Friday, July 09, 2021

Itching to Pave Paradise

 Melinda Palacio

Proposed site of a boutique hotel in Carpinteria

No longer a secret is Santa Barbara’s sleepy neighbor, Carpinteria, where many of my friends live.  The beach community boasts a charm that is similar to Newport Beach of fifty years ago, quaint, small, a locals only feel, one train stop away from Santa Barbara. The latest plot to turn strip the small town of its charm involves a plot of land by the railroad. 

    I’ve taken the Amtrak to Union Station in Los Angeles many times. Some may joke that Carpinteria sounds like the name of carpet store. In 1769 when Spaniards observed Chumash Indians building wooden canoes, they called the town the carpenter shop or La Carpinteria. On the way back to Santa Barbara, few people exit at Carpinteria, but instead collect their luggage for the big destination, Santa Barbara. The train station is the site for patch of undeveloped land, community parking and green space to be used by a proposed 40-room boutique hotel, giving resources and land owned by the city to a developer who will compromise the mountain views from public beaches and alter the town’s small-town feel. 

Some say Carpinteria is indeed the last small beach town in Southern California. The offer made by the developer must sound sweet, but it tastes sour to many long term residents, such as my friend Alison, who has lived there for over twenty years. “It changes that old beach town feel,” she said. “Seven hundred plus residences live by the beach and that’s the only place to escape if a tsunami happens.” She hopes enough people will sign the petition to at least get the initiative on the ballot and let the people who live in town vote on the proposed hotel. 

activist and author Alison Bailey
photo by Nell Campbell

The petition circulating around town that will allow registered voters to have a voice in regard to the future of the Downtown space and change the zoning of the open space from General Commercial to Recreational Open Space at 399 Linden.


Meanwhile, surf’s up in Carpinteria and the best place for a pancake is not the IHop but across the street at locally owned Hugo’s and a local liquor store, Beach Liquor, sells the best homemade burritos. The Carpinteria Bluffs provide 51 acres of open space and a view to a California harbor seal rookery as well as fantastic birding opportunities. There’s also great birding at the Salt Marsh Nature Preserve. Let’s hope the people win the battle for the patch of land downtown by the railroad station. I could be wrong, but I think more and more people appreciated the fact that they could walk in nature and enjoy open spaces during the Covid lockdowns. 

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