Looking Back at 2015, Forward to 2016: What, Me Worry?

Looking back on 2015, it’s hard to imagine a better year for the overall South Coast economy since 2007.

With the exception of the tsunami of restaurant changes, other economic indicators were up. More cruise ships came to town with tourists pouring tax dollars into city coffers while increasing bed tax revenue also poured in. What more could the South Coast ask for?

For one thing, spiraling triple net leases are driving a number of businesses from some South Coast economic corridors, mostly notably State Street. Many restaurants have closed because of increasing overhead and food costs. However, some others have managed to flourish and open new enterprises elsewhere on the South Coast.

What will the New Year have in store for the South Coast?

Housing construction will increase. Santa Barbara’s “average unity density” general plan ordinance will encourage more building of workforce housing around town. Some 250 housing units already are in the pipeline and more may be coming up by 2018 when the program expires.

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Even with more housing being constructed, the lack of vacancies in residential and commercial real estate may make it even more difficult for companies to recruit new employees. However, some petroleum companies will lose some employees because of 2015’s oil spills and resulting infrastructure problems.

Meanwhile, gasoline prices will continue to fall, perhaps below $2 a gallon. This will good for some businesses who rely on moving their goods and services in and out of the region, but bad for the backers of the effort to curb carbon emissions. Look for an increased effort to move goods and services shorter distances.

In general, 2015 wasn’t a bad year. It was certainly better than 2008 through 2013. Some economic wags say the nation in general is in for a “correction,” be that in the still bullish stock market, real estate or key indicators.

Be that as it may be, the South Coast in general is looking at a positive 2016.