Upward instead of outwards should be the future of development in Goleta, local environmentalists asserted Monday night.

Santa Barbara residents gathered in the Schott Center at Santa Barbara Community College for the second installment of the three-part lecture series, "The Ocean in Trouble." This week’s lecture, "Smart Growth," was presented by Lawrence Laurent, a marine ecologist and former San Luis Obispo County supervisor. The talk focused on ways to combat urban sprawl, defined by panel members as "low-density development beyond the edge of service and employment, which separates where people live from where they shop, work, recreate and educate – thus requiring cars to move between zones."

Laurent presented a panel of speakers, including Santa Barbara County Planning Deputy Director Dan Gira, local architect Detlev Peikert and local homebuilder Bruce Giffin.

Gira began the discussion, giving the audience a dim forecast on population growth projected in the county over the next 30 years. "The housing demand in 2030 will be roughly five times the area of the vacant land that we have available in the Goleta Valley," he said.

This growing housing demand could soon pressure landowners into developing the urban agricultural land present in Goleta today – land that acts as a filter for urban runoff, which flows into the sea. Development of this land would lead to an increase in pollutants already present in the ocean, Gira said.

"These lands were originally set aside so they could not be developed for 10 years," he said. "That 10 years is now up and developers and the university are interested in them."

Laurent said a solution to the problem is a change in present growth patterns on the south coast, so dense development increases and growth is restricted laterally. "That way we have less developed areas that don’t contribute to the runoff and other pollutants to the ocean," he said, "And also, people will be able to get to work by bicycle or by bus rather than driving cars."

Peikert said a community effort is needed in order to find a solution to urban sprawl. "In a nutshell, I’d say the first thing that we need to do is get our heads out of the sand and stop simply reacting to the process of change and instead start developing the agents of the kinds of communities we can create," he said.

UCSB environmental studies Professor Michael McGinnis will conclude the lecture series next Monday with a lecture on watershed at 7:30 p.m. in the Schott Center downtown.