June 18, 2013
Plans for how Santa Barbara County residents could live, work and travel over the next 30 years are being developed and were presented to the public Thursday by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
But if the turnout in both Santa Barbara and Santa Maria to hear about the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy, along with its draft Environmental Impact Report is any indication of public interest, there isn’t much. Only one person used either location to offer comment on the plan, strategy and report.
Peter Imhof, deputy director of planning for SBCAG, and Richard Daulton, principal planner at Rincon Consultants which developed the EIR, presented the plan and report which aim to integrate regional and community development combining population growth, land use, and housing needs into long-range transportation plans.
The plans feature a number of possibilities, with the preferred land use and transportation scenario laying out a possible pattern for community growth and transportation development.
The preferred scenario: reduces congestion; improves transit accessibility; increases transit ridership; accommodates new housing growth to infill urban areas; and develops fewer acres.
Daulton said the draft EIR found the preferred scenario featured aesthetic, biological, cultural, land use and transportation Class I impacts. He also said this EIR was different than most in that it provided a broad comprehensive evaluation of a long term plan.
Daulton explained that the plans would alter the character of the county, changing it to a more urban environment. The plan anticipates the county will grow by approximately 96,000 residents by 2040.
“There would be a fundamental change to the aesthetics in the county with implementation of the plan,” he said.
He also said the increased urbanization would have an impact on biological and cultural resources. Wildlife would have less habitat. Likewise, agricultural land could be converted to urban uses for the increased population. And he said more people would result in more traffic throughout the county.
None of those suggestions sat well with Marilyn DeYoung, of Californians for Population Stabilization, who called for a slow or zero-growth policy for the county to preserve its rural nature and high quality of life.
“Does Santa Barbara County really want to become Los Angeles County? I think not,” she said.
Comments on the transportation plan and communities strategy can be submitted until 5 p.m. June 24.
Written comments on the draft EIR are being accepted until 5 p.m. July 12.
Comments on either document can be submitted to: SBCAG 260 N. San Antonio Road, Ste. B, Santa Barbara, CA 93110. SBCAG can be reached by phone at 961-8900 or via email at [email protected].
The comments will be included in the documents which will be presented to SBCAG in meetings in Santa Maria on June 18 and Santa Barbara on Aug. 15.