Santa Claus Lane will soon see a cannabis storefront – the first in the Carpinteria area, although technically under county boundaries – after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 last week to deny an appeal against the project.
Steve Kent, who owns property on Santa Claus Lane, originally attempted to appeal approval of the Roots Carpinteria cannabis storefront through the Planning Commission, but upon denial, raised his appeal to the Board of Supervisors.
The project is located on 3823 Santa Claus Lane and will use the existing storefront for the cannabis dispensary. The storefront is scheduled to operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with a total of eight to 10 employees. Only five employees will be on site at one time.
The appellant alleged a total of eight issues with the project, including violations of the Coastal Act policy and the Toro Canyon Plan, impacts to traffic and beach accessibility, incompatibility with the surrounding area and an unfair hearing from the Planning Commission.
He also claimed the applicant’s traffic study was insufficient, and that the project’s wall was encroaching on a neighboring property.
Staff disagreed with Kent’s assessment and responded to all of the claims with proof of inaccuracy or misunderstanding. Staff ultimately recommended that the Board of Supervisors deny the appeal and grant de novo approval of the project.
The appellant’s representative, Jana Zimmer, argued that there was an “institutional bias” toward approving the project. “The conduct of this case and the institutional bias toward approval has represented a rolling due process violation impacting the rights of the public and my clients to full and fair participation,” she argued during the meeting.
She also alleged that the first district distributed a “disturbing email” with false allegations against her client. The presentation continued to back the claims staff originally presented as the appellant’s issues.
The majority of complaints against Roots Carpinteria voiced during the Board of Supervisors meeting were identical to those heard during the project’s Planning Commission hearing.
Dennis Bozanich, representing the applicants – Luis Castaneda, Beth Thuna, Pat Radis, Maire Radis and Victor Sanchez – said the appellants’ new and past claims are “erroneous or evidence-free assumptions.”
The contentious community issue garnered heavy public comment, with a total of 31 public commenters.
“I live in the city of Carpinteria. Roots, the cannabis dispensary, has my full support. Please deny this appeal,” public commentor Amy Orozco said. “Personally, I will benefit from having Roots on Santa Claus Lane and I know other Carpinterians who will too. Not having to travel to Santa Barbara or Ojai for medicine is something we look forward to,” she continued.
Though a majority of those speaking in public comment favored the project, others still voiced qualms.
As board members began discussing the appeal, First District Supervisor Das Williams – who has already expressed a contentious relationship with the appellants at the beginning of the meeting – was interrupted by Zimmer while discussing his perspective on the issue.
“I met with (the appellants) and I proceeded to get cc’d or sent an email about the meeting that took place, and it was so far from the reality I had experienced. The characterizations,” Williams started to say, before he was interrupted by Zimmer.
“I’m going to have to object to this,” Zimmer interjected, to which Chair and Third District Supervisor Joann Hartmann responded, “That’s not your role.”
Williams continued: “Ms. Zimmer, you’ve talked about this everywhere in the public sphere. I get to talk about it right here. And I indicated that if mixed characterizations were going to be the way that this was going to go forward, then I was not going to communicate,” he said. “I would still take and read materials, but I was not going to communicate with the appellant.”
Williams further claimed that the appellant and Zimmer made “continuous accusations without evidence about me wanting (the dispensary) here.”
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said the reason that he “steered clear of retail cannabis is just because of (Williams’) experience,” citing no way to find middle ground. He added that dispensaries’ security requires ID prior to entry, preventing minors from accessing the drug.
“The first thing that happens when you walk into a dispensary, as opposed to a bar by the way, a bar is going to maybe check your ID when you go there depending on if you look 14 or you’re 24,” Lavagnino said. “You can’t get into a dispensary without showing your ID.”
Following these comments, the board trailed the item to give the appellant and applicant an opportunity to review a study Williams referenced regarding dispensaries lowering crime rates. When the item resumed, Zimmer submitted a news article that had reached the opposite conclusion, and supervisors spent time during the board meeting reading through the submitted article prior to continuing deliberations.
Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson recognized that Roots is the first retail cannabis project up for approval from the Board of Supervisors, and said that despite his personal qualms with marijuana, the project ultimately met the required zoning laws.
“Ms. Zimmer, you said it was about, ‘Location, location, location.’ At the end of the day, this is about zoning, zoning, zoning and we don’t have a family-friendly zone in the code, as far as I know,” Nelson said.
Nelson put forth the motion to deny the appeal and grant de novo approval of the project, seconded by Williams. The project moved forward with a 5-0 vote in favor of Roots Carpinteria.