Editorial: Local Saviors

It may be grandstanding on the part of the Montecito-based Homeowner’s Defense Fund to name glamorous television and movie star, Rob Lowe, as their president, but we have to applaud the move. It makes the group all but impossible to dismiss, landing them on the front page of the local daily recently--a rare occurrence for such slow growth grass roots movements.

Notwithstanding the pool of celebrities which Montecito can draw from, the Fund is only the most recent of these local groups to organize. It remains to be seen whether they will prove as effective and long-lived as the Santa Barbara Shores Homeowners Association, (who kept the torch burning on the Ellwood Bluffs preservation issue long enough for elected officials to see their way towards saving them), or the Patterson Area Neighborhoods Association (PANA) in Goleta and the Allied Neighborhoods Association in the City of Santa Barbara, both of which have consistently lobbied against inappropriate construction projects. The more recently formed Coalition for Sensible Planning has showed considerable strength as they vigorously work towards a rational housing policy and updated Goleta Community Plan at the County level. And let’s not forget their cousins on the other side of the mountains, Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens and WE WATCH, for their steadfast scrutiny of the ongoing Valley General Plan process and opposition to outrageous land development proposals.

While it is no doubt a constant throughout California and parts of the United States, the tension between developers and residential neighborhoods seems especially acute here on the South Coast where the stakes are so high and the population so well-educated. Too often developers prove more persuasive than constituents, particularly in an era of underfunded governments. Officials, facing chronic shortfalls, find it almost impossible to resist the lure of re
venues promised by the development community unless the residents band together in dedicated resistance movements.

The high quality of life which we enjoy here is finite after all. It cannot be forever divided among an enlessly expanding population without a constant reduction in the quality of life. The citizens who form neighborhood associations know this instinctively. They prefer to defend the interests of those already living here against the hypothetical folks who are thinking of moving our way.

The neighborhood associations have an additonal value beyond their often heroic resistance to specific projects. They are the ideal models for grassroots political action and the seedbeds for our future leaders. The people who formed Goleta Now! and who now constitute the government of the City of Goleta came, for the most part, from those very associations. The groups provide on the job training in intelligent, political involvement, as well as raising and focusing the consciousness of the communities from which they are formed. We owe them and we thank them.