City Council approves extension of pilot program by one year
Carpinteria City Council unanimously voted to extend the pilot program for an off-leash dog park by one year, after Monday night’s meeting saw split public support over the program.
The piloted off-leash area, located at El Carro Park, first launched in October 2020 after a grassroots initiative earned city council approval. At Monday night’s meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Matt Roberts presented a report on the dog park and recommended that the council extend the program for one year – in part because of the pandemic, the department could not properly analyze any conflict that might arise between the off-lease dog park and the organized sports leagues, which resumed in June 2021.
The dog park pilot program is largely run by the local nonprofit, C-Dog, that has volunteers present during afternoon and evening hours to help monitor the park.
Roberts said his office had received a few complaints about the off-leash dog park during the past year, but all had been nuisance related, not safety related, and the majority were from a nearby neighborhood.
The city council ultimately voted to move forward with extending the pilot program for one year, but not before more than a dozen people spoke during public comment, showing split support over the program.
The majority of those against the dog park came from the neighborhood bordering the park, Seacoast Village, and were complaints about noise, dog excrement left behind and interference with organized sports leagues.
“I live adjacent to El Carro. I am not anti-dog. I’m anti-unnecessary noise disturbances coming over my back fence and into my living room,” George Lehtinen said.
Roberta Lehtinen echoed his comments, calling herself “one of the grumpy neighbors of the dog park” and stating she has had issues with the pilot program’s location. She said the dogs barking make it “impossible to enjoy yards” and recommended mesh muzzles for “frequent barkers.”
Patricia Mickleson, who said she had been a resident of Seacoast Village for 22 years, said that while she supports the one-year extension, “quiet days are few and far between.” She played a recording for the council of the noise that comes from the dog park in her back yard, and asked that the council extend the buffer zone 30-feet so that dogs must remain further away from Seacoast Village.
In turn, many C-Dog members were in attendance to support the one-year extension of the program, expressing how happy they were to have a place to take their dogs to socialize.
“El Carro has always been very special to me,” Jacqueline Urie said. “In the early days of the pandemic, El Carro was my place to take my pup, to get centered and connect and interact with those amazing dog owners and their pups.”
Evelyn Calkins, a freshman at Carpinteria High School, also showed her support, emphasizing that she has been “asking for a dog park since first grade.” Similarly, Sierra Ford, a Carpinteria resident, showed up in favor of the park, stating that the park brings pet owners and the community together.
Jason Rodriguez also added his thoughts in favor of the park, calling C-Dog “an amazing group to the community.”
Lorainne McIntyre, C-Dog board member, said C-Dog has seen a “total increase in poop everywhere” in the past three months. She noted that C-Dog does a sweep of the field at the end of the day to pick up any remaining poop, but said that sometimes, organized sports arrive at the field before the group can get there to clean.
C-Dog and the Parks and Recreation Department will also look at the possibility of implementing this pilot program at other parks.
Council approves $60,000 for emergency housing voucher program
On Monday, Carpinteria City Council approved $60,000 for Carpinteria’s portion of the emergency housing voucher program, which helps to decrease homelessness in the area.
Kimberlee Albers, a resident of Carpinteria who spoke at the meeting as a county representative, provided an update from the first six months of Phase II of the community action plan to tackle homelessness in the area, including rapid rehousing numbers, openings and the number of permanent housing units placed. She said the county had offered 215 long term housing subsidies – the emergency housing vouchers – over the past six months.
According to Albers, 42% of those in the emergency housing voucher program reported medical problems, 23% reported a substance abuse challenge, and 26% a chronic health condition or physical condition. Of those accepted into the program, 66% had previously been unsheltered, while 34% had been in a shelter or in transitional housing.
The $60,000 is part of a one-time request for support services; Albers said that 4% of the total people on the request for emergency housing vouchers are from Carpinteria.
Councilmember Natalia Alarcon asked how the homeless population is referred to the program. Albers clarified that these numbers and referrals are collected through City Net or a multi-disciplinary team, who travel through the area and contact homeless individuals.
Downtown Trick-or-Treat canceled
Carpinteria’s regular Halloween downtown Trick-or-Treat festivity is canceled this year, City Manager Dave Durflinger confirmed.
“Unfortunately, it was canceled – another victim of the pandemic,” Durflinger said. “For everyone’s public health and safety, we’re not going to hold that event this year,” he said, in response to an inquiry from the council.
Concerns regarding changes to the vacation rental formula
During public comment, Jane Benefield, a member of Carpinteria’s Planning Commission, said she was not speaking for the commission, but she was “concerned about any proposal (that) deviate(s) from the vacation rental formula,” asking that the council does not extend the northern boundary of the current ordinance.
“This has been (requested) to accommodate a couple of owners who now have rentals that do not follow the law,” Benefield said.
“It would be nice if this worked, but there are too many pressures on the beach community, and what I see is a community dissolving – a bunch of strangers not committed to Carpinteria.”