Permaculture, biodynamic farming, and cob structures are just a few examples of what Goleta could allow if an ordinance recently proposed to the city gets off the ground. While the document is still in the earliest of stages — it is being examined by city staff, and if they give it the go-ahead, it would then move on to the City Council and then possibly the city’s ordinance committee — its author, Ben Werner, and many of its supporters are both positive it will happen and confident it will be great for the Good Land. “As a culture, we need to learn to become indigenous again,” Werner said. “The ordinance is a very pragmatic aspect of how we can go about doing that.”
Werner’s vision, titled the “Sustainable Living Research Ordinance,” would make room for research projects with elements that may not be allowed in existing codes, such as the aforementioned permaculture (wholly sustainable farming), biodynamic farming (compost instead of chemicals), and cob (a fireproof material made of mud and straw). Such projects would involve partnerships between the developers and research institutions, like UCSB or Cal Poly, whose students and faculty would study the various elements’ effectiveness. Werner said each project would require ongoing community support and that elements of projects deemed unsuccessful would be replaced with standard-code features.
Meg West, the chair of the city’s Planning Commission and one of the proposal’s many proponents, said that Werner’s ideas could make Goleta more hospitable to agriculture, business, and the environment, and that the ordinance would be “restrictive enough to prevent exploitation, but not so restrictive that legitimate projects are saddled with unnecessary burdens.” West added that the ordinance could function well either as a type of conditional use permit or as a part of the city’s zoning code, currently being reworked. (Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett and Community Environmental Council CEO Dave Davis are also fans.) Werner, who lives in Santa Barbara and whose electric-vehicle business is headquartered in Goleta, said the ordinance could be a good land-use middle ground between “developing for near-term profit or trying to preserve it from ourselves.”