The plans to incorporate low-income housing into downtown Goleta may need to undergo major reconstruction before anything actually gets built.
The Village at Los Carneros, a planned 275-building residential development project, has been criticized in a Draft Environmental Impact Report for obscuring scenic views, causing significant environmental harm to the surrounding ecosystem and creating a potential hazard for residents living near the adjacent train tracks – concerns which are overly exaggerated, planners say.
Presented to the Goleta City Council on Monday, the DEIR outlines the impact that construction of the proposed development would have on the area, and thus serves as a list of what the council must consider before approving the property.
“All the conditions of approval have to be cleared,” Alan Hanson, senior planner for the city of Goleta, said. “The DEIR, though subject to revision, indicated that the project could potentially result in significant and unavoidable hazardous materials, noise, solid waste generation, aesthetic damage having to do with important views, erosion, flooding, traffic and parking [problems].”
Hanson did admit that the criticisms were broad, but said the released report is only a draft, and the city will review the project with balance in mind before making a final decision. He also included discussion about a proposed bridge from the village across Tecolotito Creek for vehicles, or bicycles and pedestrians.
“A lot of these impacts are very generic for construction of large projects,” Hanson said. “Any time you’re bridging a creek, there’s an environmental impact; any time soil gets disturbed, there’s a threat of erosion. We can’t really give a timeline; we have to wait for completion of the review process.”
Andrew Bermant, project developer of the site, said the city was misguided in its criticism of the project, and that the environmental impact would be far less than what the DEIR portrayed, especially with the concerns over the bridge.
“We think the city misapplied several policies,” Bermant said. “They’re written in a very broad manner. We tried to design the bridge so it spanned the creek. That way, nobody’s going into the creek, and we don’t impact the creek itself. If the city approves alternate access, we’re more than ready to get rid of the bridge.”
Addressing the questionable safety of placing homes near a railroad track, Bermant said he believes the risks are slight, and are heavily exaggerated in the report.
“They say that there’s a cumulative impact of adding people adjacent to the train track,” he said. “The risk of an accident is once every 16,700 years. That’s equivalent to getting hit by lightning. By situating people 80 or 100 feet from railroad track, there’s no increase in the risk. We think their logic might be messed up.”
Bermant pointed out that the need for housing in Goleta is hardly being met, and said that forcing workers to commute causes environmental damage by increasing traffic, among other things. According to Rob Pearson, executive director of Santa Barbara City Housing Authority, low-income housing in Goleta is essential.
“For anywhere in the South Coast, you want to provide housing for all of your workforce as well as your senior and disabled populations,” Pearson said. “Housing is a basic necessity; otherwise you get overcrowding or people who have to spend a high percentage of their income on their housing. Every community needs to do their part.”
Low-income housing is what The Village intends to provide. According to the draft report, 63 of the 275 multifamily residences will target families earning only 50 percent of the median family income level.
Bermant said it will take about four months for the final EIRs to be approved, and then construction can begin. He said he is confident that he will receive the necessary permits once the final report has been passed.
“We need a place to house people who are going to be working,” Bermant said. “We’re trying to meet the need that’s out there.”