A group of Eastside residents gathered Monday afternoon inside a downtown Santa Barbara city planning office, frustrated and at a loss for what else to do.
The business owners and locals living on Cota Street and Bond Avenue were worried about constant noise, traffic and a fishy odor coming from the Santa Barbara Fish Market warehouse at 528 N. Quarantina St.
A meeting wasn’t scheduled, but Dave Blunk and Abbey Fregosa weren’t sure how else to get a meeting with city officials, since emails and phone calls didn’t seem to work, they told Noozhawk.
The issue was one of zoning, they alleged, which was why they planned to hire a local attorney to help iron out concerns that have been stewing for a year — since the warehouse opened right behind the fence in Blunk’s yard.
That wasn’t necessary, as they found out.
The Santa Barbara City Attorney’s office coincidentally sent Santa Barbara Fish Market a letter last Friday, asking the business to cease all seafood processing at the site because it was a violation of the city’s zoning code.
The half dozen locals present at Monday’s meeting — ready to argue their case with a bucket full of dead fish in tow — rejoiced at the news.
“That’s all we’re asking — enforcement of what’s on the books,” Blunk told Noozhawk.
“We feel that the business has been allowed to be placed in a zone that it shouldn’t be. We’re just tired of the nuisances. As you can imagine, living next to smelly fish is not fun. The noise that drives me nuts is refrigeration units that run pretty much full time.
“We shouldn’t have to be in this position.”
In the letter, city attorney Ariel Calonne informed fish market owner Brian Colgate that his office received a zoning complaint about his business operations in January.
While food product manufacturing is allowed in that particular commercial zone, which is surrounded by a residential area, seafood processing is not.
“That distinction is important in interpreting the code,” Calonne told Noozhawk.
The fish market was not given a set deadline to discontinue seafood processing, said Calonne, who is waiting for a response from Colgate or his attorney for next steps.
Santa Barbara Fish Market has been in town more than 10 years and operates out of 117 Harbor Way, where it sells locally harvested seafood products and fish from around the world.
Colgate could not be reached for comment.
The city says the Santa Barbara Fish Market is using the warehouse to receive, process and package fresh seafood products.
City planner Renee Brooke and community development director George Buell sat down Monday with concerned Eastside residents and City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, who was contacted by a resident and was there to observe and see if she could help.
Planners gave them the news and explained the fish market would be allowed an undetermined amount of time to cease operations or bring its use in line with zoning rules.
Brooke wasn’t sure if there would be fines levied because of the violation.
“Will we be involved in that process?” Fregosa said, indicating a desire to more directly communicate with city staff.
Other neighbors shared horror stories of sealing themselves in warm homes to keep the fishy smell from entering through open windows.
Blunk, who has lived in his Cota Street home for three years, said people couldn’t even invite guests over because of the overwhelming odor, citing a loud and disruptive truck entrance on Bond Avenue.
“Thank you, Renee,” Blunk said at the end of the meeting. “We appreciate the good news.”