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Rezoning can't rest on Rose's flawed meetings
Voice of Gary Earle
I attended every neighborhood council meeting and I can say that the neighborhood council consisted of a few specially selected 2nd District residents who were guided through a pre-determined process by a paid professional facilitator in order for them to arrive at a pre-ordained conclusion.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Gary Earle of the Coalition for Sensible Planning delivered these remarks yesterday before the county Planning Commission on proposals to rezone land in the area known as Noleta and on Supervisor Susan Rose's "neighborhood council."
In an upcoming meeting we understand that you will be discussing potential sites for rezoning and inclusion in the environmental impact review for the Housing Element.
At last week's Planning Commission meeting, Josh McDonald from Planning and Development made a comment that properties under consideration for rezoning in the
Goleta Valley already had substantial community review vis-à-vis Supervisor Rose's 2nd District neighborhood council.
We want to challenge any perceptions this commission may have that the 2nd District neighborhood council in any way constituted meaningful community participation by 2nd District residents in vetting sites for possible rezoning to accommodate high-density housing.
Let me give you some background and then I will suggest action for the future on how your commission can effect positive change in orderly process.
Much criticism of the 2nd District neighborhood council has been documented in commentary in the News-Press and by testimony of 2nd District citizens at various forums. I attended every neighborhood council meeting and I can say that the neighborhood council consisted of a few specially selected 2nd District residents who were guided through a pre-determined process by a paid professional facilitator in order for them to arrive at a pre-ordained conclusion. A editorial in the News-Press went so far as to say, "The council is a panel many see as a sham to give Supervisor Rose cover to sign off on staff proposals."
For example, in violation of the council's own stated protocol, conversation at the neighborhood council meetings was dominated by parties from outside the 2nd district whose views did not either reflect or benefit residents of the 2nd district. These special interest groups included paid political activists, developer representatives, housing advocates, and housing bureaucrats. Outrage in the community over this process culminated with more than 400 people congregating in the Goleta Community Center to discuss this matter.
The facilitator of the neighborhood council meetings, who one would expect would be a neutral party, was eventually exposed as being included in e-mail conversations with Supervisor Rose's office. The goal of these inter-office e-mail messages was to determine ways for the supervisor to avoid contact with her constituents who were seeking dialogue on the issues.
These events constitute egregious attempts by the council's organizers to 1) keep knowledge from 2nd District residents about site selection and 2) to squelch public participation and discussion about the sites. As a result, there has been no valid public input on the sites in question.
Therefore, before any attempt is made by this commission to further the progress of rezoning land in the Goleta Valley for high density housing, the Goleta Valley Community Plan must be updated. The plan was last updated over 10 years ago and has been made obsolete by the incorporation of the City of Goleta and other environmental and developmental changed circumstances.
The public process regarding this matter has been flawed and public trust has been violated on substantive issues relating to housing, rezoning, open space and finance. The county counsel has even admitted to a Brown Act violation by the Board of Supervisors during their Inclusionsary Housing Program revision hearings. The only way to redeem an orderly public process is for the Board of Supervisors to do a South Coast specific environmental analysis, which would require a visioning process for the Goleta Valley. An officially authorized Goleta Plan Advisory Committee is required for this process.
Without an updated Goleta Valley Community Plan, the County will be unable to make any reasonable, coherent, consistency findings required by Govt. Code 65402.
The new board has clearly expressed a commitment to an orderly public process. The citizens of Goleta Valley have a right to an updated community plan: without that the process is fatally flawed; it is a sham. And, it could be subject to future litigation. I would like to cite Supervisor Firestone's VPAC in the Santa Ynez Valley as a specific instance of what can÷and should÷be done in the Goleta Valley. We would like to have the same respect, financing and deference that the Board of Supervisors as a whole is according the VPAC. Comparable county resources should be expended in the Goleta Valley prior to any consideration of rezoning of parcels.
We ask you to recommend the formation of a GPAC for the Goleta Valley immediately to begin work on the update of the Goleta Valley Community plan. As a result, true and comprehensive community input can then start flowing to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors regarding these important matters.
Without a GPAC, updated Community Plan and relevant EIR, we believe that any review of rezones and/or potential housing sites in the Goleta Valley will be frustrating, contentious and unsatisfactory.
This can be avoided if we plan sensibly for the South Coast.