There are thousands of developers all over the country; some are low-budget, slam-it-together-and-get-out-of-town developers, and others consistently produce high-quality projects.

A local representative for one developer is noted for supporting some very appealing and functional projects.  But when responding to questions about a proposed project during a town hall meeting hosted by Supervisor Bob Nelson in nearby Vandenberg Village, an unincorporated community north of Lompoc, he was met with some citizens who objected to the new project.

First a little history: In the early 1960s when Vandenberg Space Force Base was being converted from a U.S. Army training camp into a space age launch platform there was a need for some quality housing for the new workers.

Vandenberg Village was designed to meet that need, and as many of the solar system street names suggest it was to be home for all the civilian and contractor employees who would soon take up residence in the area.

As time went on there was another need for temporary housing as contractor launch teams from around the country were sent to process spacecraft for launch.

That need still exists today, and thus there is a demonstrated need for some well-appointed accommodation for the transient workers who sometimes stay for weeks until the task is complete.

Noozhawk recently reported that Preyesh Patel, representing the new projects applicants, said they planned “to develop a three-story hotel on Constellation Road with 87 rooms plus 60 executive apartments, some of which would be furnished.”

Patel owns and operates the Hilton Garden Inn in the city of Lompoc, thus he knows the demand exists.

The irritated Vandenberg Village residents spoke out about the developments’ potential impacts on water, traffic, parking, schools, proximity to a park and more.

“Why does the village need three stories?  That’s an eyesore,” one resident said.  What’s interesting about their complaints is that not one of the folks complaining had seen a development plan or a conceptual design yet; so, it was all just conjecture on their part.

In my experience as a planning commissioner in Lompoc I have heard these same concerns early in a project planning stage on numerous occasions.

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review process is designed to carefully examine all these concerns during a lengthy public review process and document the findings and necessary mitigation measures in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

Lompoc Councilwoman Gilda Cordova, who has extensive background in both the planning process and hospitality industry said, “We don’t have to do this project. We can pull out.  But somebody from the outside will come in and they will shove it down your throats in the manner that the state allows them to and, unfortunately, Supervisor Nelson will have no say so.”

She is aware of what this might mean since the city is in the process of updating the Housing Element of the General Plan and as Noozhawk puts it: “Dramatic changes in state law have allowed developers to place high-density housing on land even if it’s zoned for commercial and residential uses.”

Noozhawk further reported: “Nelson noted that the state housing laws have led to a loss of local control for counties and cities. That has meant residential projects can bypass local laws to include more units per acre and fewer parking spaces.”

As I wrote back in July in a Noozhawk commentary: “Unlike most market-rate projects they (Sacramento politicians) have “streamlined” the process, which means the state told local agencies to forget about all those environmental hurdles everyone else jumps through.

“In Mission Hills, just north of Lompoc, after numerous complaints from concerned neighbors, the County Planning Commission approved an ‘affordable housing’ project to be built by a nonprofit on land that was originally planned as a community park.”

So, when Cordova says this community could wind up with a project like the one in Mission Hills that has no CEQA review or EIR, in effect shoving it down your throats she knows what she is talking about. Why, because Sacramento says, “sit down and shut up, the government knows what’s good for you.”

So, a word of caution to those who are concerned about this project: It’s better to have a voice in the process rather than trusting Sacramento politicians to make your decisions for you. Attend the CEQA review hearings, study the project design concept, listen to the planned mitigations, and then voice your concerns.