Santa Barbara County Association of Governments reached out to the public with a webinar Thursday afternoon seeking feedback on how they’d like to see housing and transportation develop in Santa Barbara County.
In particular, SBCAG sought input on how best to proceed with two initiatives, the Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy, which outlines how available transportation funding will be invested, and the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which is used to ensure the Santa Barbara’s nine localities accommodate a minimum number of housing units each year as per state law.
According to the forum’s main speaker, SBCAG director of planning Michael Becker, the Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy plans transportation projects for at least 20 years into the future. During this cycle, the RTP/SCS is looking forward 30 years, hence the current plan’s name Connected 2050.
The SCS half of RTP/SCS meets the needs set by the 2008 Senate Bill 375, which requires transportation and housing be planned together as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from personal vehicles.
During the webinar, participants were invited to take two surveys. The first asked questions primarily focused on transportation, such as whether residents preferred dedicating resources to maintaining roads or expanding them to alleviate congestion, and how they would rank their region’s transit, bicycle, and pedestrian networks.
The second survey asked questions like whether new housing built in the region should be single-family homes or condos and apartments, whether new housing units should be built in urban, suburban, or exurban areas, and which of the three plans under RHNA they would like to see implemented.
The state’s fair-share housing law requires jurisdictions to plan and accommodate a minimum number of new housing units over an eight-year period. SBCAG does a new RHNA assessment every eight years to determine how many new housing units will be needed and in which jurisdictions they should be in.
The next RHNA plan will be approved in 2021.
Three possible RHNA scenarios were presented to the public in the second survey.
The first was “Transit Oriented Development/Infill+Enhanced Transit Strategy,” which involves a mix of bringing housing centers to job centers and jobs to housing centers and all the while making sure that they are connected with transit services, bike paths, and pedestrian friendly streets.
The second was “North County Weighted Jobs, South Coast Weighted Housing,” which is focused on bringing housing centers and job centers closer together without putting them in areas with transportation options like those in the first scenario.
This RHNA cycle has added a third possible scenario, “Alternative Transportation.” This scenario aims to see if greenhouse gas targets can be achieved by investing in just transportation and assumes that land use will continue to grow normally.
According to Mr. Becker, while the first two scenarios would narrow the gap between where people live and where they work, the first would have the most impact toward the state’s climate change strategy because new developments would have transportation options besides cars.
“We found that the scenario that will get us closest to meeting the state’s climate change requirement, is scenario one,” he said.