OUR OPINION

8/31/04 Santa Barbara News Press

In four months, the majority bloc on the Board of Supervisors of Gail Marshall, Susan Rose and Naomi Schwartz will be history.

Only Ms. Rose will be left as her other two like-minded cohorts retire from public office.

It will be a new political day in county government come January, one we hope will be less polarizing and more collaborative than what has marked the tenure of these three supervisors.

We can't help but wonder what the present majority and county administrators have in store for the county before Supervisors-elect Brooks Firestone and Salud Carbajal take office in January.

In particular, many people have the sense that the current leadership is rushing through housing policies that need more thought and reflection. The board has ignored this concern.

"Housing, housing, housing" is the new mantra from the politicians and bureaucrats, as they abandon slower-growth policies, eye changes in zoning and consider sacrificing agricultural spaces in the pursuit of building homes.

Once on the South Coast the effort was to save agricultural land. Now the trendy sentiment of the moment among the political crowd is to create so-called affordable housing.

But the county government needs to slow the process down, at least until the new Board of Supervisors takes over four months from now. Decisions that will make such a lasting impact on our community shouldn't be made in such a hurry, nor by a Board of Supervisors controlled by a lame-duck voting bloc.

We take it from a flurry of commentaries on these pages from top county government planning and housing officials that they are worried about a popular uprising against new policies.

They should be.

Consider the recent thoughtful criticism of the county's proposed "inclusionary housing" ordinance by the Montecito Planning Commission.

The county's new inclusionary housing rules would require builders to include below-market units in their projects or pay huge in-lieu fees to the county government.

Inclusionary is just another name for subsidized housing.

Recent studies by professors from San Jose State University about inclusionary zoning in the Bay Area and Southern California found that such ordinances produce relatively few units while increasing the overall housing costs and home prices.

The Montecito Planning Commission tore apart the staff's work and said the county shouldn't pursue for-sale below-market units but instead concentrate on a rental program.

Don't expect the county Planning Commission to do much more than rubber-stamp the staff proposal. The county Planning Commission is too politically aligned with the supervisorial majority to take on the shortsighted housing policies of county politicians.

That's a shame because someone needs to throw up some roadblocks and slow down this process.

SPEAK OUT

1st District

Naomi Schwartz

568-2186

E-mail: nschwar@

co.santa-barbara.ca.us

2nd District

Susan Rose

568-2191

E-mail: srose@co.santa-barbara.ca.us

3rd District

Gail Marshall

568-2192

gmarsh@co.santa-barbara.ca.us

4th District

Joni Gray

E-mail: jgray@co.santa-barbara.ca.us

346-8407

5th District

Joseph Centeno

346-8400

E-mail: jcenteno@

co.santa-barbara.ca.us