Following the approval of the Isla Vista Master Plan this past summer, local officials announced earlier this month that a rezoned neighborhood may satisfy state requirements for low-income housing in Santa Barbara County.
For the past three years, county supervisors and the long-range planning commission have attempted to create a plan that would meet the state Regional Housing Needs Assessment – a policy that dictates the number of required housing units for each income category per county. The I.V. Master Plan, which includes a redesigned downtown I.V. containing multistory buildings, sidewalks, bike loops and upgraded parks, was approved by the board of supervisors earlier this summer and maintains the possibility of up to 1,447 low-income housing units.
Jamie Goldstein, the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency deputy director, said the plan contains enough low-income housing zoning to meet the RHNA mandate.
“Over the last six years, we have developed a series of actions for the county to take [in I.V.],” he said. “It turns out that the rezone proposed for Isla Vista met the state’s needs. Apparently, the I.V. Master Plan was sufficient.”
On Aug. 21, after reviewing the newly updated Isla Vista Master Plan, supervisors and planners agreed that the plan allows plenty of acreage for high-density units, and voted unanimously to limit the low-income zoning to I.V.
Initially, the State Department of Housing and Community Development demanded that various neighborhoods in Santa Barbara County were to rezone 62 acres and build 20 units per acre in order to meet the need for low-income, high-density housing. The county had originally planned to build these units in Goleta, Orcutt and the Santa Ynez Valley until residents complained, Goldstein said.
“Everyone was concerned about where the county was going to rezone to meet the mandate,” Goldstein said. “There are only so many vacant sites in existing urban areas. A lot of neighborhoods said they didn’t want that type of zoning, but what we did in I.V. met those requirements.”
According to the updated I.V. Master Plan, the community already sustains a high number of high-density housing in the neighborhood and up to 259 more acres of property in I.V. are slated for development.
Goldstein said the Redevelopment Agency is committed to providing low-income housing for students and families.
“There are two buildings on Picasso that are currently in plans to become low-income housing,” he said. “The project is to permanently ensure that those units remain affordable.”
Planners agree that once the high-density units in I.V. are recognized by the state government, Santa Barbara County will no longer have a deficit for the RHNA in any income category.
However, some community members do not think I.V. should take on all of the rezoning. Santa Barbara County Action Network Executive Director Deborah Brasket said the plan does not solve long-term problems in the county.
“We have thousands of people who need affordable housing, but it needs to be near their jobs and centers of transportation,” Brasket said. “We’re hoping in the next few years to zone for more affordable housing near transit centers and jobs.”
County officials are currently awaiting the state’s approval for the rezoning plan.