My husband and I bought our first home in Carpinteria in 1974 for less than $30,000. We thought we would never leave this area, but about 16 years ago we went a little crazy and moved to Ojai, a charming small town with lots of quirkiness (if that’s a word). We kept our Carpinteria house because we knew we wanted to eventually return to our town by the sea, and this May the inevitable happened. All our belongings made the trip back to the coast along with our two rescued cats. But, surprise, things are not the same in Carp.

Over the last 30 years, there has been a big push to keep Carpinteria a small, friendly, beach town. I have always known that despite our best efforts no matter how hard we try to keep things the same, change comes. Just think how many local businesses have closed over the past few decades. Think of how many condos have been built. Think of how water has become such a precious commodity. Think of how the price of even a small house in Carpinteria continues to go up and up, beyond the reach of many local workers. Think of the decline in our school population. And think of the changes in our agricultural industry.

Most of these changes are well-documented and positive such as making the Bluffs a nature reserve and affordable housing projects and the electric trolley and efforts to aid the homeless. But I’m having a bit of a problem adjusting to the skunky smell that floats up from several greenhouses along Foothill Road and enters my open windows and permeates my house and yard. Granted, this does not happen every day nor is the smell always intense, but it certainly is something I would rather have disappear as this obnoxious odor is definitely impacting the quality of my life.

Over the last several months the citizens of Carpinteria have been taking sides, for or against the growing of cannabis in the Carpinteria Valley. People have attended meetings, written letters and contacted supervisors. This issue is dividing friends and families and is threatening the stability of our long-established agricultural industry. Cannabis has positive medicinal uses and is legal in California, but it would certainly have been useful if the permitting process would have set strict limits from the outset on how close a cannabis greenhouse could be to housing and to schools. And whatever it takes to control the odor needs to not only be obligatory but also enforced for all growers of this product.

Personally, I’m not questioning the right of cannabis growers to grow and market their product, as long as all permits and requirements are adhered to. But I don’t think growers should be able to infringe on my right to be able to enjoy my home without an offensive aroma assaulting my senses. If the growers truly want to be good members of the Carpinteria community, they will have to solve the odor problem. It is my understanding that growing cannabis is a fairly lucrative endeavor. I have been informed that the odor “scrubbers” that can help control the odor issue are expensive. I also am aware that some growers have already installed scrubbers in their greenhouses. But what about the rest of the cannabis growers? They have the right to run a legal business and make money. But the students in our schools, local families in their homes and the tourists that visit the World’s Safest Beach have the right to enjoy clean-smelling air.


Carpinteria is unique. It’s a special locality that is one of the best places in the world to live. It has an almost perfect climate and is surrounded by striking scenery. And it will continue to change, as all things do. Let’s just hope that whatever the changes are, they’re ones we can live with.


Melinda Wittwer first moved to Carpinteria in 1972 and taught mostly junior high students in Oxnard during her 25-year career. Now retired, she enjoys pottery, writing, books and travel.

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