Regional coordination sought for challenges

A new report says jobs, housing and transportation issues need a unified response.

While the jobs-housing-congestion dynamic is hardly new news to anyone who travels Highway 101 during commuter hours, a new report is actually the first official study to tackle the situation on a broad, regional basis and lay out actions to take.

“What really differentiates it is its broader geographic perspective,” said John Jostes, a public policy specialist who led the Santa Barbara County/Ventura County panel that compiled the report, “Taking Action Regionally.”

“What we discovered is that the level of communication between Ventura agencies, communities, nonprofits and government and Santa Barbara’s (counterparts) is almost nonexistent,” Jostes said.

As a result, individual community policies and actions are having unintended detrimental effects, collectively.

The study has a series of recommendations in seven different areas, including advancing housing policy that reflects regional priorities, integrating regional thinking into job creation and economic development, and legislative advocacy for change.

As to the next step, Jostes said he thinks the report was well received by the powers that be.

“But whether anything comes of it is another story,” he said. “That’s where the political leadership and the community leadership comes in.”

The city of Santa Barbara has already initiated work to get some financial resources for the continuation of the effort, said Gregg Hart, a former councilman who is now the spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, one of the key players. “If that is successful, the plan is to then go to the city of Ventura to talk about their interest, etc.

“(Report team member) Jim Youngson has been using the analogy of a campfire,” Hart continued. “Looking for kindling and starting seeds to get a fire going. If the city of Santa Barbara really embraces this sort of a kindling approach … then it will continue.”

Asked if there were state-level funds available to continue the work, Jostes said there might be.

“That’s one of the things I think everybody would like to see, but it’s a regional problem,” he said. “In order to attract the interest and the resources that the state has to offer, it’s crucial that western Ventura and Santa Barbara County start acting like a region. That means talking about the collective problems that face us all.”

The full report, “Taking Action Regionally,” can be viewed online at

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on August 12, 2004.

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