Honorable Judge William Gordon
Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93121
Dear Judge Gordon: This letter is the Board of Supervisors' response to the Interim Final Report of the 1996 Grand Jury on a Goleta Area Planning Commission dated April 5, 1996.
The Board thanks the Jury for its report and concurs that this is a topic worthy of consideration. We note that the Jury did not affirmatively recommend creating an area planning commission; the finding was that the Board should explore the concept.
On June 4 the Board held a hearing on this matter, received public testimony, and deliberated. We conclude that further consideration of this matter should be postponed. The reasons we feel this is appropriate are as follows:
First, two major planning efforts are currently under way in Goleta, involving substantial staff time and citizen involvement. One is the revitalization of Goleta Old Town, involving a large citizen advisory committee appointed by the Board. The other is devising a coordinated process with the Goleta Water District by which land use entitlements and new water service connections are allocated. This is a public process being conducted in Goleta and will again require a major time commitment by elected officials, staff and the public.
Second, as the County Planning Commission members have pointed out, there are a number of important questions about how an area planning commission would function in relation to the county-wide commission, the staff and the Board. These questions include whether creating a Goleta commission would induce demands for area commissions in Montecito and Orcutt, and possibly other communities, and the resulting effect on costs, coordination of regional planning, and consistency of decision-making throughout the unincorporated area. The attached memo dated May 31, 1996 from the Director of Planning and Development describing the County Planning Commission's concerns, describes additional concerns. The Board shares the Commission's view that a decision to initiate a Goleta commission should only be made after researching the experience of communities which have area planning commissions and resolving these questions.
Board of Supervisors
Attachment: Memo to Board of Supervisors from John Patton
COUNTY OF SANTA BARBARA
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT
TO: Board of Supervisors
XC: Planning Commission
FROM: John Patton, Director
DATE: May 31, 1996
RE: County Planning Commission Discussion of Grand Jury Finding on an Area Planning Commission for Goleta
On May 29, the County Planning Commission held a noticed discussion of this matter. While the Commission took no formal action, members asked me to convey the following points.
Commissioners advise that no action should be taken to initiate an area planning commission until information is available from other counties with an active area planning commission indicating what their experience has been on costs and the relationship between the area and countywide commission.
Concerns expressed by Commissioners include:
It is foreseeable that establishing a Goleta area planning commission may trigger demands for other area planning commissions, particularly in Montecito and Orcutt. While Goleta is the largest urban area, Montecito has its own zoning ordinance and a history of strong citizen interest in fine-grained land use and design regulation. Orcutt is on its way to being a large urban area with its own unique needs. Commissioners were concerned both about the efficiency and the balkanization of planning with multiple commissions.
Commissioners shared the Grand Jury's recognition that it would be difficult to establish the makeup and authority to appoint members of the area commission in a way that Goletans would accept as fair and equitable.
RELATIONSHIP TO HOME RULE OBJECTIVE
Commissioners noted that opinion in Goleta is divided over whether establishing an area planning commission would become a step toward true home rule through eventual incorporation or annexation, or whether it would become an unsatisfactory half-way measure on a permanent basis.
RELATIONSHIP OF AREA COMMISSION TO COUNTYWIDE COMMISSION
Only a full purpose area commission would fulfill all the quasi home rule objectives identified by the Grand Jury, but such a side-by-side relationship to the rest-of-County commission would pose difficulties. These include:
_ consistency of interpretation of existing ordinances, policies and development standards,
_ consistency of appellate responses to decisions by the Zoning Administrator and BAR.
_ The potential for the two commissions to recommend different or even conflicting legislative polices to the Board, requiring the Board to sort out the relative value of uniformity versus local sensitivity, and intra-county competition over desirable and undesirable land uses.
Alternatively, the relationship between the commissions could be hierarchic, with the area planning commission's authority limited, for example, to deciding cases not requiring any legislative approval (general plan amendment or rezone). This might improve Goletans' sense that land use decisions were being made by local people, but might also lead to frustration over the limited authority.
While in theory substituting a different decision-making body for the existing Planning Commission for Goleta issues might not add significant long term cost, there are likely at least to be minor cost increases for setting up the new commission and providing it with administrative support. More subtle issues involve speculating about the level of service and cost of the attention to local concerns an area commission would be expected to provide, and the cost of managing potential inconsistencies arising from the two Commissions. Particularly, if the Goleta area planning commission became the informal city council of Goleta and took up issues beyond the usual fare of the Planning Commission, the effect might be to increase costs of support.
INTEGRATED REGIONAL PLANNING
The County Planning Commission has traditionally practiced informal "ward courtesy", looking to the Commissioner representing the supervisorial district in which a proposed project is located to take the lead in discussions and to make the motion initiating deliberation and decision by the Commission as a whole. On legislative matters, including community plans which may involve areas in only one or two supervisorial districts, the Commission typically takes a strong interest in the regional issues affecting the county as a whole. The prospect of effectively breaking up this regional perspective to a sub-County level struck Commissioners as a step in the wrong direction for sound planning.
Some Commissioners believed alternatives to an area planning commission for Goleta which would provide formal advice on project proposals to the County Planning Commission and Board should be considered. These might include a municipal advisory council, general plan advisory committee, or some other body appointed by the Board.
The members of the Commission do not, by raising these concerns, mean to suggest the proposal has no merit -- only that it should be analyzed and structured with care and caution if the Board is inclined to pursue it.