On Wednesday night, the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) hosted the first of a series of community discussions on housing and the environment.

The series of three meetings focused on the conflict between slow-growth policies and the county’s efforts to provide sufficient low-income housing on the South Coast. Wednesday night’s presentation, “Growth, No Growth, Smart Growth, Dumb Growth,” featured a presentation of the Regional Impacts of Growth Study (RIGS) by Mike Brown and Pat Saley, the authors of the study.

“The question is, do we have to look at things regionally or can we solve things within our individual jurisdictions,” Brown said. “The fact is that within the county we do act as a region; it makes no sense to take a piecemeal approach to growth.”

Individual jurisdictions would benefit more from regional growth strategies than from localized ones, Brown said.

“Thirty years ago in Santa Barbara, the slow-growth strategy was to control the number of jobs, not the number of houses,” Brown said. “Jobs in Santa Barbara were controlled, but not jobs in Goleta or Carpinteria, so the demand for housing continued to rise.”

The presentation included models of the rising trends in housing prices, average household income and size, and the effect these trends have on traffic and the environment. The model showed an increase in housing units as well as jobs.

“The failure of the system comes when commuters can’t find a place on the South Coast that’s affordable. The freeways are clogging up, and that affects the quality of life not only for us living here but for those who have to commute and wish they could live here,” Brown said. “How do we accommodate both groups without completely destroying the environment?”

The second meeting of the series will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at the Goleta Valley Community Center and will focus on affordable housing solutions. The final meeting will be held Wednesday, Dec. 17 at GVCC and will focus on the environment and sustainable housing growth. The series is also sponsored by the Citizens Planning Association and the South Coast Livable Communities group.