Santa Barbara County: how will it be with Hoop Houses?
CLAWS has recently taken action to promote a reasoned and appropriate program for managing agricultural hoop houses in Santa Barbara County
The use of hoop houses for agricultural operations in Santa Barbara County has been increasing substantially in recent years. Hoop Houses offer potential benefits of reduced water use, reduced or avoided pesticide use, improvement in worker conditions and increased agricultural productivity, but have a significant aesthetic impact when large areas are covered and generate large volumes of plastic waste. When abandoned in place, hoop houses contribute to litter as the plastic degrades and is blown off-site. CLAWS believes hoop houses offer benefits but have impacts, and as such, should be subject to standards for their use, and, when they can cause significant impacts, be subject to a reasonable regulatory system administered by the County.
The County Planning Department programmed funds to develop an ordinance for hoop houses, and that work was about to begin until June 6, 2017, when the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to skip that and simply direct the Planning Director to declare that hoop houses should be considered “farm equipment” that are exempt from permit requirements or rules governing their use. Planning Director Glenn Russell approved that determination on June 15.
The County’s actions avoided any consideration of the environmental impacts of hoop houses and created a glaring inconsistency in the zoning ordinance, which already defines hoop houses as “structures” that are subject to permit. The County’s actions conflict with General Plan policies requiring control of drainage from impervious surfaces and consideration of aesthetic impacts.
With no action, the hoop house exemption would become final, so CLAWS filed an appeal of the County’s action. In papers filed on June 26, CLAWS appealed the Planning Director’s determination to the Planning Commission, on the grounds that the action improperly evaded environmental review and created inconsistencies with the zoning ordinance and General Plan.
The Planning Commission has scheduled a hearing on this appeal on Wednesday, August 9 in Santa Maria. The public is invited to attend and offer comment. It is our hope that the Planning Commission will approve the appeal and that the County will return to its previous course - study and adopt reasonable standards and requirements for hoop houses that allow their use when and where appropriate, but ensure groundwater recharge will not be impacted and scenic resources will be protected.
To support CLAWS’ appeal of the Hoop House exemption, send a tax-deductible donation by mail or through our website and note “Hoop House Appeal” in the memo or comment section.
For those who read Spanish, here's an account including burning hoop houses in a recent wildfire in Spain, where hoop houses go from horizon to horizon in areas. Wildfires are definitely a consideration here.