Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on April 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 6

Making it worse

The struggle for housing on the Central Coast is very real. It’s getting harder and harder to find an affordable place to nest!

Even in Santa Barbara County’s bigger cities that have comparatively lower rents, like the Santa Maria or Lompoc valleys, it can be difficult to find a place to rent. More Central Coasters (especially younger folks) have to rent rooms, work second and third jobs, and are forgetting about buying a home.

But we aren’t just living amid a statewide housing crisis, this is also a center of agribusiness, which is currently mired in a labor shortage. These two shortages are butting into each other—local farmers need the labor (and a place for them to stay), but local residents need the housing, more of it and cheaper.

That’s why the Santa Maria City Council’s recent decision to block the number of H-2A workers allowed in certain residences has me scratching my head—won’t it essentially strain both sides of those problems? Farmers still need workers, but now local property owners will have to house fewer workers in more housing.

Hmm, you know what might have been a good idea? If the City Council actually talked to some farmers and other stakeholders before making this decision. The city’s call for a staff report was based on several unsubstantiated rumors, and now local farmers, who signed their H-2A contracts in January, have to scramble to change the housing situation for their workers.

City Assistant Attorney Philip Sinco doesn’t sound too sure about how the city will actually follow through with the ordinance and said at a meeting that they’d have to enforce it on a “case-by-case basis.”

It sounds like the city is trying to push farmworkers out of town, which makes no sense at all. Santa Maria is a farming town, or did they miss all the tractors? Local farmers have lamented the labor shortage for years now, and now the city makes it harder on them?

I get why people may not be keen on filling up local houses and apartments with farmworkers—we need the housing too! Santa Maria has plenty of residents that commute to work elsewhere on the Central Coast because it’s a more affordable option, but even then, the rents just keep rising.

Why doesn’t anyone on the Santa Maria City Council or Mayor Alice Patino lead the charge for some rent control in the valley? Or push for funding for more affordable housing? There are ways they can help without making things worse, like maybe doing a little more vetting of citizen complaints before passing an emergency ordinance with a broad ramifications.

Is it really that hard for them to just do their jobs?

I don’t know, it sures seems that’s the case for the Lompoc City Council, or at least members Jim Mosby, Victor Vega, and Dirk Starbuck, who voted to not classify dance studios as youth centers when setting up buffer zones for brick-and-mortar cannabis businesses in the city.

Councilmember Janelle Osborne succinctly pointed out that their decision may open up Lompoc to litigation, sending the city over a “fiscal cliff.” A lawsuit would be hard for Lompoc to deal with, especially since it won’t be getting any tax money from recreational cannabis businesses, once again thanks to Mosby, Vega, and Starbuck.

Well, at least Lompoc city residents can get as blasted as the NASA and SpaceX rockets fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the meantime.

The Canary needs a buffer zone. Send your thoughts to

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