County taxpayer advocate Joe Armendariz likes to talk about the morality of prosperity versus the immorality of government and community-induced poverty. To wit, our county is home to one of the top 10 wealthiest ZIP codes in the country, while also having the third-highest poverty rate in the state. Living in the midst of such disparity is as appalling as it is unconscionable, because it does not have to be this way.
Unfortunately, the woes of our mineral-rich North County are not that much different than the plight of Venezuela. Venezuela was once the richest country in South America, but now it is a hell hole despite having unimaginably vast oil reserves, due to the failure of the people in control of the country and the economy.
Santa Barbara County is governed by environmentalist elitists, hypocritical NIMBYs, if you will, who insist they know what is best for the population and the planet. Accordingly, our local government leverages untoward control of economy, land use and property rights. These economic control mechanisms are manifest under such euphemisms as community planning, environmental standards, and zoning and land-use codes. What that means in practical terms is that quality of life and upward mobility for the North County masses, who need blue-collar jobs, is unattainable, resulting in the creation of a permanent underclass.
Whether a property is zoned for ag, housing or commercial use gives no assurance the property owner will survive the costs of delays, restrictions and overwrought machinations necessary to use the property and create jobs accordingly. Projects big and small are endlessly delayed and breathlessly magnified by a process that seeks to preserve the status quo for the elitists, rather than sustain a vibrant economy for the betterment of society as a whole.
Several North County oil operations, which represent the best-paying jobs in the area along with billions of dollars of economic output, are currently attempting to navigate the permitting process. The operations are in state-designated oil fields that have been in production for over 100 years. It is inconceivable to require hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct environmental review, which takes years to complete, in order to subject these projects to an uncertain fate based on the whims of people who use oil but do not want it produced here. Alternatively, the North County says yes to these oil projects, which are in their backyard, meaning they are YIMBYs.
Another example is Rancho La Laguna in the North County, which encompasses some 4,000 acres. The owners wanted to subdivide the ranch into 13 large parcels, the smallest of which was 142 acres. Such subdivisions have been occurring in this county for 150 years. Nevertheless, the Board of Supervisors denied the application, as they preposterously deemed this as inducing “urban” development.
Finally, consider the Miramar hotel. How on earth could it take a total of 18 years to facilitate a magnificent rebuild of an old facility on an existing hotel site? The community process involved three billionaires as project applicants, the first two of which were forced to give up.