While Santa Barbara County’s South Coast has a long and well-documented history of resistance toward expansion of housing, particularly market-rate and affordable housing, the North County has generally provided a far friendlier environment for creation of badly needed homes of all types.

Recently, however, a few residents of Los Alamos have raised their hands in opposition to a long-approved and modest development of 59 single-family dwellings.

The primary ringleaders of this opposition group are several recently arrived emigres to Los Alamos from Los Angeles who have taken down the “For Sale” signs on their own homes and turned them around with “No Growth” messaging.

The target of their ire is a well-planned project approved by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors back in 2005 — more than 17 years ago.

Have these newbies forgotten that at an earlier time their own homes were planned and approved when a property owner invested the time, effort and capital to bring their land to its highest and best use?

What makes them think they can callously disregard our county’s planning process and thereby sideline sorely needed housing?

Let’s take a look at the facts.

The 2011 Los Alamos Community Plan included the approved Village Square Project as part of the buildout of 1,321 housing units; as of 2022, only 676 units (51%) exist.

The approved project is only 4% of the 2011 buildout that the community supported during the process, not the “massive” development the opposition describes.

A further examination of the facts reveals that the drainage infrastructure previously approved by the county Flood Control District provides a “massive” $2.4 million benefit to residents of Los Alamos via a 72-foot-diameter drainage system that will handle flows from Calaveras Canyon and Bell Street — at a cost of $42,000 per unit borne by future home purchasers.

This infrastructure provides a benefit to the residents and businesses on the west side of Los Alamos from a development that will only produce 15% of the flow that the pipe will handle.

Residents need to understand that this benefit is far more concrete than admonitions of Montecito-like debris flows.

Santa Barbara County has for too long been plagued by a pernicious outbreak of NIMBY-ism in which any project — be it residential, commercial, industrial or agricultural — is unfailingly faced with opposition, appeals, protest and gnashing of teeth as those who have “gotten theirs” rise to oppose further development in hopes of crushing the desires of others who hope to “get theirs.”

The Santa Barbara County housing shortage that keeps prices high for renters and buyers alike is not necessary and can be fixed by building more homes.

Aren’t we in the process of rezoning land throughout the county and cities to accommodate another 5,000 units per a State of California mandate because we are that far behind on housing production?   

The Flood Control District is requesting that the Board of Supervisors approve a cooperative agreement outlining the responsibility of Legacy Homes in constructing the off-site drainage improvements, which later will be dedicated back to the county for the benefit of Los Alamos.

On Tuesday, the supervisors, acting in their role as the Flood Control District’s Board of Directors, will be subjected to NIMBY demands to deny the district’s request.

The opposition group, hyperbolically dubbed Save Los Alamos Stop Village Square, will issue dire warnings, empty claims of inadequacy and totally unsubstantiated consequences in hopes of manipulating the process to its own selfish ends.

Fortunately, here in Santa Barbara County, the rule of law still means something.

Our supervisors, while as diverse in perspective as the five districts they represent, are thoughtful and fair minded, and will not capitulate to a tiny minority’s desire to retroactively squash a duly approved housing project that was included in both the 1994 and 2011 Community Plans.

The good people of Los Alamos stand to benefit from the addition of 59 new neighbors and $2.4 million worth of desperately needed flood control infrastructure, $1.1 million in connection fees to the Los Alamos Community Services District, $1 million in school fees, and another $373,000 in fees to the county Fire Department and the Parks and Transportation divisions.

Perhaps most important, the supervisors will send a message that our development approval process has integrity and can easily withstand those who have no regard for how we do business here in Santa Barbara County.

Tom Widroe is executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. The opinions expressed are his own.