The Goleta Planning Commission approved amendments to the city’s Housing Element the week before Thanksgiving, including 12 sites to be rezoned to allow increased residential density. The final approval now goes to the Goleta City Council at a December 5 meeting.
Fewer people gave public comment at the November 15 Planning Commission meeting than at the series of three marathon workshops in July, which covered possible sites for increased residential zoning with planning commissioners, city council members, and the public.
At the November 15 meeting, speakers representing homeowners for three sites with surrounding single family home density voiced concern about more density and traffic. A long history of neighboring homeowners opposing development from property owner Ken Alker at 7264 Calle Real continued with disputes about fire safety on the currently vacant parcel. And a renter who is a local preschool educator stated that increased density with new housing near where she grew up would be a welcome opportunity for her and others to afford housing in the community where they work.
The first version submitted for the City of Goleta Housing Element 2023-2031 at the beginning of the year didn’t include rezoning to meet the requirement of site inventory for 1,837 units of new housing by 2031. But the California Department of Housing and Community Development (also called HCD) told the City of Goleta that it couldn’t rely solely on “underutilized” sites, which have some buildings on them already, and must consider vacant sites to meet the state requirements for land zoned Residential High Density.
For communities that want to keep local control over development, it’s in the best interest to get the Housing Element plan approved. In the non-compliance window before the state Department of Housing and Community Development has approved the Housing Element plan, the so-called builder’s remedy state law allows developers to bypass a city’s zoning code and permitting process—as long as a minimum of 20% of the total residential units are set aside as affordable monthly housing payments for incomes in lower-income categories based on the area median income of Santa Barbara County. Without a Housing Element certified by the state, the City of Goleta would lose access to grants and some legal protections.
Goleta’s plan is not yet approved and already has had one project under the builder’s remedy come in for 6491 Calle Real. At the November 15 Planning Commission meeting, Beth Collins, a land-use attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, who is representing the owners of the Shelby property on Cathedral Oaks Road west of the Glenn Annie Golf Course, said during public comment that the owners are prepared to proceed with a proposal for residential development under the builder’s remedy.
In contrast, cities and counties that get their Housing Elements approved and in compliance with the State of California are able to retain discretion to impose site-specific permit conditions and mitigations on each residential project. Goleta staff as well as planning commissioners and city council members have stated at their Housing Element meetings and related documents that even after the zoning changes are in place, all new projects must still go through a public permitting process. The details of each individual project are addressed for each situation when the property owners apply to permits, and environmental protections (including CEQA review), traffic measures, and infrastructure improvements specific to the site will be required as projects move through the permit process.
A summary of the 12 sites for rezoning
469 and 449 Kellogg Way
- Google Maps links: 469 Kellogg Way and 449 Kellogg Way
- Current development potential before rezoning: These two parcels, a total of 3.02 acres, are used for outdoor RV storage. 469 Kellogg is currently zoned as Planned Residential (RP) and 449 Kellogg is currently zoned as Business Park (BP). With current zoning, a total of 25 residential units could be built on 469 Kellogg only, none on 449 Kellogg.
- Proposed new zoning: Residential High Density (RH), which means up to 30 residential units per acre. (Minimum density of 20 units per acre, which the state requires.) The maximum number of residential units on these two combined sites would be a total of 73 (60 at 469 Kellogg and 13 at 449 Kellogg).
During public comment at the November 15 Planning Commission meeting, Gelare Macon, land use agent for the property owner, said that the owners wanted a Residential High Density overlay instead of rezone so they could continue current use specifically for the smaller parcel zone business park. Planning staff told commissioners they were not aware of the request. Most of the site is already nonconforming, and it would not count as as high-density residential zoning that the state considers in the “low-income” category. The Planning Commissioners did not request this change in the Housing Element.
One tenant of the storage units stated that he didn’t know where in Goleta this storage would be available if the land was rezoned.
60 Colusa Avenue and 7020 Calle Real
- Google Maps links: 60 Colusa Ave and 7020 Calle Real
- Current development potential before rezoning: Both parcels are currently zoned Intersectional Commercial (CI), which means low or moderate intensity commercial development at intersections of arterior roads. 60 Colusa Ave. would currently allow 26 residential units. 7020 Calle Real has a market and liquor store. Current zoning would currently allow 5 residential units to be built.
- Proposed new zoning: For 60 Colusa Ave, rezoning to Residential High Density (RH), means up to 30 housing units per acre, bringing the maximum number of housing units that could be built on the parcel up as high as 39. 7020 Calle Real is proposed to change to Community Commercial (CC), which continues to allow that 5 residential units could be built.
During public comment, Michelle Owen, a neighboring property owner across the street, said she was opposed to the rezoning of 60 Colusa. “39 units will be too big. Rezone for high-density projects on Los Carneros where it won’t ruin the single home community that already exists. Please I’m begging you to not diminish the quality of life that we have in our beautiful community.”
She mentioned traffic issues at the intersection, “If this passes and there is one student or pedestrian hurt or – god forbid – killed, it will be all of your faults. It is too dangerous to add more traffic to that corner.”
Planning commissioners commented later in the meeting that current traffic issues should be a priority for the City of Goleta to address because it is a problem now.
Commissioner Jason Chapman said that concerns about street safety that he heard during public comments were valid concerns but wouldn’t be fixed by stopping more housing. “There have been deaths on our roads. The answer to that is I hope our city continues to improve conditions, to slow speeds in dangerous areas, to give alternatives to driving to reduce traffic in residential neighborhoods. There is a need for pedestrian and bike pathway from the El Encanto neighborhood to the commercial areas to the south. I don’t think the answer is to not provide the housing that we need. That won’t improve the dangerous conditions.”
7264 Calle Real (also known as Kenwood Village, based on a project that the property owner had previously proposed)
- Google Maps link: 7264 Calle Real
- Current development potential before rezoning: This 9.48-acre site is split into two parcels. The parcel to the north is currently zoned Single Family Residential (RS), and the parcel along Calle Real is zoned Agriculture (AG). Current zoning allows 28 units of residential development on the site.
- Proposed new zoning: After hearing from many nearby homeowners and other residents during the public comment on July 31 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 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 developable area is 6.33 acres which would need to be at a density of 20-30 units per acre, which would be 126-190 units.
A long history of the property owner Ken Alker proposing development with opposition from homeowners in the area includes a previous project plan submitted to the city for 60 homes that was never approved because water wasn’t available from the Goleta Water District. Alker spoke during public comment at the November 15 Planning Commission meeting and said he would like to be able to build more than 190 units and said he is interested in providing housing for Friendship Manor senior housing, which currently has 2.5 acres and 214 units in Isla Vista. “I’m fine with 190 units, but think neighborhood would be happier with a Friendship Manor project at that location.”
During the public comment, a neighboring property owner and Alker each spoke several times with times ceded from other members of the public. April Reid, a neighboring property owner opposed to rezoning of 7264 Calle Real, brought up past disputes she has had with Alker about what she sees as fire safety issues. She said that she had a letter from the fire martial that Alker had a violation from the fire department in 2019.
Alker said that he spoke with Fire Department that morning and said he confirmed that he had not been given a violation but instead received reminder calls like other owners of all large parcels in the county. He said he spoke with Deputy Fire Marshal Fred Tan “who confirmed that the fire department has never issued a notice of violation on the property. He did state that they have called me to remind me to mow and that every time they have called, I have cleared the field. He said that there was a complaint in December 2019 from a neighbor, April Reid, regarding tall grass. He came out did an inspection and did not find anything on the property to be a hazard, and no violations were issued because I had done the maintenance required. He included pictures in his report.” Alker said the Fire Department told him there was a fire in 2016 that was 15 feet by 20 feet and a fire in 2013 that was ¾ acre fire from smoking from a sidewalk. “They had the fire put out in an hour and it would not have burned any houses.”
Reid added another public comment later and said that the deputy fire marshal that Alker spoke with was not on the job in 2013.
The Planning Commission meeting, which had been originally scheduled for November 13 was continued to November 15 because there was not a quorum of planning commissioners. But some members of the public still gave public comment on November 13. Nancy Sandoval, a teacher who described the neighborhood as “working class,” raised issues of the dangerous traffic. “We’re asking for more protection for our neighborhood, less deaths on bicycles, less danger. This is already kind of a poorly developed area.” She suggested “lower-density housing with a park on Calle Real instead, or something else that considers us as a neighborhood. If you could be more kind and creative in trying to help us as a neighborhood, me and my neighbors would appreciate it.”
The last public comment at the November 15 meeting was from Paula Hammer, a renter who was in support of the rezoning. “I was really excited at the possibility of seeing high density and rezoning and that it included lower-income housing for the workforce here in Goleta. The opportunity that it brings to people like me who grew up near the Kenwood Village site is beyond appreciation.”
Hammer said she went to Brandon Elementary School, Goleta Valley Junior High, and graduated from Dos Pueblos high school. “But I’ve never had the opportunity to afford a home here. As a preschool educator, it is not possible in the current market, nor has it ever been possible to own a home here, even though my job is very valuable to the community.”
“The increased rents have forced me to downsize to minimal living quarters to be able to live and work here, as it has for many Goleta native residents. Others in my field who are in their 30s and 40s still live at home with their parents who bought here when it was affordable [to working class incomes] in the 1960s and 1970s, and they also could benefit greatly from the rezoning and establish their own families in their own homes.”
7190 Hollister Ave
- Google Maps link: 7190 Hollister Ave
- Current 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 is currently zoned Residential Medium Density (RM). Current zoning allows 39 units of residential development on the site RM site. The parcel along Hollister, where the Jubilee Church is a current tenant, is zoned General Commercial (CG), which allows no residential units, although it could include commercial development instead.
- Proposed new zoning: Changing the vacant Residential Medium Density (RM) parcel to Residential High Density (RH), means up to 30 housing units per acre, and the maximum number of housing units built on the parcel would be 59. Changing the current General Commercial (CG) parcel with the existing buildings to Residential High Density (RH), would mean 41 residential units could be built on the parcel.
Parcels to the East of 7190 Hollister Ave
- Google Maps link: east of 7190 Hollister Ave
- Current 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 are currently zoned Residential Medium Density (RM), and the portions along Hollister are zoned General Commercial (CG). Current zoning allows 82 units of residential development on the site.
- Proposed new zoning: Residential High Density (RH), which means up to 30 housing units per acre. The maximum number of housing units on the site would be 205.
625 Dara Road
- Google Maps link: 625 Dara Road
- Current development potential before rezoning: This 4.23 acre vacant parcel is currently zoned Residential Single Family (RS), which allows building 12 houses.
- Proposed new zoning: Instead of Residential High Density (RH) zoning, the city council and planning commission directed staff to go with Residential Medium Density instead (RM) zoning. They were originally looking at the RH zoning that would allow as many as 127 residential units, but instead the RM zoning would allow 84 residential units.
During public comment on November 16, Greg Jenkins spoke, saying he was representing many neighbors surrounding the Dara Road neighborhood, including at least 50 who attended a meeting with City Council member James Kyriaco a couple of months ago. “We are thankful that a couple of months you heard our objections when you were considering rezoning to high density residential. We know you believe medium density to be a reasonable compromise due to the pressure to the state. But most if not all of our neighborhood would prefer for it to remain single family homes. If forced to accept medium density, some of us would prefer it to be senior housing.”
He continued “Dara is the only property in your inventory completely surrounded by single family homes and on an elevated knoll. We ask that you direct your focus to the many more appropriate sites in the housing element to meet the state’s demands. Also please consider the Shelby parcel, located at 7400 Cathedral Oaks Road. This owner is ready, willing to create significant housing stock that would remove the pressure to overdevelop parcels like Dara and Kenwood.”
35 Ellwood Station Drive
- Google Maps link: 35 Ellwood Station
- Current development potential before rezoning: The current zoning for the 4.87-acre site is General Commercial (CG), which allows no residential units, although it could include commercial development instead. It is currently used for industrial outdoor storage.
- Proposed new zoning: Residential High Density (RH), which means up to 30 housing units per acre. The maximum number of housing units on the site would be 146.
6470 Hollister Ave
- Google Maps link: 6470 Hollister Ave
- Current 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.
- Proposed new zoning: Community Commercial (CC), which means a total of 17 residential units could be built.
7360 Hollister Ave
- Google Maps link: 7360 Hollister Ave
- Current 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 is currently zoned Community Commercial (CC), which allows a total of 32 residential units to be built.
- Proposed new zoning: Residential High Density (RH), which means up to 30 residential units per acre. The maximum number of residential units on the site would be 69.
490 South Fairview (Yardi)
- Google Maps link: 490 South Fairview
- Current development potential before rezoning: This 8.32 site is currently zoned Business Park (BP) and is used for offices at Yardi. BP zoning doesn’t allow any residential units.
- Proposed new zoning: High Density Residential (RH) Overlay (on top of the existing BP zoning), which would allow a total of 198 residential units and allow the basic use as an office park to continue.