Eric Onnen: Beware the Hidden Agenda Behind Goleta’s Measure G
Goleta voters will be voting on the Measure G agriculture initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot. Once again, the initiative process has enabled a small group of people the opportunity to make the choices for all of us. Once again, the name and purpose of the initiative really misrepresents its true intent. The real purpose here is to limit (eliminate) the use of urban properties, not to preserve agriculture.
Goleta cityhood was championed by a small group of people who had the determination and fortitude that finally allowed our city to become a reality. I admire that effort and am thankful these folks got the job done. The primary motivation for them was local control of land use and apparently, if possible, the avoidance or elimination of all future development. This extreme position has resulted in many significant, long-lasting policy decisions.
The first of these damaging policies is demonstrated by the Goleta revenue-neutrality agreement with Santa Barbara County. This small group of people was so fixated on the need to control land use and growth that they agreed to mortgage forever the future financial well-being of Goleta. They did this by agreeing to make mitigation payments to the county forever! These mitigation payments to the county will total $100 million in the next few years, and each year commits millions of dollars in city revenues to the county for no benefit of the citizens of Goleta.
In 2006, this same group successfully crafted a General Plan that was packed full of prohibitions, internal contradictions and overzealous protections. The restrictions were so onerous that something as simple as adding a bedroom to your house would require hiring a team of land-use professionals and still take years to get approvals. This plan was adopted by the city council, the same folks that locked Goleta into the revenue-neutrality agreement. Since the General Plan’s adoption, the city has been updating and correcting this plan to make it practical and legal. This scope of work has been ongoing for the last six years and has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. It has also prevented Goleta from accomplishing other needed and required actions on which a new city should be focused — all because of a single overriding goal of stifling growth at all costs.
That cost has been way too high, wasting huge amounts of property owners’ money and consuming city resources and our tax dollars without need. Goleta has an open and comprehensive planning process that will ensure development is done well and at a pace that protects our quality of life!
In this election, our city founders once again are willing to sacrifice anything to prevent the possibility of growth or development. They are willing to impose a 20-year policy because they fear elected officials might not uphold their growth agenda. This policy is written with such a narrow focus and intention that the opportunity for damage far exceeds the potential for benefit. It will impede future city recreational opportunities. It could prevent needed and community-supported housing options. It could encumber the opportunities to move properties into protected open space, create trail access or build transportation alternatives to avoid traffic problems and create emergency options.
Many of the impacts of this initiative will not be known for years! It does not matter what side of growth you support, this policy is bad! It is not needed to protect our community, it will do nothing to protect agriculture and it will lead to more wasted time, money and city resources. I am furious that this small group believes it has the only solution and will mislead us into allowing it. This is our city, not just yourcity! Allow all of us to participate in crafting policy in a thoughtful, open process! Do not saddle Goleta with another folly for the sake of one limited agenda.
Vote No on Measure G.
- Eric Onnen is a local businessman and former Goleta mayor and city councilman.
Andy Caldwell weighs in on Measure G:
Residents of Goleta are about to be duped into voting for extremely high density projects in their community, all the while thinking they are saving themselves from urban sprawl. Obviously, the citizens who put Measure G2012 on the ballot have not been paying attention to a number of mandates and laws being forced down our throats by Sacramento, or they would never have put this measure up for a vote.
The measure's official title is the Goleta Agricultural Land Protection Initiative. It promises to give Goleta voters the final say on any development project that threatens to overtake Goleta's agricultural heritage. I would agree this is a worthy goal in a perfect world, but we happen to live in nutty California.
The measure will require a vote of the people for any zoning changes to Goleta parcels currently designated for agriculture, with limited exceptions, for the next 20 years. The measure seeks to tie the hands of the City Council to plan for growth by resting final decision-making in the hands of the electorate.
This may all sound democratic with a heavy emphasis on conservation, but in reality, the neighborhoods that support this measure are actually delivering self-inflicted blows to the community they cherish, and they're undermining a key responsibility of elected officials who must be able to plan for the future and comply with state mandates.
What has been ignored in this effort are two important developments in our state. One began a few years back, when the state of California began mandating that each community plan for their fair share of growth based upon current population. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) forces each and every community to accept growth. There are no two ways around it.
More recently, the state upped the ante when it passed SB375 into law. SB375 is a companion bill to AB32. AB32 is the act that seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. SB375 recognizes that the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions are generated by long commute patterns in our state. It requires high density in-fill development to be the predominant form of growth in communities throughout the state, because this is the cheapest form of housing and ostensibly and theoretically, it should help cut down on commuting.
So, if you do the math and add up the number of homes RHNA will require Goleta to absorb and SB375, which will require these homes to be sandwiched and piled high inside existing urban communities, you have a formula for high-density development coming to a neighborhood near you.
The fact that tens of thousands of commuters arrive in Goleta every weekday for work means that the good land will actually be the main target, along with Isla Vista (due to the presence of UCSB), for the highest density growth in the region. There is no community with a higher jobs/housing imbalance and that is exactly what RHNA and SB375 seek to address.
Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of the Andy Caldwell Show on News-Press Radio AM 1290.