In a five-hour-long meeting Tuesday night, Goleta City Council took decisions that would significantly impact zoning ordinance, affordable housing and road extensions.
Mayor Paula Perott, Mayor Pro Tempore Kyle Richards and the three council members (James Kyriaco, Stuart Kasdin and Roger Aceves) voted unanimously to use eminent domain to acquire private property for extending Ekwill Street and Fowler Road. The property is in Old Town.
Public Works Director Charles Ebeling and Project Manager Gerald Comati made the recommendation Tuesday night to adopt the proposal.
Regarding an item about an amendment to the housing element policy, however, not all were on the same page.
Advance Planning Manager Anne Wells and Senior Planner J. Ritterbeck presented a general plan amendment to housing element policy. The amendment implements inclusionary housing in Goleta that would require developers’ projects with five units or more to dedicate 20 percent for affordable housing.
The main goal of an inclusionary requirement is “to achieve the construction of new affordable units on site,” according to the staff report to the council. “The amendments to the text are intended to allow the City to apply the inclusionary housing requirements to both new ‘for-sale’ and rental units. Expanding the applicability of this policy to all new housing production of five or more units will not only help the City achieve its ‘regional fair share,’ but will also help meet the needs of the local workforce and community as a whole.”
The lone dissenter of the item was Mr. Aceves, who expressed that “given the economy” a developer would have to charge higher-than-market prices for the other units that are not set aside for affordable housing. Mr. Richards, however, highlighted that “a developer who is savvy enough will make it pencil out…”
Council member James Kyriaco additionally pointed out that there may be economic benefits that are “harder to quantify,” referring to the homeless and rent prices that can ravage paychecks.
Now that the amendment has been adopted, what does this mean?
“At the time of adoption, any pending applications for new housing developments of five or more units within the City would become subject to the amended inclusionary requirements and processes…Furthermore, adoption of rental inclusionary requirements could make existing applications proposing all ‘for-sale’ units economically infeasible,” read the staff report.
The remainder of the meeting focused on other changes being proposed to the zoning ordinance, and most of the time was dedicated to the language of the changes regarding creeks. Public commenters from UCSB, Urban Creeks Council and Environmental Defense Center were present to urge the council to use the language proposed by them instead of the one proposed by staff. The language concerns development near environmentally sensitive habitat areas. After more than an hour of back and forth amongst council members, city attorney Michael Jenkins and public commenters, Mr. Aceves finally chimed in.
“I’ve never seen this done before,” said Mr. Aceves, referring to the debate. “Not in public session…That’s very concerning…I’m just mind boggled…I’ve never seen a public debate by two attorneys based on the recommendation of our staff.”
Before the council dove into the hours of deliberation and presentations, Mr. Richards was reselected by council members, including himself, to continue serving as mayor pro tempore.