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Housing meeting makes case for delay




Residents of the unincorporated Eastern Goleta Valley, or Noleta, lined up to criticize the county's inclusionary housing plan and the lack of community outreach.

The discontent over the staff's proposed overhaul of the county housing policies -- policies that could lead to loss of open spaces and agricultural lands, and alter the character of neighborhoods -- spilled out at a Monday meeting called by Supervisor Susan Rose.

The gathering at the Goleta Valley Community Center provided more support to the idea that the county Board of Supervisors needs to slow down. The board needs to give more consideration to any changes in its subsidized housing program.

Among the staff recommendations are giving developers guaranteed density bonuses if projects include below-market units, as well as charging big in-lieu fees for any units not built.

No legitimate reason exists to adopt an overhaul before year's end. Trying to force the matter to an unnecessarily quick resolution, though, is the supervisorial majority of Ms. Rose and lame ducks Gail Marshall and Naomi Schwartz. But long-term housing policies must be made by supervisors who will be in office to administer them and be accountable, not by ones leaving office in just months.

Ms. Rose's Monday meeting demonstrated the importance of our elected leaders building community consensus.

To the chagrin of the meeting organizers, residents of the unincorporated Eastern Goleta Valley, or Noleta, lined up to criticize the county's inclusionary housing plan, the lack of outreach and the operation of Ms. Rose's Eastern Goleta Valley "neighborhood council."

The council is a panel many see as a sham to give the supervisor cover to sign off on the staff proposals.

Ms. Rose had the county's top planners at the meeting -- and the distrust voiced by the speakers illustrated how far the Planning and Development Department and Housing and Community Development Department have to go to build more credibility in the neighborhoods.

Despite having a hand in helping to cause Goleta's incorporation, the county-split campaign and ill feelings that residents have toward the county, the planners appear unaware of or at least unconcerned about the possible long-term fallout from their latest action.

For too long, county officials have treated organizations such as the Coalition for Sensible Planning as fringe groups rather than a grass-roots movement.

The uprisings from the neighborhoods have flustered paid political action organizations, such as the Santa Barbara County Action Network. That group's spokesperson at the microphone responded to one resident's comments by saying he was an "an embarrassment to this community" and then switched to saying there needs to be a civil dialogue. Huh?

Yes, there ought to be an open dialogue.

But that means the supervisorial majority, county planners and their backers need to understand they aren't the only ones entitled a place at the table.