Update on the Hotel Project Proposed for the Carpinteria Bluffs

Rendering of the restaurant in the Carpinteria Farms Bungalow proposal (courtesy)

It’s happened before. Attempts at building something on the Carpinteria Bluffs have gone on since the sixties. Now the latest plan seeks to develop the last privately owned parcels, a 27.53 acre piece of the Carpinteria Bluffs, just east of City Hall currently home to the Tee Time driving range.

Every effort at development to this point hasn’t built anything. The last time a project was proposed on the bluffs parcel in 2015, concerned Carpintierians wrote letters, made phone calls and eventually clad in “Save the Bluffs” T-shirts, turned up at City Hall and presented vocal opposition.

The Carpinteria City Council did not warm to the project as it was presented; the owner realizing there were few friends in their corner, retreated and eventually sold the property.

Carpinteria loves the Bluffs. In 1998 a fundraising campaign successfully purchased a 51.8 acre area zoned for development. More land on the Bluffs was purchased in later years and was transferred to the city to protect area from future development.  What you see now is open space from Viola Field to the edge of Tee Time. Soccer, baseball and hiking Trails that belong to the City of Carpinteria.

Making the final piece of the Bluffs part of the adjacent open space parcel has been the dream of many.  The task of raising money and finding a willing seller has been the difficult.

Today’s reality is much different than 25 years ago. Whether the Bluffs will have a new neighbor or not is now more than polite discussion.  State housing mandates have changed the game.  The possibility that local zoning can be set aside and controlled by Sacramento is something California cities have never dealt with on this scale.  We now enter the latest chapter in the storied history of the Carpinteria Bluffs.

In this Corner

Matthew Goodwin is an architect, Cal Poly SLO graduate, and spent his early life in Ventura. Goodwin has been involved in a number of development projects in California and now is a partner in a group that purchased Bluffs One parcel in 2021. Goodwin has an ambitious plan for his land, and if completed, it will change the area dramatically.

The Carpinteria Farm Bungalows proposal includes 41 affordable housing units, a 99 room bungalow hotel, spa, restaurant and working farm on the last 27 acres of the bluffs. The proposal also includes newly conserved public open space, walking trails connecting the Coastal Bluffs trail along the cliff edge, and seal rookery lookout.

In all, there are a proposed 1.58 acres of low income residential, 10.72 acres of hotel, 1.6 acres of farmland and 13.6 of newly conserved open space and farmland. The City staff, planning commission and the architectural review board have all weighed in on the project.  The formal review process will begin shortly.

Aerial sketch of the Carpinteria Farm Bungalows (courtesy)

A New Sheriff on the Bluffs

Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs have a new Executive Director. Patrick Crooks, born and raised in Carpinteria, works as a civil engineer and has developed a strong resume in land use planning. Crooks is replacing Ted Rhodes, one of the founders of the group in the mid 1990’s.

The citizens group was created to acquire the bluffs land and preserve it as open space.  A massive fundraising effort in the mid nineties and a partnership with the Land Trust of Santa Barbara made it possible for all but one parcel of the bluffs to be purchased and transferred to the city of Carpinteria.

The remaining parcel, currently home to Tee Time, is the last piece of the bluffs currently zoned commercial/residential and is privately owned and not protected as open space. The Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs would like to change that, doing so may be more difficult than the past successes they have enjoyed.

Carpinteria Bluffs open space (Photo: Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs)

Sacramento on the move

A statewide effort to solve the problem of home affordability for Californians has been quickly addressing areas where building can take place. In all areas of California the state is telling, not asking, for compliance.

Carpinteria has been given until 2030 to build 900 units of housing within the city limits. Santa Barbara County Supervisors just approved the Housing Element Update for the years 2023 to 2032.  Every ten or so years, the state gives guidance on how much housing a county must provide.  This time it’s 5,664 housing units that must be built in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County by 2032.  That is an 8 fold increase from the last cycle.

If the Housing Element mandate is not met, the State then has the right to set aside all local laws and approve projects under what is called a “Bulider’s Remedy” regardless of local zoning or general plan restrictions.  Fighting City Hall is one thing, the state appears to be quite another.

The City of Huntington Beach is pushing back on the state’s mandate; so far it hasn’t gone well for them.  Huntington Beach sued the State, the State sued back.  On November 14th, US District judge Slaughter dismissed Huntington Beach’s lawsuit, their 3rd try, and upheld the State requirement of 13,000 new dwelling units by 2030. Read more here: Huntington Beach vs State of California

It doesn’t appear one can lay down in front of the bulldozers in opposition to a project and get a positive result.  Times have changed and California is on a path to make the state a very different place in the next ten years.

Rendering of the bungalows in the Carpinteria Farm Bungalows project (courtesy)

Back to the Bluffs

If history is our guide, it might be hard to imagine the current Carpinteria City Council adopting a bluffs development. It is equally hard to picture the existing zoning of the Bluffs property will be ignored by the State.  If Carpinteria doesn’t meet the state mandate of 900 units by 2030, the state will then put an end to the term “Local Zoning” in the Carpinteria Valley.

Where we go from here will be decided quickly, the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors will be addressing the change of zoning in unincorporated Santa Barbara County over a large area of Ag land in the first quarter of 2024.  Area just outside of the Carpinteria City limits are in play for development and the City Council has no say in the matter.

Just down the road, Thousand Oaks City Council just gave the OK to develop 37 acres of land that has been privately owned and undeveloped for 40 years.  To satisfy the State mandates, The T.O. General Plan has been modified to allow 20 dwelling units of mixed use development per acre. Previously the number was 4.5 per acre.

Goodwin is currently doing his roadshow with details of his proposed development.  Local service groups have viewed presentations of his vision for the land and he is making himself available to one and all. There will no doubt be more outreach to the citizenry before the Carpinteria City Council votes on the project.

Citizen’s for the Carpinteria Bluffs will also undoubtedly be very active in their opposition to the project and are addressing the proposal as it stands.  At this point there is no fundraising to buy the property because there is no willing seller.

Expect a spirited debate in the coming months, the rules of engagement have changed, for the moment the land remains the same.

More information on the project can be found here Carpinteriafarmbungalows.com and more information on the citizen’s group can be found here: Carpinteriabluffs.org‘


Written by blazer

Blazer is a longtime radio DJ providing morning traffic reports on 92.9 KJEE and writes stories of interest for edhat.

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  1. TO is LA!
    This is a sales high end real estate ad for everyone reading this.
    The city of Carp. can build the mandated housing many other places but, oh, wait, SB county has been giving the finger to the state of ca, so why is this so important?
    People have been salivating for that property since as far back as I can remember.
    Imagine the sales pitch “You can hang glide and What ever is new soaring stuff their is right out your back door and you can land there too.”
    Where is the stairwell to Rincon Backside that is missing from the cheezy sketch that is provided.
    Born and Raised?
    Doesn’t mean shit theses days.

  2. My vote would be to scrap the hotel and build more housing — 41 affordable homes are fine but what about adding market rate housing. Not big house but maybe a mix of <2,000 sq foot homes and condos.
    With walking trails and much of the bluffs already preserved this seems like a great place to add homes.

  3. The state housing development mandates are a complete scam. The overdevelopment of open space will ruin communities throughout California, all in the name of a phony “housing crisis”. These draconian laws, intended to overrule local land use control, are all a scheme to feed developers, architects, contractors and investment corporations. The state is forcing this for the sole purpose of property tax and fee revenues. The destruction of the beauty of California will be both shameful and permanent. Sadly, too many people are falling for this fraud.

  4. This comment is to inform the public of how housing element updates work.
    I have been watching several news outlets that have been putting forward articles about housing developments and consistently I have seen the term STATE MANDATE being used a general reference to almost everything to do with housing projects. It is being used woefully incorrectly.
    It redirects the focus of who is responsible for the negative views towards housing developments. The redirection is almost always used to take the focus off a government leader in an attempt to redirect the blame on the State, just by saying STATE MANDATE as a go to excuse.
    This ‘spin’ gets repeated in social media and the everyday citizen turns out to just repeat those same words without ever knowing what they are talking about. It creates unneeded division and promotes further misunderstanding of the housing issues and how to confront them.

    There are 5 sections of this report that are incorrect.
    Sacramento on the move –
    1. “Every ten or so years, the state gives guidance on how much housing a county must provide.”
    Under the RHNA of 1969 every 8 years Jurisdictions (Cities and Counties) must prepare and plan for housing needs for all economic levels of the community. They do this by preparing a housing element. Since 1969 there has been 6 sessions. Each jurisdiction produces and prepares the housing population need information. It is sent to the regional council of government, (SBCAG) SBCAG produces the methodology along with the financial report projections and submits for review to the State, HCD for compliance with housing law. The state does not make up housing numbers, they only fact check the data sent to them for correctness. When the numbers are with in 1.5% of the financial projections the information is then sent to the State Transportation for review and there projections are included. The final Housing Needs is sent to the council of governments with a break down of what percentages of housing goes to each economic status, low income, very low income, medium income and high income. That is called the Housing Needs assessment letter. THE State DOES NOT say HOW MUCH housing is provided. Local government does.
    All the State does is make sure each jurisdiction does this every 8 years or loses permitting rights. Before this session all that the State did was issue penalty fines for late housing elements, in 2022 AB 2063 was approved and it granted the Housing authority to reject non-complaint reports. That took effect in Jan 2023. All the Cities thought they could get away with turning in housing elements late and would only get a penalty fine, but they realized the State wasn’t play games anymore and they all started getting non-complaint reports. The only thing the State did this time around was put its foot down from allowing local governments to drag their feet on housing elements.

    2. “In all areas of California the state is telling, not asking, for compliance.”
    What the STATE MANDATE IS! The State Mandate is to assure local government implements housing elements. This is outlined in full detail under Article 10.6 – HOUSING ELEMENTS, Cal. Gov. Code § 65580 to Section 65589.11, Cal. Gov. Code § 65581 provides the legislative intent:
    (a) To assure that counties and cities recognize their responsibilities in contributing to the attainment of the state housing goal.
    (b) To assure that counties and cities will prepare and implement housing elements which, along with federal and state programs, will move toward attainment of the state housing goal.
    (c) To recognize that each locality is best capable of determining what efforts are required by it to contribute to the attainment of the state housing goal, provided such a determination is compatible with the state housing goal and regional housing needs.
    (d) To ensure that each local government cooperates with other local governments in order to address regional housing needs.

    3. “If the Housing Element mandate is not met, the State then has the right to set aside all local laws and approve projects under what is called a “Builder’s Remedy” regardless of local zoning or general plan restrictions.”
    The State Mandate is just the State making sure local government produces a housing element, nothing more. Much like the teacher’s job to make sure homework is turned in on time and graded for those folks who need a shorter description. The deadline for this session was Feb 2023. If the City did not turn in its housing elements on time it was listed OUT of compliance. (OUT – indicates either the local government adopted an element the Department found did not comply with state housing environmental law) Once a jurisdiction submits its housing element and it is reviewed by the State it can be IN compliance (IN – indicates local government adopted an element the Department found in compliance with State Housing Law)
    Only 7 of 9 jurisdictions are still OUT of compliance as of Jan 14th, 2023. (https://www.hcd.ca.gov/planning-and-community-development/housing-open-data-tools/housing-element-review-and-compliance-report)

    4. “If Carpinteria doesn’t meet the state mandate of 900 units by 2030,”
    Once the Jurisdiction submits its housing element and listed as IN compliance, the STATE MANDATE is completed. The State Mandate is just the State making sure local government produces a housing element, nothing more. Like I said before just like the teacher’s job to make sure homework is turned in on time and graded. From that point on it is to be referred to as the Housing element giving housing direction needs.

    5. “the state will then put an end to the term “Local Zoning” in the Carpinteria Valley.”
    This is factually false. There is no law or legislative acts in the works to take away local zoning authority.

    I hope this information will be taken into consideration, maybe modify the article, and going forward the use of “STATE MANDATE” be utilized appropriately.

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