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Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cottage Workforce of Assisi Project Delayed

It's hard to not call the "Cottage Workforce" project St. Francis...maybe they could have given the patron saint of animals and our long time hospital a nod and called it the Assisi Project rather than the generic workforce name that we all must use if we want something approved. Politicians,developers, school districts and even the SBPOA talk about workforce housing like it will solve all are problems. Is it the only way to get projects approved these days?

After a 6 hour meeting, the decision was delayed a week. The News-Press created images of "political chicanery" and Cottage CEO Ron Werft appearing unhappy and John "The Trailmaster" McKinney shaking his head. No one was satisfied with the outcome....even Marshall Rose got a chance to complain about construction costs. There was even a conspiracy with staff emails in the city. Is making this into a soap opera a necessity? Isn't sensationalizing the news showing bias in the newsroom? I guess Brian Cearnal started all this by calling the hearings "emotional"....

57 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the whole, the Cottage project is a good thing. Like any organization, they will cut corners if they can, and it is appropriate that the local neighbors keep on them to do the best job possible.

But the big picture is simple: we need the housing. Period.

9/15/2006 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Lucas Els said...

"Politicians,developers, school districts and even the SBPOA talk about workforce housing like it will solve all are (sic) problems. Is it the only way to get projects approved these days?"

Cottage is none of the above. They are a non-profit health care provider taking an $8 to $10 million hit in order to invest in homes for their employees so more of our critical health care workers can live here where we need them.

It's the NIMBYs in my neighborhood who have turned this into a soap opera because they like living next to a closed-down hospital and do not want anything that even approximates the level of activity that ocurred when St. Francis was operating.

9/15/2006 9:18 AM  
Anonymous emily said...

I was there last night, and basically the emotion comes from two obviously contradictory concerns:
--the nurses say if you don't build us this housing project in Santa Barbara, you're putting the community's health at risk
--the neighbors say if you do build this housing project you're putting the neighborhood's health at risk.

The neighbors did refer to evidence that seems to show how much the city is pushing this project, even to the point of trying to gloss over pollution , health and traffic concerns. And somebody did call that "political chicanery." Should that have been the lead? Probably n ot. But the fact remains that there is some stuff out there that doesn't look so good.

9/15/2006 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This project needs to be killed. It's that simple.

9/15/2006 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Density brings crime. Just look at our recent murder.

9/15/2006 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But the big picture is simple: we need the housing. Period.

Even with an open house sign on every corner and many apartments for rent in the classifieds?

9/15/2006 4:09 PM  
Anonymous harping said...

I've noticed that the pejorative term "NIMBY" is one that developers love to use as a catch-all for anyone who doesn't share their desire for densification. Can't we stop with the name-calling & figure out an effective compromise? I think most people want nurses & other worthy workers to have an affordable, pleasant place to live in SB. So why are the "non-NIMBY" people so opposed to the idea of converting the former hospital (instead of tearing it down & building a new structure) into livable condos--from what I've read this has been done successfully in other cities.
The only excuse I've seen is "how would YOU like to live in a converted hospital?" Well, I've visited hospitals that seemed more pleasant than some apartment complexes I've been in, so IMHO if the conversion is done well it could be quite a lovely place to live.

9/15/2006 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's plenty of Affordable Housing - look in the paper under apartments for rent. sheesh

9/15/2006 6:27 PM  
Anonymous bungalow babe said...

Just to be very clear, the neighborhood has tried very hard to work with Cottage. Cottage has worked very hard at telling Cottage what they want and what is going to happen. The EIR process is state-regulated to assess environmental impacts to the population, and a good faith effort at full disclosure is required. The document prepared appears to do more selling of the project than mitigation of the very significant environmental impacts it poses to a vulnerable, close-in neighborhood. The neighbors are requesting the City comply with the law and require a further analysis of the reasonable compromise which is identified in the EIR as "environmentally superior" to the project proposed by Cottage--and according to state law, the EIR cannot be certified if a reasonable alternative is feasible. And re-use of the main building, is both feasible, it's cost-saving, better to the environment and healthier for people. The man who spoke at last night's hearing who talked about his lymphoma, and his absolute need to live in a clean evironment put some of these concerns into perspective. Unfortunately, not a single pro-Cottage speaker last night spoke one word of compassion for risks to the neighborhood, nor of any informed knowledge about requirements of an EIR. Yet memos were read that clearly show how the city staff tried to cover up health risks due to diesel emissions. It's easy and comfortable to refer to all of us as selfish NIMBYs and demonize our motives, when we're just trying to live our lives and protect the health and well-being of our children, friends and families--just like everyone else.

9/15/2006 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Density does not bring crime... Tokyo has a way lower murder rate than the sparsely populated regions near the U.S.-Mexico border.

There are many houses for sale because the sellers want $1.5 million for them and are willing to wait. If they asked a reasonable number like $500K there would be none on the market. Actually, the median price of homes sold in Santa Barbara fell by 16% between June and July.

Americans should be able to buy homes, period.

I'd prefer new building rather than retaining the existing structure.

Of course, the neighbors should be vigilant, but in the end, suggestions like keeping the existing structure and adapting it are just insincere efforts to extract as much as possible from Cottage. That is just the game being played as it always is here on the South Coast... the homes occupied by longtime residents were constructed with enormous environmental degradation, and the current occupants themselves destroy the environment through the use of Cachuma water and global-warming causing autos.

Nonetheless, longtime residents try to stop new housing with any argument they can think of.

The current generation was once called the `me' generation. Their infinite selfishness is evident in every housing discussion on the South Coast.

9/15/2006 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should every employee or many employees of Cottage own a house in Santa Barbara as a part of their employment? 58% of Santa Barbara is renters and, sure, Cottage employees do valuable work - but so do teachers and firemen and police and and and.

The Cottage employees were complaining about commuting in from Lompoc and Ventura, some up to two hours on the road each day they said. (Where were they coming from, Santa Maria, maybe?) If they can't afford the rentals here and want to stay here, they should petition/urge/go on strike against Cottage for higher wages.

I grew up near Boston, with a family member and some friends who worked at the Boston hospitals (Mass General, Brigham, others.) Preferring to own a house - not that many own their own homes in Boston (and other cities!) — they commuted into Boston. Standard practice for cities.

Of course, there is quite good public transit - and commutes would take up to an hour by train, time not wasted as driving alone is since they can read the paper, listen to podcasts, etc. (So, vote for Measure D to get some public transit here!)

Good of Cottage to think of its work force but with an existing building that can be retrofitted, with an intense need for rentals in this town, with their owning property in Goleta, seems to me that Cottage's attempts to bulldoze the StF AND the neighbors is pure hubris.

It's about time the city boards stood up for the neighbors and existing neighborhoods!

Cottage employees, as all, deserve a place to live. If they can't afford to rent in Santa Barbara - but one of them at the hearing (recorded/repeated last night) said the wage was in the $60K range which is above most other working class and tenants' wages.

If they can't afford, they should en masse demand higher wages from Cottage. The police are demanding a 34% wage increase for just these reasons (and the city is countering with, I think, 19% offer.)

What are the salaries at Cottage? What is the staff doing to demand more money (and what are they paid?) so they can live here or near where they work?

Why should the neighborhood be held hostage because Cottage does not pay its employees a living wage, enough to live in the area where they work? A parade of doctors and CEOs and flacks, some of whom live comfortably in Montecito, is not convincing as to the needs of the employees.

And, finally, if the housing problem is so severe, the entire St F should be dedicated to staff housing.

9/16/2006 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cottage actually said that 60% of their employees do own homes, and that 25% commute. And then dangled the notion that half of the condos would be dedicated to people who live out of town. Then there's the issue of how will these be used to recruit new hires and turn their back on all of those who keep boarding the Cottage shuttle buese and attending these awful meetings hoping they'll get one of these condos in a company town. There's only 81 units. Can you imagine what a sense of betrayal these employees are going to have with the "lottery"? How many of the suits in the audience--who made their money in real esate in the first place--are going to benefit from this project? Michael Towbes even showed up. How often does that happen?

9/16/2006 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Lucas Els said...

Our neighborhood does not have an HOA (the "Bungalow" group is self-appointed and only represents those who participate.) Nobody can speak on behalf of "the neighbors" or "the neighborhood." Those who speak against Cottage only speak for themselves and the handful who agree with them. A very small percentage of people in our neighborhood are fighting Cottage's plan.

As a neighbor, I am embarrassed at the constant stream of fear tactics and misinformation from the handful of NIMBYs who are opposed to Cottage's plan. (NIMBY stands for Not In My Backyard, which is a factual description of their position, not a perjorative.)

Anonymous 8:28: nobody benefits financiallly from this except for employees who will be able to purchase a home. This is a money-losing venture for Cottage that they hope will help with their recruitment and retention crisis. This is not a "scheme," it is a gift to the community by Cottage donors.

Harping 5:15: if you actually listened to any of Cottage's presentations, you would have learned that only one of the existing buildings COULD be re-used -- the others could never meet code. And that one building (the main hospital building) would need to be completely gutted, then would result in double-loaded corridors with homes without windows on three sides. The construction impacts for the neighborhood would be the virtually the same, but we'd be left with a tall, institutional building rather than homes that look like what surrounds St. Francis today.

Anonymous 6:59: you're failing to understand that Cottage is facing a recruitment and retention crisis. It operates in the red, and depends on charitable donations to stay afloat. Health care workers are choosing to work elsewhere, where they can purchase their own home. You know quite well that a raise in pay would not be enough to allow them to afford a market rate home here (and any raise would need to be paid for through charitable giving.)

What this debate comes down to is selfishness versus generosity, and I don't see any of my NIMBY neighbors writing big donation checks to the Cottage Hospital Foundation as so many in our community are doing to ensure we continue to have a top rate hospital. Instead, I see them selfishly getting in the way.

9/16/2006 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCSB affordable housing has had all the same problems that Cottage will have... it has not been a disaster. UCSB's is 100% affordable; the choice of who gets in is made by the administration.

Actually, many who have not gotten in have benefitted greatly... some of them figured out ways to buy in to open market housing, and have increased their equity due to the real estate bubble. Those who got into the UCSB affordable housing have gained no equity at all, beyond what they pay for the house.

Affordable housing is better than renting, but worse then owning on the free market. It is a compromise.

Sure, some `suits' make money by building housing, and worse, those developers are irresponsbile in many ways, from exploiting public works and infrastructure while not being responsible public citizens, and also being poor stewards of the environment. But collectively, existing homeowners have made way, way more money than the `suits' through the bubble.

9/16/2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

Question of the day (as posted by Anon 6:59 AM):

"Why should every employee or many employees of Cottage own a house in Santa Barbara as a part of their employment? 58% of Santa Barbara is renters and, sure, Cottage employees do valuable work - but so do teachers and firemen and police and and and."

Answer of the day:

That's just the point - we all deserve a shot at home ownership regardless of our occupation or financial status. Cottage has stepped up and is spending their own money to house their workers. They are forced into this position because our elected officials have been sheep in the face of NIMBYs, and have not done their job to create the ability for more affordable housing to be built. I'm not suggesting they spend public dollars to do this, but simply perform adequate planning and create appropriate land use policies to allow the situation to correct itself by market-driven forces.

It just simply should not take 5 or more years to process any project, all the while each staff member, landmarks commissioner, BAR member, planning commissioner and city council person takes nibbles and shots at influencing the shade of cream-colored wall or size of window opening or height of ceiling, etc...

In terms of your question about teachers, firefighters and police deserving housing as well - Montecito Fire Dept has bought some housing for their firefighters; local school and college districts are pondering housing projects for their workers; and the Las Portales project is a joint venture of Bermant, the City Housing Authority and the Santa Barbara Foundation. These condos would be offered to workers in our local non-profit community.

Tell me, where else in the US do schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, fire departments, and non-profit foundations become housing developers? If that's not evidence enough of our housing shortage and wacked-out jobs/housing imbalance I don't know what is...

9/16/2006 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Follow the money! Lots of Devels and Realtors there at the meeting to support this. hmmmm All out of the kindness of their hearts... yeah right!

9/16/2006 12:08 PM  
Anonymous a changing landscape said...

From what I hear, as ill-conceived and shoved down our town's throat many aspects of this project are, this is really a done deal [at least with the Council majority]. We'll just have to live with the impacts [as will they--the Council]. Cottage definitely 'owns' this town, along with the Chamber, and the future is theirs to see......
I rue the day when word combinations eg: "workforce housing" and "affordable by design" somehow became palatable to otherwise sharp enviros and citizens planning groups. It all challenges our intelligence, folks....the only ones to benefit? developers, and cottage investors [same thing now]. BTW: I'm not a nimby, don't live anywhere near the project. Just an observer.

9/16/2006 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too many people on this thread don't seem to understand that there is NO money being made. The project is a big net loss. I bet that these people do know this, but are just trying to spin Cottage's plan as just another development in order to earn sympathy for their NIMBY cause.

9/16/2006 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From watching the meeting, some of the City's actions in pushing this through border on illegal. Anyone know of the Grand Jury is looking into this?

9/16/2006 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Call me nimble but not nimby said...

120pm:
I may be one of the ignorant ones---and I'm in no way a nimby. Perhaps just ill-informed.

So there will be no money made by selling the market rate homes? Either the ones built now, or that may be built in the future?

If so, the fact that that would be so unusual may be the basis for some of the misinformation---- and, if so, can someone explain how Cottage is "losing money" on the project?

the cost of land in Santa Barbara would seem to render that presumption inherently impossible.

do explain

9/16/2006 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Im a nimby but I chose to live and buy in this area because it is older established homes. There is more of a neighborhood feel to it, its not the cookie cutter (orange county style) housing we have seen go into the Santa Barbara metro area over the past few decades. You know the kind every street and house is the same no matter which block its on. There are neighborhood markets (which you dont see much of in this town) and its a quick walk to city services.

If over a hundred new units get thrown into the mix what does that do to the area I live in, the cottage housing complex/ island surrounded by a neighborhood? I dont like the idea, there have been some infill projects of 10-15 units and thats fine they blend in to the general feel but this plan dosent it overpowers its neighbors and our infrastructure up there is already fragile (sewer/electric/roads) theres been no offer to imporve that minus those damm roundabouts..

This is just not the right spot for a project like this if it was a 20 unit area I wouldnt mind but this is to big for the existing neighborhood. And if the need for workforce housing is so huge and Im a horrible Nimby then hey gas prices are to high, its hurting people economically we should let the Valero put some more rigs off the coast - same argument but guess once its in your backyard you would get pissed off. Thats how many in the neighborhood feel abou this project.

9/16/2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh, the paid cottage defenders are back.

9/16/2006 2:35 PM  
Anonymous bungalow babe said...

anonymous 1:20: is it possible to be more naive? Have you any idea how much money has already been made off this project? The construction company, the architects, the pr flak, the lawyers, the city's huge planning staff, the Coastal Housing people--and how much potential is offered by it--the lenders, the haul-off company (why do you think the guy from Marborg spoke at the hearing?), and the nurses were allowed to take paid time off to attend the hearing.

9/16/2006 5:29 PM  
Anonymous The Realist said...

I agree with the bungalow people - that neighborhood should be low density.

So lets tear down the homes and replace each two with one. Lets knock down the apartments buildings and build one home or less.

And for the nurses - damn them. Who do they think they are?

They choose to be in the field to help people - it was their choice. They could of been something else - so live with the cost of living and income. Figure it out.

And to those who say all nurses do not deserve to live here. I agree. And I feel the high density apartments and those little bungalow high density homes need to go - lets build two and at best three homes per acre and sell to the rich at $2 million or more and we get rid of the riff raff.

And then we can get high speed transportation to Ventura for health care and use the Cottage property for a park.

I say Cottage is a blood sucking parisite on our communtiy as are all their nurses - I say leave.

9/16/2006 6:47 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Wow -- make sure we know your opinion. Let's not make this about Cottage or their nurses -- we need hospitals and nurses, don't we? Of course we all choose to be here and make sacrifices -- but the sacrifices we made in the 80s or even further back aren't the same today.

9/16/2006 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Following the money leads right to all the South Coast homeowners who have seen their home values triple and quadruple since 1996, due to their own pressure on the political system to constrict supply. Their claims to be interested in neighborhoods and quality of life are no more believable than the same claims when made by developers. Local homeowners exclusively and completely just want astronomical increases in their property values.

That's why I support the Cottage housing... I wish it were even higher density. To the devil with the selfish NIMBYs who only care about their own property values.

9/16/2006 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anon 1:20 said...

uh, bungalow babe, you're talking money LOST, not made. Everything you rattled off is a COST.

and Call Me Nimble, here's your math: the cost of land + cost of approval process + cost of construction - sale price of all units (market and affordable) = $10 million loss. It's that simple. Why do you think developers complain about 15% affordable, much less 70%?

and 2:28, you should check out the density of all of the apartments at the end of arrellaga right next to St. Francis -- they are MUCH denser than what Cottage is proposing

At least The Realist has some intellectual honesty behind the opinion...

What excuse do the Cottage-haters have for their misinformation?

9/16/2006 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't count on the City to do the right thing. They will force this project on you. They've delayed a week to come up with a new spin.

9/16/2006 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Well folks, once again we get the benefit of the lesson that the reason that South Coast housing prices are so high is because we on the South Coast have not allowed enough houses to be built. That is a fallacy. Due to the weather, aesthetic ambiance, and other more intangible factors, there is a effectively an infinite demand for real estate in on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County. No amount of development will reduce the price of homes. Look at Manhattan. It is one of the most densely developed areas on the globe, yet the real estate there is more expensive than either Santa Barbara or San Francisco. Let us get over the fallacy that NIMBYs actually affect housing prices. While this fallacy has become a truism, it is simply not true.

All that said, we should, as a community, find a way to house service workers who cannot otherwise afford to live here. Both public and employer supported rental housing, if done carefully, could provide a solution to this problem. However, "done correctly" is the operative term. "Done correctly" means considering the social, economic, and health effects of assited housing development. It means listening to the neighbors and honestly considering their concerns and ideas. It means working as a community for the community as a whole.

Cottage and the City have failed miserably at engaging the community in the design of this project. The result has been anger, recrimination, and the erosion of trust. It is back to the drawing board time.

9/16/2006 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can this not be about Cottage or nurses?

Cottage owns the property and the nurses will live there.

The neighbors are correct - Cottage is bad and who needs the nurses.

But I think the neighbors have too much density and would liket to buy a lot of land and lower density and put the people who really can afford to live here in nice homes rather than those high density apartments and those ugley cottages.

Lets be realistic. Only the rich can live here so lets create homes for the rich and make it possible to raise tax revenue and get rid of the riff raff like these small home owners.

9/16/2006 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:38, I could not agree more. The bungalow owners are trying to make it impossible to tear down an old cottage or combine lots to create nicer, larger homes. It's these owners of small homes with little tax basis that are preventing us from affording high speed transit and subsidized service worker housing ELSEWHERE. Time for a change in zoning and to let the market start drive them out.

9/17/2006 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really can't believe a lot of what I am reading here - this is not a big bad developer v. poor little neighbors - this is our hospital for crying out lout!!!

To respond to a few of the comments I've read - Michael Towbes was there because the Cottage Hospital Board is among the many Boards he serves on as member of our community. If you listened to his comments at the hearing rather than spend your time dreaming up conspiracy theories you would know this. If you've ever been to the hospital and read the wall of donors, you will see that he is on there as well - as are many prominent members of our community - BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF A QUALITY HOSPITAL!

Further, I agree that nurses aren't the only people that we need in this community, however this is a project being funded by Cottage on Cottage land - so of course they are going to house their employees - again - they are not a "developer" - they are not doing this for the "fun" of developing in Santa Barbara - they are doing this because it is what they need to do to provide us with the quality of care that we need as a community. Don't belive that? Go down to to the HR department and check out their numbers for yourselg - vacancies, recruitment lenghts and responses, retention, and perhaps more important - average employee age - a marker for soon to be retirees, and the vacant positions they will leave behind. This isn't just happening at Cottage - it is happening everywhere in this community.

Perhaps if our community was able to see the project for what it is, and embrace the innovativenes of employer-built housing, other employers would follow suit - however at this rate I hope all of you no-growthers out there are brushing up on how to deliver babies, set bones, perform surgery, souter stitches, treat car accident victims, etc...
Not to mention put out fires, stop crime, teach our children, pick up our trash and recyclabes, run our government, work in our banks, grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants....etc...you're going to be busy bunch!

And those are just basic services that our "healthy" population needs...let's not even get into specialized medical care and social services for all segments of our population.

Until I hear our community rallying behing putting birth control in our water and killing off the old fogeys, "no-growth" is not a posibility. The only way to achieve that is to continue to have an out-flux of our community members. Frankly, I am tired of attending going-away parties for people in my age group that have had it with the housing situation in this community.

Of course, this isn't limited to just the late 20's/early 30's crowd. I don't know what makes all of you no-growthers think that people that are making huge sacrifices in order to work here are going to continue doing so - particularly after hearing the increasingly common selfish diatribes on "quality of life" (i.e protect the value of my home).

These people are going to get tired of spending hours away from their families commuting to their jobs, or doubling or tripling up in homes, or putting off having children, or working multiple jobs to work in a community that clearly could care less about them and the value that they add to our lives...

And then we'll really be talking about quality of life!

9/17/2006 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a fact that NIMBYism has driven up the cost of housing. Period.

If housing prices were totally determined by the weather, then no-one would have been able to buy homes here in the 1950's and 1960's when the weather was *identical to now*, the aesthetic ambiance was *better than now*. It is NIMBY propaganda and slight of hand to try to get people to forget the local history that housing was once much more affordable than now.

It is selfishness and NIMBYism that has driven up the cost of housing since the 1970's.

It is totally possible to have a terrific quality of life and more housing too. Two forces prevent that from happening: the NIMBYs and the ruthless developers, both of whom take no genuine interest in local infrastructure, like mass transit, water, sewage, etc.

Tom Storke and his generation were giants who rather selflessly gave us Cachuma and the other infrastructure that we midgets have been exploiting for the last 50 years.

9/17/2006 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Facts, I learned in school, are supported by evidence and scientifically gathered data. To assert that it is a "fact" that NIMBYism is responsible for the high cost of housing in Santa Barbara without offering a single shred of evidence to support the assertion is simply sloppy and emotional thinking. There exist examples of highly desirable areas all over this globe, which have very high housing costs and the citizens of which have not been in the least successful at restricting development. I offer Tokyo and Manhattan as prime examples, most of the urban area of Orange County and San Diego County as lesser examples, and even our very own Santa Maria (a boom town in housing development) as a close to home example. In the last 20 years, all of these areas have seen dramatic increases in housing costs without the assistance of NIMBYs.

This all about the supply and demand curve. There are places where the demand will always outstrip the potential supply. It has been demonstrated in many of those places (Tokyo famously) that a community cannot hope to build themselves out of the problem. The best we can hope for is to use public policy and public/private partnerships to develop projects that would provide some reasonably priced rental housing.

The reason that the demand was not as intense in the 50's & 60's as it is today, is that there was not as much mobile worldwide wealth then as there is today. I lived here in the 70's, 80's, and 90's and it was not "affordable" then either.

9/17/2006 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact, that you acknowledge eck, is that in the 1950's and 1960's the South Coast was way more affordable than it is now. The weather was the same. The quality of life was better. Those are facts. We can eliminate your claim that those variables destroy affordability, by the facts.

The South Coast was already widely known as a beautiful and desireable spot... why did JFK honeymoon at the San Ysidro Ranch? Why did so many scions of rich families settle around here? (Firestone, Maytag, Schuyler, Sedgwick, Fleischmann... the list goes on much much longer). Wealth has been mobile for ever. It was in the 1950's and 1960's *just as it is today*. Another fact the NIMBY propagandists want to ignore.

The 1950's and 1960's were the only time a concerted effort was made to increase the infrastructure and grow the area. It was done in a very different way than most of the state... that was Storke's doing... built around UCSB and `smokeless' industry.

And why did affordability begin to end in the 1970's??? NIMBYism got started... the Goleta Water Board started the moratorium, for example, which is another fact.

Comparing the South Coast to Tokyo or Manhattan is so ridiculous as to be nearly mentally disturbed. The average densities here are 100 times less than those areas. There is a huge amount of capacity to build more here, and the quality of life can easily be preserved with a good transit system, advanced waste disposal, and care not to waste water.

The obstacles are avaricious developers and NIMBYs.

9/17/2006 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Ok Anon. 3:47, if your hypothesis is correct, why then are homes in areas that have experienced unfettered growth also unaffordable for middle income consumers? It would be very difficult (if not impossible) for a median income first time buyer, with a 20% down payment of over $100,000, to purchase a home in Ventura, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Paso Robles, San Diego, and suburban Orange County, all areas where development has been allowed to gobble up land as fast as the builders could build. Why didn't the unchecked growth in housing stock keep the homes affordable in those places?

You point out very well why I used Tokyo and Manhattan to illustrate my arguement. The rabbit warren density in those cities has not resulted in affordable homes (except for the slums). That was my point. Thanks for making it for me.

With regard to my mental stability, I at least make an attempt to keep the emotional volume of my posts low. It is difficult to hear the clear tone of logic through the static of anger.

9/18/2006 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfettered growth? June 06 Median Housing Price in Santa Maria and the rest of Northern Santa Barbara County weas $459,000... the fact is, that is not equal to the $1,300,000 median price on the Santa Barbara South Coast. Nor was the $334,790 median price in the High Desert equal to $1,300,000 median price on the South Coast of Santa Barbara.

Your facts, eck? I guess you don't follow your own advice of gathering facts before you speak.

The fact is, the density of Manhattan and Tokyo is nowhere near equal to that on the South Coast, as you have implied. It would help if you got near a fact from time to time, like the actual density of those areas compared to ours. However, the median housing price, according to the June 2006 REBNY report, in Manhattan was $749,000... almost 1/2 the median price on the Santa Barbara South Coast.

Manhattan proves the point that a density far higher than that on the South Coast can be eminently livable... most New Yorkers would rather live there than anywhere else in the world. And it is the tremendous and terrific livability of the place that produces the demand and the cost of real estate there. All the theater, art, publishing, and business available there justifies the demand.

Not that I advocate making our South Coast as dense as Manhattan. But we can make the South Coast more dense and more livable simultaneously. With due attention to infrastructure, we could be twice or three times as dense as we are now, inside all the urban limit lines. And we might get our median housing price down to that of Manhattan's.

But our developers are idiots... they should study Storke and how he envisioned great infrastructure *first*... hundreds of avaricious millioner developeres and homeowners have garnered their fortunes on Storke's vision. And the Storke family itself can no longer afford to live here.

9/18/2006 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few facts....

Population Density of Manhattan - 25845 persons/(square kilometer)

Population Density of Santa Barbara County - 56 persons/(square kilometer).

Manhattan is 460 times as dense as Santa Barbara County.

City of SB - 1189 persons/(square kilometer)

City of Goleta - 301 persons/(square kilometer)

City of Santa Maria - 1546 persons/(square kilometer)

9/18/2006 5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You left out the density of Isla Vista

3,340.9/km²

And the homes are cheaper...

9/18/2006 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Anon 4:34, you did not actually answer the question as to why areas that have experience rapid and unchecked growth are remain unaffordable for a median wage earner. Using your own figures, to buy a median priced home in Santa Maria one would need a $90,000 down payment (have you got that lying around?) and then have to come up with about $2,500/month for the mortgage payment and $5,000 each year in taxes. So what median wage earner, who might have $90,000 lying around for the down payment, could afford $35,000 a year in housing costs? That's without utilities, the inevitable new roof, carpet, appliances...the whole catastrophe! Oh, and the High Desert, that's a wonderful place to live, talk about your long commutes.

I would suggest that what you would get for $750,000 in Mahattan would shock you, and that doesn't include the protection money you have to pay the cockroaches that lived there first. Personally, I live here because I do not want to live in a density of nearly 23,000 people per square kilometer (thanks for the figurs Anon. 5:13). I have lived in densely populated cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and I find high population density stifling and claustrophobic.

I remain skeptical that our housing costs are connected to our lack of taste for big city density. By that logic, the most expensive property and highest housing prices should be in Montana and Wyoming; which they aren't.

I agree 100% with your assessment of the intelligence of our developers. Indeed they do not seem concerned with infrastructure, and neither do our current crop of land use planners.

Finally, I have been near a fact or two in my life; and my experience tells me that high density is not as pleasant to live in as low density, no matter what the amenities. When I was a renter and thought that I would never be able to afford to purchase a home here, I still voted for slow growth policies.

9/18/2006 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have provided way more facts than you ever have in this thread, eck. You're like all NIMBYs... you just say whatever you can think of to justify your desire for a higher property value.

My explanation of the $1,300,000 median South Coast housing prices... you didn't bother to analyze the vast sums of money needed to buy on the South Coast... is NIMBYism. The unaffordability of the South Coast started when the NIMBY movements started in the 1970's. At every meeting on housing NIMBYs come and moan about how more housing will reduce foraging space for their pet ferrets, or cause anharmonic distress to their euphonium crystals. Meanwhile the workers at the restaurants they patronize are sleeping in bunks, 3 persons sharing the same bunk slot over 24 hours, six to a bedroom (every visited the clandestine worker housing in SB, eck?)

South Coast Homeowners are selfish, hypocritical, unimaginative, rude, destroyers of the environment, and all around a distressing legacy to giants like Storke and Chase.

Sure, my anger leaks through. Seeing such people get $1,300,000 for their homes while at the same time they carp about greedy developers will do that to a person.

9/19/2006 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention that for $1,300,000 you're probably getting a dump that needs a lot of work. and don't leave the bottom feeding realtors out of this

9/19/2006 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Ok 8:37, you win. You're right and I'm wrong. The influence of low interest rates, worldwide economic factors, the maturing and retiring and wealthy baby boom generation moving south and west, and the inter-generational transfer of wealth from the WWII generation to their baby boomer children all pale in comparison to overwhelming influence of a few thousand South Coast NIMBYs. Maybe they are Free Masons or members of the Trilateral Commission as well. It's all a vast NIMBY conspiracy. I get it now. Its all clear. I must be a dim bulb indeed to have ever believed there were large economic forces involved. What nimwit I am.

9/19/2006 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eck, all those factors are the same in Ventura, Santa Maria, and the High Desert. Ever looked at housing prices in Hawaii? I have a colleague with a terrific home near Manoa, decided not to come here because of our absurd housing prices.

Yes, there has been a bubble in real estate world wide because of cheap money. Japan lent for a while at 0% interest.

All those factors don't explain whey we have a $1,300,000 median housing price, while those other places are 1/2 to 1/3 our housing prices.

The difference is we have a far more powerful NIMBY lobby.

Eck, sure would be nice if you brought a few facts to the discussion.

9/19/2006 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Anon. 4:33. here is a fact, although I do not expect you to accept it as one: I have lived for extended periods of time in Europe, Asia, and several places in the United States. I have visted Canada and Mexico, several Asian cities, and most western European countries. In all my life and all my travels, I have never found a place a salubrious and pleasurable to live as the South Coast of Santa Barbara County. Even the southern coast of Spain, nice as it is, is not better; mostly because it is so much more crowded. The reasons for Santa Barbara's particular attraction are many, some enigmatic, some concrete. One of the factors that makes this place such a nice place to live is that it is not overly populated and crowded. Also, it is relatively safe with regard to the crime rate. I hardly have to mention the other natural, cultural, and aesthetic amenities for which Santa Barbara is famous. To me these are the "facts" that made me chose this place. I am fortunate to have had other choices. But I chose here. I am assuming that if this place is so desirable to me, that it is just as desirable to many others. Perhaps I am wrong.

I believe, based on my analysis of cultural and economic trends, which I have encountered in both news media and more scholarly publications, that a combination of factors have resulted in the high housing costs in Santa Barbara. I will acknowledge that the land use development process on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County, which has restricted growth over the last 30 years, is a contributing factor. But I will not accede that it is the only factor. I have been an observer of this phenomenon for 33 years. There are many factors that have contributed to the run up in housing prices in the American Southwest as well as in certain desirable other localities. While the housing prices in Santa Barbara are indeed higher than in other places, housing prices in other Southern California commuties have risen dramatically as well. My father practiced real estate in Ventura in the 70s and 80s. I watched the same house climb from $25,000 to $90,000 in less than 10 years. I bought my first over-priced shack on the Central Coast in the 80s. When I returned to Santa Barbara after a long absence, I never thought that I would be able to purchase a home here; but I chose to live here nonetheless.

I empathize with those who have chosen to live here and are not satisfied with their housing arrangements. I have been there. However, I am unwilling to accept the destruction of all that is wonderful about this place for the sake of making it available to every person who wants to live here. The demand to live on the South Coast of Santa Barbara County is worldwide and effectively infinite. We could build a community with a density of twice or three times what we now have and it would fill up at market rate prices, as well as traffic and pollution and crime. The demand, in this case, does not appear to be sensitive to price. That is scary; and was my point all along. This is hypothesis is supported by the fact that cottages sell here for $1,300,000. We apparently not found the upper limit. That is a disturbing demand curve if one is concerned with quality of life.

Believe it or not, I am an old fashioned FDR liberal, and I believe that we should build government and privately subsidized rental housing for low wage folks who work here but cannot otherwise afford to live here. Yet, I do not believe that we should open the flood gates to development and allow every retired baby boomer with an inheritance to buy a condo here. They are legion and they will come.

For that sentiment, call me a NIMBY if you will. Disparge my morals and my character if you want. I don't really care what my house is worth because I intend on spending the rest of my life here. But I will defend the special character of my neighborhood and city, because it is that special character that makes this place the place where I want to live.

9/19/2006 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, prices need to go higher to preserve this town.

9/20/2006 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eck... I don't think the special character of this place comes from the low population density. The special character comes from the care that people like TM Storke and Pearl Chase put into planning the growth and infrastructure here.

They didn't do what the NIMBYs do... the NIMBYs oppose the building of anything at all. Had Storke and Chase been that way, your house and my house and the Courthouse and everything else would not be here at all. Oddly, no NIMBY argues for making the whole South Coast into an unpopulated nature preserve... whoops, they would lose there own house that is dear to the selfish NIMBY soul.

That offensive habit of NIMBYs... that somehow they are entitled to trash the environment and the South Coast, and simultaneously argue that other people would ruin the South Coast... forfeits their standing in my opinion.

The real path to the future of the South Coast is to build great infrastructure that can handle more population while maintaining a great standard of living. NIMBYs like you are inevitably pessimistic that such a thing is possible, and your negative viewpoint is such a contrast with guys like Charles Storke, who was always so positive and optimistic that we can solve our problems when I talked to him.

NIMBYs make a self fulfilling prophecy... by moaning over the impacts of others (but ignoring their own impacts) they foster a feeling of helplessness and inability to extend and improve the very infrastructure (like Cachuma, the San districts, mass transit) that they depended upon to live here. Had Storke and Chase been such ineffectual anxiety mongers, the NIMBYs could never have lived here themselves.

9/20/2006 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Anon. 11:17, I agree that Pearl Chase was a visionary who is largely responsible for how beautiful Santa Barbara is. I agree that the NIMBY perspective is fundamentally a pessimistic one, leavened with the salt of helplessness.

I have seen what the market can do to the living spaces of a community in the San Franando Valley, Orange County, and Ventura. Yes, land use planning visionaries and a political will to implement the vision could have produced a much better result. But, alas, whether for lack of vision or weakness of political will the growth produced living spaces of inferior quality, increased traffic and pollution, and made the communities places to be from rather than places in which to live.

So many times I have seen planning commissions, city councils, and county boards of supervisors waive the land use standards at the request of land owners who do not share the vision or for whom the vision will not create enough profit. It is hard not to become pessimistic after watching such a process time and again spoil a nice community.

I would love to get my hope back. I would welcome a true visioning process that would not only perserve the character of our community but improve it while providing for some more housing. But at this point I simply do not have the confidence that we have enough Pearl Chases out there in positions of influence to do the job right.

While I will not deny that I have an impact on the environment, I make an effort to live lightly on the land. I may have forfeited my standing in your eyes, but I have not forfeited my vote. Those who would encourage more and faster growth here must convince voters like me that it can be accomplished with grace and beauty while preserving amble breathing room or we will continue to vote pessimistically.

9/20/2006 4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Eck, Santa Barbara was not on your list of places where everything went awry. You might attribute that to NIMBYs, but my point is the Storkes (both TM and Charles the younger) and Pearl Chase and really a whole crew they inspired were not NIMBYs at all.

Had they been NIMBYs you and I would not be living here at all!

How can you ignore the basic proof that development can be OK, when it is all around you in Santa Barbara? Why do you think that the Santa Barbara area achieved the perfect population density right now? It is particularly weird because when I listen to NIMBYs, it is clear that their arguments support a `perfect population density' of zero... make the South Coast a nature preserve. Which makes the NIMBYs look awfully stupid, because the logical conclusion is that they should all move away.

My living experiences are more from Northern California, and I think there are a lot of fabulous places in the Bay Area... some stupendous neighborhoods in SF and Berkeley, for example, that are ultradense by Santa Barbara standard. The Bay Area also has some rotten SoCal-clone areas too, but being an optimist, I prefer to notice the very successful spots and imagine cloning them.

Another terrific example is Amsterdam's transportation system, which integrates an underground, buses, and bikes. But you don't get a system like that in 5 or 10 years, you need to work systematically for 40 or 50 years. Why aren't we able to do something like that here?

Charles Storke would be very optimistic about it. It is embarassing that his successors are such losers.

9/20/2006 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here I thought Pearl Chase was the reason the whole town looks like a bunch of Taco Bell's.

9/21/2006 8:21 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Anon. 9:08, there is not much to argue with you about in your last post. I am all for improving our transportation infrastructure. I myself have imagined cloning some beautiful littel communities to some distinct areas here on the South Coast.

I wish I shared your optimism. When the Ahwahnee Principles first came out in 1991, my cold NIMBY heart warmed as hope was rekindled there. But as I watched the Principles be calously used to justify making more profit out of each square inch of real estate and I witnessed the conversion of scarce Southern California open space into condos, strip malls, and big box centers, the fire went out and I went back to my NIMBY ways.

Run for office Anon. 9:08. Share your vision with us, I might vote for you.

9/21/2006 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Anon. 9:08 pm, I cannot really find anything to argue with you about in your last post. I am with you on the need to improve our transportation infrastructure. I myself have imagined cloning some beautful land use designs to areas on the South Coast. I wish I shared your optimism that it could be done right nowadays.

When the Ahwahnee Principles first came out in 1991, my cold NIMBY heart was warmed by rekindled hope. But when I saw the Principles being callously used to squeeze every last penny of profit from each square inch of real estate and witnessed scarce Southern California open space converted to walled McMansion enclaves, condos, strip malls, and big box centers, the fire went out and I went back to my NIMBY ways.

Run for office Anon. 9:08, share your vision with us. I might vote for you.

9/21/2006 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like this is a done deal. Start packing your bags.

9/21/2006 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This town used to be a lot better whether you blame NIMBYS or other factors. I myself blame school choice, this town was much better when the schools like sbhs for instance included the children of billionares mixing with the children of cooks and janitors.

We were a much better place then, we all knew each other and whether your parents were wealthy or not you treated your friends parents with respect and you knew people from every economic class and they were your friends and that was the bottom line.

Now we have become a ecomically divided town where the opportunity to know your neighbors and the sense of unity regardless of economic class that made a community is gone. We all used to hate LA :)

9/22/2006 12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bring on the bulldozers!

9/22/2006 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of don't want our kids in public schools filled with gang bangers, and where education isn't on the agenda!

9/22/2006 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that this has been forced down your throats, I guess you don't want to talk about it anymore.

The question is: which is the next neighborhood to be destroyed?

9/24/2006 9:30 AM  

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