In June, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury issued a report titled “Cannabis” that was critical of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors’ public process for its ordinance allowing local cannabis production.
Today, the board will vote on a written response for its chair to sign and send to the presiding judge of the Santa Barbara Superior Court.
According to the drafted response that the board will consider at today’s meeting, the Grand Jury report made 12 findings.
Findings regarding the board’s public process include that the Board of Supervisors inadequately considered the impact of cannabis production on the health and safety of Santa Barbara County residents; created an ad hoc subcommittee on cannabis not open to the public that lacked transparency, and granted unfettered and undisclosed access to cannabis industry lobbyists during the creation of cannabis ordinances.
The report also made findings that there is a conflict between cannabis production and traditional agriculture in Santa Barbara County, that the amount of cannabis production allowed under current ordinances is excessive and led to overconcentration, that the board’s unverified affidavit system doesn’t require proof of prior cannabis operations to establish eligibility to keep growing legal cannabis, that the affidavit system doesn’t require proof of prior scope of cannabis acreage, that taxing cannabis according to gross receipts is less reliable than according to square footage, that the County treasurer-tax collector wasn’t included in creating the cannabis ordinance’s tax portions, that members of the County Chief Executive Office successfully got a one mile buffer recommendation eliminated without the board’s knowledge, that there has not been effective odor control for cannabis cultivation, and that the Board of Supervisors doesn’t have a written code of ethics to guide its decision-making process.
Though the Board of Supervisors’ written response agrees with the Grand Jury’s findings that the affidavit system doesn’t require proof of prior cannabis operations and that it doesn’t require proof of prior scope of acreage, it either wholly or partially disagrees with all other findings.
While the board will implement the report’s recommendation that it involve the County Treasurer-Tax Collector in creating future ordinances, it will not implement any of the other recommendations suggested by the Grand Jury.
In other business, the board will receive a report evaluating the performance of the County Public Defender’s Office. According to the agenda item’s board letter, the report, carried out by KPMG, highlights eight recommendations for the department, which the Public Defender’s Office agrees with “in general.”
These include implementing a data-driven workload tracking process to determine case assignment, and increasing operational efficiency by realigning tasks to the appropriate staff level, among others.
However, the board letter states that implementing some of these recommendations “may require additional resources, budget or interagency cooperation.”
The board will also hear an appeal filed by Gaviota Coast Conservancy and the Coastal Ranches Conservancy for the approval of the Caltrans Gaviota Culvert project. The project would replace an existing culvert off U.S. Highway 101 in the Canada del Barro drainage on the Gaviota Coast, which has excessive cracking, spalling and moderate scour in its inlet wall.
According to the agenda item’s board letter, the board is recommended to deny the appeal for the project.
The Board of Supervisors will also receive a COVID-19 update from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.