Santa Barbara planning commissioner prioritizes affordable housing
Gabe Escobedo, vice chair of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission, grew frustrated with Sacramento’s demands to boost affordable housing stock without additional funding from the state.
The son of a single mother who worked many jobs, he resonates with the need for the affordable units requested by California legislators. But he wishes those same representatives gave municipalities the ability to make that change, he told the News-Press.
“If the funding is not there, then it’s kind of a moot point, and we’re just going to talk ourselves in circles,” he said Wednesday. “We have budget surpluses at the state level; we have infrastructure money coming in from the federal government. Right now is the best time possible for us to demand that the state provide that sort of funding.”
So to make the impact he desired, Mr. Escobedo decided to run for the California Assembly. He announced his candidacy as a Democrat in the 37th District Tuesday.
His accomplishments include helping develop Santa Barbara’s 30-year water plan, ushering climate change into the planning process and advocating for affordable housing. He chairs the Community Formation Commission, which is developing a plan for civilian oversight Mr. Escobedo believes will be mirrored countywide.
He intends to release policy points soon. He admits his ideas are ambitious but asserts they are pragmatic.
“They might be bigger than people are used to hearing, but it’s the big ideas we need right now,” Mr. Escobedo said. “We have a housing crisis, and we have homelessness that needs to be addressed. We have climate change; we have higher education that needs to be fixed. We have criminal justice reform that needs to happen in California.
“These are the topics that only get solved with ambitious ideas, but they’re doable.”
Mr. Escobedo said he’s interested in long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes. He told the News-Press he welcomes all opinions as he looks for those solutions.
“I can learn something from just about anyone, and I want to hear from people because the fears that they have, the struggles they’re facing, they’re valid,” he said. “Our campaign is going to be built around that idea: the idea that we’re going to talk about big things, and we’re not always going to agree. But we’re going to acknowledge that there’s validity to people’s concerns.”
Mr. Escobedo doesn’t have a particular politician he looks up to. Instead, his mother is his role model. From her, he learned humility, sincerity and respect for others, he said.
His mom raised him in the Inland Empire. He moved to Santa Barbara around six years ago and currently works at UCSB in collegiate recreation.
He advises campus committees and is part of the student medical emergency relief fund committee, which gives grants to students for medical treatment.
Mr. Escobedo is excited to speak to community members who may not watch the Planning Commission’s meetings or participate in the Community Formation Commission. He is confident his policy points will be a “breath of fresh air.”
Jonathan Abboud, a Santa Barbara City College trustee and co-founder/general manager of Isla Vista Community Services District, is also running for the 37th District seat.