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Monday, August 18, 2008

Tourism Good for the Good Land?

Silvia Uribe Surveys Goletanos on the Coming Hotels

By Silvia Uribe

This week, I got out into the open as I try to do every week, exercising a little and enjoying a lot. In my wandering, I found myself at the Goleta Bluffs, an area that I have cherished during the decade that I have lived here. After living many years of my life in Mexico City's forest of concrete, Goleta represents an oasis of open space, ocean, and emerald green views of the hills and the mountains.

In fact, many times I choose to take Cathedral Oaks Road instead of the freeway or Hollister, just to get closer to the orchards. Like many other "Goletanos," I am no planner and no environmentalist, but I appreciate the quality of life that these open spaces offer. They represent to me a peaceful feeling of freedom.

Click to enlarge photo

However, the bluffs look quite different now that a multi-million housing development interrupts the vastness of nature, cutting it by half, thus leaving to the public two practically inaccessible, useless areas.

Meanwhile, a couple of crude oil tanks can be found about two miles down from the Bacara Resort and Spa, making for an ironic blend of pricey expansion and dirty industry.

Since I was feeling so passionately about these threats to the quality of life in Goleta, and frankly upset that we have let these things happen, I wondered how much residents know about permit issuance. So I took my pen, and a notebook, and placed myself at the Goleta Marketplace to ask people about these things. Here is my very informal, nonscientific survey:

The Method: I asked two questions of 20 people from different age, gender, social, and racial groups, all Goleta residents. My little survey included whites, Latinos, Asians, and African Americans. The youngest individual was 10 years old, and the oldest was 68. Education levels ranged from grammar school to graduate school. I spoke with business owners, workers, students, and stay-at-home moms.

This is what I asked them: 1) Do you know that a hotel will be built on the corner of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue?

Results: None of them knew about it. Of the respondents, 12 were surprised by the location selected for a hotel, 14 were concerned about the traffic impact that the project might have, and four people liked the idea considering the number of jobs that the hotel will bring to the area, thus building our economy.

Four people disagreed with the decision completely, saying that if we are to build anything, it should be affordable housing units, not hotels. Two people emphatically disagreed with the idea of new view-blocking buildings altogether.

2) Do you know that the Goleta Planning Commission is studying a plan for another hotel across from the airport on Hollister Avenue?

Results: None of them knew about this either. In the beginning, 17 out of 20 didn't understand that if this second one is approved, two different hotels will be built. They thought that it was one or the other, and in that case the one across from the airport made more sense. When they realized that both hotels may be approved, only three people supported both projects--considering them a good idea based on the jobs that would be created--but 17 thought it would be too much for our city.

Interesting facts: Only one person showed interest about the number of rooms and the height of these projects. (One respondent, a contractor, hinted that a hotel of 112 rooms would be at least three-stories tall.) The best and most inspiring thing I found was that the youths, ages 10-15 years old, had strong opinions and were as vocal as the grownups (in favor or against, whatever the case may be). Sadly, the group that seemed most indifferent were the young adults ages 18 25, who provided very little or no feedback.

I thoroughly enjoyed asking these questions of my neighbors, and hearing what they had to say about important things that affect us all. After chatting with them, I was left with one question (please excuse my ignorance): Does the Planning Commission have approval limits per year or per type of project?

UPDATE ON POLITICS: Yes, there is a Republican candidate running against Democratic incumbent Representative Lois Capps. Interestingly enough, it was none other than Lois Capps's office (not the challenger himself) that corrected me on this, which I appreciate. The Republican's name is Matt T. Kokkonen, a financial planner and resident of San Luis Obispo. Kokkonen ran in 2004 for the California State Assembly, District 33, and according to the Project Vote Smart Web site was a member of the Budget Advisory Committee for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.

Regarding my question about what the future might hold, politically speaking, for Lois Capps, her press secretary, Emily Kryder, declined to comment and said that, for the time being, Capps is concentrated on winning the 23rd Congressional District race again on November 4.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

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