When Allstate Insurance Company first announced its plans earlier this year to locate a regional office in the Goleta Valley most people paid little attention. As plans for the entry of this “smokeless” industry into the valley near completion, important issues of future land use and development are becoming salient.
Allstate proposes to complete its $5 million headquarters in about three years if plans are approved, but the site upon which the complex will be located is drawing criticism.
The 25 acre parcel of property is opposite the Timbers Restaurant at the intersection of Highway 101 and Winchester Canyon Road. A contract for purchase of the property has been negotiated by Allstate but before construction can begin a General Plan amendment and a rezoning ordinance must be approved by the county. The land currently is zoned for single family residences (8R10). Allstate seeks a change to professional and institutional (PI) zoning.
Opponents of the rezoning proposal argue that Allstate should have chosen the site for their office within the existing zones designated for their needs. Locating on property zoned for commercial use would have forced Allstate to build their office in Goleta or Santa Barbara.
“Furthermore, the rezoning request, if granted, has the potential of creating a precedent that might lead to a ‘leap-frog’ growth in the Valley,” asserted Ross Pumfrey, I.V. Service Center director. Pumfrey spoke against the project at a recent County Planning Commission hearing.
“Leap-frog growth pattern” refers to urban sprawl type of growth. The San Fernando Valley is a prime example of such development.
Allstate last week hurdled its second obstacle to final approval when the County Planning Commission approved a General Plan amendment which included the zoning designation Allstate has requested.
The next step for the company will be procuring passage of the rezoning proposal by the planning commission. The rezoning request will be on the commission agenda next Wednesday.
Allstate urged the county to adopt PI zoning or their site since it will give the county development rights to the remaining 2/3 of the parcel the company plans to keep as open space. “Allstate wants no more commercial use in the area,” maintained Arthur Henzell, attorney for the firm.
This site was selected by Allstate, Henzell explained, “because the Goleta Valley is where the labor market is and because of its proximity to motels.” He noted that the company would have many out-of-county people coming to the office on business.
“The company didn’t want to be located in an industrial area or commercial district because it wanted a park-like atmosphere for its building,” Henzell continued.
Other reasons for preferring the present site include the highway frontage it will give Allstate which “is desirable considering the type of business Allstate is in,” Henzell remarked. Opponents content that Allstate was able to purchase the property for much less money because it was originally zoned residential rather than commercial. For this and other reasons, the requested zoning change has become a contended issue.
To further bolster their position, Allstate, at a Public Forum on the proposal last February, cited comparative studies on traffic and required services and if the 25 acres are developed for residential purposes instead of for Allstate.
Britt Johnson, county planning director, said at the forum that if the parcel were fully developed with multi-bedroom apartments, he estimated 48,000 more gallons of water a day would be required; 72,000 gallons of water more for sewage purposes; and there would be an additional 1,400 to 2,000 trips a day in and out of the area.
Opponents at the forum did not question the studies but queried the need for development at all. The overriding issue, they feel, is the effects the project will have on future development in the west end of the valley.
“We are opposed to any haphazard development in the county which might be injurious in the future,” commented Fred Eissler, area resident and member of the Sierra Club.
It appears unlikely that accelerated growth in the valley could be stopped if the Allstate proposal is approved.
“The placing of an industry that far from other commercial industries creates its own demand for more development in the area,” charged Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner Robert C. Lilley.
“Allstate, like other similar industries are running away from the cities,” claimed Pumfrey. “I’m disappointed that they haven’t shown more social responsibility.”
Proponents of the Allstate proposal have not dealt with the development question as a major issue but emphasized the possibility of a boon to area employment if Allstate is located in the Valley.
Of the 500 employees planned for the regional office, estimates are that 65 to 75 per cent of the new jobs will be filled by local persons. “When completed, Allstate will be one of the largest employers on the south coast,” Henzell said.
Michael Morisoli, 3rd district supervisorial candidate and recently resigned Goleta Chamber of Commerce president, stated at the public forum that Allstate was needed “to help take up the slack caused by the downturn in local research and development jobs.”
The local Human Resources Development Office echoed that sentiment in a recent letter to the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Opponents, however, maintain that the majority of new jobs will be in the general category of clerk-typist, usually regarded as a second source of income for a family.
Approval of Allstate’s rezoning proposal appears likely to most involved since the majority of those who addressed the commission at the General Plan hearing supported the project while only three citizens opposed it — to the surprise of some commission members.
“Usually at a hearing of this nature the room is packed with environmentalists,” quipped Lilley. “Of all the environmentalists in the area, damn few appeared.” Lilley explained that because of the type of development proposed, he expected to see staunch opposition by local environmental groups.
One of the three speakers present at the hearing speaking against the project also was disappointed by the poor turnout. “I viewed the issue as similar in importance to the El Capitan measure last year,” declared Leslie Baird representing the I.V. association at the hearing.
The El Capitan proposal concerned extensive residential development for the El Capitan ranch north of the Goleta area. The proposal, by real estate developer Jules Berman, won approval by the Board of Supervisors before it was defeated in a referendum last year.
Similarly, according to Mark McGinnes, local environmental attorney, the only way to defeat the proposal, if it is approved by the Board of Supervisors would be a voter referendum since the proposal requires a rezoning ordinance.
EDITORIAL: Against Haphazard Growth
Will Goleta be in Good Hands with Allstate? The lack of significant opposition to Allstate’s request to locate a plan here seems to indicate most Goletans agree we would.
In the past environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Coastal Alliance have shown a fervent desire to prevent Santa Barbara from growing in a haphazard fashion, but these groups have remained conspicuously silent on this issue.
Allstate’s proposal is similar to proposals brought before the county by El Capitan developers and the Cessna Corporation. But, where these two projects invoked substantial opposition, none has materialized against the Allstate plan.
The El Capitan development was opposed on grounds that it violated the General Plan and would cause an influx of people who would overtax already overburdened county services. The Cessna plan was rejected partly out of fear of a substantial increase in noise pollution.
While both of these projects promised to bolster local employment, a staunch opposition convinced local voters and county officials that the ultimate costs to the county’s quality of life would eventually outweigh the potential economic benefits.
Now Allstate promises to boost local employment by creating 400 jobs, emphasizing that the goods and services these employees will need will greatly benefit local businesses. Since Allstate, unlike land-developing El Capitan and noisy Cessna, is a “smokeless” white-collar industry, the plan has generated little environmental concern.
Without the immediate threat of readily apparent pollution, such as sooty air, churned up land, or deafening noise, the potential costs of this plan to Goleta Valley have been ignored.
By approving the Allstate proposal the county is opening up the valley for more development by allowing for “exceptions” to the goal of limited growth. The county is saying, in effect, growth can be allowed when it is economically beneficial and environmental consequences are not clearly obvious.
But the question remains whether the valley can withstand the strains of haphazard growth. The NEXUS believes it cannot.