Saturday, January 28, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 48

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 9th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 37 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 37

County plans to apply for grants to help disadvantaged communities

By Caleb Wiseblood

Seven towns in Santa Barbara County currently fit the state’s definition of disadvantaged unincorporated communities (DUCs), according to a recent analysis.

The label refers to low-income communities with unmet, critical infrastructure needs, planner Zoe Carlson explained during a summary of the countywide analysis at the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission’s Nov. 2 hearing

The results of a recent Santa Barbara County study showed that Casmalia, Cuyama, New Cuyama, Garey, Los Alamos, Sisquoc, and Ventucopa qualify as disadvantaged, unincorporated communities, or DUCs.

All seven of the identified towns—Casmalia, Cuyama, New Cuyama, Garey, Los Alamos, Sisquoc, and Ventucopa—were previously defined as DUCs in a 2015 analysis, and reappraised in 2022.

“We updated our analysis and found that these same seven communities still meet the definition of DUCs and we did not identify any new DUCs,” Carlson said during the Nov. 2 meeting. 

Since 2011, state law has required Santa Barbara County to “essentially redo the analysis before each housing element update,” Carlson added. The 2015 analysis was the first of its kind for the county, in order to comply with Senate Bill 244.

While no new DUCs were identified in the county ahead of the 2023-31 housing element update, staff provided some updates on existing infrastructure and the average household income in the seven DUCs in order to amend the DUC section of the County Comprehensive Plan.

The median household income in five of the seven identified communities is “$62,938 or less,” Carlson said, while the statistic is higher in Los Alamos, and currently undetermined in Garey. 

The 2020 census did not report a median household income for Garey due to “the community’s low participation in the census,” according to the staff report, which also stated that “no major public service or infrastructure improvements have occurred in Garey since 2015.”

Without economic data to consider, county staff determined that Garey still fits the definition of a disadvantaged community, due to the town’s lack of access to public water service, wastewater treatment service, and stormwater drainage infrastructure.

Although the 2020 census reported a median household income for Los Alamos above the income threshold for DUCs, county staff determined that the town still qualifies as  disadvantaged, due to its “large, very low income population” with 35 percent of households making less than $50,000 a year, while 36 percent of households make $150,000 or higher annually. 

Three of the identified disadvantaged communities—Los Alamos, Garey, and Sisquoc—are within flood zone benefit assessment districts, “however, these districts lack sufficient funding to support flood control improvement projects,” according to Carlson.

“We did find that grant funding is available to help address infrastructure deficiencies within DUCs,” Carlson said. “The proposed text amendments include nine current state or federal grant or loan opportunities that may be a good fit for infrastructure improvement projects.”

Staff’s funding suggestions for future improvement projects are included in a proposed general plan amendment, which the county Planning Commission approved unanimously, with a 4-0 vote. The general plan amendment will be revisited for final approval from the county Board of Supervisors on Dec. 13.

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