Streamline Approval for Affordable Housing & Objective Design Standards

TO: Santa Barbara County Planning Commission
FROM: Citizens Planning Association

RE: Item 1: Streamline Approval for Affordable Housing and Objective Design Standards

Dear Commissioners: CPA was very recently made aware that this item is before you today. Our board members have not had adequate time to study, or evaluate impacts and implication for design guidelines that are distinct in every community. CPA only learned of this item when a member, reviewing the PC agenda for another item, noticed it. CPA and several individual members are on the HE notification list and have repeatedly asked to be notified of pertinent action items.

It seems the Planning Department is rushing this ordinance through the process because they are not able to complete the Housing Element update before the State deadline. For more than a year, CPA has asked for Planning to step up their work on this update and to make the process more transparent. We have attended all workshops to voice our concerns that too much was going on behind the scenes, especially private meetings with landowners and developers throughout the County. It came as no surprise to us when in December, Planning announced they would not make the deadline and the County would face the possibility of handing over control via what they are calling the “Builders’Remedy”. This is what got us to where we are today with this emergency ordinance amendment being sent to the BOS.

Regarding the project before you today, CPA asks that the Commission have a full discussion about the Housing Element Update process to include this Ordinance Amendment which deals with qualified streamlined housing projects. The ordinance amendment states that all these projects require is a zoning clearance and that there will be no CUP or discretionary review. Decisions will be made by the Director. CPA does not support this proposal as it undermines decades of public input which resulted in many of our existing planning policies. We might call what we already have as the “People’s Remedy”.

There are just one or two policies noted in this amendment with which CPA agrees. It states that the County will comply with all applicable objective standards and policies per LUDC and the County Comprehensive Plan”. CPA also supports the policy: When a conflict in policy might occur, the more restrictive objective standard will apply.

Lastly, in regard to improved transparency, CPA would like to ask the County to publicize all its announcements in a broader media market than just the SB Newspress. Certainly, social media sites such as Noozhawk, Edhat, and the Independent would reach the general public and County residents who need this information.

Marell Brooks, President, Citizens Planning Association