A city of Goleta is a good idea, except that the city of Goleta appearing on today’s ballot doesn’t include most of Goleta Valley and will probably fail financially.
What the boundary for the proposed city – outlined in Measure H – does include is a lot of the same people who voted for cityhood when it last appeared on the ballot, in 1990 and 1987.
The rest of the people – low-income families who want a say in housing options; students who patronize businesses and generate sales tax within the proposed “footprint”; people who want a city of Goleta, but one that will include them and prosper – can all go incorporate themselves.
The motives behind the cityhood proposal aren’t bad: Goletans want to control where their money goes and what gets built. It is understandable that they want these things. Except they won’t get them.
With incorporation, Goleta would promise to pay the county 30 percent of sales tax and 50 percent of property tax revenues in perpetuity, as well as an additional 20 percent of its sales tax and 40 percent of its transient occupancy (hotel and motel) tax for the first 10 years.
Goleta Now!, the people behind Measure H, managed to weasel the Camino Real Marketplace development (and the sales tax that comes with it) into the proposed boundary, but the main sources of transient-occupancy tax revenue that Goleta will be relying on – the Bacara Resort and the Page Hotel – aren’t financially stable. The Bacara supposedly ran its bank into bankruptcy, and the Page Hotel hasn’t even gotten a building permit.
The official financial forecast said the proposed city would make money. Unfortunately, this was done in 1999, the best economic year the county’s ever seen. Now, things don’t look so good, particularly with the delayed construction of the Page Hotel.
A private company recently did its own report that claimed the city could face a decade of losses, something cityhood opponents have been claiming since the original report.
To generate revenue, Goletans may be forced to approve a large number of development projects – the very thing they don’t want to do.
Development is a big concern to cityhood proponents. After a hullabaloo over an affordable housing project last spring, Goleta wants to be able to limit development on their land, or at least approve it on their own terms and not the county’s.
But hotels and developed city blocks are more profitable than empty fields of wildflowers. A new city strapped for cash may be willing to forgo a few green luxuries to avoid bankruptcy. A new city in the red might not mind letting the small-town atmosphere of Goleta go in order to get some extra budget padding.
For the first five years at least, Goleta will not even be providing its own services, but contracting out to the county at a higher price than they would have to pay for city-owned services. Contracting means more money going out and less staying where it is.
Someday, Goleta will have to become a city. Right now it’s a part of the largest unincorporated block of land in the state. But Measure H is not the right way. The money’s not right and it leaves a lot of people out of the picture, including Isla Vistans.
For those who can vote on Measure H in the election today, vote no. Vote no, not because Goleta should never be a city, but because Goleta as a city under the current proposal simply won’t work.