The Santa Barbara City Council was unable to reach a consensus on the city’s general plan during their meetings this week, postponing a final decision on the direction of the city’s future growth.
The proposed “Plan Santa Barbara” will address the city’s growing population for the next 20 years with new housing, traffic and economic regulations. Administrators will reconvene Nov. 16, giving the council additional time to consider the extensive proposal and come to a consensus.
According to Santa Barbara City Council member Das Williams, a compromise on the housing density alterations is necessary to secure the supermajority vote needed to pass the plan.
“We still need to figure out a balance between density and affordability that works for all parties of the council to ensure the five votes we need for the plan to pass,” Williams said.
Council members opposed to the plan argue the higher density housing will adversely affect the aesthetic value of downtown Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara City Council member Frank Hotchkiss said he wants to alter the plan to avoid expansive growth.
“I would make hundreds of changes to the proposed plan, too many to even begin,” Hotchkiss said. “I am against the proposed expansions of city government and the environmental solutions to problems we do not even have. We need to encourage rental housing and plan for small annual growth. Santa Barbara will always be more expensive than neighboring cities, and as a realtor, I can tell you any unit smaller than 1,000 square feet is a very hard sell.”
Hotchkiss also said the council needs to spend more time discussing the document before making any resolutions.
“We cannot make a decision that affects the next 20 years of Santa Barbara’s growth in a couple meetings,” Hotchkiss said. “We are trying to ensure people take more time to look over everything closely before making quick decisions.”
Despite the hang-ups, Williams said the meetings have brought the city’s general plan closer to fruition.
“We have reached an agreement on many issues, including the commercial aspect of the issue as well as tools for the reduction of traffic,” Williams said. “The plan was not approved today, but it is looking more likely.”
Williams said the general plan will allow a future generation of middle-class families to reside in the city.
“We need to reduce traffic by building smaller units, but more of them, right in the heart of the city,” Williams said. “Santa Barbara will change over the next decades, trying to keep it as it is will lead to an increase in prices and the middle class will move out. We need to try and guide the change to maintain the middle class, an essential part of our community.”