In an effort to protect and preserve the Carpinteria Valley’s rich agricultural heritage, the City Council is expected today to approve proposed correspondence to Santa Barbara County planners regarding the county’s Draft 2023-2031 Housing Element Update.
“The City of Carpinteria has been closely following the County Housing Element Update process,” notes the letter to be sent to the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department Long Range Planning Division.
“We appreciate the challenges faced by the County and other local jurisdictions, ourselves included, in crafting a Housing Element Update that satisfies our respective regional housing needs assessment (RHNA) allocations and meets HCD’s high bar for certification.
“We recognize the need for all areas of the County to share in meeting regional housing needs and that difficult decisions must be made concerning where and how to accommodate needed housing.”
Carpinteria leaders, however, believe the county went too far initially in locating too many sites where housing could be built right outside the Carpinteria urban boundary which, if built, would impact local rural agriculture, diminish local water supplies, increase traffic and strain city resources. They pushed back and county planners have reduced the number of likely sites.
Now, with this letter, dated Feb. 28 anticipating the council’s approval, the city council is offering additional suggestions “in the spirit of interagency cooperation and collaboration on housing policies that best serve the Carpinteria Valley and its residents.
ln consideration of the need to provide the state-mandated housing and, in particular, affordable housing, in southern Santa Barbara County, “we are requesting two items: Modifications to the proposed housing sites in the Carpinteria Valley; and county commitment to implement policies and programs aimed at preventing displacement and promoting affordable housing,” the letter reads.
“The Carpinteria Valley Agriculture remains an important element of the Carpinteria Valley’s identity and economic base, and the desire to protect and preserve the Valley’s agricultural heritage going forward is critical.”
Carpinteria officials contend that State Housing Element Law requirements to plan for adequate housing sites do not take precedence over the Resource Protection policies of the California Coastal Act, and as embodied in the policies and regulations of county and city respective Local Coastal Programs.
The County’s Draft Housing Element “fails to adequately take into account” Coastal Act resource protection policies that call for agricultural buffers “and the need to protect agricultural lands/operations from urban residential development.
“Our position that high density urban development is not appropriate for rural agricultural areas along the city’s edges is further supported by numerous adopted policies found in both the County’s and City’s respective certified LCPs, including but not limited to county Comprehensive Plan Agricultural Element Policy and (the) California Coastal Act.”
Specifically, in the Carpinteria Valley, sites identified as the “Van Wingerden 1” potential rezone site and the “Bailard” pending housing project should be eliminated because of impacts to coastal agricultural lands, Carpinteria officials argue.
“Wise planning practices call for higher residential densities to occur within or immediately adjacent to the urban core. City and County land use policies and the Coastal Act support these practices. These two sites contradict this fundamental principle by proposing the highest densities found in the Carpinteria Valley at the very edge of the City, outside the urban-rural boundary, at significant distance from the urban core, with no immediate access to pedestrian, bicycle and public transit routes, and not within reasonable walking distance to grocery shopping and other necessities and conveniences of daily living.
“We also do not believe that these sites have the potential to meet state regulations for conversion of agricultural land/use to residential use.”
The Coastal Act section 30242 expressly identifies that lands suitable for agricultural use shall not be converted to other uses unless continued agricultural use is not feasible or such conversion would preserve prime agricultural land or concentrate development within a developed area, the letter states.
Consistent with this Coastal Act policy, the City is closely scrutinizing potential rezones of agricultural lands within the City to avoid conversion of other agricultural land within the Carpinteria Valley and to concentrate residential development within its urban boundaries, the letter says.
“However, the City Council firmly believes that the County and the Coastal Commission cannot make these findings for the Van Wingerden 1 and Bailard sites for the reasons stated above. While the bar remains high for consideration of conversion of agricultural use and land, the City believes the Van Wingerden 2 site may appropriately be considered given its location situated along a major transit route, its adjacency to existing urban development on two sides, and what appears to be adequate ingress/egress opportunity.”
The same holds true for the two parcels identified in the County Draft Housing Element as the “Kono” alternative potential rezone sites.
“The City believes these sites should be further considered,” the letter says.
“Lastly, we continue to urge the County to explore and identify additional potential sites for infill development opportunities throughout the unincorporated South County’s urbanized and suburban areas. More specifically, the County should be identifying and prioritizing underutilized commercial, office, residential, and governmental properties within these urban areas rather than relying so heavily on “greenfield” development opportunities on agricultural lands outside of the urban-rural boundary.
“ln addition to having a better chance for being found consistent with Coastal Act resource protection policies, such infill opportunities that are closer to job centers could have a more meaningful impact on achieving a regional jobs housing balance and reducing vehicle miles traveled, as encouraged by Draft County Housing Element Policy.”
Carpinteria officials say the city and county have a common interest in helping to ensure the availability of housing for workers in the agricultural, service and hospitality industries because these are important parts of the regional economy and wages are typically too low to keep pace with housing markets.
“Housing markets in attractive coastal areas, like Carpinteria, are heavily influenced by factors other than supply, such as demand for vacation rentals and second homes,” the letter states. “They expect these factors will continue to contribute to escalating housing prices despite planned growth in supply.
‘As such, promoting growth and relying on development purported to be ‘affordable by design’ will not be sufficient to meet the housing needs of the region. Government interventions will be required in order to provide housing that is available and that is affordable to many people that work in the City and in the Carpinteria Valley.”
Carpinteria officials are urging the County to join the City in developing measures to address this such as:
– Prioritize production of rental housing units over ownership units
– Adopt inclusionary requirements to achieve an amount of lower income rent restricted; units significantly greater than provided for in state laws;
– Prohibit vacation rentals for multi-family residential housing built in the Carpinteria Valley, including prohibitions on corporate and limited liability company ownership models;
– Establish a vacancy tax and/or other measures to ensure second home use contributes to affordable housing development and preservation;
– Enact rent stabilization on multi-family rental housing; and
– Establish no-cause eviction prohibition regulations beyond state law requirements.
The City included each of the above measures in its Annual Work Plan and plans to incorporate these measures in its Housing Element to advance the city’s evidence to prevent displacement of existing residents and provide affordable housing for South County essential workers.
“The County should incorporate similar measures in its Housing Element policies and programs to ensure that the County and City move forward collaboratively to advance truly affordable housing policies within the Carpinteria Valley,” the letter states.
“Lastly, we are seeking a commitment from the County to collaborate with the City to determine appropriate mitigation for development impacts, (e.9., traffic, parks, etc.) that will occur in the City as a result of these higher residential densities occurring outside the City limits, and to require these to be addressed as a part of project development approval. Such mitigation is critical to ensure that new and existing development have access to the public resources that make south Santa Barbara County a desirable place to live and work.”