Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
In a significant swing in direction, Santa Barbara County has added 19 new sites totaling 2,151 new units to its Housing Element.
Among the new locations on the table for possible housing include the downtown Santa Barbara County Probation Office at 117 E. Carrillo St., the parking lot next to Friendship Manor at 6647 El Colegio Road in Isla Vista, three UCSB faculty housing site proposals, and two sites in Montecito, including the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore parking lot and tennis area.
The county intends to formally submit its Housing Element to the state on Friday, but Lisa Plowman, planning and development director, shared information about the new sites with Noozhawk before the release.
The county walked into a buzzsaw of opposition after its draft Housing Element suggested agriculture rezones on the edges of Goleta, including up to 1,500 units at the Glen Annie Golf Club and another few hundred at the San Marcos Growers property.
At the time, county officials said they had combed the county looking for housing sites and put the agriculture sites on “only as a last resort.”
While the ag sites are still in the Housing Element for consideration, now the county has proposed housing on seven of its own properties. Three are on the county’s Calle Real campus, another on Hollister near the Page Youth Center, and two in downtown Santa Barbara.
In addition, the county has added the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel and now the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore. Plowman said the Miramar was considering 20 units and the Biltmore another 40. Half for each would be for their employees.
The county also has added three faculty and staff housing projects by UCSB on Ocean Road, which is 540 units, another 120 units near Devereux and 70 units along Ocean Walk.
“The UCSB sites will help us with our moderate-income,” said Plowman, who added that student housing cannot be counted toward the state’s housing mandate, but there’s nothing in state law that prevents faculty or staff housing.
When asked by a reporter why the county did not include these 19 sites in its draft Housing Element the first time, Plowman noted a variety of factors.
“I think it was hard to know whether UCSB was going to be workable or not,” Plowman said. “If I had more staff, we might have been able to delve into that a little bit more, but I can tell you it’s a really substantial endeavor to produce one of these documents.”
She said the process is “imperfect.”
“We do the best we can the first round, and it’s a good thing we have the public comment period,” Plowman said.
The county received more than 400 letters from members of the public in response to its original draft Housing Element. Those comments, she said, led to changes.
“That’s what the purpose of the public comment period really is,” Plowman said.
They also added two sites in the eastern Goleta Valley, at a Montessori school, the Tatum property near San Marcos Growers, and two sites in North County in Orcutt and one in Vandenberg Village.
The county’s original draft Housing Element released in February relied primarily on the rezoning of agricultural land around the city of Goleta to meet the South Coast’s allotment.
The proposal to rezone Glen Annie Golf Club, at 405 Glen Annie Road in Goleta; two San Marcos Growers sites along the north side of Hollister Avenue west of South Turnpike Road; and St. Athanasius Orthodox Church property at 300 Sumida Gardens Lane near La Sumida Nursery, angered Goleta city officials and some residents.
About two-thirds of the 4,500 potential South Coast housing units mandated by the state were proposed on agriculture land near Goleta.
Of the new sites, 518 would be for low-income residents, 666 would be for moderate-income residents and 967 of the units would be rented at market rate.
The county also plans to add commercial sites for potential rezones to its Housing Element, not as an official proposal, but just to show the state that there is potential for even more housing.
The secondary list essentially tells the state that those developed commercial properties could become housing, but they are not part of the official numbers that the county using to meet its state mandate for new housing units.
Goleta City Councilman James Kyriaco, who was openly critical of the county choosing sites on the edges of Goleta, said he is pleased with the new sites.
“I am grateful that the county listened to voices from throughout the community that were looking at a more balanced approach to meeting our region’s housing crisis,” Kyriaco said. “I look forward to seeing this process play out and listening to what the supervisors have to say. I want to thank the supervisors for being willing to proactively work on these issues on behalf of the community.”
The county plans to formally submit the Housing Element to the state on Friday, and then hold a public hearing at the county Board of Supervisors on April 4.