Offering promise that they would provide farmworker housing more in keeping with the surrounding suburban community, Fairview Gardens was granted leniency by Goleta’s City Council on Tuesday night. “You’re giving us your word. There isn’t going to be a second chance, at least not from me,” said Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett after hearing hours of testimony from Fairview Gardens and members of the public. The council-supportive of keeping farmworkers housed on site-voted unanimously to adopt all of the city staff’s recommendations, which included giving the operation time to establish more permanent housing for farmworkers to replace the un-permitted yurts and trailers currently in use. Councilmembers allowed the poultry operation to continue (sans roosters). Although the roadside produce stand was expanded without a permit, the stand will be allowed to remain in business until a permit can be reviewed, and the council granted the farm a year to pay its permit processing fee. The farm will also be able to continue selling organic produce from other locales, as it depends upon that stock to support its business.
City Council members were generally supportive of Fairview Gardens, noting the farm’s value to the community as a local supplier of organic food and as an educational resource. However, Councilmember Eric Onnen expressed a desire to see a business plan, and due to what he deemed extraordinary forbearance with regard to the payment of fees, wanted to see summaries of the nonprofit corporation’s business meetings. The farm’s attorney, Phil Seymour, agreed that the farm would provide them. With the exception of one of the neighbors who said the “Old MacDonald” education program was best left to summer programs so children could use school time for learning to read and write, public comment was overwhelmingly in favor of continued on-site housing of farmworkers. “We want to see the farmworkers housed in the best housing possible,” said Barry Tanowitz, who lives nearby. “I urge the council to give Fairview Gardens the time to do this the right way.” Jim Knight, chairman of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, supported the farm as a local business. “I urge you to proceed with the conditional use permit and find a way to make this move forward,” he said.