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Developer Ed St. George has withdrawn his Solvang hotel proposal and is forging ahead with a high-density housing plan. 

Driven by state legislation, Solvang City Council members Monday adopted an urgency ordinance regulating sidewalk vending operations and learned they have little say over a housing development now in the application process for a long-embattled city center property.

City Manager Xenia Bradford reported control of the Old Lumberyard development project may be largely out of Solvang’s hands now that developer Ed St. George has withdrawn his hotel proposal and is forging ahead with a high-density housing plan. That application was submitted Feb. 1. By state law, the city must respond by March 1.

That parcel adjacent to the city’s veterans hall was recently considered for a mixed-use, hotel-and-housing development. The plan also made room for city and county service buildings. City residents vociferously opposed the project, picketed outside City Hall in opposition to one iteration of the project, and called for the ouster of previous council members who supported its development.

The latest application focuses on housing units on the parcel already zoned for maximum residential density.

Under the SB330 Housing Crisis Act, cities have little say over housing developments that meet state mandates addressing housing needs, particularly for low-income and very-low-income housing. Any land taken out of use for such housing must be replaced elsewhere in the city.

“Those laws are very stringent and provide very little wiggle room to the city,” Bradford said.

City staff has until March 1 to review the housing proposal and come back with any requests for mitigation measures of a limited scope, environmental impacts being chief among them.

“It would take him withdrawing it for (it to) stop,” Bradford said.

City Planning Consultant Laurie Tamura said her staff is reviewing the application package and “anticipates there may be some issues that need additional environmental review.” Those may include traffic, noise, pollution, fire protection, and impacts to cultural resources, among other allowable mitigation concerns.

“Unless the city can make very specific findings, the city has to grant the concessions the builder is asking for,” said City Attorney David Fleishman.

The city of Huntington Beach tried to fight the state, Fleishman said, but lost its battle.

“The cards are stacked against the city when it comes to affordable housing, and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon,” he said.

The council also unanimously adopted an urgency ordinance which addresses SB946, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. The law, which became effective Jan. 1, 2019, allows vendors who don’t have storefronts to sell food and merchandise from mobile carts where there are no health, safety or welfare concerns.

“If you have one or two who are legitimately trying to make a living and this is their primary source of business — they don't have, in other words, a fixed location of business elsewhere in the city which would prohibit them from engaging in this type of mobile vending — then that allows that business to start from the ground up so to speak,” Fleishman said.

Under the new ordinance, small business owners who do not have storefront businesses may apply for a vending permit from the city to operate small stationary operations or roaming sales operations on public sidewalks or pathways between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. They will have to show proof of insurance, a business license, tax certificate and any Santa Barbara County health approvals and licenses.

“What we’re doing is tightening up the regulations in some sense and loosening them up in another sense in that we recognize SB946 prevents the city’s ability to regulate certain businesses, so we’re going to allow them, but within lane lines that are set up by the city,” Fleishman said.

The annual permit is not transferable and may be revoked by the city at any time “for good cause, including falsification of information, failure to comply with the sidewalk vendor regulations, engaging in activities that constitute a breach of peace or are a menace to health, safety or general welfare.”

According to the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers, cities cannot ban vending in parks owned by the city unless an exclusive license is already granted to a concessionaire for that park, but the new ordinance bans such vendors from Solvang Park.

The organization also notes cities cannot restrict vendors to designated neighborhoods, but siting public safety concerns regarding pedestrian traffic and access for people with disabilities, Solvang’s regulation bans such vendors from “the specific narrow sidewalks in the central business district, Copenhagen Drive, Mission Drive and Solvang Park.”

Stationary vendors are prohibited in residential zones, but roaming vendors may operate in those areas. No more than five stationary sidewalk vendor permits will be issued concurrently for the city’s parks, but cities may not limit the number of roaming sidewalk vendors in parks or elsewhere. And vendors are not permitted to operate within 500 feet of farmers markets or permitted special events, within 250 feet of any school “proximate to the start and end of the school day,” within 350 feet of picnic areas or playgrounds, or “within unsafe proximity of intersections, transit stops or fire hydrants.”

Vendors may not sell services, alcohol, tobacco, cannabis or “adult-oriented materials.” They may not use propane or any open flame, must have trash receptacles, collect trash from their operations and clean up any spills on public property.

The ordinance notes “persons are still prohibited from soliciting or peddling on private property without prior permission of the occupant, consistent with the current code.”

People who solicit orders for products on an established route, such as newspapers, or on behalf of retail dealers, wholesalers, jobber or manufacture, for a political or religious purpose or who are under 18 years of age remain exempt from city regulation under the ordinance.

Youth-driven projects, like lemonade stands and Girl Scout Cookie sales, are not impacted by the ordinance, city staff assured Councilwoman Clau Orona.

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