Goleta Finishes Housing Element Obstacle Course with City Council Vote for Rezoning

Where the sidewalk ends: Looking east on the south end of 7264 Calle Real, also known as Kenwood Village, now rezoned to allow 126-190 residential units on 6.33 out of its 9.48 acres.

The City of Goleta crossed the state-required Housing Element finish line on December 5, ending a two-year long obstacle course that began when the city was first assigned the task of showing how it would accommodate 1,837 new residential units, its share of the regional housing need.

The revised City of Goleta Housing Element 2023-2031 is now headed to the state for certification after the City Council approved revisions to the Housing Element of the Goleta General Plan and rezoned 12 parcels to increase capacity for higher density residential development.

“I’m convinced that not approving these rezones in this Housing Element would expose our city to significant financial and regulatory risks that we really cannot afford,” said Mayor Paula Perotte before the final vote. “Therefore reluctantly, I will vote to approve this motion. The state has this crazy idea that a cookie-cutter approach will work for all of us, and it’s unfortunate…. Despite our hard work – and dedicated staff – the state rejected our numerous efforts to exclusively rely on existing zoning for housing.”

The rezoning requirement by the State Department of Housing and Community Development was the biggest challenge. Planning and Environmental Review Director Peter Imhof described the rezoning decisions as determining the “least-worst” locations. “We’re trying to make the best of what is a challenging situation.”

“We have to eat a crap sandwich and we have to decide the condiments,” Councilmember Stuart Kasden said. To meet the goals for new residential units by 2031, he said “we wanted to pursue infill, but the state wanted us to go with vacant sites with willing owners.”

Public workshops in this Housing Element process began in early 2022, and after several review cycles with the public, the planning commission, and the city council, the City of Goleta first submitted an adopted Housing Element 2023-2031 to the state Housing and Community Development department on January 23, 2023, well before the February 15, 2023 deadline. But feedback from the state in March required several changes. The state told Goleta it must consider rezoning vacant sites to meet the numbers for high-density zoning to accommodate new housing in the lower income categories, so the city held a series of three workshops this summer to consider parcels for rezoning.

After reviewing revisions to the Housing Element after those workshops, the State Department of Housing and Community Development sent a letter in October stating that the proposed Housing Element revisions meet all statutory requirements and substantially comply with state housing law. In a final round of meetings in Goleta with public comment – the Planning Commission on November 15 and the City Council on December 5 – members of the public spoke concerns about increased residential density on traffic, pedestrian safety, environmental preservation, neighborhood character, as well as the need for housing so local workers don’t leave the community, and so people don’t have to live hours away and commute.

“This public comment says so much about where we are as a city and a state when it comes to housing,” said Councilmember James Kyriaco. “There is distrust, there is advocacy for more, there’s advocacy for less, there’s a disagreement about the basic facts.”

Councilmembers said they shared concerns of the public comments about traffic, density, and environment.  The City Council supported the Housing Element approval to avoid the state taking away local control over individual development projects. Cities that are out of compliance with their Housing Elements risk losing opportunities for funding from state programs, and the so-called “builder’s remedy” state law allows developers to bypass a city’s zoning code—if a bare minimum of 20% of the residential units are set aside as affordable monthly housing payments for lower-income households.

Because they completed the Housing Element, “The city will retain the authority to impose permit conditions tailored to each site,” Mayor Perotte said in her closing remarks. “Residents will still be able to weigh in on individual projects where discretionary permits are required. The city will mandate appropriate, permits, fees, and mitigations to offset the unique impacts associated with every new development.” This includes all the top concerns including traffic and environmental reviews.

Her additional concerns are about the divisions she saw as a side effect of the state’s process. “One troubling consequence of these mandates [from the state] is the erosion of cooperative spirit. I’m concerned that they pit Goleta districts against each other, our city against the county, and all of us against the state, just at a time when cooperation is needed most.”

When looking at the map showing all areas for new housing, Mayor ProTempre Kyle Richards stated that areas designated for future residential grown are spread out across the city.

“This is something that is distributed across the city,” Mayor ProTempore Kyle Richards said about areas for new residential development in Goleta.

Councilmember Kyriaco also brought up positive news about new housing for all incomes levels that is already underway. “One out of every five units that we need to accomplish out of the 1,837 are already in the works, just between a couple of single family homes that have been permitted, Buena Tierra, and Heritage Ridge. We’re already over 21 percent of the way there. We’ve been providing housing. The problem is Goleta has been the sole workforce housing provider for South County.”

Supervising Senior Planner Andy Newkirk explains Goleta’s new housing required by the state.

The state categories income levels are based on area median income (AMI) income limits for Santa Barbara County

  • Extremely Low Income means less than 30 percent of area median income
  • Very Low Income means 30-50 percent of area median income
  • Low Income means 50-80 percent of area median income
  • “Lower Income” is a category that means less than 80 percent of area median income (all the previous categories)
  • Moderate Income means 80-120 percent of area median income
  • Above Moderate means 120-200 percent of area median income (Goleta’s Inclusionary Housing Policy also calls this “Workforce Housing”)

Since Goleta established its inclusionary housing requirement in 2019, all development applications anywhere in the City of Goleta, require 15-20% of the residential units to be affordable to low income households. Councilmember Kyriaco described it as “If you’re a developer, for every five residential units you build, you get to charge as much as you want for four of them but for the fifth one you have to accommodate someone who is a teacher, a nurse.”

The next sections list the sites that were rezoned, and existing housing developments already in progress. A recording of the December 5 City Council meeting is available on the city website at https://tinyurl.com/454ye4xp.

Sites rezoned on December 5

7264 Calle Real (Kenwood Village)

  • Google Maps link: 7264 Calle Real
  • Development potential before rezoning: This 9.48-acre site (also known as Kenwood Village, based on a project that the property owner Ken Alker had previously proposed) is split into two parcels. The parcel to the north was previously zoned Single Family Residential (RS), and the parcel along Calle Real was zoned Agriculture (AG). Previous zoning allowed 28 units of residential development on the site. The 9.48 acres are surrounded by Medium Density Residential to the west, highway to south, and single family homes to the north and east.
  • New zoning: After hearing from many nearby homeowners and other residents during the public comment at July workshosp about concerns with high density residential development, the city councilmembers and planning commissioners directed staff to use Residential High Density (RH) on part of the site but to limit it to 190 total residential units. Based on input from the public, the planning commissioners, and the city council members at the workshops in July, the new zoning sets the developable area to 6.33 acres of the 9.48  acre site, at a density of 20-30 units per acre, which allows a range of 126-190 residential units. Alker had asked for more density at November Planning Commission meeting and the Dec. 5 City Council meeting, but the council kept the density as 126-190 residential units on 6.33 acres.

60 Colusa Avenue and 7020 Calle Real

Looking southeast from the corner of Colusa Ave and Del Norte Drive on a Monday afternoon when people were waited at the bus stop next to the vacant parcel.
  • Google Maps link: 60 Colusa Ave and 7020 Calle Real
  • Development potential before rezoning: Both parcels were zoned Intersectional Commercial (CI), which means low or moderate intensity commercial development at intersections of arterior roads. 60 Colusa Ave is vacant and 7020 Calle Real has a market and liquor store. Past zoning allowed 26 residential units to be built at 60 Colusa Ave. and 5 residential units at 7020 Calle Real.
  • New zoning: For 60 Colusa Ave, rezoning to Residential High Density (RH), means 20-30 housing units per acre, bringing the maximum number of housing units that can be built on the parcel up as high as 39. 7020 Calle Real changed to Community Commercial (CC), which continues to allow building of 5 residential units.

625 Dara Road

  • Google Maps link: 625 Dara Road
  • Development potential before rezoning: This 4.23 acre vacant parcel in the middle of a single-family home neighborhood was previously zoned Residential Single Family (RS), which allowed building 12 houses.
  • New zoning: Residential Medium Density instead (RM) zoning allows a maximum of 84 residential units.

7190 Hollister Ave

  • Google Maps link: 7190 Hollister Ave
  • Development potential before rezoning: 7190 Hollister Ave is 10.72 total acres split into two separately zoned parcels. The vacant parcel to the north of the building with the Jubilee Church tenant was zoned Residential Medium Density (RM). Previous zoning allowed 39 units of residential development on the site RM site. The parcel along Hollister was zoned General Commercial (CG), which allowed no residential units, only commercial development.
  • New zoning: Changing the vacant Residential Medium Density (RM) parcel to Residential High Density (RH), means 20-30 housing units per acre, and the maximum number of housing units built on the parcel is now be 59. Changing the General Commercial (CG) parcel with the existing buildings to Residential High Density (RH), means a maximum of 41 residential units can be built on that parcel.

Parcels to the East of 7190 Hollister Ave

  • Google Maps link: east of 7190 Hollister Ave
  • Development potential before rezoning: Like the 7190 Hollister site, these two sites (both vacant) are each split into two portions. The portions to the north were previously zoned Residential Medium Density (RM), and the portions along Hollister were zoned General Commercial (CG). That zoning allowed 82 units of residential development on the site.
  • New zoning: Residential High Density (RH), which means 20-30 housing units per acre. The maximum number of housing units on the site is now 207.

35 Ellwood Station Drive

  • Google Maps link: 35 Ellwood Station
  • Development potential before rezoning: The previous zoning for the 4.87-acre site, currently used for industrial outdoor storage, was General Commercial (CG), which allowed no residential units, only commercial development.
  • New zoning: Residential High Density (RH) now means 20-30 residential units per acre can be built, a maximum of 146.

6470 Hollister Ave

  • Google Maps link: 6470 Hollister Ave
  • Development potential before rezoning: The current zoning for this 0.58-acre vacant site is General Commercial (CG), which allows no residential units, although it could include commercial development instead.
  • New zoning: Community Commercial (CC) means a total of 17 residential units can be built.

7360 Hollister Ave

  • Google Maps link: 7360 Hollister Ave
  • Development potential before rezoning: This 2.93 acre site between the Ellwood Station mobile home park and the Dioji dog daycare includes some single unit dwellings and also an undeveloped portion. It was previously zoned Community Commercial (CC), which allowed a total of 32 residential units to be built.
  • New zoning: Residential High Density (RH)  means 20-30 residential units per acre can be built, a maximum of 69.

469 and 449 Kellogg Way

  • Google Maps links: 469 Kellogg Way and 449 Kellogg Way
  • Development potential before rezoning: These two parcels, a total of 3.02 acres, are used for outdoor RV storage. 469 Kellogg was zoned as Planned Residential (RP) and 449 Kellogg was zoned as Business Park (BP). With that previous zoning, a total of 25 residential units could have been built on 469 Kellogg only, none on 449 Kellogg.
  • New zoning: Residential High Density (RH) means 20-30 residential units per acre. The maximum number of residential units on these two combined sites now is a total of 73 (60 at 469 Kellogg and 13 at 449 Kellogg).

490 South Fairview (Yardi)

  • Google Maps link: 490 South Fairview
  • Development potential before rezoning: This 8.32 site, previously zoned Business Park (BP), is used for offices at Yardi. BP zoning doesn’t allow any residential units.
  • New zoning: A High Density Residential (RH) Overlay, on top of the existing BP zoning, now allows a total of 198 residential units to be built and the basic use as an office park to continue.

Approved housing already underway in Goleta

The City of Goleta can prove how it is meeting its share of the Regional Housing Needs with projects that are currently underway. Here’s where the numbers go beyond densities, and it’s clear what specific rents are limited to be affordable to specific income levels.

Heritage Ridge

Heritage Ridge, approved this spring, has 332 residential units on 7.3 acres. A total of 102 of those residential units will be managed by the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara to be affordable to lower incomes: 40 for low-income seniors and 62 for low-income families. To help meet Goleta’s state Regional Housing Need numbers, the first 230 market-rate residential units count toward the Above Moderate category, 85 count toward the Low Income category, and 17 count towards the Very Low Income category.

Buena Tierra

Buena Tierra on  0.7 acre at the site of the former Super 8 in Old Town Goleta, has 59 residential units that count toward the Very Low Income category and one residential unit for the onsite property manager that counts in the Above Moderate category. Buena Tierra is supportive housing built and managed by the Housing Authority of the County of Santa  Barbara.

Next steps

The City of Goleta now waits for final certification so it can be in compliance, but it is expected because of the October letter from the State Department Housing and Community Development. For more information on Goleta’s Housing Element update, go to CityofGoleta.org/HousingElement. The city also created a Housing Element FAQ document.

Meanwhile, the unincorporated county has several parcels considered for rezoning on the edges of Goleta, which will affect the Goleta community. Imhof said that the county has included a long list of potential parcels in its Housing Element, has deferred the selection of specific parcels and rezoning, and is inviting members of the community to review the Balancing Act online tool comment on which sites should have new housing.

And finally, back in the city limits of Goleta, when individual projects on these rezoned parcels – or any parcels – come before the city for approval in the next 8 years, Mayor Perotte wants the public to know that the city will have local control, and that includes citizen input. “Approving these rezones doesn’t signify a single approval of any development,” she said to the public at the December 5 meeting. “Each housing project must still undergo the application review process,” and that includes the local control and public comment that the City Council said they wanted to preserve by getting the Housing Element approved.

Other upcoming housing-related actions before the Goleta City Council

The Housing Element process may be done for now, but the December 19 Goleta City Council meeting has two items on the agenda related to housing issues:

  • An emergency ordinance on tenant protections
  • A new Human Services Committee

Amy Reinholds

Written by Amy Reinholds

Amy Reinholds is a content designer and journalist who lives in Goleta.

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  1. When we talk about “The State” requiring this building plan we should realize that we are really talking about a group of un-elected, un-appointed bureaucrats in a state agency that have a narrow focus on their task. Thus the one-size-fits-all mentality that the entire state suffers under. Too bad that our government has gotten so huge that anonymous clerks can control our lives like this.

    • The real truth of this topic is that it is local elected government that does the work. Every 8 year cycle each city and county government needs to put together how many folks live here and how many will live here for the next 8 years. Those numbers are created by the SBCAG- the Santa Barbara County of Associated Governments. It is made up the SBCo Board of supervisors and includes members from each of the Cities. SBCAG says how many more Housing units are needed for the area. It makes sense they live here and it wouldn’t be feasible for a State Agency to do this work.

      In 2019 SBCAG sent the housing unit NEED to the state along with the data on how they came up with the number. The Number was 29k. The state looked at the report and based on the data REDUCED the number down to 24k.

      The main focus of the state at that point was to say review the work SBCAG did to justify the Need and verify the numbers and the methods. If the report is in line- then the State determine what each income level gets housing…Very low income, Low income, Middle Income, and High income. That is what is meant by Housing Determination.

      SBCAG gets this determination and then sends it to each City and County to update the housing plan. Jan 2020 SBCAG received that determination. From that point on each City and County KNEW what amount they were required to deal with.
      Each jurisdiction was supposed to turn in the Housing update by 2022, how ever the State issued a 1 year extension pushing the due date back to Feb 2023.
      When Feb 2023 came- all 9 jurisdictions did not turn in the Housing Element plan- As of Dec 17th 2023- 8 of the 9 are still out of compliance. (Buellton is the only one IN compliance and that was in June)

      So when we talk about requiring a plan we should be looking in our own backyard and why are we turning in our homework late?

      Why do local folks not know how this works?

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