Carpinteria is one of the several Santa Barbara County communities holding district elections for the first time on Nov. 8. With three City Council seats on the ballot, only one of the races is contested.

Voters will elect council representatives in Districts 1, 3 and 5 this year, while council seats from Districts 2 and 4 will be on the ballot in 2024.

District 1

The race for District 1 is uncontested, which means that Mónica Solórzano will be the newest addition to the council.

Mónica Solórzano

Mónica Solórzano

A policy analyst for UC Santa Barbara, as well as president of the Aliso School Parent-Teacher Association, Solórzano said the district system allows new people, such as herself, to get involved in the city and bring in different perspectives.

“I want to represent people who maybe don’t feel like they get to be represented,” she told Noozhawk. “I like having the ability to look at things with fresh eyes.”

Solórzano also sits on the boards for the Downtown “T” Advisory Board and the Latinx Arts Project.

Even though she’s running unopposed, Solórzano said there’s still work to be done, particularly in meeting constituents and hearing their concerns and what they want addressed by the council.

With housing a concern for many Carpinterians, Solórzano said she likes the idea of using already existing buildings and finding creative ways to create housing, mentioning Goleta’s upcoming supportive housing project as an example. That project will be converting the former Super 8 motel in Old Town Goleta into permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

Spreading information on climate change and addressing concerns related to development are other topics Solórzano said she wants to focus on, especially as the drought and water scarcity affects Carpinteria.

Solórzano said she is excited to be a city council member who is similar to the people who live in the diverse district she’ll be representing, as she and her husband are both commuters and raising two young daughters.

“It’s important to have someone who wants to make it all work,” she said. “I’m modeling the type of risk-taking and leadership that I hope (my daughters) emulate.”

District 3

Another uncontested race, District 3 will be represented by incumbent Roy Lee, who is finishing his fourth year on the council and entering his second term.

Roy Lee

Roy Lee

Lee, a small business owner and longtime resident, said his goals involve focusing on the quality of life for residents — paving streets and crosswalks, improving bike paths, undergrounding utilities, working on the city’s energy independence, and more.

He added that he also wants to do more to address homelessness, housing and the city’s water supply.

“We have seen much more of an increase of homeless individuals in our community,” Lee said. “It’s one of those topics that’s hard to address, but I plan to.”

He emphasized the importance of supporting local businesses and local first responders, veterans and essential workers.

“By supporting your local businesses, you’re supporting your community,” Lee said. “It’s vital the community supports family-owned businesses so that they are keeping the money in the community.”

District 5

Three candidates are running for the District 5 seat, including two longtime council incumbents.

Patrick O’Connor

Patrick O’Connor

Al Clark

Al Clark

Gregg Carty

Gregg Carty

Gregg Carty and Al Clark are running for re-election, while newcomer Patrick O’Connor, an aerospace executive, is also running for the position.

Having lived in Carpinteria for more than 60 years, Carty has served on the City Council for 16 years and said he wants to continue being a good steward for the city.

“Carpinteria is a very special place to me,” he said. “I want to see a climate where we have healthy businesses in downtown, and also preservation of Carpinteria the way we know it today.”

One of Carty’s main focuses if elected is to create a senior center and focus on senior residents’ needs.

“We’ve kind of overlooked them for quite some time and it’s time to have a senior center,” he said.

As far as development, Carty said he is not in favor of “rampant development,” but is for “well thought out, smart development,” adding that the council should take developments on a case-by-case basis but also be careful not to deny every project.

With the new district elections, Carty and Clark, who also has served on the council for 16 years, are now running against each other.

“I used to run with my friend, Al Clark, and now I’m running against him,” Carty said. “We’ve accomplished so much together and now to run against him — it’s very difficult for me.”

Clark said he and Carty now have different visions for Carpinteria, and he wants to continuing pursing his vision for the community.

“Carpinteria is going to change and Carpinteria is going to grow, but we need to manage it so we feel that it hasn’t gotten out of bounds and we don’t even recognize our own town anymore,” he said.

“Carpinteria is under intense pressure to change and grow. … We have a charming little downtown and we have to protect our local business owners.”

Clark said he initiated the moratorium on chain stores in the downtown area in order to promote and protect local small businesses.

He added that his goals focus on taking care of residents, downtown local businesses and the environment.

Some of Clark’s ideas to address housing include looking at empty commercial or office buildings to repurpose for residential use, or converting motels and hotels into housing.

He also suggested exploring the establishment of a city housing authority, and even hiring Peoples’ Self-Help Housing to help bring affordable housing to the community.

While Clark said the new council district will force voters to choose between him and his fellow incumbent — or bringing in a new council member — he said this could provide opportunities for different people to run and get involved in municipal government.

“This will set it up for the future so different groups have more equal opportunity to participate in the election,” he said.

A nine-year resident of Carpinteria, O’Connor decided to run for the council after researching his home and learning about the city’s zoning process. The new districts provided a “turning point” for him to get involved, he said.

“What I intend to do is just get involved in the decision-making process and hold the boards and commissions and the council accountable for decision making at their level (as opposed to the unelected employee level),” O’Connor said.

O’Connor said that, while seeking petition signatures to get his name on the ballot, several residents and small business owners expressed being “afraid of the consequences of dealing with the city” in the property development process.

“Carpinterians deserve fair decisions without fear or favor,” he said, a response that has become a slogan for his campaign.

O’Connor said he’s in favor of the downtown area being a mix of retail, residential and hotel uses.

In order to maintain Carpinteria’s small-town character, he said, there must be responsible development.

“The notion of residents, as well as hotel beds, in the downtown area should be considered equally,” O’Connor said. “I think I can really offer a lot of help in how that goes through and how decisions are made to support a mixed use and what Carpinterians want to see.”

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com.