[Editor’s note: See correction below.]
The Nimbys in Goleta are threatening to go Bananas.
Such are the implications of Measure G, an initiative on the ballot that would require voter approval to rezone agricultural land in and around the city of Goleta, similar to the SOAR initiative passed in Ventura County. But first, some terminology.
Nimby stands for Not In My Backyard, the shopworn tactics used by eco-busybody homeowners and their well-paid lawyers to step on the throat of economic development. The usual method is to manipulate obscure civic processes until a project is blocked. The only thing that gives a Nimby more joy than passing an arcane planning amendment is watching a bright-eyed developer slowly bleed to death among an alphabet soup of bureaucrats and review boards.
But the Nimby is not a noble beast. It is driven primarily by a narrow interest in protecting its own property values, which are considerable in our region. When enough Nimbys concentrate in given place, they might go Bananas, which stands for Build Absolutely Nothing at All Near Anyone.
Measure G does just this. There are only six agricultural parcels in the Goleta city limits directly, but more than 100 are in its planning area and could fall under the measure. Under Measure G, rezoning any of those parcels for any use other than agriculture — whether it be new office space or workforce housing — would require a vote of the people. If the history of such votes in Ventura County is any indication, the opponents of development will work to ensure that the elections happen in off years when only the hyper-interested show up at the ballot box. Put shortly, a “public” vote is a death knell for nearly any project.
Goleta is a regionally important city because it is where the bulk of recent venture capital investment in the region — more than $100 million — has flowed. The Goleta Valley where UC Santa Barbara spins off its companies and is one of the last places in South Santa Barbara County where new housing and new commercial spaces could plausibly be built.
Losing it to Nimbys gone Bananas could be a region-wide blow.
The measure’s supporters include the Environmental Defense Center, which drafted its language. Those groups have a valid contention that smart and effective infill development in and around Goleta might meet the region’s needs and avoid tearing up any farmland until at least 20 years from now, when the measure would expire.
But Goleta’s elected leaders have shown the good sense to do precisely that. They have approved intelligent and needed projects such as the Cabrillo Business Park and the Willow Springs II housing development, while avoiding the urge to let the city sprawl with the Bishop Ranch proposal for several hundred homes on farmland.
But Measure G’s proponents don’t trust future city councils to make good decisions, and don’t trust Goleta’s residents to elect good leaders. They want extra insurance against representative government. They want a tyranny of the majority – or at least the majority of eco-busybodies that turn out for obscure off-year elections – to have the power to trample property rights.
Goleta’s existing planning process has served it well. Measure G is an unnecessary power grab by the Eco-Lobbyist Industrial Complex and is precisely the kind of affront to representative government that has landed California in such trouble.
[Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misidentified the group that helped draft Measure G. It was the Environmental Defense Center of Santa Barbara. The earlier version was also unclear about parcels outside Goleta that could be affected. Those parcels are not part of the city’s general plan.]