Community Divided on Limiting Chain Outlets in Carpinteria

Debate Considers Loans, Government Overreach, and Small, Local Chains

Carpinteria City Council resumed its discussion on an urgency ordinance that would limit the opening of new “formula,” or chain, businesses in the city.

This proposed moratorium aims to protect the city’s interests by fostering diversity of businesses and preserving the city’s “essential character as a classic, small beach town in Southern California,” according to the staff report.

The issue was brought before the City Council last week, and while some councilmembers were absent this week and the council did not vote or take action on the item, a number of community members took the stand to comment.

Owner of the former Austin’s Hardware building Matt LaBrie and his business partner, Terry Huggins, spoke about their disagreement with the “urgency” of the ordinance. LaBrie said there needed to be an imminent threat, such as big businesses currently applying for licenses. 

“I just would really urge us to do a thorough job,” Huggins said, adding that he was concerned the ordinance would create ambiguity for businesses and have unintended consequences, such as making it more difficult to secure construction loans.

Carpinteria Architectural Review Boardmember Jason Rodriguez said the business regulations could be an overreach of government that would make it harder for small chain businesses to establish new locations. 

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He referred to Dune Coffee Roasters, owned by local Julia Mayer, as a business that could potentially be limited by an ordinance that was drafted too quickly.

Gail Marshall, a nine-year resident of Carpinteria, spoke in favor of the proposed limitations. “I think Carpinteria is ripe for formula businesses wanting to come in, and it would change the character of our community and be unfair to small local retail and food businesses,” she said. 

Little Dom’s Seafood owner Warner Ebbink— who spoke at the last discussion on the ordinance — continued to advocate for big business regulation, especially to protect Carpinteria’s “Downtown T” zone. 

Ebbink said his restaurant was located across from a chain pizza restaurant that didn’t contribute to or match the character of the downtown area. 

“I’m here again because I don’t think this issue has been given much thought, based on the amount of chains already here in Carpinteria,” he said, citing the 14 chains in the city outside of the “T zone” and two inside. 

The City Council decided to discuss the proposed moratorium again when all members were present at its June 13 meeting.

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