August 23rd Committee Meeting- City Council and Planning Commission Joint Session

Solvang leaders dipped a toe into the nitty-gritty of the city's general plan Monday during a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission, but found early dissension among the ranks after repeatedly ignoring requests to include reference to Chumash and Spanish predecessors high in the visioning document.

The Planning Commission voted 3-1 to approve the plan’s guiding principles, with the addition of reference to the library and a verb change, and directed staff to return with a more succinct vision statement. Planning Commissioner Joannie Jamieson dissented. Commissioner Scott Gold was absent.

“I think we’re glossing over a whole history of what was here before Solvang. It’s not Danish, I know, but it’s certainly added to what some people come here for,” said Jamieson, a seventh-generation Californio.

The council upheld the commission’s decision with its own unanimous vote, although Mayor Pro Tem Clau Orona also repeatedly requested the base document include specific reference to Chumash and Spanish people who preceded the Danes.

“There’s nothing in the guiding principles that acknowledge our relationship with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians,” Orona said.

Jamieson also repeatedly reminded the joint body that Chumash culture in the Valley is not a thing of the past, but a living culture and community that continues to support the Valley as a whole.

“If it weren’t for the tribe in this Valley, there would be a big world of hurt monetarily for people who need the extra money, and I’m not talking about gambling, I’m talking about the donations they make. They make huge donations to all the schools in the Valley. We’re not just Danish, Mark,” she said, referring to City Councilman Mark Infanti.

“I give up. I agree,” Infanti responded.

Planning Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said retaining references specifically to Solvang’s Danish or titles such as “Danish Capital of America” isn’t exclusive of other cultures, and requested that the joint body avoid “getting into semantics” and move ahead to the “meat and potatoes” of the general plan, which will guide city planning decisions for the next 20 years.

Ultimately, the plan will include deep dives into traffic and parking plans, citywide fiscal impact modeling alternatives to existing land uses, and more. It will run alongside the city’s housing element update, which will include site inventory analysis and address the state-mandated housing requirements of the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

“Think of a vision as the foundation, so a vision basically sets your track; it’s your goal, it’s what you’re looking toward,” said Brent Gibbons of Mintier Harnich which contracted with Solvang for the general plan update. “So a vision is supposed to be broad; it’s supposed to be aspirational, comprehensive, long-term and visionary. A vision isn't mandated by a general plan, but it really serves as I like to think of the spine of the plan itself. Everything else builds off of it.”

The general plan development process now moves on to its next stages, including further revision of the vision statement, and a Nov. 4 public workshop on alternative choices that will help inform the rest of the work on the general plan. Feedback from that workshop and additional edits to the vision statement will circle back to the council and commission for further guidance and final decisions.

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