Mayor Paula Perotte, City Manager Michelle Greene offer a mostly-rosy outlook for Goleta
By Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer
“I’m happy to report, the state of our city is strong,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte told some 400 community and business leaders at the 10th Annual State of the City luncheon on Friday.
“Unemployment and crime are low, and housing and commercial real estate are in high demand — a strong indicator people want to come, live and work in Goleta. The growing hotel occupancy is a good indicator that people want to visit and play in Goleta.”
The annual event, put on by the Goleta Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the city of Goleta, offered an opportunity for Perotte to brief the crowd gathered at the Bacara Resort & Spa about Goleta’s accomplishments, projects and finances.
The list included the topics of financial stability, transportation, sustainability efforts and Goleta’s diverse economy.
“Our resources and opportunities are the envy of other communities,” Perotte said.
Perotte said she is committed to improving Goleta’s economic environment by enhancing the community character and quality of life.
She said she believes in four important approaches to boosting the local financial vitality: managing traffic and parking, protecting the natural environment and scenic views, ensuring public safety with sufficient police and fire personnel, and continuing to work on housing affordability.
Along with the accomplishments, she voiced concern about the city’s challenges.
Similar to other towns and counties nationwide, Perotte said, Goleta is dealing with challenges such as unemployment, crime, environmental protection, housing and homelessness.
“It’s important to acknowledge that our city faces some heavy challenges,” Perotte said. “When we work together, we can make today’s challenges, tomorrow’s accomplishments.”
An immediate challenge is filling vacancies in key professional city staff.
Goleta has filled the city attorney with an interim position, and expects to have a new finance director and planning and environmental review director hired within the next month, Perotte said. A new deputy city manager is expected to be also appointed.
Venoco’s bankruptcy announcement and plans to dispose of its offshore and onshore oil-development asset to the State Lands Commission provides another task.
“Our priority will be to ensure the decommissioning process protects public safety and the environment,” Perotte said.
Perotte gave a preview of the city’s ambitions, noting that improving public transportation and increasing revenue were among the list.
“That’s just a little of what we are addressing in the near future,” she said.
Perotte’s speech credited the efforts of the first City Council members and staff for Goleta’s key accomplishments.
“As a result, Goleta has been named the top best place to live among multiple publications,” Perotte said.
She addressed the city’s commitment to provide public safety services such as creating bike lanes, pedestrian improvements, offering Community Emergency Response Team Training, building Fire Station 10, and purchasing a highly sensitive hydrogen-sulfide detector.
Perotte also thanked the Camino Real Marketplace owner Mark Linehan for his generosity in investing more than $1 million for public-safety efforts since 2008.
Perotte said the city’s Capital Improvement Program, a long-term funding strategy that involves needed repairs or improvements to existing infrastructure, included 69 projects worth $146 million.
Projects have earned the city awards, such as the roundabout at Los Carneros and Calle Real, which was recognized by the American Public Works Association – Central Coast of California Chapter.
Goleta’s Planning and Environmental Review Department has several key initiatives underway, including the Historic Preservation Project, Perotte said.
Work continues on Goleta’s new zoning ordinance to better reflect the city’s General Plan, with the expectation to release a draft ordinance this summer for public review, Perotte said.
“I want to assure, we are committed to providing ample opportunity for public review and feedback before the final ordinance is adopted,” Perotte said.
Fiscal stability is also vital to Goleta.
Lost redevelopment dollars in 2012 took away $3 million annually for projects such as the Goleta Old Town Park and other revitalization efforts, Perotte said.
“The challenge still continues,” Perotte said.
For the last 12 years, Perotte said, Goleta has received Excellence in Financial Reporting Awards for comprehensive annual financial reports.
The city continues to generate parks and open space improvements to provide more recreational opportunities.
Perotte said the city plans to acquire the remaining 12 parcels along Ellwood Mesa to preserve the land for future generations.
City Manager of Goleta Michelle Greene presented a financial overview.
Goleta’s revenue has “increased steadily” over the past 15 years, Greene said.
The city has projected a contingency reserve fund at $8.7 million by the end of the fiscal year.
“It’s critical for the city’s fiscal stability that we maintain a healthy contingency reserve while balancing the communities various needs,” Greene said. “Despite the challenges, our financial outlook remains positive.”
Goleta’s revenues have spiked, primary due to increased transient-occupancy taxes, sales tax and property tax — which total 81 percent of the total revenues.
Greene said over the last three years, Goleta has seen a spike in TOT revenue.
TOT revenues were approximately $8.2 million in the fiscal year 2015-16 and increased to a projected $8.7 for the current fiscal year.
Sales tax experienced a growth, too, with $6.2 million in the fiscal year 2015-16 to a projected $6.7 million by the end of the current fiscal year.
“Despite the growth in sales tax, the city remains conservative for future years,” Greene said.
Property tax is expected to increase slightly this year, rising to more than $6 million.
Goleta supports visitor services and local community events as vibrant aspects of the economy, Greene said.
In 2016, the average daily rate for hotel stays in Goleta was nearly $168, which represents a 3.3 percent increase over 2015.
Occupancy rates in 2016 were at 80 percent on average, a “positive in the hospitality industry,” Greene said.
Another indication reflecting a healthy local economy is the unemployment rate, which is at 2.6 percent — a decrease from last years unemployment rate of 3.3 percent, Greene said.
The development process for the city’s upcoming two-year budget project is “well underway,” Greene said. The council held its first workshop this week, and the group plans to meet multiple times in May with the goal of adopting the budget in June.
The significant winter rain took a toll on the roads, and in the upcoming years the city is looking at a significant investment in roadways, Greene said.
Also, Goleta staff is in discussions with the city of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County officials in hopes to take over management of the Goleta Branch Library.
The event closed with a brief discussion about housing in Good Land.
Noozhawk Founder and Publisher William Macfadyen, Goleta’s Economic Development Coordinator Jaime Valdez, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing Vice President and CFO Ken Trigueiro, the Housing Trust Fund’s President and CEO Jennifer McGovern, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kristen Miller and Goleta’s Planning and Environmental Review Interim Director Lisa Prasse took to the stage.
In the last three years, 367 housing units have been built and occupied in Goleta, Prasse said.
She attributed the number to the Hideaway Bungalows project in western Goleta and the Hollister Village apartment community.
Approximately 730 housing units are either under construction or expected to begin construction this year, Prasse said. About 44 percent are projected to be rental units, and the remaining number is single-family homes for sale or condominium units.
In addition, 390 rental units are working through the review process.
“Only projects with water entitlements or previous agreements with Goleta Water District are being processed by the city,” Prasse said. “The projects have secured water allocations or agreements with the Goleta Water District prior to their Stage 2 drought declaration. Those without water are on hold. It’s also important to note that housing under construction is more efficient than the typical Goleta housing unit built before 1970.”
The event will be broadcast on City Channel 19 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Sundays and 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. It will also be broadcast after the Goleta City Council meeting at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays every month.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.