On March 18, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the Planning Commission’s recommendation, and my motion, to establish two “zones” in the Goleta Planning Area and to proceed with the long-awaited update of the 1993 Goleta Community Plan.
The updated Plan will include Zone 2, which encompasses the unincorporated portion of the 2nd District, often referred to as “Eastern Goleta” and was the boundary identified by the 2006 Goleta Visioning Committee document.
Also at that meeting the board agreed with the Planning Commission recommendation, and my motion, to suspend rezones and General Plan amendments in Zone 2 until the new Eastern Goleta Community Plan update is adopted by the supervisors, unless the commission determine a project to be a public benefit. The rezone suspension is effective for at least the next three years with the intention and understanding that no rezones will be allowed to take place during the planning process.
I am thrilled this moment has finally arrived because the residents of the Eastern Goleta Valley will now have the opportunity to participate in a planning process that will reflect the values, needs and challenges of our region. I hope a wide and diverse group will apply to be members of the GVPAC (Goleta Valley PAC) and members of the community will take an active role during the planning process.
It is unfortunate that my support of a resolution to suspend rezones has been misunderstood and may have detracted from the importance of the board’s action — the authorization to form the GVPAC. The staff-proposed resolution included the exception for public benefit similar to those used in other community plans. Some in our community have accused me of having “broken a promise” not to allow rezones during the planning process. Nothing could be further from the truth. No promises have been broken, no rezones have occurred. To be clear, if the language concerning public benefit had not been included, any type of development could have potentially come before the board and the planners for consideration; now there is more scrutiny in place at the “front end.”
I also asked for and received an additional safeguard in developing the groundwork for the planning document. Planning staff identified specific developments exempted from this policy because those projects currently have applications with Santa Barbara County and are subject to previously adopted rezone parameters. Those in question are the Cavaletto/Noel housing Project and the More Mesa Biological Resource Study.
Having lived in the Goleta Valley for more than 20 years, I know first hand the importance of maintaining our open space, preserving our agricultural lands, and acknowledging that we will need to plan for our future and that those plans will likely involve some housing. As the supervisor for this unincorporated area of Santa Barbara, any future planning should be done by those who live here. The 2006 Visioning document laid the groundwork for the planning of this area and the GVPAC will be the vehicle to craft land use and environmental policies to provide for the heightened quality of life that we treasure in the Eastern Goleta Valley.
My commitment to the idea and reality that the Eastern Goleta Valley — and all communities — should have the ability to plan for their future has been evident in the numerous votes I have taken and motions I have made during the past 16 months in office. Simply stated, I put my VOTE where my mouth is.
For example, I successfully persuaded my colleagues on the LAFCO board to reject the Sphere of Influence of neighboring cities for the Eastern Goleta Valley, again, so the residents could plan for the future of our neighborhoods. I voted repeatedly to support the spirit and letter of design guidelines, community plans, and land-use policies in appeals and policy decisions that have arisen in every district. These include my votes on projects such as Ballantyne, the Halsell Special Care Home, the Maxwell Project at More Mesa, the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens “Terrace” project, the Santa Ynez Community Plan, and many more.
All of us are aware that the true integrity and interpretation of any public policy — land use or otherwise — really comes down to the willingness of elected and appointed officials to honor the spirit and intent of that policy. You have my commitment to do just that.
The county’s Office of Long Range Planning, led by Deputy Director Derek Johnson, will host a community workshop on April 29 to help familiarize area residents with the goals and responsibilities of the GVPAC and answer questions that may arise.
Click here to visit the Goleta Valley Planning Area Committee Web site and to learn more about the upcoming workshop, GVPAC and related policies.
I am committed to the idea and reality that working together, as residents and policymakers, we can and will live in a community that we treasure and are proud of.
Janet Wolf represents the 2nd District on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.