by Steve Ferry
Santa Barbara Audubon recently announced that SBAS had joined a coalition of Santa Barbara County community and environmental organizations called the Shelby Foothills Coalition (SFC). SFC advocates for the preservation of land zoned for agriculture on the South Coast to maintain open space and bird habitat. SFC was formed from community concerns about the recent, rapid, massive development that has occurred in the Goleta Valley. These huge developments are threatening the quality of life in the Good Land with traffic congestion, crowding, environmental degradation, and loss of open space.
One project of particular concern is the Shelby development which has been proposed for a 14-acre parcel above Cathedral Oaks Road, adjacent to Glen Annie Golf Course. The developer wants the City of Goleta to re-zone this land from agricultural to residential use to build 60 expensive houses, directly contrary to the city’s General Plan. This development would extend the ongoing urban sprawl into the Goleta foothills. In addition, it would reduce habitat for sensitive species, eliminate bird nesting sites, damage water quality, and severely degrade an important wildlife corridor. SBAS Conservation Committee members interested in preserving the integrity, health, character, and environmental quality of our area have been working hard to oppose the Shelby development. We believe that the Shelby development, if approved, could set a dangerous precedent that would lead to the development of more agricultural land in the foothills, including orchards in the County areas of the foothills.
The proposed Shelby development has been going through environmental review. SBAS and other local environmental groups and individuals have submitted extensive comments on the Shelby Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), pointing out significant flaws and inadequacies in the DEIR. Until early May 2016, City of Goleta staff had been working on responses to the public comments on the DEIR, in preparing a final EIR. At that time, the City learned that the Shelby development could not convert its agricultural water meter to residential use due to rules included in a citizen initiative that passed almost thirty years ago (Measure J). Therefore, the Shelby development application with the City of Goleta has been temporarily suspended.
The Shelby Foothills Coalition will continue to exercise vigilance in monitoring this project and preventing the Shelby development from moving forward. SFC is aware that there could be other sources of water, other than agricultural meter conversion, that might allow the development to proceed. SFC will continue to monitor the development process and endeavor to ensure that any proposed water source is fully compliant with all laws and the best interests of the community. In addition, we will continue to advocate that the City of Goleta should honor its own carefully-crafted General Plan, retaining the agricultural use zoning for the Shelby parcel.