After the 2020 Census and the subsequent redistricting in California, a new 37th State Assembly District was created — encompassing all of Santa Barbara County and part of southern San Luis Obispo County — and on Nov. 8, voters will elect an Assembly member to represent the district.
Candidates for California’s 37th State Assembly District include Gregg Hart, currently representing the Second District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and Mike Stoker, who served on the county Board of Supervisors from 1986 to 1994.
Hart, who grew up in Santa Barbara and graduated from both Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara, has been serving Santa Barbara for more than 30 years, beginning in 1987 when he was appointed to the Santa Barbara Planning Commission.
Hart was then elected to the Santa Barbara City Council in 1995 and 1999, and again in 2013 and 2017. From 2000 to 2004, Hart served on the California Coastal Commission, and most recently, he was elected to the county’s Board of Supervisors in 2018.
“I have been a local government official for many years and really value public service. This opportunity was unique because there’s a brand-new district that represents all of Santa Barbara County and part of south San Luis Obispo County, and that descript matches my life experience really well,” Hart said. “I feel like I have a lot to add to the work in Sacramento that will help the residents of our district.”
Some of Hart’s main goals, if elected to the Assembly, involve housing, climate and education.
“I hear from employers every day that they have jobs, but they are having a very hard time getting people to fill those jobs because the cost of housing has become so high, so that is a priority,” Hart said. “There’s an interesting success story here in the city of Santa Barbara when the Housing Authority had a local, reliable funding stream to build affordable housing. They were able to build 5,000 units for about 30 years.
“Now, they have to rely on grants — they’re sporadic and unreliable, and it has really affected their ability to deliver affordable housing units. I’d like to see us restore that as a regular, dependable source of revenue for local governments to build affordable housing.”
With homelessness, Hart said he is supportive of approaches such as the recent DignityMoves projects — small, individual cabin homes with onsite wrap-around services. He added that DignityMoves representatives have expressed that they see Santa Barbara County as a good pilot program.
Hart said education is another key topic he is focusing on, with schools preparing students for the workforce.
“We’re really lucky to have tremendous community colleges here — both Santa Barbara City College and Allan Hancock College — and they are a great bridge between the K-12 system and higher education, and they serve such a critical role,” Hart said. “We need to support them and give them the tools they need to do even more work.”
Hart emphasized his experience in local government and how important it is to collaborate with people to figure out together how to achieve goals.
“One of the things I’m most proud about is our work on the Board of Supervisors. We have very divergent ideologic views, and yet we work really respectfully and civilly together. I think that’s rare these days in government,” Hart said. “I think that my style and leadership values that I bring to the conversation will help support that kind of work in Sacramento, too.”
Stoker served on the county Board of Supervisors representing the Second and Fifth districts from 1986 to 1994.
Later, he was appointed as the chairman of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and most recently, he was appointed as the Southwest regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Stoker said his main focuses include supporting law enforcement, parents, small businesses, and taxpayers.
“I will be a leader in opposing tax increases, opposing mandates on small business, supporting our law enforcement and supporting parents,” Stoker said. “I’m trying to get California back on the right track.”
He also said he would take leadership in passing legislation and bonds that would allow counties to build more neighborhood mental health clinics, particularly those that could bring in homeless people for inpatient care, as well as long-term outpatient care.
“If we’re ever going to deal with homelessness in this state, then you’re going to have to deal with the mental health aspect,” Stoker said.
When it comes to energy policies and transitioning to renewable energy, Stoker emphasized that he is supportive of the effort, but the transition can’t happen overnight and needs to happen more gradually.
To address housing, Stoker has proposed making it easier for mobile home parks to be developed.
“One of the areas that we have the greatest opportunity for dealing with affordable housing is with the development of mobile home communities,” Stoker said. “[They are] now modular homes. They’re very nice homes and are much less expensive.”
Stoker suggested legislation that would fast-track environmental review for mobile home communities and even potentially provide tax benefits for developers.
“I think the state needs to look at legislation that will basically provide a framework that, if a proposed developer of a mobile home community can meet certain criteria, then the city or county would have to allow that mobile home development to be built,” Stoker said. “That is one of the best ways because mobile home communities are higher density and are much less costly, and that clearly has to be part of a larger strategy if we want to deal with the housing crisis in California.”
Stoker’s wife, Debi, is also on the ballot, running for the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees Area 1.
More of Hart’s and Stoker’s views on local and state issues can be found in Noozhawk’s coverage of the League of Women Voters of Santa Barbara’s State Assembly candidate forum that took place earlier this month.