Math might be the subject that confuses all of us at times. I know I’m confused by the numbers that Santa Barbara County Planning Commissioner Laura Bridley proffered during a recent meeting. 

During the Nov. 8 meeting, she was the sole commissioner to vote against the new cycle of the Housing Element—a state requirement to allocate space for future housing development. At that meeting, she also claimed that her district, the 2nd, received 55 percent of the housing allocation. She stated it another way: that 4,700 units “could happen in the 2nd District.”

I’m not sure I understand. The total allocation for the South Coast, which the 2nd District resides in, is a little more than 4,100 units. With a 15 to 20 percent buffer, the top end total of housing units that could potentially settle onto the South Coast before 2031 is between 4,800 and 5,000. 

North Santa Barbara County was allocated an additional 1,500 units, which would be between 1,700 and 1,900 with the buffer. 

Even if every single unit for South County ended up in her district—between 4,100 and 5,000 units—it doesn’t equal 55 percent of the total units in the county’s Housing Element. 

So, what’s she trying to say? Either I need a math lesson or she does. I’m confused.

She also admitted to being stuck in the 1990s and 2000s. 

“It’s just my age,” she said. “I have a district that is going to freak out when they understand what is going to be built near them or could be built near them.” 

People are going to freak out about housing no matter where it goes, lady. 

She also claimed that Santa Barbara has been a “magnet for homes” over the last 30 years, which is why “we” have commuters coming in. In reality, the state believes that the Santa Barbara area hasn’t built enough homes because people have to live elsewhere and commute to South County for work. 

Maybe we should get someone in that 2nd District seat who sees the housing problem Santa Barbara County’s facing as a 2023 reality. 

“We were always in a housing crisis,” she added. “In 1988, the mortgage rates were 14 percent. So it was never easy to buy a house here and now it’s worse.” 

Well, that was almost 40 years ago. Thanks for the history lesson. Can we talk about now, please? 

At least 1st District Planning Commissioner C. Michael Cooney acknowledged that things do change: “I came on the Planning Commission at a time where there was a real effort to minimize growth and the number of people living in the county, and we did not feel the pressure that people could not live here,” he said. 

The scrutiny then, he added, was on proposed developments and narrowing the impacts they would have on existing developments, “on existing citizens’ lives.” 

“This is turning in the opposite direction,” Cooney said. 

The future contains a lot of work for the commission—which he isn’t looking forward to due to the potential for real conflict over the areas of the county that could be rezoned to allow for housing development. 

Both Bridley’s and Cooney’s statements say a lot about why the South Coast might be in this mess to begin with.

The canary is available for math class at [email protected].

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