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Opinion: Eastern valley generous with affordable housing

January 31, 2006 3:17 PM
I would like to respond to Santa Barbara city Housing Authority Commissioner Catherine Woodford's Friday letter to the editor. She accuses eastern Goleta Valley residents of "selfish planning." The facts, though, paint quite a different picture.

Ms. Woodford rightly praises Santa Barbara city and its residents for their inventory of 3,000 units of affordable housing.

However, when it comes to affordable housing on a per capita basis, the eastern Goleta Valley (Noleta) surpasses its neighbor to the east by double.

The eastern Goleta Valley has a population of 32,000 residents with over 2,000 affordable housing units -- 1,500 rent-controlled mobile homes and a combined 557 subsidized rentals and inclusionary houses. This compares with Santa Barbara's 3,000 affordable units for its 100,000 population. The residents of the eastern Goleta Valley are providing one affordable unit for every 16 people. This is the highest per capita contribution to affordable housing anywhere on the South Coast including the city of Santa Barbara, which provides one affordable unit for every 33 people.

Ms. Woodford mentions potential housing sites in the eastern Goleta Valley and insinuates insensitivity by its citizens to work force housing. Again, she lacks facts. County government is asking the eastern Goleta Valley to suggest sites for rezoning to high-density housing to satisfy the state housing mandate.

What Ms. Woodford does not realize is there is no provision by the state to produce affordable work force housing on these sites. Sacramento says developers may sell the homes at market.

Consequently, residents in the valley would have to accept the impacts from densification while gaining no social benefit or corresponding increase in infrastructure to ease the effects of growth.

In addition, most potential housing sites in the eastern Goleta Valley currently are zoned for agriculture and are supporting working farms. We could use the produce from this land to sustain some of our population in the event of a natural disaster.

Do we want to lose productive urban agriculture so developers can plow the land for houses? Most would consider this to be poor crop rotation.

The residents of the eastern Goleta Valley support a housing market that encompasses all income levels and are working on an update of their community plan to accomplish this goal.

Ann Crosby is with the Coalition

for Sensible Planning.

Ann Crosby