Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Santa Barbara's Slow Growth Pain

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Los Angeles Times reporters Jeffrey L. Rabin and Daryl Kelley filed an excellent story on how the slow growth approach embraced by Santa Barbara has come at a cost of which few voters were likely aware.

At the top of the list: Soaring Housing Prices

Here's a bulleted list from their story:
• Soaring housing prices. With the supply so limited, prices last year rose faster than in any other region in the state. The median price of a single-family house is now $1.1 million, out of reach for all but the well-to-do.

• Traffic congestion, energy consumption and air pollution. An estimated 30,000 commuters, forced by housing prices to live far from where they work, clog U.S. Highway 101 and choke side streets during peak drive times.

• An exodus of big employers. Half a dozen Fortune 500 companies have left for less costly locales. Almost every business and government agency that remains struggles with recruiting and retaining workers who cannot afford to live nearby.

• Altered communities. Poor families have been forced to double- and triple-up in rental housing. Unable to buy homes, many middle-class families with children have moved away. UC Santa Barbara economist Bill Watkins warns that parts of the south coast are at risk of becoming a "geriatric ghetto."

• Spillover growth. Seventy-five miles away, in northern Santa Barbara County, houses are engulfing farmland. Sprawling Santa Maria is soon expected to pass Santa Barbara as the county's most populous city. But prices are on the rise there, too, largely because of demand from Santa Barbara-area workers.

Many of these ripple effects could not have been foreseen 30 years ago.

"There are intended and unintended consequences to these growth policies," said Dave Davis, who retired two years ago as Santa Barbara's community development director and now heads the city's Community Environmental Council. "It's truly a mixed bag."
Reporter Daryl Kelley recently retired from the L.A. Times. His dogged reporting will be missed.

— The Boy in the Big Housing Bubble