Of the 37 cannabis sites in Carpinteria, 13 sites have been approved to operate, and only five of those have received permits.
This permitting process could be the reason some Carpinterians have been complaining about the odor wafting from greenhouses.
Das Williams, 1st District supervisor, has been a name mentioned by the concerned residents, who believe he’s not doing enough to address the odor.
However, he told the News-Press that there are three key things that must happen in order for the smell to go away: finding technology that works, enforcing it and implementing permits.
“It’s just hard in some of these places — there’s definitely folks who have a legitimate odor issue and some people that just hate cannabis that are using odor as the issue,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s hard for me as a regulator to know the difference.”
He said the odor has, in fact, improved recently, citing the decreasing number of complaints. However, he added that the county is aware that some odor control technology is not sufficient.
The supervisor referenced a “number of compromises” between neighbors or “anti-cannabis folks” appealing a project and the growers themselves. One compromise Mr. Williams mentioned was a grower creating a perimeter within a greenhouse to diffuse the vapor before it exits the greenhouse, to the grower’s own expense.
“I encourage discussions between applicants and the cannabis growers themselves, because I do think that experimentation with new technologies and innovation with new technologies is gonna be how we get to a better place,” he said. “We’ve been engaged with several different folks who are attempting to improve the level of odor from various backgrounds in attempts to get the right mix of the right technology and the right innovation.”
Odor control is mandatory in Carpinteria, something Mr. Williams said is “bulletproof in the ordinance.” However, many of the sites don’t have the proper infrastructure to implement odor control systems, although the supervisor said there is an “awful lot” of greenhouses in the process of improving their infrastructure to bring it up to code.
“A condition of the permit is we require the best available technology on odor control, but just like if you were in the process of bringing your illegal garage version up to code, you wouldn’t have to rip out your garage in the meantime,” he said. “So our enforcement capability is greater when they are permitted.”
He said that under the ordinance, if a greenhouse has three complaints in a year, a director is sent to the property. If the director smells the odor, corrective action is issued.
The growers are required to get a permit, but Mr. Williams said county officials are examining a way to push growers to apply quicker. He raised doubts that some growers are seriously trying to get permits, claiming some are “just trying to run the clock out on us.”
“There are a few operators that seem to be taking their own sweet time that we are very concerned with,” he said. “I do still think there’s some places … where I am not impressed with progress. Most of the places, I’m impressed with the progress, but there’s definitely some places I’m not impressed with their progress.”
Ever-Bloom Inc., the cannabis greenhouse near Linden Meadows on Foothill Road in Carpinteria, is one of the operations without a permit.
Mr. Williams said he lives within blocks of the greenhouse, and since the business invested “millions of dollars into odor control,” he hasn’t smelled the odor.
Regarding the complaints of Linden Meadows residents, Mr. Williams said that there’s “no evidence” that the odor decreases property values, and that property values in Carpinteria have “gone exactly in the opposite direction.”
He added that he suggested that greenhouses operating near Linden Meadows should, instead of expanding marijuana operations, implement farmworker housing or “something else that is needed more by the community rather than bringing marijuana closer to residents.” To his understanding, the greenhouses have taken his advice and are attempting that housing endeavor.
Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura said residents’ complaints of the cannabis odor are justified, but he also agreed that the smell has improved.
“If we were to resolve the issue, it would actually have to be a joint effort where the residents are heard by the growers and the growers let the residents know what they’ve done as far as trying to mitigate the odors and problems,” the mayor told the News-Press. “I think, to this day, it’s always been one presentation followed by another confrontational presentation and it’s gone back and forth; whereas, I think if people were to sit down and try to come up with what’s going on and have better communication channels, it may resolve some of it, even though right now it’s still a little edgy, especially for that community (Linden Meadows). They’ve had it pretty rough.”
While the enforcement lies under the jurisdiction of the county, Mayor Nomura said the city has written a few letters of concern to the board for a little more assistance. However, he thinks that because the growers are the experts, it’s up to them to figure out the best technology to control the odor.
“I can sympathize with both groups,” he said. “On the one hand, there is definitely a reason for concern and complaints coming from the residents of Meadow Circle. I can see their desire to try to reduce, if not eliminate, the problems that they’re facing. However, on the growers’ side, it may be technology that hasn’t caught up to it, to where they’re doing the best they can — possibly, probably.
“But it isn’t enough. Technology has to step in and help the growers, specifically the one being cited. They’re strong supporters of the community, and they’ve helped out quite a bit reaching out, especially in times of COVID, supporting those people that have been falling into hard times. They are essential partners of the valley — it’s just a matter of now coming up with solutions to live better together, and something down the road that will have to be addressed.”