In 1989 when I was in 6th grade, my family moved from Santa Barbara to Lompoc and commuted due to the high cost of housing in the South Coast. Almost 30 years later the situation has grown progressively worse. Without new supply, rents will continue to rise forcing the already shrinking middle class to leave. While the Average Unit Density program has facilitated the first rental housing creation in nearly 30 years, it needs to be strengthened to address loopholes and unintended consequences. This includes considering long-term covenants to prevent conversion of completed units to hotels or vacation rentals, information on rental rates as part of the application process, addressing off-street parking impacts and other issues that have arisen. In addition, I support the decision to establish a Taskforce of landlords and tenants to work on rental housing affordability and look forward to reviewing its recommendations.
Maintaining our City infrastructure is an essential function of government. For far too long our city has underfunded maintenance and now the backlog is approximately $500 million and growing. Since this problem didn’t happen overnight it means there are no easy fixes. Going forward we need to develop a long-term approach to adequately fund maintenance. The first step begins with prioritizing additional resources immediately. As an example, the County of Santa Barbara implemented a policy to allocate 18% of annual revenue growth toward maintenance. I believe the City of Santa Barbara needs to adopt a similar strategy. In addition, we need to consider other options for funding, such as potential public-private partnerships similar to the one that built the new Children’s Library, prioritizing projects that can become revenue generators such as the Carrillo Recreation Center renovation, and scrutinizing proposed projects that add to our annual maintenance deficit. These are common sense approaches that should have been implemented long ago.
In addition, we need a City Council that actively supports the timely widening of Highway 101 rather than costly delays which cost nearly $1.5 million per month! The voters of Santa Barbara County voted for a lane and a train with the expectation that our leaders would move this project forward in a reasonable manner to avoid added costs. I am committed to supporting this project and will work to regain the trust of the 79% of countywide voters who approved Measure A.
Santa Barbara is considered the birthplace of the modern environmental movement and has a proud legacy of environmental stewardship and leadership. However, we are now middle of the pack when it comes to leadership and innovation. It is time for the next generation of leaders to reclaim our City’s place as an environmental trend setter. This begins with encouraging the use of alternative energy. As a staff member at the Board of Supervisors, I helped lead the effort to conduct a feasibility study for Community Choice Energy in collaboration with the Counties of San Luis Obispo and Ventura. Community Choice Energy provides individual customers the ability to increase the amount of renewable energy they individually purchase for their homes or businesses at a comparable price. With the feasibility study nearing completion, it is important we have City leaders who understand this program and continue to allocate the resources to bring it to fruition. In addition to Community Choice Energy, our city needs to increase support for access to alternative transportation. This includes promoting sustainable neighborhoods by locating new housing near transportation corridors, investing in our bicycle infrastructure, cutting red tape for entrepreneurs who want to invest in ride-share/bike-share programs or other green industry businesses and ensuring our waste-water infrastructure is replaced to avoid pollution of our ocean, beaches, and creeks.
Santa Barbara needs to do more to encourage middle-class job creation and small business entrepreneurship. This begins with listening to local business owners and leaders to understand the challenges and identifying solutions on how to promote economic growth, especially in industries that pay middle-class wages. For example, UCSB and other local academic institutions provide a unique opportunity to harness and incubate world-class homegrown talent that is already invested in our community. In addition, a number of internationally known companies are located on the South Coast and/or have their headquarters here. I am committed to collaboration with local business leaders that will identify strategies to retain already established businesses and foster new business development. As an example, I want the City to implement a Local Vendor Outreach Program that allows a 6% preference for local businesses when soliciting bids for tangible goods and services from the City. The more our City invests in local businesses, the more sustainable and stronger our economy will become.
While this year’s rain has been a welcome relief, we need to take advantage of the extra time provided to us to enhance our water-supply and demand management. I support diversifying our water portfolio, in particular groundwater recharge through waste water recycling. I also support desalination, but have serious concerns about the high cost overruns and long-term costs to run it. In addition, the City of Santa Barbara also needs to take leadership on the negotiations for the new Cachuma management contract that are underway. The previous contract, which expires in 2020, assumed a 7 year capacity for lake Cachuma, but as we found out, it went dry in just 4 years. The new contract needs to account for this new reality and be strengthened in regards to conservation measures during droughts. The 2015-16 Grand Jury report on Cachuma noted that even in our severe drought, member water agencies continued prioritize their own interests rather than looking at the lake as a whole. Our entire region is dependent on Lake Cachuma, a single member agency should not be able to override common sense water conservation measures. The new contract is an opportunity to address this issue.
Homelessness negatively impacts our community in many ways. Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions to address this complex problem. However there are steps we can take to improve our response. I support expanding outreach and mental health services to assist the mentally ill who are living on the streets. Providing an opportunity for the mentally ill to stabilize through support services, including housing, is the right thing to do and it is less expensive than the current system of rotating in and out of our hospitals and jail. In addition, these support services need to prioritize those individuals who already take up the most resources and who have been in our community for years. We also need to enhance community policing efforts, especially in our neighborhood parks and downtown areas to deter aggressive behavior.
All residents should feel safe throughout our city. I commend the City Police Department for its commitment to community policing, which builds relationships and trust between our police officers and neighborhood residents. We need to expand these efforts, especially in our neighborhood parks and downtown areas which help prevent crimes from taking place. In addition, the City should encourage community use of our parks and libraries through expanding activities that focus on youth and family programming. City policies should also make it easier for community members and organizations to hold festivals and events that encourage public use of our parks and libraries. The more the broader community uses our city facilities for healthy activities that build relationships, the fewer opportunities there will be for inappropriate and illegal activities.