Included in the most recent Plan Santa Barbara report were growth assumptions of approximately 2,800 new residential units and 2 million square feet of nonresidential development within City limits over the 20-year period. This additional growth was estimated to increase long-term citywide water demand by 5.5% by the year 2030. However, due to the drought, the City Council was forced to discuss suspension of projects that would add any new demand to the system.
On Tuesday, the City Council was torn on the recommended drought-related development restrictions which read… “during severe drought, extraordinary conservation is required of existing users, and demand from new development is a concern when existing customers are required to significantly cut back on water usage. This can also be a public perception issue with regard to the seriousness of the water shortage because all new demand adds to the problem, regardless of the amount. It is also important to balance the need for water conservation through possible restrictions on new development with a desire to not unduly impact an important sector of the local economy that have already been struggling for the past five years.”
City staff concluded that “the drought, while currently severe, is likely a temporary situation, and looking at the City’s water supplies long term, there is enough water to serve the new development anticipated by the General Plan. Suspending new development has economic ramifications that vary based on when in the process the project must be halted.” Mayor Helene Schneider asked the staff to present a list of alternative options before bringing back the discussion of restricting development.