Underlying Mayor Fred Shaw’s State of the Community message Friday was that even amid new ordinances, housing and development strategies and a massive freeway-widening project, Carpinteria is still preserving its small-town beach vibe.
The city’s annual luncheon event, put on by the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce at the Rincon Beach Club, laid out what’s going on in and around the 14,000-person city as it faces space constraints and becomes an increasingly desirable place to live and work.
Shaw, first elected to the City Council in 2012, said providing housing, especially for lower-income residents, was a city priority — though one made difficult by the city’s limited size and the extra development hurdles inherent to being in the closely regulated coastal zone.
Multi-use developments, with residential units on top and commercial space below, are an attractive solution, he said.
“These kinds of living spaces can provide housing while not overwhelming the strolling beach-town vibe that we enjoy.”
The mayor reviewed some of the high-profile issues the city is working to regulate: namely, short-term vacation rentals and marijuana businesses and cultivation.
On May 1, short-term rental owners and prospective owners can begin applying for a license under the city’s new regulatory structure, with a lottery in July that will determine who will receive them.
Earlier this month, the council decided to move forward with plans for a recreational pot business moratorium so as to give it time to work out regulations before California begins handing out business licenses in January.
Shaw said that even though various costs of living are continuously rising, the city is “on firm financial footing.”
But like many cities, counties and California as a whole, Carpinteria is facing a backlog of deferred capital improvements, which the mayor put at $275 million over 20 years.
In addition to some new funds expected from California’s recent gas tax hike, he said the city would like to develop a more robust financing structure by bringing in more big tech companies, fostering small business, growing public-private partnerships, using reserve funds and some debt financing.
Carpinteria’s environmental and transportation efforts have been highlighted by campaigns to preserve beachfront property from development, and the creation of a bicycle and pedestrian route from the county line north to Santa Claus Lane.
By far the biggest undertaking in the city is the current phase of the Highway 101 widening project, explained Kirsten Ayars, a project spokeswoman with Ayars & Associates.
The phase reconstructs and widens the freeway overcrossings at Linden Avenue and Casitas Pass Road, reconstructs freeway bridges over Carpinteria Creek, extends Via Real more than a mile so it meets up with Linden Avenue, and improves various bicycle and pedestrian crossings.
“This project itself is really a combination of a ton of local street improvements,” Ayars told attendees.
The $60 million phase is expected to be complete in 4 years with only the occasional nighttime road closure, she added.
Handling the city’s economic outlook was Mark Schniepp, the director of the Goleta-based consulting and analysis company California Economic Forecast.
Carpinteria is beating out the county and state in many statistics, he said, with unemployment at 4.8 percent, median household income at $70,000 and the median home price rising to $960,000.
Schniepp said that the city’s largest employer, Procore, a construction software company, is emblematic of Carpinteria’s burgeoning tech industry.
Professional and information services, wholesale trade and healthcare were the city’s growing industries, while the public sector, leisure and hospitality — typically cornerstone industries on the South Coast — contracted some over 2016.
Carpinteria’s limited size is becoming especially visible with the availability of commercial real estate, or lack thereof, Schniepp said: Of the city’s 1.8 million square feet of office and industrial space, only 27,000 square feet are currently available.
“There’s really not much expansion potential in Carpinteria at this moment, except internally with existing space,” he said.
Space constraints and the desirability of a small beach town were also reflected in residential vacancy rates: For apartments, the figure stood at 2.3 percent, while only 36 single-family detached homes and 24 condominiums were for sale in Carpinteria and Summerland combined.
Carpinteria Valley Water District general manager Robert McDonald and Danita Rodriguez, State Parks’ superintendent of its Channel Coast District, rounded out the city’s luncheon.
McDonald reported that even though the valley’s groundwater levels are near historic lows as a Stage II drought continues, the district has enough state water to last it a year, and is exploring a recycled-water program that could provide 25 percent of its water needs.
Rodriguez, in her review of the area’s open and recreation spaces, noted that Carpinteria State Beach’s campgrounds were the biggest revenue generator of all State Parks campgrounds.
— Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.