As expected, Dr. Steve Kent, and his wife, wealthy medical doctors both, have appealed the County Planning Commission’s approval of the Roots Carpinteria retail cannabis store proposed at 3823 Santa Claus Lane. The appellants are the same property owners who succeeded in deporting Santa Claus to Oxnard away from his famous perch atop their building on Santa Claus Lane. They complained that Santa’s presence was “incompatible” with their business plans. Apparently there’s a lot that is incompatible with their private business interests.
But they may have a small point. Santa Claus Lane, after all, has been an economically challenged retail area for its merchants and property owners, especially when viewed year-round for the past several years if not always. While a vibrant commercial retail location during the peak summer season, the economic picture changes dramatically during the other nine or 10 months of the year. Let’s just say it isn’t very jolly. In fact, it is depressed as noted in a story on KEYT earlier this summer.
So you would think that a business, open seven days a week, 12 hours a day, 12 months of the year, with 22 off-street parking places behind the store for customers would be welcomed by the doctors as a much-needed economic shot in the arm to borrow some medical terminology. And despite help being on the way, the doctors, while maybe not crying, continue to pout.
When the county’s Beach Access and Streetscape Improvement Plan is completed sometime in late 2024, parking and traffic capacity, improved circulation, and safer beach access will finally become a reality. And it is in this context that Roots Carpinteria’s retail cannabis store, which received approval from the county’s Zoning Administrator on May 23, and overwhelming approval by the County Planning Commission on September 7, should be discussed and considered. It is also why the doctors’ latest frivolous appeal should be denied by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors when they take it up on November 1.
The county’s Planning and Development and Public Works department staff have done a great job processing and reviewing the Roots Carpinteria application for a Coastal Development Permit. The level of meticulous technical analysis and environmental review conducted by the county has been quite extraordinary and should reassure residents.
Unfortunately, the doctors who have devoted their free time arguing that the current lack of a fully developed infrastructure on Santa Claus Lane, which leads to the traffic, and parking issues they talk about incessantly, as well as the unsafe beach access available for beachgoers, will only worsen if Roots Carpinteria receives a Coastal Development Permit from the county. Their obsession with all things Roots Carpinteria, while appearing fanatical, is also misguided, bordering on hysterical.
It is also important to remember that the issues surrounding traffic and parking, which have existed for decades, are limited almost entirely to the July through September peak summer season. The rest of the year, meaning October through June, the traffic and parking concerns raised by the doctors’ lawyer are not an issue at all. Said another way, Santa Claus Lane between October and June is in desperate need of economic diversity and increased vitality.
Lastly, rather than remaining stuck in the depressing past, or exploiting the present, temporary burdens, in this commercial retail area, the appellants might want to focus their collective attention and energy on Santa Claus Lane’s bright future.
For example, in addition to finally becoming an economically vibrant commercial retail area, thanks in no small part to the Roots’ exciting retail project, Santa Claus Lane will finally become a more drivable, walkable, recreational, and desirable area and not just for the two doctors but the other property owners on Santa Claus Lane as well. And this also goes for Santa Claus Lane’s struggling retail merchants, shoppers, and beachgoers due to the county’s significant investment in transportation and coastal access infrastructure.
Joe Armendariz is former executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, and a former member of the Carpinteria City Council where he represented the city to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments from 2005-2011.