmann, Third District county supervisor, said the state mandate has led to “difficult choices” for the county.
“I’ve been working with the Planning Department to look at mixed-use sites, under-used shopping centers, vacant parcels, and county-owned lands for housing rather than re-zoning agriculturally zoned lands such as Glen Annie,” Hartmann said.
“It’s my hope that through exploring these options, we will avoid ag conversion to the greatest extent possible.”
The set of potential parcels for rezone must undergo environmental review to consider impacts on traffic, vehicle miles traveled, water and habitat values, Hartmann said.
“This environmental review will take about a year and provide a basis for assessing the relative benefits of the different parcels under consideration and will help determine if parcels like Glen Annie are ultimately rezoned,” she added.
Lisa Plowman, county planning director, said the county only put sites on its rezone list if the property owners agreed. The process was so extensive that the county, as did hundreds of other entities across the state, will miss its Feb. 15 deadline to submit the Housing Element.
Since the county will miss the deadline to submit the document to the state, beginning Feb. 16 developers will be able to submit projects on land currently zoned for housing and skip much of the discretionary review typically required of housing developments, as long as they propose at least 20% affordable units.
Plowman blamed the county’s extensive outreach and staff shortage for botching the deadline. Several planners have fled the county in the past year, forcing Plowman to hire a consultant for help.
Dozens of sites are proposed, including in the North County, Carpinteria and the Eastern Goleta Valley.
To view the sites, click here:
Among the comments submitted to the board for Tuesday’s meeting was a joint letter from several teacher and education groups, including Diana Roybal, superintendent of the Goleta Union School District, Hilda Maldonado, superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Ken Rivas, president of the Santa Barbara Chapter of the California School Employees Association, and others.
“Our students deserve excellent teachers and classified staff, but the housing crisis makes it difficult to recruit and retain highly qualified workers,” the letter states. “We urge you to prioritize your children, our children and our community and heed the call for help to support affordable housing.”
Most of the housing built in the county will not be below market rate or for low-income residents. Santa Barbara County has a 15% inclusionary housing ordinance.
Randy Baldwin, president of the San Marcos Growers Corp. and general manager of the nursery that occupies one of the proposed sites for housing, wrote a letter to the board of supervisors on behalf of 52 residents who are employed by the nursery.
“This committee needs to know that while rezoning agricultural property may seem like an easy solution to the community’s needs, it comes with considerable costs,” said Baldwin, who noted in his letter that he does not own the land.
“Not only will we forever lose the open space, but a nursery such as ours, with existing greenhouses, shade houses, office buildings, irrigation and other infrastructure, is not something we can just up and move, so this development of property would mean the forced demise of our viable business with a loss of jobs and the end of our horticultural legacy.”