The 29,000 residents of the new city of Goleta can start counting down.

Goleta becomes an official city on Feb. 1, 2002, after the passage of Measure H on Nov. 6. Until February, the city must set up administrative offices and create offices to provide municipal services to the new city. The new city council will be meeting today in closed session to discuss appointing an interim city manager and an interim city attorney to help handle the many changes from now until the birth date. At 7 p.m., the council will hold an open meeting in the Goleta Community Center’s Dining Room. The council will also schedule meetings with Santa Barbara County to deal with the changes in the transition process.

“Between now and Feb.1 there is a number of things the city must do – the city has to organize itself,” said Bob Braitman, Executive Director of the Local Agency Formation Commission.

LAFCO called an unofficial meeting with the new Goleta city council Nov. 8 to discuss steps to be taken in the interim.

“It is an excellent group of council officials. They are all really experienced and worldly in the realms of business and government, including [mayor-elect] Margaret [Connell]. It was just a matter of giving them the information on what they need to do,” Braitman said.

County services are still offered in Goleta and will be maintained by the same county and local agencies that possessed control prior to the passage of Measure H. The majority of the services will continue through June 30, 2002, giving the new city adequate time to transition.

The major changes in jurisdiction, however, will be in law enforcement and the control of county roads. The city will contract out law enforcement through the county Sheriff’s Dept., beginning July 1, 2002. They will also take control of county roads within the city boundaries, making them city streets and taking responsibility for their maintenance and drainage facilities.

There will be no changes regarding water or sanitation. The Goleta Sanitary District and Goleta West District will continue to maintain sanitation services in the city and the water will continue to be controlled by the Goleta Water District.

Council member-elect Jack Hawxhurst said the Goleta city council will have to make decisions regarding the direction of development in the new city.

“To me it’s a matter of community standards. Most projects that have been coming down the pipeline for years – if not all [of them] – have been asking for special considerations, and our community standards have been bent each time. The public hasn’t handled that very well,” he said. “There are all kinds of detailed and administrative things – that is a necessary evil. The reason why the public created the city and elected us was to deal with development in the area.”

Connell said development proposals will fall under the close scrutiny of the council.

“This is a city council that has somewhat of a slow growth movement. Which doesn’t mean that we are going to be anti-everything but we are going to look very closely at development proposals,” Connell said. “We don’t want to build on every piece of open space. We want to preserve open space.

“I think an issue, certainly of concern to me, is how we can achieve more affordable housing,” she added. “You probably have to go to high density; there is not a lot of land left to build on. There are ways of doing it; there isn’t a big solution. Bits and pieces can be done to alleviate the situation.”

Opponents of Goleta cityhood have voiced concerns about the exclusion of I.V., the fiscal feasibility of the new city and Goleta’s future relationship with the Veneco Oil Company. Connell said she was optimistic about the council’s ability to handle them.

“The opposition raised a lot of issues about the fiscal viability of the city. I have a good degree of confidence the city will be financially sound,” Connell said. “I hope we can do a lot of outreach to Isla Vista and work with them on issues of mutual concern and maybe one day bring them under the same governmental banner.”

Connell said the city’s relationship with Veneco will have the citizens’ best interests in mind.

“The bottom line is we want to protect the safety of our neighborhood and environment,” Connell said. “What is the best route for achieving that goal, I am still looking into the background on that.”