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    HomeNewsSanta Barbara County Releases Draft Housing Element Program Environmental Impact Report &...

    Santa Barbara County Releases Draft Housing Element Program Environmental Impact Report & Introduces Balancing Act Tool

    Giving the public an opportunity to provide comments and input

    The County is encouraging the public to participate in the analysis and identification of sites to rezone to meet the State’s Housing Element requirements by commenting on the draft Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and by using the County’s new Balancing Act tool.

    The County released the draft Program EIR on Wednesday, December 20, 2023. The draft Program EIR analyzes the potential impacts associated with the implementation of the Housing Element Update’s goals, policies, and programs including the potential rezone program.

    The public is encouraged to make comments on the Housing Element Program EIR. It can be found on the County’s website. The County will be holding two public comment hearings: one in North County on Wednesday, January 17, 2024, at the County of Santa Barbara Planning and Development conference room, 624 W Foster Rd. Santa Maria at 5:30 p.m., and one in South County on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, at the Planning Commission Hearing Room (first floor), 105 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara at 5:30 p.m. Both may be attended virtually as well; links will be posted on the County’s website https://www.countyofsb.org/3177/Housing-Element-Update. Comments may also be submitted to the project planner, Hannah Pullen at 123 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 568-3577, or by email at housingelement@countyofsb.org prior to the close of the public comment period. Because the draft Program EIR is being released during the holidays, the County is extending the required 45-day public comment period by a week. Comments on the draft Program EIR are due by February 9, 2024.

    After the public’s comments are received, the County will compile and respond to comments and make changes to the draft Program EIR as applicable. The County Planning Commission will hold hearings on the potential rezone sites in early 2024 and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, who will make final decisions on the rezones in the spring of 2024. In preparation for the rezone hearings, the Board of Supervisors will discuss the criteria to consider for rezones related to the Housing Element at the Board of Supervisors meeting on January 9, 2024. The criteria discussion can assist the Board in determining which parcels to rezone to serve the interests of the general community welfare and be consistent with good zoning practices. The criteria can also guide housing developers and property owners seeking rezones as they design proposed projects to be consistent therewith.

    The County has also released an innovative tool that enables the public to review and select sites for rezoning to meet the State’s requirements. The tool, Balancing Act, is a map-based application that allows the public to choose from the many sites that the Board will consider at hearings in 2024; it can be found on the County’s website. Site details are listed, and a unique tally feature lets participants know when they have a plan that meets the State’s requirements to provide sufficient land zoned to accommodate housing across several income categories. The County prepared two maps, one for the South Coast region and one for the North County region, to show the different Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) requirements that must be reached in each region. The public can also choose to “submit” their plan. The County will review the data submitted by the public, keep a tally of sites selected and present this information to the Board of Supervisors during the rezone hearings.

    “The adopted Housing Element identifies more sites than required so the Board of Supervisors will have a range of options to choose from at hearings next year on the rezones. The Balancing Act tool lets the public put themselves in the Board’s shoes. It’s a complex calculation; there are overall unit requirements in both north and south, and there are also affordability requirements across three income categories. Balancing Act does the math while you select or deselect sites.” explained Director of Planning and Development Lisa Plowman.

    On December 5, 2023, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Final Housing Element Update (HEU) which contains the analysis, policies and programs that will guide housing development between 2023 and 2031 (the 6th “housing cycle”). The County sent the County’s Final HEU to the State Housing and Community Development Department (State HCD) asking the State to confirm that the Final HEU remains in substantial compliance with State requirements. The County received formal notice from the State HCD on October 16, 2023, that the County’s Draft HEU was preliminarily in substantial compliance with State requirements.

    For this cycle, State HCD requires that Santa Barbara County identify sites to accommodate 5,664 new housing units in unincorporated portions of Santa Barbara County between 2023 and 2031. This is an 8-fold increase from the last cycle. That housing needs allocation, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), is further broken down to require 4,142 units in the South Coast region and 1,522 units in the North County region. This break down attempts to address the current jobs-housing imbalance.

    The State requires the County’s Housing Element to accommodate 2,818 very low, low- and moderate-income units.

    The Final HEU can be found at: https://www.countyofsb.org/3177/Housing-Element-Update.

    An interactive map showing all the potential housing sites can be found at: https://sbcopad.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=9375e0705e864eada0ff535c2 3ba99ac.

    The Housing Element Update is one of the mandated components of a General Plan. It directs local governments to plan for the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community. This is the 6th Housing Element cycle, covering 2023-2031.

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