“The vision thing” was alive and well in Goleta this week, as the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce presented its policy recommendations for the city’s first general plan. What will come of this input — based almost a year’s worth of study and discussions among the chamber’s 500 member businesses representing approximately 25,000 employees — is anyone’s guess at this point.
While business leaders embraced a vision that called for more housing and job growth, Council Members (acting as the Planning Agency) were noncommittal in receiving the report from President/CEO Kristen Amyx and Board Chairman Brian Gregory.
“A general plan is not just a bunch of rules and regulations and a map, a general plan is a tool for shaping the community in which we live and making our own town what we each want it to be,” said Amyx. She outlined how skyrocketing home prices were changing the character of the community and called for “providing for the next generation” as a top priority, focusing on the importance of providing housing for those who already live or work in the immediate vicinity.
“The economy is the easy part,” said Amyx, “the harder part is providing affordable housing.”
Along with recommending the construction of 4,500 new homes over the next 20 years, the chamber provided maps identifying areas to modify zoning and “places for new neighborhoods.” Chief among those was the Bishop Ranch project, a 265-acre, agriculturally- zoned-but-currently-fallow property north of Highway 101 between Glenannie and Los Carneros roads.
Councilwoman Jonny Wallis asked Amyx point blank whether the chamber’s support of the Bishop Ranch development was because of the amenities the conceptual plan calls for — including the preservation of open space, recreation fields and the connection of Calle Real between Glenannie and Los Carneros — or the project itself.
“If, for example, the recreation opportunities were provided elsewhere and the housing numbers, I think 1,200 houses, were provided elsewhere, would you still support this development,” asked Wallis, adding, “I’m trying to see what you’re after.”
I think what we’re after is the sort of next logical place where we can have a real impact on preserving the community character, responded Amyx. “We know we need a variety of housing and a large parcel like that can accommodate single family homes as well as rentals. … The fact that it’s in the northern valley, the fact that it is near services already and that it will actually help us improve our infrastructure by connecting those streets, make all of that important. I think that I get your question, if we can get 1200 houses somewhere else would there be benefits to leaving that as it is, I’m not sure that’s true.”
Councilwoman Margaret Connell was apparently receptive to at least some of the recommendations from the chamber. “The devil is probably in the details in some of this,” she said. “I’m not sure that we’re on entirely different tracks here.”
The city’s next general plan workshop is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 9, with additional workshops scheduled throughout that month. Visit www.cityofgoleta.org for updates.