Supervisors Say Affordable Housing Doesn’t Meet the Mark While Reviewing Potential County Developments

The Giorgi family 64-acre property at the corner of Hollister Ave and Ward Memorial Drive. A development proposal is offering nearly 1,200 housing units on the site (courtesy)

Santa Barbara County had previously set a goal for all new housing developments to provide 50 percent of units for lower-income residents, 25 percent for moderate, and 25 percent for market-rate.

Over 100 people attended Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting as developers presented their projects at proposed housing sites for five hours. While every project included a percentage of affordable housing units, per state mandates, the percentage was still far lower than the county’s goal.

“I’ve said it on the dais before but affordability is by far the top priority,” said Second District Supervisor Laura Capps. “We do not need to rezone any market-rate housing. It’s really about affordability.”

The purpose of Tuesday’s Housing Element Update (HEU) Workshop was designed for developers to present project concepts, explain how their projects conform to Board’s rezone criteria, and provide information to the board and county staff prior to the upcoming rezoning hearings.

The Supervisor’s Rezone Criteria includes providing more than bare minimum of affordable units, partnerships with non-profit organizations and employers for a right of first offer to employees, conform with the Community Plan, on-site recreation and/or community spaces, located near transit corridors and mixed use areas, include a mix of units for rent and for sale, and price restrict affordable units for an extended period of time.

“I’ll take the opportunity while I can look at all these developers in one room at one time to make a plea, because 20% [of affordable housing units] is going to cause a lot of problems for people who are already forced out. 42% of our county can’t afford to live here as it is,” said Capps.

Supervisors Bob Nelson and Joan Hartmann echoed Capps statements and encouraged the need for more affordable units.

Second District Supervisor Laura Capps during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting (screenshot)

Among the projects was the Bailard Avenue development just outside Carpinteria, a joint venture between Red Tail Multifamily Development and the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara. The project aimed to convert a property formerly owned by Carpinteria Unified School District into a mix of market-rate and affordable housing. Originally proposed as 173 units, with 41 designated as low-income and 132 as market-rate, the developers now hope to expand the project to 182 units. The new plan includes 50 units reserved for very-low- and low-income renters, leaving the remaining 132 units as market-rate.

Several other proposals focused on areas just outside the City of Goleta. Among these, the Tatum property, is also a collaboration between Red Tail and the Housing Authority. The Tatum project, if approved for rezoning, would see an increase from the initially planned 345 units to 545 units across 23 acres, with 110 units designated as affordable and 435 units available at market rate.

The San Marcos Growers site is currently operating as a wholesale nursery, could be transformed into a 996-unit housing development. The proposed plan includes 200 units restricted to very-low- and low-income renters, with the remaining units offered as “upper-moderate-income workforce housing.”

Design rendering for the proposed “San Marcos Ranch” project located at Hollister Ave and S. San Marcos Road that could include 200 affordable units and 796 units for “upper-moderate- income workforce housing.” (courtesy rendering)
The above photo is a rendering of a separate California housing project that was used by developers of “San Marcos Ranch” to show the Board of Supervisors the possible scale for the site. (courtesy)

The Montessori Center School property, an 11-acre site located at 5050 Hollister Avenue, is another proposed development. The project envisions 345 units comprising a mixture of low- and moderate-income housing, as well as market-rate units.

On Patterson Avenue, the owners of Por La Mar Nursery, seek to develop over 800 homes, including lower-density single-family homes and more densely packed multifamily homes up to four stories in height.

One of the largest proposed projects in the “Noleta” area is the 64-acre Giorgi family property located at Hollister Ave and Ward Memorial Drive. Currently used for avocado and lemon orchards, this site could potentially house nearly 1,200 units as high as four stories with 250 of those dedicated to affordable housing. The proposed renderings showcase a fully planned, new community featuring various housing types, commercial spaces, parks, and even on-site childcare and preschool facilities.

Site plan for the Giorgi project (courtesy)

While these ambitious housing developments received considerable attention, there were concerns expressed by community members about the rapid pace of development and its impact on the area.

One of the projects presented, titled “Glen Annie,” proposes to close the Glenn Annie Golf Course and create 1,000 units of apartments, townhomes, and condos that are for rent and sale. The 175-acre development also proposes a community pool, parks, pickleball courts, and a small market.

Site map for the proposed “Glen Annie” project, the current home of the Glen Annie Golf Course (courtesy)

Several residents who live near the project site submitted public comments and spoke against the project, specifically referencing traffic congestion at the Storke and Glen Annie Highway onramp.

“The existing infrastructure was not built to handle so many people. It is not even adequate for the population we already have. At what point is the very serious infrastructure deficiencies going to be assessed before we keep building?” asked Denise Stevens in her letter to the Board.

Paulette Le Blanc echoed the same point while adding the property is zoned for agriculture, the increased population will put a strain on nearby schools and resources.  “I understand the pressure that the County is experiencing from the State’s building mandate, but I implore you to stop this insanity now – before irreparable harm is done,” wrote Le Blanc.

The next meeting with the County’s Planning Commission will take place on March 27 and April 1.

The full meeting and all developer presentations can be seen below:

[Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified a rendering of the “San Marcos Ranch” project. This has been corrected.]
Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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    • This is… wildly inaccurate. Particularly in Santa Barbara’s South County.

      With the new inclusionary ordinances, and bills that incentivize developers to build more, smaller units (Average Unit Density Program), the last 10 years developers have focused on relatively SMALL units, most rented at above-market rates. This hasn’t, unfortunately, impacted affordability in the south county because it’s a pretty inelastic market and there’s a high demand for these units.

      You can read more about the AUD program here:

    • Excellent point. Probably not understood by many. Also regarding water – they’re already here using it. For 40 years the water lie was used primarily as an excuse to deny development and that’s how you ended up with an asymmetrical housing market and a boatload of homelessness in California.

      • The golf course uses Recycled Water which is non-potable (which is why the grass is never really lush green). A lot of Ag properties use private wells to supply the water which most rarely see anything past 60 GPM.

    • We literally have had the technology to produce water out of clean auto for at least a decade ago. Not to mention cloud making machines that can make it rain on command. I know for a fact NASA has one. They did a special on BBC a couple decades ago about it.

    • The water question isn’t a bad one, but IS misunderstood:

      – We use half of the water we used 50 years ago, due to the higher efficiency of modern appliances and fixtures

      – We also have a desal plant on-line that is not yet running at full capacity (so there is more potential for water)

      – There will be a cap on the number of new units that will receive permits from the Goleta Water District

  1. There are some basic facts that our politicians and their staffs don’t grasp when they mandate projects to be affordable at certain price points. These facts are consequences of the laws promulgated by these very same politicians, bureaucrats and their predecessors at the state, county and local levels.

    First, construction costs in CA are higher than most of the rest of the country, largely due to the myriad of laws and regulations that property owners must comply with. Then there is the time-consuming process to get a project through an endless series of reviews, studies and subjective boards. “Time is money” the old saying says and it’s true because the property owner has to keep paying taxes, maintenance, staff, etc. while waiting for the process to evolve. Finally there is the CA Building Code plan check and permitting process (have you ever looked at the thousands of pages of the CA Building Code?). And on top of that, the land for these projects is expensive in CA because of the desirability of our geography and climate and the limited land allowed for development.

    Add these all together and you can see why a business that isn’t subsidized by the taxing power of our political elites can’t meet their demands and not lose money on the projects.

  2. Thank you Supervisors for saying no way to the bs money grab attempt for developers (Newsom’s friends I’d guess). Finally they’re realizing “affordable housing” does not = “developers profitable projects” with no real consideration for the topic at hand – affordability for folks that don’t make enough money to buy or rent market-rate housing.

    So then what? Here’s what – developers will 99% bail because they won’t make money, and that’s not their fault – everyone needs money. Let’s hope the Sup’s continue to do the right thing and continue stand their ground.

    Hey Newsom (spelled it right yah?) you’re big project sucks, with a capital S. If it were up to you, Gavin, the Supes would’ve rubber stamped anything to BUILD BUILD BUILD, despite the fact that it wouldn’t accomplish your goal. But they didn’t.

    • Reality is that it’s going to get built. Note that the county retains the ability to control many aspects of development by adopting a housing element and getting it approved by the state. However, the quantified amount of housing is going to be built. Without the approved housing element, the builders remedy provision prevails and you could get a 40 unit apartment built on a lot previously demised to a single family dwelling, in a neighborhood of single family homes. Newsom and the legislature are addressing the need appropriately in this situation – amazing development in the PRC – because they know the only way out of this mess is to get private money to build as much housing as possible. Christians, we also have an obligation to support publicly funded housing for the needy. Always amazing how many want subsidies for environmental “change” or to protect something, but could care less if someone sleeps outside or in a car – as long as they can’t see them.

    • It’s time to stop the developers from bailing because of lost profits. Are you ready to allow your tax dollars to subsidize housing projects so they are truly affordable to those who desperately need them? I am.

      We can’t complain about the homeless and at the same time oppose subsidized housing.

  3. Isn’t it true that the Supes can complain about the lack of affordable housing in these projects all they want but they really have no say or jurisdiction due to the states new mandates? Couldn’t developers just say no and do whatever they want as long as it meets state guidelines?

  4. Two major California and Arizona aquifers recently matched or exceeded their lowest levels since NASA began collecting data two decades ago, according to research by Bridget Scanlon and Ashraf Rateb at the University of Texas at Austin.

  5. No one is talking about the dedicated employees at San Marcos Growers who will loose their jobs. Some employees as long as 40 years. That is a historical site with prime ag. It provides open space which supports mental health and habitat for various wildlife.

    I do not support the monstrosity, 3 story 996 development of Apartment rentals. This will add 2000 Vehicles to the already congested Hollister Avenue which has weekly accidents if not daily. It also makes it hazardous for residents during emergencies of fire , natural disasters to evacuate the area. Congested areas drive up Crime . If one compares the crime at the Positano Apartments 118 units behind Vons and San Marcos Growers area stats shows Positano Crime higher . Property crime, assault, theft, vandalism, murder, and animal cruelty are all higher.

    The idea that people will use public transport is ridiculous, we live in a NOW society, people are not going to wait an hour for a bus, no teacher, no hospital worker or regular worker or worker who works during hours the buses do not operate.. People want convenience to come and go using their vehicle. As for grocery shopping people will still use their cars for transport of grocery.
    This development does not fit the surrounding community who will be negatively impacted.

    Water is another issue, we will have another drought, with La Niña following, last drought lasted 7 years with ground water largely depleted and lake Cachuma down to 25%..

    This housing mandate has created chaos for everyone.

    The problem is the NAR which have driven up the price of housing.

    The population in SB is getting older, 20% are over the age of 65 and those 50- 64 fall in the 16% . Homes will come available. No one wants to live in an apartment with a thousand other units nor do communities want 1000 unit apartment complexes.

    Convert empty commercial real estate buildings sitting vacant into housing. like is done around the world.

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