Star Lane winery’s cellars under construction in 2007

Paul Wellman (file)

Star Lane winery’s cellars under construction in 2007

Everyone Angry at Proposed Winery Rules

Santa Barbara County Vintners and Some Neighbors Unhappy About Planning Process for Opposing Reasons

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
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It’s been nearly two years since the County of Santa Barbara started revising the rules for building new wineries on unincorporated county land, as was initially directed by a unanimous decision of the Board of Supervisors. But despite many meetings, tons of public comment, and lots of adjustments to the draft ordinance, vintners and those of their neighbors who worry about the industry’s growth seem unhappier than ever.

Vintners, who have now formed their own political action committee, believe the new rules will amount to business-stifling overregulation whereas concerned residents of certain pockets of the Santa Ynez Valley feel that their woes won’t be resolved by the planning department’s ongoing efforts. Such complaints will again come to a head at a hearing next Wednesday, July 16, at 6 p.m., inside St. Mark’s of the Valley Church in Los Olivos, where county planners will be accepting comment on what to study as part of the environmental report on the ordinance.

“We were blindsided,” said Ross Rankin, owner of Imagine Wine and president of the new PAC, Winegrowers of Santa Barbara County, which was incorporated almost one year ago. “There was no discussion with us prior to the proposed winery ordinance revision, and during the process, it has become extraordinarily clear that this is not to our benefit and was not intended to be in the first place.” Rankin, who would not divulge the members or funds raised by the PAC, citing fear of reprisal, said that the group’s immediate goal is to get the ordinance tabled.

Cerene St. John, a Ballard Canyon resident who has become one of the loudest voices calling for stricter rules, isn’t pleased either. She claims the new rules would allow small wineries to have “very large entertainment facilities,” explaining, “This version also does not adequately address the impacts on neighbors. It does not address the issue of the roads at all, and it does not add any enforcement mechanisms, metrics, or penalties to make the ordinance enforceable.”

County planner Stephanie Stark expects that a draft of environmental report will be released later this summer, triggering another round of hearings and public comments. In related news, her supervisor, Jeff Hunt — the former deputy director of long-range planning who had been lured to the job from Maui in 2010 — abruptly resigned in May, which was a sudden shock to many involved in this process.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

The neighbors don't want drunken parties/drunk drivers in their neighborhood, but the wineries don't care and want to impose their agenda anyway.

Typical Yuppie "I got mine, I don't care what the neighbors want" attitude.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 3:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How about growing some food? Otherwise seems like a waste of precious water at this stage of the drought game.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With bigger bulk purchases of water which we have always had to do anyway, the wineries may be helping to get better prices per acre-foot when the cost of transporting the water is also taken into consideration, though I'm not really sure.

If the wineries own the land they should be able to grow grapes, make wine and sell it to their customers. Why should their neighbors have any say what they do on their property?

By allowing neighborhoods to grow, develop and change organically based on consumer demand of products, such as wine, it helps create more efficient economic support systems for the entire community. It also allows those who don't like what the neighborhood has turned into to sell their house and property for a large profit since the wineries are increasing property values.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Resources aren't like CostCo Loon. We can't manufacture water like hot dog buns.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 5:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So loonpt, what if your neighbor decided to operate a toxic waste landfill in his or her backyard. The lack of toxic waste landfills would make such an enterprise a hugely profitable one. Also, if you didn't like living next to a toxic waste landfill you would be free to sell your property to your newly rich neighbor who could then expand the enterprise to twice its size. Oh the money to be made makes one salivate! I realize that my example is extreme hyperbole, but you get the point.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 5:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No Eckermann, Loon does not get the pt. (I couldn't resist that--by the way, what DOES "Loonpt" mean?)

Loonpt: The point is, the neighbors don't want drunken energy en masse in their neighborhood. They didn't move there so they could live in a bar. Bars don't make good neighbors.

As for the values of houses, it can work either way: For those who want to live in a bar, they will be willing to pay top $$$, but on the other hand, traditionally people have moved to the Santa Ynez area to get away from crowds, noise, etc.

"By allowing neighborhoods to grow, develop and change organically based on consumer demand of products, such as wine, it helps create more efficient economic support systems for the entire community."

I have heard the same argument made in Santa Barbara but in the last few decades what has happened is the area has been gentrified and locals have been forced out economically. The working-class don't live here anymore, they simply exist. The same thing is happening in the valley so that economic argument goes down the drain as the place is no more affordable while the quality of life goes down due to traffic and drunks.

Again, you, like the vested financial interests of the wineries, don't care about the well being of the neighbors, and this mentality is contrary to the live-and-let-live philosophy that makes for a better overall society.

Sorry Loonpt, but if you push people around and invade their turf--even if under the transparent guise of economic stimulation--people are going to get angry and push back, as the neighbors are doing.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 6:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If both sides are displeased by the County's proposed regulations, perhaps this means it's a good compromise. Remember the hail of criticism of the Chumash's Casino, their effort for fee-to-transfer of the Camp 4 property? -- why shouldn't the ANGLO winery-owners desire to expand their water-hogging viticulture get the same storm of opposition? There are plenty of wineries in this area, enough is enough.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 9:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Its even worse than you think. There is a proposed winery called Atlantis winery, that will be the first underwater wine tasting room. It will be located off Stearns Wharf.

It goes like this, you go out on a boat tour, then you put on your scuba diving gear, dive under water, attach your snorkel to the wine barrel of choice, (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are favorites) and sip away.

They also serve wine on the boat prior to submergence, but encourage people to drink responsibly. After all, they discourage drunk diving.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 8, 2014 at 11:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You guys do realize that most all of the wine growers pump their own water from the ground... right? They're not buying it from anywhere, the only one to get paid for it is Edison.

cartoonz (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 4:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

cartoonz, are you defending or criticizing groundwater pumping for wine grapes? I think criticizing... Not that I'm getting involved in water wars. (But I do believe local government should've put strict controls in place at least a year ago. Have had a rock "lawn" for about 20 years).

geraldbostock (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 4:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Loon Point: (I hope I'm not making a fool of myself by answering your question. I always assumed the poster's name referred to our local Loon Pt. We never had loons here though, did we? I've only heard them in British Columbia. Yeah, the Independent comments can play hard, AKA be nasty.)
Loon Point between Summerland and Carpinteria at the mouth of Toro Canyon Creek.

geraldbostock (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 4:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dolphinpod: Don't give them any ideas.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 5:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pay a attention to Paseo Robles. The switch from "dry farming" to vineyards has played havoc with the ground water table, wells are going dry. Vineyards may pump their own water but the ground water is interconnected.

Paseo Robles now has an emergency vineyard moratorium because of so many vineyards.

Years ago we planted alfalfa, good cash crop, but water intensive, our uphill neighbors started having problems with their residential water wells. We stopped the alfalfa because it was their water table too and just dry farmed the land.

Ground water is no free lunch, especially when the Santa Ynez River does not flow and recharge the aquifer as in the past.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 8:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

First off, folks, sorry to burst your bubble, but tasting room does not equal bar. At all . . . .

There are many of us in the Valley who make wine who are just as concerned, if not more so, about folks getting on the roads intoxicated after drinking. That's why many of us provide crackers or pretzels in our tasting room, and plenty of water.

I am not a fan of over-indulging of wine at tasting rooms - if you want to do that, go to a bar, have at it, and then take a taxi home.

But please don't assume that folks just go to wineries to get drunk - it simply is not the case and with knee-jerk reactions to anything wine-related, no objective discussion can take place . . .


larryschaffer (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 11:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm puzzled by the loose definition of neighborhood being used here. These vineyards are out in what most of the world would call farmland or the country. It's the housing that's the aberration.

Who moves to agriculturally-zoned land and then complains that the business of agriculture is disruptive to their 'neighborhood?' Seems beyond credible. Or insane.

tdshortcut22 (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 12:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Resources aren't like CostCo Loon. We can't manufacture water like hot dog buns."

Thanks for the econ lesson ;)

Of course water isn't manufactured, it is collected and transported. Some places have plenty of water and other places don't have enough, so water must be transported from one to another.

The costs are divided up into fixed costs and variable costs. The amount of water you buy from another water district is mostly a variable cost, you pay by the acre-foot. The cost to build infrastructure to transport that water to us is mostly a fixed cost. If our water demand is high enough, then the amount of fixed cost applied to each acre-foot of water to transport it may be reduced.

I'm not claiming to know the math or whether wineries are increasing or decreasing the cost per acre-foot of water for us here, but some of the money they spend on water goes toward infrastructure we use to bring more water here, which we may need to pay anyway, and thus it may possibly be reducing the cost of water for consumers in SB...but again somebody with all of the data would have to do the actual math.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 12:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice generalization Larry Schaffer, but we're not buying it.

The wineries in this case are akin to someone sitting in a park quietly reading a book when some comes in sits right next to them, and cranks up their radio. The person reading their book says "I came here to relax, not listen to your radio and please, I'd like my space". The person then turns down their radio slightly, moves five feet over, then the person reading says "Hey, would you PLEASE leave me alone?...I came here to get away from all this". Then the person with the radio says "If you don't like it, too bad, 'cause I'm gonna stay here. I moved and turned my radio down, and if you don't like it, come over here and try to do something about it". Usually the person will give up and move, but in this analogy, the person has other people in the park coming to their aid, and you are the bully with the radio who is complaining because they are not getting their way.

Don't you people have enough places to drink alcohol? You've taken over Los Olivos (again, despite the fact that many of the residents didn't want the bars in the first place) where the art galleries have been replaced by bars, Solvang is one big bar, but nope, that isn't enough, now your gunning for residential areas. Apparently you won't be happy until the entire valley is covered with these establishments.

You people clearly have shown you have no respect for the neighbors, they don't want you there, but your attitude is "We don't care, we have money, we're used to getting our way, and we WILL get what we want regardless of what you want". Then you get upset about it, rationalize that it isn't drinking and driving, and make the sarcastic comment "cheers".

You are a classic example of the denial that is part of the alcoholic lifestyle. It isn't about class, or culture, it's about booze, and your collective egotistical desire to (like a dog marking its territory) dominate your environment with no regard to the well being of others.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 1:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This great song, by Sir Paul McCartney, sums up how both sides feel.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 7:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"First off, folks, sorry to burst your bubble, but tasting room does not equal bar. At all . . . ."

-larryschaffer (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 11:32 a.m.-


billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2014 at 11:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

agree, Bill, and you should check "ValleyFarmer's" post under the Voices piece by the self-serving President of the Wineries PAC. I have been to some of the tasting rooms, e.g. Firestone and Koehler, and it's easy to get quite looped there (note: I do not drink).

DrDan (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 4:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for the tip DD, I just posted on that thread.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 6:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We should take Mr. Schaffer's quote and let the whole world know that these are not bars, don't come here hoping to get a buzz on, this is serious business and intoxication will NOT be tolerated. They should post signs warning people to not drink the wine, or risk expulsion.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 8:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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