Our view: General plan falls short when it comes to housing
When it comes to housing, Santa Barbara County seems determined to underpromise and underdeliver.
That’s our takeaway from the latest update to the housing element in the county’s general plan – one that purports to meet state mandates for housing in unincorporated county areas through 2031. That there is a plan at all owes a debt to former Gov. Jerry Brown who forced elites in coastal cities to come up with minimum targets for putting roofs over heads.
The best thing we can say about the plan is that it does state the obvious – planners and bureaucrats are failing when it comes to providing adequate shelter for the county – particularly on the South Coast. According to the report, the county is the sixth highest in the nation for rental housing and average permits have plunged 37.5% in the past 20 years. And it states honestly that filling the gaping housing gap will require “an extended period of building at a rate above historical averages.”
What the plan proposes, however, is not going to come close to meeting the county’s needs housing needs. And that creates a regional problem because, for the same two decades, the South Coast needs have been met in large part by communities in West Ventura County.
According to the plan, some 4,100 units or around 800 a year, will be produced in unincorporated areas of the South Coast. And around 1,500 units or just under 200 a year will be produced in North Santa Barbara County. These are pitifully low numbers that reflect the wall of hostility to new housing from bureaucrats and voters alike that elected officials and disenfranchised citizens must face when it comes to this most basic need.
What happens next, even if this plan is adopted, is painfully clear. The overall population will continue to stagnate or decline. Housing costs will remain extremely high on the South Coast and somewhat more affordable in the Santa Maria Valley. West Ventura County will continue to shoulder the bulk of the demand for middle-class housing.
Public officials will continue to blame materials costs and labor shortages for the continued high cost of new construction. But the costs are high and labor is short precisely because there is so little building going on those economies of scale cannot be achieved.
It is unfortunate that the mandate did not include a calculation of how the plan would affect the cost of housing. Yes, 5,500 units over the next eight years are the magic number that meets the mandate. But will it make housing any more affordable for the average family? That is unlikely.
David Kronen, who died at age 63 late last year after a long illness, was a banker’s banker.
A graduate of Cate School and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he spent the past 20 years with Bank of the West, managing large and small business accounts with an uncanny ability to maneuver through complex transactions.
He worked tirelessly to support the MIT Enterprise Forum, now known as VenTech, and supported a number of charities, including the Friendship Paddle.
A longtime resident of Hope Ranch he died at home after struggling with a neuromuscular disease. He loved skiing, being on the water and spending time outdoors. He is survived by his wife Laura and his three sons.
In his memory, we suggest a walk on the beach and gratitude for the beauty of the Central Coast. Our deepest condolences to his family.