As Larry Ferini takes a bow from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, Roy Reed takes his seat on the dais. 

Fulfilling the 4th District tradition of supplanting a business-oriented blue-collar type with another business-oriented blue-collar type, Bob Nelson replaced the family farm operator with a rancher and taxpayer advocate.

Hey, and both Ferini and Reed come from multi-generational Santa Maria area families! Surprised? Not really. Because that’s good ol’ Santa Maria Valley, amirite? 

But Ferini served the valley well over the last 11 years, sometimes mediating discussions to coalesce around a solution and always speaking as a knowledgeable member of the agricultural industry when it came to land use dilemmas. Will Reed be able to fill those big ol’ boots? I guess time will tell.

Just like time will tell whether Solvang gets the parking it needs as Edward St. George moves his development projects through the city’s planning and approval process. His most recent project went before the Solvang Planning Commission on Dec. 4: A nine-unit boutique hotel where a gas station once stood. 

And guess what? Parking spots aren’t included. 

However, a gathering hall shaped like a church steeple and a cottage suite that resembles a windmill are! Oh, thank goodness. Solvang needs another windmill, bad. 

According to Solvang Planning Manager Rafael Castillo, the city requires the project to have 10 parking spaces. However, if St. George can scare up those parking sites somewhere else, as long as it’s within 500 feet of the hotel, it’s all good. 

But maybe one of the developer’s other projects can provide the parking the hotel needs. And if not that, the in-lieu parking fee is $12,376. 

Is that money supposed to build a downtown Solvang parking garage? Or a nice little lot somewhere for visitors to park? Because as anyone who steps foot into town during Julefest knows, parking is tight! 

Building parking is expensive! I’m not sure that the little fee is going to cover things. San Luis Obispo is planning to build a parking garage downtown, and it’s costing the city more than $50 million. 

Solvang’s in-lieu parking fee seems similar to how much the state used to charge oil companies to “ensure” their oil wells don’t destroy the environment after a well’s useful lifetime is up. As in, it’s not enough. 

According to the Sierra Club, the risk of all the currently orphaned and idle wells in the state is $10 billion. In other words, California taxpayers are on the hook to adequately plug and abandon those wells if the oil companies that once operated them don’t. And we all know, that’s something that’s actually happening: We pay to finish off oil companies’ operating costs once their done reaping rewards. 

Just look to Cat Canyon as your nearest, dearest example. 

“As it stands, the current statutory paradigm that is the product of industry lobbying allows operators to keep oil and gas wells idle in perpetuity and pay very little to do so,” a recently released Sierra Club report states. 

Yes, the state increased the bond cost for oil wells in the state, but “this authority has yet to be used” by California’s oil regulator—the California Department of Geologic Energy Management Division—according to the club. Nice.

The Canary is sick of junky fees. Send more to [email protected].

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