Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Monday, August 06, 2007

Community Post: Traffic Tolls?

An anonymous sent this to me for a post and I did not write's maybe a little Minority Report for me but I am willing to consider. Weigh in below.

--------Community Post Starts Here--------------

The 101 Traffic issue has dogged our community for years now. Many solutions have been proposed, including the two most popular ideas: freeway widening and commuter rail. While I'm not advocating one suggestion over the other, there might be a way to both reduce traffic and fund any project proposal. This is an idea that I suggested in a 'Letter to the Editor' in the SBNP several years ago, and the idea did not get much feedback then, though perhaps it might now. It was inspired by the toll-by-camera policy in place in downtown London (England).

Many commuters to the South Coast who drive to work are an economic drain on our local economy. They work here, drive on our roads, use our infrastructure, and earn money that is spent in other communities. Their earnings fuel the urban sprawl in the North County and in Ventura County, and help to drive those economies and boost tax revenue when the dollars are spent there. Think of it as a small-scale trade deficit-- businesses here pay out money that is spent elsewhere, much the same as when US consumers buy foreign-made goods. The South Coast loses out on tax revenue in various forms, expends more to maintain roads and infrastructure, and local businesses lose out on money that would otherwise be spent here.

I think it is time for us to take some control of OUR economy.

A simple toll should be placed on commuters to the South Coast who spend more than 3 hours in any given day within the metro area from the County line in the South, and North to El Capitan. Cameras could be set up to track license plates, and software used to determine entry and exit times. A toll of a minimum $5 per day per vehicle would encourage more folks to use car-pooling, commuter buses, etc. The revenue generated would help to pay for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance in Carpenteria, Montecito, Santa Barbara, Goleta, and areas in between. The revenue could also go toward funding freeway expansion, commuter railways, expansion of MTD services, etc. $10-20 million a year, based on at least 10,000 cars traveling into the area per day, in gross revenue from the toll could pay for many basic items in our community, even to lessen the tax burden on residents and businesses here.

I think this to be an appropriate 'user fee' that would allow for payment of these projects by those who are in most need of traffic congestion relief-- the daily commuters. Why, after all, should those of us who would benefit least from traffic mitigation have to pay for such projects? And why shouldn't we collect on the use of our own infrastructure, and the losses to our own economy?

What say you, Santa Barbara?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I support this. Thank you for bringint it up. It worked in London.

Blue lines in front of the toll booths is a far better way to spend city money and get awareness about global warning directly to those who refuse to use public transportation for their commutes and are the real guilty parties clogging up our freeways.

We certainly don't need to reward them by giving them cheap housing here too.

We have too many totally unworkable solutions floudering on the table for too many years because there has been no fresh approach to defining the problems differently.

We are just beating a dead horse saying housing, housing, housing is the solution for everything from Ventura commute times to global warning.

Nope, creating incentives to get out of cars and into public transportation is far more workable and far more winnable.

Hope you get more support for this idea -- its time has come. Who will be your fellow spear carriers? Where is the targeted point where this idea can come to life or which committee will kill it or distort it beyond all recognition.

Just having an idea is only a start - getting it manifest is the real challenge. How can we help?

8/06/2007 11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bad idea.

I like the idea that you need to live here to work here. That would mean that a lot of City and County employees would have to go, but it would also mean that their replacements had a vested interest in the community.

8/07/2007 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds so easy doesn't it. Sure, get rid of those commuters and all your traffic woes will just go away. Hello, the workers would go away too. Who would fight your fires, sweep the streets, clean the hospitals, teach your kids, protect your families and property, and check out your groceries. Try stepping out of your ivory towers and spend some time talking with the commuters who work hard for you. The old adage of "walk a mile in my shoes" would wake up a whole lot of the elitists that spurn the middle class that works hard to keep SB a beautiful city.

8/07/2007 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

This idea, called congestion pricing, has been implemented in London and Stockholm to great success. The way it works is that the closer a commuter vehicle gets to the most congested areas the higher the toll is. I believe that the revenue goes to subsidizing public tansportation. Seattle has done something similar with graduated parking fees. This can be done without punishing the commuters by simply subsidizing their use of public transportation. So, we would still get the benefit of the hard work and contribution of the commuters but without the commuter traffic. That is the theory anyway. What it does not consider is the combination of religious zeal and emotional dependence that characterize the American relationship with the automobile. Our cars have become a combination of mobile altar of human sacrifice and a comfortable, reliable, and dedicated spouse. Severing that relationship may turn out to be more difficult to do here than it has been in Europe.

8/07/2007 7:56 AM  
Anonymous nomdecrayola said...

A $5 a day toll? That is some crazy *&%$ ! It would be easier to build housing for those commuters!

8/07/2007 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who said "get rid of commuters"? I said they should ride busses or we put in rail. We need mass transit and not mass housing.

And we need those masses to get out of their single passenger cars and free city parking space 90 minute shuffle mentality.

That we can do now. And that option is not yet on the table. There is NO incentive to make a difference NOW.

All we have is hand-wringing by all sides which in fact is a way of doing nothing at all. And extended unworkable solutions that will never happen, that again lead only to paralysis by analysis and doing nothing too.

No one has the guts to actually do something specific and workable. No one wants change really, or changing just complaining about it or demanding something totally destructive like cheap housing for all the whiners.

Where do all the fire fighters come from? Where are all the ZACA firefighters coming from right now? From out of town -- which is always the case.

And since there has not been ONE single housing project dedicated soley to your "first responders", nor have any first responders even showed interest in the public housing already available, it is time to kill that developer driven argument.

It appears all you want is a cheap labor market for your own conveniences, and NOT mass housing which you will always put in someone elses (unidentified location still) back yard.

And then the very predictible cherry on the top of all these specious arguments is to play the "elite" card, when in fact you yourself are the one who looks down at all the "little people" you want around you in cheap and unending supply, while you make your money building and selling McMansions.

Practical solution: incentivize getting out of single passenger vehicles.

Impractical solution: do nothing except whine for cheap housing for everyone and blame being elitist if you don't provide it somewhere besides your own yard or your own backyard.

8/07/2007 8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am all for user taxes/tolls of the road for all users not just commuters. I am also for increase DMV car registration fees. Not very popular of me I know.

Anon 7:04 if commuters did not come to SB to be street sweepers, grocery clerks etc. than businesses would have to up the pay for people who live in this area to cover their higher costs of living. There was an interesting film at the 2007 SB film fest (sorry can't remember the name) dealing with subsidized housing in SB and commuters. The fire fighter who lives in Ventura and works in SB does so to own a larger home in Ventura than his $ could get him in SB. Is his quality of life better spending several hours commuting to work? I don't know, but it sure is not better for the planet.

8/07/2007 8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me. Have the workers who are paid enough to live here make their lives even (1) more complicated by requiring they use public transport and more hours in their already short days, or (2) pay even more of their take-home funds to drive here to work.

Why shouldn't workers--administrative personnel, police officers, city and county workers, etc.--have to give up more of their pay and day? After all, they don't live here.

Yes!!! Bring it on!!!

< /sarcasm >

8/07/2007 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Turn a Noun into a Verb said...

A downtown Congestion Tax is one of a hudred options for traffic management and INCENTIVIZING people to get out of their cars and transporting themselves other ways.

Will Blogabarbara have a 400 word contributed commentary like this for each of the 99 other traffic management methods that are in the public debate?

8/07/2007 11:17 AM  
Anonymous city watcher said...

I think it is an excellent idea. Tolls - so long as all went to public transit and highway repairs, and give exemptions to police and fire personnel, would provide the funding needed.

Since 101 is the only coastal throughway north, partial refunds could be given to those who are just driving through. That would be a variant on the usual eastern US pattern. Toll roads are everywhere in New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, elsewhere, with toll stations spotted along the turnpikes, so that you pay for the distance you travel.

It's a given in other parts of the country and there are no objections. I've long wondered why there are so few toll roads here; perhaps it's the power of the word, "freeway"!

We can not build enough houses for all who want to be here — and, valuing the land and Santa Barbara ambiance, shouldn't try.

8/07/2007 11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tolls aren't necessary. Just widen the lanes in Montecito to three lanes (from two) and that would solve a lot. Do that first, and I'll bet you that a good portion of the congestion will be alleviated.

By the way, traffic has increased in Ventura on either side. Often times traffic is backed up all the way to Thousand Oaks. Santa Barbara is not necessarily the problem. I think the unabated growth in Ventura is.

8/07/2007 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order to get people out of their cars and into public transporation it will have to be cheaper and just as efficient. I don't think a toll road is a stand alone solution. When I lived in SLO County I was a daily bus commuter. It was cheaper to ride the bus and since it was an express, it didn't add to my commute time. When I moved to SB I looked into the bus service from downtown to Goleta. The cost wasn't so much of a hinderance as the time. My 10 mile commute was going to take one hour each way which was unacceptable.

If our government leaders or public citizens cand find a way to make public transportation appealing and affordable it can work.

8/07/2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger jqb said...

I suggest instead getting rid of Prop 13 and raising property taxes to a fair level. Rather than taxing those who can't afford to live here, we should tax those who have received a windfall due to the inflated housing market.

8/07/2007 12:36 PM  
Anonymous invisible hand said...

well, ucsb has succeeded in getting development for its faculty housing in its north campus.

all sorts of BS is told about affordable housing projects... in practice, ucsb uses land it purchased long ago at low prices and gets fully paid back for everything it puts in. so not subsidized, but cheaper than market rates. new market rate housing makes multi-millionaires out of developers and real estate folks, who surreptitiously lobby against affordable housing projects (unless they get the development contract).

the 101 is paid for with state-wide and federal dollars. how do you justify charging toll to people who already subsidize santa barbara's infrastructure?

santa barbara is hardly a hub of transport and commerce like london, paris, etc. for us to charge toll just reinforces that we are xenophobic community of rich people, who drive our suvs to pro-environment meetings and blather on about the environment while swilling bottled water on our 0.5 mpg yachts in the adriatic.

8/07/2007 1:15 PM  
Blogger Voice of Rezon(e) said...

Most of these comments sound like we're trying to eliminate some horrid infestation of vermin or insects or something.

These awful "commuters" are PEOPLE we are talking about. They commute to their jobs, and commute back home to their families and lives in THEIR communities, where they likely do have a vested interest.

The problem with this entire rant (and most of the follow-up comments) is that they miss two major points:

1. It is not "OUR" freeway. It is a US Route designed to facilitate - gasp - inter-regional and interstate commerce (there it is - the baddy word - I said it). Keep in mind that our local funds (such as Measure D) are only used to fund a small portion of the highway improvements. Most of the money comes from federal and state sources.

2. We need to stop sniping at the commuters and start true regional planning for both short and long term for our region. We need to build smart development and house more of our local workers locally, while actually using land better than it has been used int he past. We can actually accomodate more people with more open space and less traffic congestion. If we're truly leaders on environmental protection we need to lead and stop pandering to the outmoded "no growth at any cost" mentality.

8/07/2007 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it elitist to mispell Carpinteria? Just kidding :)

How about we provide free public transportation for those who work here but can't afford to live here?

We need them more than they need us ...

8/07/2007 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who would fight your fires, sweep the streets, clean the hospitals, teach your kids, protect your families and property, and check out your groceries?


8/07/2007 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok,lets look at mass transit on a large scale. Who is going to pay for it? Either you have to get Amtrak to buy into this or spend millions putting in commuter rails from North of SB to Ventura. Gaviota would make a great spot to put in a rail depot and parking structures and lots for commuters as but the state coastal commission would never allow it.
Buellton would be another spot but good luck convincing the Buellton City Council. Then you would have to have a mass transit system in town to move workers from the train depots to their jobs. That would mean adding lots of buses and drivers or asking companies to provide commuter vans. Santa Barbara/Montecito/Carpinteria/Goleta is not a large enough to justify the monies it would take to put this sort of infrastucture into place and maintain it. I don't see the state or feds handing over millions of dollars for this when they can't even take care of the infrastructure that is in place now, ie the bridge in MN that collapsed last week.

8/07/2007 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the problem i have with this idea is not so much the suggestions as the assumption that THOSE people are taking OUR money away & hurting OUR economy without realizing that THEY were once US!

most of the people i know who commute to sb, once lived in sb but the housing prices became impossible so they had to move away while hanging onto their jobs

making mass transit the most positive alternative is the best direction- i grew up in an area where everyone communted via train into the city to work- it was easier & more affordable & more pleasant

8/07/2007 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a downside to those who work here not living here. I found this out years ago when dealing on a business matter with a SB policeman who did not hide his disdain for this town & its people. He said he lived in Ventura. He was on duty when he made this comment that had no logical connection to our conversation. I was shocked at his bitterness & very uncomfortable around him.

8/07/2007 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Shango Barbarino said...

So after paying tax on gasoline, reg fees,and a higher measure D sales tax (all revenue earmarked for roads)do you really think that it is fair to charge five bones a day to use 101? No. The major freeway is called US 101 for a reason. It is an interstate highway. There is no legal way to turn it into a toll road. You would have a better chance creating a hot air toll of $.50 per goofy idea proposed on Blogabarbara.

8/07/2007 5:56 PM  
Anonymous eight santa barbara said...

As the writer of the post I can respond to it thusly...

The commuters who travel here use our city roads. City roads do not benefit from highway dollars in the same way freeways do. Much of the formula used rely on miles of road, not the use of the road. So city centers, not suburban freeways, are left underfunded. Cities must fund the majority of the infrastructure even though modern urban and suburban development has made commuting a norm.

The point is not to tax the road, but to add a toll to those who stay in the area. Semi-trucks, travelers, others who would just be driving through the area should not be taxed. If it helps, place the cameras at the freeway off-ramps. But the point is to raise funds from those who use our infrastructure and pay nothing to maintain it.

While it is true that many people who work here once lived here, this in no way means we should extend our civic support to them. Businesses here pay taxes just to exist, not to mention fees for water and electrical use, and other municipal and county fees. Residents here pay for services and infrastructure as well. Sometimes these fees are high because the number of people who use the services and infrastructure is higher than the number of people who pay into the system to build and maintain the system. In Econ 101, they call them 'Free Riders'.

What many people who are dismissing this idea must remember, as well, is that this is intended to be a source of funding for both infrastructure and for alternative transportation. The millions generated could pay for rail, bus service, expanded freeways, and other ideas on the table. The only thing different here is that it makes those who enjoy what we pay for share in the costs.

For those who say that this only adds to the expense of commuting, you must know that a $5 toll, gas, wear-and-tear on a car is by far more than the cost of using the commuter buses from the North and South to the area. It is simple math to come to the conclusion that riding a bus would be cheaper than driving.

Continuing to build more housing is fine, but you have to remember that people don't want to live here and do so in the type of housing our community can provide. The sense of entitlement developed by many in this country over the last 50 years leads anyone and everyone to expect that they live in a single-family, detached unit, on a fraction of an acre, for the rest of their lives. Were people to accept the idea of owning an apartment, this might be a good idea. But there is no way Santa Barbara can build enough houses to equal what people want. This is why they move. They want a house, not an apartment nor a condo.

Only by creating an economic incentive to change behavior can the behavior be changed. And if we can raise money to fix our sewer system and surface streets, bury power lines and repair sidewalks, sweep the streets and plant new landscaping, add a lane to the 101, expand MTD Service, and help pay for commuter rail.... why in the world wouldn't you go for something as this?

I am not an elitist. I live here, and have chosen to sacrifice square footage and a car payment in order to enjoy the quality of life found only in this community. I, as many like me, others who enjoy a more lavish lifestyle, and others who struggle to make it here, dont want to pay for something when others get more use out of it. Infrastructure is a public good, and we should all pay for it because we all use it, not just those who live here.

A simple explanation of part of this problem:

8/07/2007 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody remember the weekend and holiday congestion when the traffic lights were on the 101 downtown? There is more traffic than ever. Could you imagine the traffic jams everyday due to the toll booths? Or worse yet, imagine the congestion on the side streets as people try to avoid the toll booths. In most cities toll roads are another option to government built public highways and side streets. Even if it were legal to put a toll booth on the 101 in SB, could you imagine the lawsuits against it?

8/07/2007 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jqb, anyone living in their home for years & at a lower tax rate has not received any real windfall, unless of course they sell their home & move out of the area, which, if prop 13 were to go away, most longtime homeowners would be forced to do

so, how does that solve the commutter problem? you'd just make more of a divide between those of modest means (who'd have to sell) & those who can afford the new property price plus taxes

8/07/2007 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the author, I moved out of SB because the quality of life you say can only be found in there had had deteriorated beyond all recognition. I've found a much improved quality of life elsewhere but I suppose it all depends on what you had before.

BTW, people who work in SB spend lots of money in SB since that is where they spend the majority of their time.

8/07/2007 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really dont like the idea and for those who would talk about congestion, why should we have a toll and not say Ventura or LA. The reason why is most public transportation is a unattractive and inconvenient option and the fact is the state is growing. The options that work are where biking or walking actually are a option (ie reasonable distance and motivation)

Santa Barbara cant be walled off or taxed off if it could we would have done it twenty years ago and kept about half of this board living where they were.

This whole idea is absurd outside of some idealist wonderland which will never exist, it would be nice to have peace on earth also but that is about as likely.

8/07/2007 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Invisible Hand said...

eight santa barbara...

seems to me that visitors here pay a lot of sales tax, of which the Measure D portion actually does pay for roads, a lot of roads, as a matter of fact. And Cities get a nice slice of fuel revenue, actually, a better slice than Counties do... commuters pay plenty of gas tax.

Then there's bed tax, car rental fees, and surcharges for air travelers.

I don't think visitors here are nearly the free riders you portay them as.

Environmentally it is far, far better to have people live near where they work. I'm all for dense housing and greenbelts.

8/07/2007 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can be all for "dense housing and greenbelts" until the cows come home. But you will never find the space left in Santa Barbara to accomplish both, unless you call the RR tracks greenbelts because that is all the densest housing in this town has to call open space.

Come up with another solution, that works this time. Like putting all the commuters on busses and getting them to work faster so they don't have to spend so much time commuting with all their single occupancy cars clogging our freeways.

Tell them to get jobs in Ventura if they don't like commuting and want to work and live in the same town. But they seem to like their long commutes and like living in Ventura. Stop trying to run their lives and give away land in Santa Barbara that no longer exists.

Try walking around this town and tell us exactly what streets and what blocks are still available for "dense housing and greenbelts". Or, forever hold your peace.

8/07/2007 11:38 PM  
Anonymous eight santa barbara said...

Just some items from '101 in Motion' final report...

-around 24,000 vehicle trips into the Carp to Goleta area each weekday from Lompoc/Santa Maria and Ventura County

-more than 70% of these are 'Drive Alone' vehicles

-Funding is dependent on Measure D renewal, as well as State Funding and Federal Earmarks (the 'pork' in Congress now under scrutiny)

Thing about measure D is that it doesn't say much for our M-F traffic caused by people from Ventura County. I suppose they do pay taxes which would go to fund the State and Federal grants that would help pay for the '101 in Motion' projects. However, with Measure D paying for the bulk of the proposals, it appears we on the South Coast would pay more than our share for improving the commute for people who would pay only a negligible amount of the Measure D sales tax revenue.

Again, this is an incentive to get people into alternatives very soon. And over the long term to get commuters to pay for these improvements and the infrastructure they use daily. It is an attempt to get those who use public goods to also pay for those public goods.

If the 24,000 vehicles figure is accurate, it seems my initial calculation may be off. Adjusting for the numbers found by '101 in Motion', a figure of $5 per commuting vehicle per day, over 5 days per week, and, let's say, 50 weeks per year, gives us $20 million in annual revenue. A few million a year will go a long way toward improving local infrastructure, but that amount per year could fund many of the '101 in Motion' proposals over the 30-year target frame without Measure D.

This is a toll using cameras recording license plates, as is done on many places. It is intended to target commuters by keeping an account of the time spent by a particular car in the area, not on passers-through. The idea is to find a source of funding for the Free Riders who use our services and infrastructure without paying for them, who take wages from our economy and spend them in other cities (and counties for those to the South), who want us to pay for ways to reduce their commute time.

There are many good responses here, much more than before the 'age of the blogs' in our area. Both sides are making good arguments, for the most part, and this is helpful.

If any people are interested in pushing this as an alternative to those currently proposed, I will try to develop a way for you to contact me, with Sara's permission of course.

Thanks, Santa Barbara!

8/08/2007 1:26 AM  
Anonymous lower westie said...

I guess I smoke too much pot. I've been reading this post since yesterday and now I see the title is, "Traffic Tolls". I thought is was about traffic trolls.

Sigh . . .

8/08/2007 6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 6:09: No wonder politicians approved smoking dope - creates the perfect electorate for them.

8/08/2007 7:27 AM  
Anonymous invisible hand said...

a truly visionary plan... charge $100,000/year property tax on single-family homes, but give a $10,000/year credit for housing in >20 units/acre, if the resident family has a local job. prop 13 has proven that use of property tax for social engineering is constitutional.

hey, if you can't afford $100,000/year, what are you doing living here? i've heard that argument a million times in housing meetings from no-growthers.

let them put their money where their mouth is.

use the revenue to purchase the single family dwelling from those who can't afford the tax. convert that land into greenbelts and dense, green housing, with far less environmental impact than the wasteful single family dwellings.

put the workers near the jobs so need for asking commuters to pay a second time for roads they have already paid for once with fuel tax, federal tax, and measure d sales tax.

the real tax scofflaws are in single family dwellings, which they bought in 1966 for $20,000, are assessed at $80,000, and have a market value of $2,000,000; on the same street around here one family pays $800/year in property taxes (they've inherited a prop 13 assessment) and their neighbors in an identical house pay $20,000/year. the $800/year folks are subsidized by everybody else, let's get them to pay their share.

retirees? give them tax-advantaged places in the new dense green housing. destruction of neighborhoods? hey, the commute culture does that already.

8/08/2007 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do all these wonderful ideas penalize those who can least afford it. People commute to SB because they have to, not because they want to. I don't know many people who enjoy sitting in a vehicle 2 hours a day so they can go to work. First gas prices go through the roof, now you are asking these people to pay $100 a month to drive to work in SB, plus pay for parking? Frankly, with that attitude, I would say get your own self to the hospital when you have a heart attack, home school your kids, fight your own fires, and patrol your own streets. Thanks for nothin'!

8/08/2007 9:36 AM  
Blogger jqb said...

"But the point is to raise funds from those who use our infrastructure and pay nothing to maintain it."

Those who enter SB generally pay sales taxes and parking fees.

Fortunately, there isn't a chance in hell that this foolish extraordinarily xenophobic proposal will go anywhere. And I don't think it foolish because I would have to pay -- I live in SB and ride a bike.

8/08/2007 1:03 PM  
Blogger jqb said...

"jqb, anyone living in their home for years & at a lower tax rate has not received any real windfall"

Of course they have -- the value of their home has risen steeply.

"unless of course they sell their home & move out of the area"

Or sell it and not move out of the area. You might as well say that anyone who finds a $1000 in the street hasn't received a windfall if they don't spend it.

"which, if prop 13 were to go away, most longtime homeowners would be forced to do"

That doesn't follow. As I said, people should pay a *fair* tax rate. A disproportionate benefit has gone to corporations and mansions, which is where most of the tax money should come from. Despite the mythologies that the rich pay to have propagated as part of their class warfare, the more wealthy one is the more benefit one gets from government and its services.

8/08/2007 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, anon 8/07/2007 8:41 AM, the film you referenced was "The Price of Paradise."

8/08/2007 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we have our heart attack, we will drive to Ventura. This will be quicker than trying to get through the freeway which you people have clogged up with your single person cars.

No one gets anywhere anyway right now so we would rot anyway with our heart attacks the way it is, so driving to Ventura the few times we might need (or duh, getting a med evac helicopter) is a far better and cheaper option than giving you all free houses here.

Why do you keep repeating the argument all we want you claim you bring into our city. We don't. And we certainly do not want to move over to provide you housing for what we don't need.

You have to provide a far better argument if you don't like your choice to commute and demand to live where you cannot afford it.

Live within your means, and we will have to do the same. You will get more and we will get less. And that is a price we are willing to pay. Fair enough.

8/08/2007 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Invisible hand, I asked you to identify specific streets and blocks where you can carry out your vision. You did not do this. Please tell me which specific blocks in this town are available to carry out your vision.

Do you suggest eminent domain siezure of private property? Do you want to use the airport land? The county dump land?

Please, identify the exact location so we can all buy into your thinking.

8/08/2007 7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The original post was about charging a commuter tax to relieve congestion. Why show you really don't want to solve specific problems by bringing up Prop 13 as your rebuttal. Shows you really don't care about doing anything.

Which is why the city council should stop "listening" to people and trying to find some magnanimous consensus and instead show some professional leadership skills and solve these problems the right way once and for all.

They were elected to be wise; not nice. They are being paid by us to work on these issues and tell us what to do; not the other way around. Then we can decide if we agree or not.

But these public input farces that get as out of control and as unproductive as this narrow exchange of ideas on a specific issue shows how abysmal the populace is when it come to getting their "input".

8/08/2007 7:22 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

Sorry 8SB, I do appreciate the sentiment but I think your idea is whacked.

Firstly, video surveillance by the gov't is a too big a step toward a "Big Brother" police state...especially when it's tax inducing. It is none of your business where and when I travel on the roads I've already paid for.

Secondly, I'll give up my personal ride when you pry it from my cold dead hands. You ride the bus.

Thirdly, Better we should close the border and limit children to one or two per couple just like the new BFFs of Corporate Amerika...the Chinese.

Fourthly, What makes you think we need more infrastructure? Infrastructure is just gov't growth. I don't think $20 mill per year would buy you squat. Mostly just fund another layer of high paid county employees with 80% retirement benefit for life.

Fifthly, Why always the boo hoo for police and fire? They make more money than you and most of them own homes here, just like the teachers.

Sixthly, There's tons of money in the state and county budgets. Make the politicians cut their special interest, ineffecient pork and widen 101, that's all I want, no stop and go, it's a huge waste of time and energy for all involved.

8/08/2007 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

most everyone i know that has sold their home has moved away & invested their windfall elsewhere

i suppose you could do the prop 60 thing if you're old enough & bought a place that was cheaper than what you sold your home for

8/08/2007 8:30 PM  
Anonymous sa1 said...

Oh, and jqb? Don't get me started on prop 13 you'd be a formidable debate but just answer me this...

Why should I pay more taxes based on what someone else is willing to pay for someone else's house? The state and county assesd me on the cost of services when I first bought the place. Nothing has been improved or added to. In fact, the county has merely added bodies and condo's with almost no projects for the common good. We can't even get the roads maintained without special added tax measures for Pete's sake. Lets take care of the basics first before we pork up the rest of the budget.

8/08/2007 9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lesson is still there for everyone complaining about those making a killing on their Santa Barbara real estate: (1) You got to start somewhere in the housing game, even if it is the smallest condo in Santa Barbara. And (2) wait 30 years like we all did.

Very simple instructions to follow. Stop complaining and get started, while interest rates are still low.

Watch your property taxes drop proportionately as your income rises over the next 30 years.

Watch your house payments drop proportionately as your income rises over the next 30 year.

Enjoy your substantial income tax deduction for your interest payments.

Oh, I see, you don't want to start at the bottom and wait 30 years? So sorry. Then, go back to complaining about all those of us who did. That will be a really productive alternative.

8/08/2007 10:08 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Those who believe that widening 101 is the panacea that will solve all our congestion and air pollution problems are simply telling themselves a convenient fairy tale. The cost of widening 101 far outstrips any benefit such widening would provide. It is pretty to think that we could build ourselves out of this mess, but that is not the solution either. Efficient and convenient public transportation is the only real answer. The only real question is, how do we pay for efficient and convenient public transportation? It is similar to the question: How do we pay for universal health care? There are a lot of ways to pay for public services, mostly those ways include taxes and fees. The congestion pricing scheme is one way. If we don't like it, we are free to pick another. Choosing to do nothing is another type of decision. It is the decision that a frightened animal makes when it freezes before the brightness of lights rushing toward it. Our it may be the decision that a rabbit makes when it runs a predictable route when attempting to escape from a coyote. Neither type of decision ends well.

8/08/2007 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We" shouldn;t have to do anything about the log jam on 101. Their is no "we" who can agree on what needs to be done. Therefore, doing nothing is the best option.

Only "they" can solve their own problem and until "they" don't like it enough to get out of their cars and create demand for rapid transit of some form, the best option is to do continue doing nothing.

Which "we" have been doing now for decades.

And wait for the Black Swan. It shall appear. We just cannot see it yet.

8/08/2007 10:59 PM  
Anonymous invisible hand said...

if one can't bring up the vast inequities of Prop. 13 (like the fact that extremely low tax assessments can be inherited, even by grandchildren!) in a blog, where, oh where, can one bring it up?

`Free Riders' was already brought up here, and many single-family home dwellers, who have tiny property assessments, are Free Riders par excellence. And if that is some kind of sacred cow why can't we discuss slaying it in a blog, for goodness sakes!

I'd slap a $100,000/year tax on all single-family home dwellers, because they also are incredible abusers of the environment (low density breeds car and water overuse). Then offer eminent domain buy-out at the assessed value of the property. Let's save tax money on the seizing of property by ignoring the silly price that some yahoo might offer for a property, and use the official recorded assessed value as the price by which eminent domain seizures pay.

Let the market under those conditions select the streets and roads that would empty out most quickly... much better than a centrally controlled designation of where to demolish.

I'd respect the wishes of the property owners on the ag land near Hollister and Turnpike... the owners of that land are tired of farming and want to sell out. Let >20 units/acre be built there, up to 4 stories, but condition ownership on having a local job or being a local retiree. Don't allow purchase by investors for renting.

The main point is to establish lots of dense, green housing complexes on the South Coast, which could toally solve our commute problem. Let's think big and go after the worst abusers of the environment, the single-family home dwellers!

8/08/2007 11:39 PM  
Anonymous eight santa barbara said...

New task-force to explore funding, etc for the $150 million in infrastructure needs for the City.

Forbes article on response to 'sudden' reports of vital infrastructure needs nationwide.,1,6113624.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

LA Times article on the same topics as above.

As I said in the post, this was an idea raised several years ago in the NP. It was not spurred on by the recent events, but the events certainly put the issue of infrastructure front and center.

8/08/2007 11:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous 10:08

10-15 years ago I would have agreed with you but now that is just outdated rhetoric that has no basis in fact regarding the current market.

I bought my first home in Goleta 23 years ago so I am one of those who made the plunge to get into the market and ate beans and rice for a while to make it. I didn't take vacations, eat out, go to movies or frequent Starbucks. For years I encouraged others to do the same, but not anymore. Now I encourage people to leave and go somewhere affordable so they can have a better quality of life. You just don't get it. The affordability gap is so wide that middle income families are shut out of the market, period. Look at the numbers, they don't lie.

8/09/2007 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the 'housing' game as we know it in SB is no more

buy a house if you can afford it & because it is important to you but don't do it to make a 'killing' in 30 years because this is unlikely

i doubt anyone who bought 30 years ago had any idea how much things would appreciate

i bought my first home (condo) 10 years ago & had no idea how much prices would go up

i had the opportunity & was very fortunate to get in before things went sky high but i did it because it was a lifelong dream of mine to own a home

8/09/2007 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In most places in America, people who aspire to the so-called American Dream, a modest house, a small patch of land, and a quiet place they can call home are considered simply average folk. In Santa Barbara, they are villainized as abusers of the environment. This place is starting to sound like the Twilight Zone.

8/09/2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

Anon 12:15 pm -- most of your comment was fine until you called someone a slimeball. resubmit and you will be published.

8/09/2007 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've heard arguments like this as long as I can remember.

My parents moved to the area in 1972 and were embarrassed they paid $35,000 for a "stucco nightmare"; the market was insane then too and they jumped in because they wanted to live here. Borrowed everything they could and ate rice and beans. Yours truly born that year. I was a graduate of Isla Vista elementary, GVJH, DPHS, & UCSB.

Jump to 2001 and my wife and I moved back to town after busting our asses getting advanced degrees (& loans), jobs, and experience. At 29 we bought a stucco nightmare ourselves on the upper westside. Mommy and Daddy didn't help us then either, we just worked hard, saved every penny, and did the right thing for years.

We're usually pretty quiet but look around town and you'll see a lot of us in the same boat.

Anyone who really wants to own a home here does. Everyone else moves to Ventura or Buelton for a new 4,000 square foot tract home and a two hour commute. They choose to live there becuase of the home they can buy, instead of the condo they could afford here.
Everyone else moves away to pursue their lives, except those who refuse to accept that no one is forcing them to rent here.

Regarding the 101, let's get the Feds & State to build a third lane on the 101 and then determine what we want SB to look like regardless of who drives here every morning.

8/09/2007 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many people have sold their home in SB & moved to SYV or Ojai, not to have a bigger home but because they want something they once had in SB before it became so populated.

8/10/2007 12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 10:45

Once again, skewed logic. I applaud you and your wife's efforts and accomplishments but you are both part of a minority. The average HOUSEHOLD income in SB is around $70,000 a year. That doesn't cut it in a market where a starter 2 bedroom condo is around $500,000+. What disturbs me more is your smug disdain for people who work hard but don't have the aptitude or interest in higher education. Not everybody can or should be an educated professional. Workers of all skill levels and educational levels are vital to the economy of any city. The office workers, street crews, clerks, gardners etc. are as important, and deserve decent housing and the opportunity to create a secure future just as much as you do. Difference is, they don't make the big salaries to qualify to own a home or even a condo in SB.

For those that can get afford it, commuting becomes a necessary step to home ownership. These people aren't buying 4000 square foot homes, they are buying condos and starter homes out of town, eating beans and rice, trying to build equity and security.

Again, look on any website that shows the demographics for Santa Barbara. The numbers don't lie and they graphically show the disparity between income and home ownership for the average household.

8/10/2007 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many "middle class" who want to live here rent out rooms for a while to help make payments. You are right, they find a way.

3 recent open houses in the Upper East had badly disguised "illegal" rental units (to be quickly converted back after the sale, I am sure and not declaring the income for tax purposes either, I would guess.)

The condo units build to be affordable on San Andres street are just sitting there with no buyers. And now with the marijuana shop going in down the street, you can bet they will be sitting there a lot longer. Seems no one really wants "affordable" housing as much as the critics claim.

I have long guessed those crying the loudest for "affordable housing" don't really want cheap housing -- they want a 3 bedroom detached home with a large yard in a good school district --- at our expense.

Then my favorite complainers are the ones who claim they don't want to just live and work for a house -- they want a house (see above) they can "afford", while they still have time to play and buy all their toys and keep up their monthly BMW lease, mojito budgets and cell phone bills.

8/10/2007 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, my story is similar to that of 8/9 10:45. Graduated SMHS in 1991 and moved back in 2003 after doing my time and now own a place in Goleta. My in-laws have a better tale: he's a plumber and she's a teacher. They hop scotched from Goleta condo in 94, to home in SYV, and back to a Goleta home in 02. You've got to be serious about living here but you can afford that $500k condo on a $70k household income. The SB area has always been tough on first time home buyers but it's an old strategy that works: move out of the area, build equity, save everything you can, move back, and move up the ladder. No boat or vacations, but who needs that when we live in such a beautiful place?

8/10/2007 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting thread about how people got into the SB home market.

With the mortgage business in crisis, the the opportunities for being a first home buyer are evaporating. A friend in the biz says anyone who is thinking of buying should do so asap because soon they may no longer be eligible for a loan.

8/11/2007 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Affordable" means 850-100 square feet and loving it. Don't even complain that you know don't get a 4000 sq foot home. No ownder those whining for "affordable" homes get so little sympathy. There are already plenty of affordable homes in Santa Barbara. You just don't want them.

Thanks to all who told their stories about finding ways to afford Santa Barbara - and plumbers and nurses and sales clerk find the will and means to do it all the time. Following the same formula - "sacrifice and save" which is how the vast majority of those already here also had to do.

8/11/2007 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to reelect City Council to fix the housing crisis.

8/14/2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why re-elect the same people who got us in to this in the first place? Unless you think a fix is a free house, just for you and that is what you believe the old city council will do ...just for you. Think again.

The new city council will fix it with a big No Vacancy sign on every entrance to the city and that will take care of people thinking they should get cheap houses here at someone else's expense, just because they want to live here but cannot afford it and refuse to do anything about it.

8/14/2007 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only in Santa Barbara would someone call a 1-bedroom condo for $500,000 a cheap house.

I know a couple people who have bought here who go on and on about scrimping and saving. Every single one... that is every single one, all 6 of them... got big checks from their parents or relatives, like $300,000 to $600,000... that enabled them to buy. But they love to pretend they went through harrowing financial times to purchase a house here.

The numbers are quite clear... housing prices here quadrupled between 1996 and 2006... like a 15% annual growth rate. That is not a normal rate of growth... between 1965 and now the growth rate was more like 8% (one would have done better purchasing a mutual fund, BTW).

The good news is the bubble is bursting. Condos have actually fallen a lot in the past year. Jumbo loans are hard to get. Don't expect the local real estate industry to be forward with this info... their livelihoods depend on keeping the lie of an eternal bubble going (and of course Hope Ranch and Montecito are a different matter entirely).

I hope the bubble really bursts hard as credit becomes impossible to get and interest rates soar to 10-15%, due to all the nutty credit schemes that commodotize mortgage debt. With luck local prices will fall back down to $600,000 for a reasonable 2-bedroom home.

8/15/2007 7:06 AM  
Anonymous nomdecrayola said...

How many of you who bought 5 or 10 years ago could afford to buy your house today? I couldn't!

8/15/2007 9:31 AM  
Anonymous eight santa barbara said...

Speaking of the Local Real Estate Industry, some chatter form those in the business of loans:

-"A lot of us from this office and other offices talk to each other about what's going on, and everyone says they've never seen it this bad."

-"Because business isn't doing so well the owner of the office is putting up some of her homes for sale."

-"Apparently when the escrow closed and the loan was going to be paid, the loan office closed. The buyer, seller and the agents had no way to get the money because the lender no longer existed. And they were out of a deal, too."

-"I went home one night, went to the office in the morning, and the doors were locked and closed. The branch was gone, and a few days later some other company moved in."

By the way, anyone read the Pacific Coast Business Times article a few weeks ago? Apparently most offices in the area didn't want to respond or provide figures for year-over-year sales. The assumption was that actual news of a bad market would only make it worse.

CNN has numbers from

-Ventura area has 3,100 foreclosure filings, a 113% increase over last year

-This puts Ventura at 1 foreclosure for every 86 households

-Ventura is #27 on the list of cities nationwide with the highest foreclosure rates

Who wants to guess that some of these are people who work in Santa Barbara who couldn't afford to buy a home but bought anyway, folks who felt entitled to a house instead of living within their means?

Santa Barbara City has only 47 foreclosure filings according to

Affordable Housing is a good idea. However, the way the Council has been doing it is piecemeal, and lacks a truly creative approach. On the other side, you have folks who are unwilling to sacrifice luxury and square footage, some cases acreage, in order to live here. The policy creating supply of affordable housing and the demand from those who can't afford market rates are dysfunctional.

Beside that, this was a post on a toll to pay for infrastructure used by the free riders who live out of town and work here. Great discussion here but it gets away from the issue presented. Whether it's affordable housing or transit projects, again we have a class who is demanding others pay their way. This tolling system is a way for those who use the system and infrastructure to actually pony up some of the money to pay for it.

8/15/2007 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the poster from 8/9 10:45. I'm offended that you think only those who get checks from Mommy and Daddy are able to buy homes here. Although they would have loved to have helped if they could, I did it without them. I know dozens of families who have done it without help. We read a lot about the need for affordable housing but the Independent should do a profile of families that have made it happen all on their own.

8/15/2007 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well eight... I agree with a lot you say, but I disagree with some.

Just because a unit is affordable does not mean it is subsidized. Case in point: UCSB made purchasers pay the cost of its affordable units... the cost of the land UCSB purchased in the 1960's + all costs of development still ended up 30% before market rates.

The point is: market rates are inflated here, and selling someone housing `at cost' makes an affordable price. The only money not in the equation is the killing made by the developer... and our developers get a huge cut, making them into Taubes and Bermant etc. with estates and tasseled Italian shoes.

As for the roads, Santa Barbara County gets a net influx of state gas tax and other state transit moneys. We just don't have the population density of LA county, etc. So making visitors pay a second time doesn't make sense.

Now that does not mean we have enough money to keep our infrastructure good. But the origin of the shortfall has more to do with the great benefits our County pays, and less to do with outsiders not kicking in their share.

8/15/2007 11:01 PM  
Anonymous eight santa barbara said...

Thanks for the informative response 11:01pm!

And I laughed at the 'tasseled Italian shoes' comment.

The UCSB approach is different, of course, because the land has been owned by them for decades. The cost to the City of purchasing new land is high, and the City does not own much land that is un- or under-developed. The City likely would not be able to build property at the densities of some UCSB housing for grads, undergrads and faculty.

As for roads, this is only one portion of the total infrastructure located on the South Coast. There are other public goods used by the commuters:

-City-owned infrastructure like buildings and equipment to maintain services,

-Water and Waste water lines and facilities,

-Police and Fire buildings and equipment,

-Land maintained by the City for public use,

The many items classified under 'infrastructure' for the cities of Carpenteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta and the areas in between must be paid for somehow. And of course they are paid for. However, we should examine what is needed and what it costs to maintain the infrastructure for the entire South Coast. That the County receives a net gain of money also does not guarantee, necessarily, that the South Coast receives the same net gain, or one according to use and population served.

And of course, there is the whole bit about the new stuff to reduce traffic. A toll would, as the increased price of gas has done, push people to alternative modes. And the revenue generated by the toll could fund the projects that would expand the convenience and choices of transit for the commuters. I see it as both immediate and long term.

8/16/2007 12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8/9 10:45pm + 8/15 9:51pm

I never said *all* purchasers had outside help. It's just that all the folks I know who complain about scrimping and saving got help.

As John Robinson (pastor to the Mayflower pilgrims) said, it is usually the guilty who take offense.

I'm sure there are quite a few people who bought houses on their own. I'm equally sure that prices quadrupled between 1996 and 2006, and I'm sure that run-up in housing prices was unprecedented in Santa Barbara history.

And I'm sure that dealing with a quadrupling in housing costs is not something that is easy for the average worker who scrimps and saves to deal with. To pretend otherwise is akin to believing in a flat-earth. The only difference is maintaining the fiction that parsimonius people can purchase million dollar homes is self serving to those who seek inflated prices for their own homes.

What I really hope is that the bubble bursts and that housing prices go back to values consistent with the $35,000 paid in 1972 by your parents... compounded at 8% a year, the historical average since 1965, that home would be worth $520,000 today. The fact is the current price is about $1,200,000, and with luck, the bubble will burst and home prices will fall by a factor of 2.5 here.

8/16/2007 9:34 AM  

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