Retail Cannabis at Santa Claus Lane Is the Wrong Choice
It's Arbitrary and Being Forced on a Beachfront Area
In an op-ed two years ago, “An Unfair and Forced Choice: Objections to Cannabis Retail at Santa Claus Lane,” I explained that the decision to place a cannabis retail outlet in either Summerland or Santa Claus Lane was forced because the county arbitrarily insists there must be an outlet south of Santa Barbara, and unfair because both Carpinteria and Montecito have “louder” self-governance structures that effectively prevent this outlet in their jurisdictions.
So, when the supervisors looked for a site, they focused on the weaker, less influential communities of Summerland and Santa Claus Lane who can appeal to only one defender, one person, Das Williams, the supervisor who “represents” them.
But Supervisor Williams, for all his gentle rhetoric — and never mind the now-forgotten Santa Barbara Grand Jury report — seems to be “all in” for the cannabis industry. The touted county lawsuit against Island Breeze growers has produced no change. (Williams’s speculation that Island Breeze has overextended their “non-conforming status” is just political hot air unless backed by facts which he could provide.) Thousands of dollars were spent on gathering data to show Island Breeze affidavits were falsified, then passed on to the Sheriff, District Attorney, Williams, and media without even a single acknowledgement of receipt! So, we in these communities are effectively locked out of self-governance efforts to keep retail cannabis out. I said in 2020, “It’s a shame!” And it still is.
Given this political vise, I went on two years ago, to explain why Santa Claus Lane might well be the worst possible location for such an outlet. My arguments made no difference as the county has moved ahead anyway. But although I often feel that I am spitting into the wind on these issues, I feel it’s my civic obligation to express my opinion one more time.
Traffic and Parking Congestion
Santa Claus Lane is a single, narrow street which, to many, is just an extended on-ramp for US 101 south. So cars impatiently zoom through at speed to get on the highway.
It is constantly lined with parked cars, often bumper to bumper, on both sides, from the highway on-ramp back to the Padaro underpass, beginning in April right through November. This dramatically narrows the already narrow street/on ramp.
It is the highly trafficked headquarters for a major highway construction project that will continue for several years.
Visitors to the existing retail shops, the construction HQ, and beaches often do U-turns, in the face of impatient “on-ramp drivers.” This slows traffic and creates collision hazards, especially with distracted visitors wandering among parked cars. Adding a cannabis outlet will only increase congestion as those from the north will want to return the way they came.
Whether the Surf School on the lane is considered a “registered school,” it attracts crowds of young children daily for an extended season. The intention of regulations buffering daycares and schools is to reduce the proximity and/or access of cannabis to young children. Surely, with hundreds of young people coming regularly over many months to this exact same narrow strip, the spirit of the buffer rule should apply.
The same applies to Padaro Grill. This popular place for families has outside picnic benches and sand play areas even for babies. It caters to children. Putting a cannabis retail store next door makes no sense.
One might say, “At least there is no odor from a store.” Maybe not, but the licensing rules include security systems, fences, and armed guards. Does that sound like the kind of place we want within yards of babies and 2-year-old children playing in the sand?
The beaches are steps away, loaded with children and unattended teens. Yes, the rules don’t allow underage teens to buy cannabis directly. But since when have rules stopped them from getting someone else to buy alcohol for them? The store and a beach full of older strangers who can never be tied to these teens, in my opinion, makes it unavoidable teens on the beach will have ready access to cannabis.
Beaches: Smoking is not allowed on our beaches. With a retail outlet virtually on the beach, won’t this make it much more likely that it will be smoked on the beach? Yes, this would apply in other South County locations. But of all possible locations, none is as close to the beach as Santa Claus.
Local Opposition: What has changed in the past two years is overwhelming local opposition. Even Supervisor Williams says “neighborhood compatibility” should be taken into consideration. Yet despite nearly 100 percent of written and verbal comments solicited by the county itself in 2020, the county has chosen to ignore those sentiments. Seriously?
So, two years later, I say again, please, Supervisor Williams, in the name of civic duty, if you can’t solve the problem of odors from Island Breeze affecting Foothill Road, Via Real, and Padaro Lane, at least pick a different site and keep our beloved remnant of roadside beachy California free from a cannabis store! We know you can vote with us on this issue, and your colleagues can still ram it through. Let us hear you defend us, let us hear you lobby them. If you don’t, shame on you. If you do and they ignore you, shame on them!
Jim Mannoia is president of the Polo Condos.