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People need a plan, not county limbo


Voice from South Coast: Gary Earle

ON AM 1290

This morning, from 9 to 10 a.m., Harriett Phillips will discuss the effort to have the Local Agency Formation Commission move to put the unincorporated area of the Goleta Valley under the city of Santa Barbara's "sphere of influence."

The recent request to the Local Agency Formation Commission by the city of Santa Barbara to bring the unincorporated area of the Goleta Valley into its sphere of influence is bringing long-overdue attention to our area.

We respect and appreciate that the West Santa Barbara Committee, the Committee for One and the city of Santa Barbara obtained this review by LAFCO. All of these actions concerning the sphere of influence highlight the continuing dissatisfaction in the Goleta Valley regarding county government.

Neighbors are increasingly frustrated by the county's lack of attention to comprehensive planning and important CEQA analysis for the Goleta Valley. We lack a responsible, comprehensive community plan, with its accompanying environmental impact report. In terms of long-term or comprehensive planning, our area has consistently been a low priority for the Board of Supervisors, CEO and Planning Commission; there has been inadequate allocation of planning and development staff time and resources directed to planning the Goleta Valley by the county.

We agree with LAFCO's staff recommendation that a continuation of these sphere of influence discussions are appropriate, so that our neighbors can be informed of all the issues, many of which have not yet been brought up or addressed. The county, effectively, has no substantive land use element, i.e., community plan, for the Goleta Valley. That is an important, even crucial, first step for the heart of the South Coast, which is the Goleta Valley.

However, we want everyone to recognize that such a sphere does not offer us a vision for the future or protections for our existing neighborhoods. The process of annexation may take a very long time or may never even occur; examples are Hope Ranch or Mission Canyon, which have been in the city of Santa Barbara's sphere of influence for more than 20 years.

The unincorporated Goleta Valley has become the target for development by the county, yet there is neither a community plan nor long-term vision -- a blueprint for development -- for our area. Further, we lack design and development guidelines that control future development within our existing neighborhoods.

For example, neighbors often are surprised by the size of massive additions or remodeling projects in their neighborhoods. Yet, under the guise of streamlining its process of issuing building permits, the county is in fact removing other protections that exist in both the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara, as well as the unincorporated community of Montecito.

The prospect for change and development in the Goleta Valley makes it imperative that a community plan, ordinances, standards and CEQA analysis be thorough. It is easy for the county to rezone and develop one parcel, followed by another, piecemeal, judging the effects of each development separately. The predictable result is that someday we all, on the South Coast, will wake up to massive problems and impacts of unsustainable density, traffic, air pollution, water, sanitation and so on.

In light of the several recommendations put forth by LAFCO, we want to emphasize that the Coalition for Sensible Planning believes the best interests of the entire South Coast are served by the county stepping up to the plate and providing good comprehensive planning for "urbanized" Goleta Valley, both its flatlands and semi-rural foothills. Most of the undeveloped "infill" parcels in the unincorporated Goleta Valley are in productive agriculture.

Our over-riding concern is for proactive, excellent planning for this central area on the South Coast: a land use element, i.e., community plan, no piecemeal rezoning without a plan, and an area-wide plan EIR in place. These planning tools exist in both adjacent cities and in the county's unincorporated community of Montecito.

One part of the county should not be treated differently from other unincorporated communities. Montecito's excellent planning process and tools of implementation to regulate development should be the model and should set the standard for other unincorporated areas in the county.

We urge citizens of the Goleta Valley to attend the LAFCO meeting regarding this matter at 2 p.m. Thursday at the county Administration Building at Anacapa and Anapamu streets. Make your opinions known.

Gary Earle is president of the Coalition for Sensible Planning.

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