Sunday, March 7, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 53

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 22nd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 21 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 21

Solvang solves its trolley problem

By Zac Ezzone

A contentious Solvang City Council vote on a businesses license renewal ended with a broken gavel and a council member leaving the meeting early.

During a contentious meeting, Solvang City Council renewed the business license for the Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company.

The Solvang Trolley and Carriage Company’s one-year license to operate its seven trollies—six of which are horse-drawn and one is motorized—expired on June 30. According to city regulations, only the council can approve a renewal of the license, which it did during its July 13 meeting.

But approving this renewal wasn’t a simple matter. Claudia Orona, whose family has owned the 50-year-old trolley company since 2007, spoke during the meeting about ways she felt the city had slighted the business over the last year.

She pointed to the city’s decision to hire an out-of-town company called Cinderella Carriages to operate during Julefest last winter. Orona also said that she heard that Councilmember Chris Djernaes didn’t want to renew the company’s permit, a rumor that proved true when he cast the lone vote against the decision. 

Following Orona’s comments, numerous residents spoke in favor of the company and criticized some council members for their treatment toward the company and the Orona family. Councilmember Robert Clarke pushed back on this overgeneralization and said that each person on the council is responsible for his or her own decision. 

“We’re five people that have five different opinions, and I support the trolley,” Clarke said. “So I am in support of the trolley, but I’m tired of all the other garbage that goes on in this place.” 

Councilmember Karen Waite and Mayor Ryan Toussaint also both said they supported renewing the company’s license; councilmember Daniel Johnson didn’t attend the meeting. Toussaint also proposed that the city change its ordinance so that the company’s license lasts for five years, rather than just one. 

“I think, personally, it’s ridiculous to have this show every year for a business,” Toussaint said.  

Councilmember Djernaes vehemently opposed the motion. He said that the city essentially allows the trolley company to operate as a monopoly and that he’d like to look at alternative options that might better serve the city, such as additional carriage providers. 

He also questioned how the company benefits the city, and noted that the Orona family only pays a $75 license fee annually to operate. 

“I understand that people look at this as an emotional issue, it’s not,” Djernaes said. “This is a business decision, and I will not pander to the mob.”

As Djernaes spoke, his engagement with the residents in attendance escalated to the point that Toussaint decided to step in and make a motion to limit discussion. Djernaes continued talking and told the mayor, “I’m not done.”

The situation culminated with the mayor urgently asking for somebody to support his motion followed by the sound of him slamming his gavel on the dais. Eventually Clarke supported his motion to stop the discussion and take a vote.

After casting the lone vote against the renewal, Djernaes told his fellow council members, “Thank you for pandering to the mob,” and then left the meeting prematurely. The three remaining council members continued the meeting for another hour after his departure. 

Weekly Poll
Where should Santa Barbara County be focusing its efforts to help the local homeless community?

Strengthen partnerships with existing organizations and shelters.
Revamp the once-successful safe parking program.
Provide temporary housing in hotels.
Secure federal funding to get more relief projects off the ground.

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