The Santa Barbara City Council will hold a meeting today and tomorrow to review its twenty-year city development plan and determine the region’s future housing, transportation and environmental policies.
The development blueprint — known as Plan Santa Barbara — determines the amount of urban growth the city will accommodate in the next 20 years. The city has spent $3 million over the last five years designing the schematic for its next two decades of expansion. However, a final vote on Plan Santa Barbara may be put it on hold for another year if the council doesn’t pass it this week.
In spite of possible setbacks, Santa Barbara City Council member Das Williams said he is confident the plan will gain approval — either this year or the next.
“It needs a supermajority, so if it is not approved next week we will have to wait until after the next general election,” Williams said. “I think it will pass if it is voted on after the next election because I do not think the conservative side of the council will grow any larger than it already is.”
A major item of debate in the plan, Williams said, is a suggested increase in residential housing density and the income disparity it could produce.
“What is really at stake here is whether or not Santa Barbara has another generation of middle class families,” Williams said. “It is very unlikely that young people and another generation of middle class will be able to live and work here.”
Williams said the city’s housing concerns will also affect people who already live in the city because outside commuters will create more traffic downtown.
“Even if you already own your own house, the traffic will make things worse,” Williams said. “If people are not able to live near their work and have to drive or take public transportation, that means we continue to add increases in commuting. This has created problems and will continue to create problems.”
Despite a need to expand residential availability, Santa Barbara City Council member Frank Hotchkiss said he is concerned the council has not had enough time to digest the complex document.
“Nobody is in agreement yet,” Hotchkiss said. “The things that are still uncertain are the density and where additional densities should be if there are any. Additionally, there are basic planning decisions that are going to be coming up that we have not discussed.”
Hotchkiss said the city council should convene for another month before deciding whether to approve the new general plan.
“We should have that Tuesday for discussion and plan it for a month to give people more time to get their ideas set,” Hotchkiss said.
However, John Ledbetter, the project’s principal planner, said the council has had ample time to review the proposals in the document.
“The plan was released last March, so it should be enough time to review the plan and input,” Ledbetter said.