In the News
Ask the Candidates • Week 4 of 4
Coastal View News on 10/24/2018
Originally posted on Coastal View News
Question: Carpinteria has a long-held reputation for being a charming beach community, however, as the population rises and housing prices increase, the City faces profound questions regarding commercial and residential development. First, what is your position on the development of more residential units? Please specifically address affordable, low- and middle-income housing. Second, what is your position on commercial development. Please specifically address development of the Carpinteria Bluffs.
Carpinteria is a wonderful place to live, but as we all know, we are in a housing supply crisis. This crisis is caused by the fact that the demand for housing far exceeds the supply. Our housing prices are way higher than most of the country. Because of that, many of our young families or older parents on fixed incomes can’t afford to live here. However, it’s healthy to have a community of all ages and backgrounds.
Providing affordable housing is one of our most challenging issues. The issue of growth tends to stir up emotions as we consider some tough questions: Where? How much? What does it look like? Will it match our community?
We need to find some common ground on what we want our city to look like in the future. If we do not plan it strategically, the City of Carpinteria will change and may lose its character. That’s one of the reasons why I want to be your City Council Member. I want to listen to your opinion; those who want growth and those that don’t. I want to hear your ideas and research innovative ways to see if we can minimize our housing crisis. Perhaps we should consider the possibility of more public-private partnerships; maybe even mixed-use projects (making it clear to developers what type of city we are). Perhaps we try to retain our local workers by working with employers on creative housing solutions. All that without compromising the legacy of being a beautiful, small, charming beach town. Both candidates for governor propose that more than 3 million housing units be built within the next decade across the state. If we don’t figure out how to do this locally, the state may mandate where and how this housing will be built and we will have no say.
I am fortunate to live and work in Carpinteria. We need to strategically attract local businesses that match our community. That way more of us can work here. This achieves multiple goals, including decreasing traffic between here and Santa Barbara.
We need to do everything we can to protect and preserve the Carpinteria Bluffs. They are one of Carpinteria’s most treasured possessions. Its nature at its finest.
I believe the City of Carpinteria has a well-balanced housing to commercial development plan. People who continue to suggest that we can build our way to affordability don’t understand the coastal California housing market. Just look to our north (Goleta) and to our south (Ventura, Oxnard and Camarillo) where farmland is being converted at breakneck speed for $500,000 condos and $2,500 per month apartments which most people would not consider affordable.
Let me be clear, I am not against new development and our current zoning affords great opportunity for housing of all types as well as commercial development. Also, there is plenty of room within the city limits for what I call “in fill,” which in my mind is always preferable to annexing farmland and creating the kind of urban sprawl most Carpinterians moved here to escape from, and are trying to avoid.
Our city has also partnered with housing groups (such as Peoples Self Help Housing) to provide low/affordable housing in our community, and developers wanting to build market-rate housing can receive bonus density for providing affordable units. We also allow residential units to be included in commercial developments in some of our overlay districts.
However, at the end of the day, neighborhood compatibility can never be ignored, no matter what project comes before the City of Carpinteria.
My general position with regard to development of the Carpinteria Bluffs is that it needs to be something special—a jewel that current residents and future generations can enjoy—and I have yet to see anything fitting that category. But my mind is open to it, and now, with the decommissioning and site clean-up of the Chevron/Venoco Plant, we have another area of the Bluffs that can be developed or left as open space as the community sees fit.
As cities grow there is always a demand for additional housing access for all levels of affordability. I would love to see a house available for anyone who chooses to live here. The problem is that there is very little property left to develop. Also, every new unit constructed increases the demand on public services such as water, power, roads, schools, parks, maintenance and emergency responders. Are we ready to add new demands on the services we know are already overburdened or cost more than we can afford to support?
Whatever new development occurs in our city must be self-supporting; it has to add to the quality of living here within the existing population. Three proposed projects meet this criteria: Green Heron Spring (30 units); Lagunitas mixed-use (85,000 sq ft will be office space); and a project at Carpinteria Avenue and Holly. This represents “fill-in” development. We won’t see large growth within the city limits unless we decide, as a community, to expand into the agricultural zone areas of the valley outside of the city limits, which is highly unlikely.
I don’t think that is a possibility unless a way can be found to fund the services these potential developments would require. Also, any development impacts the quality of life of the existing community. Is Carpinteria ready for an infusion of new homeowners and the congestion it creates? These are tough realities and emphasize the need to be careful of wishing for something without taking all the impacts into consideration.
Current possibilities for development include downtown and any type of development along available bluff parcels. What is the best overall value for our community? Again, yes, we are in need of new revenue that commercial development would provide and it would be nice to have more homes as well. Are you ready for the changes to our town that come with it? Personally, I would not want change if it means compromising the charm of the town we call home, and I don’t think anyone who plans on staying here does either. Change must be carefully planned and the city has to be ready and want it.
Carpinteria has been very successful in developing affordable housing. However, despite consistently meeting affordable housing targets, we face an affordable housing crisis. Existing units are lost out the backdoor faster than new ones can be developed. This is due in part to conversions of existing housing to second homes and short-term rentals that also inflate the rental and sales costs of housing.
Our community is approaching build-out; the main opportunities for creating housing are in-fill housing within existing neighborhoods. This is allowed by zoning, but must fit in with the character of our neighborhoods and General Plan and Local Coastal Plan standards.
Preserving our existing affordable housing stock is the best opportunity to protect Carpinterians, and to secure this resource for the future. I championed Carpinteria’s Short Term Rental ordinance that goes a long way towards protecting affordable housing.
The City successfully passed a Mobile Home Park Ordinance to protect Carpinterians on fixed incomes. We must guard against attempts to chip away at this protection and continue to help people make use of it. We are also actively addressing a loophole in the Condo Conversion Ordinance. We must continue to collaborate with organizations like People’s Self Help Housing and Habitat for Humanity, designing projects to provide long-term affordable and workforce housing.
I am a strong supporter of Carpinteria’s small businesses. It’s no accident that Carpinteria’s commercial properties have adapted to changing times better than many places, like State Street in Santa Barbara. Making the best use of what we’ve got beats endless development. Carpinteria promotes downtown businesses with First Friday events. Small business owners are our friends and neighbors. They are part of the community, they understand the goods and services that we need, and more money is retained in our community when spent at local stores, rather than chain stores. This is why I helped lead the City Council’s efforts to ban Big Box stores and to lower development fees for small local businesses.
The best use of the Carpinteria Bluffs is as public open space for recreation. As your City Councilperson, as a longtime Director of the Carpinteria Valley Association and a Founder of Seal Watch, I have seen Carpinteria come together to repeatedly say no to oversized developments and raise funds to protect the irreplaceable Bluffs for all Carpinterians. I will continue to work towards realizing this community vision.
Let’s keep Carpinteria Carpinteria—small, quaint, vibrant and sustainable.
I am in favor of considering all proposals for any residential and commercial development in our community. However, a proposed residential or commercial development plan must reflect the character of our community, from the ground-breaking to the grand opening.
With regards to low and middle income housing in our city, I am interested in having our leadership reconsider the “granny flats” idea. This would encourage homeowners to convert their garage into a single bedroom, or add an extra unit to their home to rent out, while offering protections that could streamline the process.
The Bluffs are a popular local destination that has already been well-developed by Mother Nature herself. The only improvement I am in support of is the addition of security cameras to help combat the rash of car burglaries and loiterers.