The Santa Barbara Fish Market operates a wholesale facility at 528 N. Quarantina St.
The Santa Barbara Fish Market operates a wholesale facility at 528 N. Quarantina St. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Despite a critical Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury Report, it doesn’t look like the City of Santa Barbara will be doing much to change its permitting processes.

Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne recently released a stern response to the grand jury, essentially contending that the volunteer group doesn’t understand the process and the reason that a specific permit was issued.

“Santa Barbara processes literally thousands of such permits annually,” Calonne wrote. “Implementing the recommendation would cost millions of dollars, even if lawful. There are extensive areas of state law preemption that prevent the city from complying with the recommendation, even if it were sound policy.”

The issue centers on the city’s handling of the Santa Barbara Fish Market, which has a wholesale facility at 528 N. Quarantina St. Neighbors began complaining in 2015 about traffic, noise and the smell of fish at the site. The Santa Barbara Fish Market operates its main retail shop out of 117 Harbor Way, where it sells locally harvested seafood products and fish from around the world.

The city issued a permit for building renovations with interior alterations to include a new refrigerated processing area, a freezer and a cooler at the property. The city’s Community Development Department approved a building permit for the facility in 2014.

The Civil Grand Jury is made of up volunteers who serve as government watchdogs on a variety of government entities and topics. The panel has no enforcement power. 

One of the grand jury’s recommendations was that the Santa Barbara City Council “hold public hearings on any zoning, permitting or Certificate of Occupancy decision, whether involving interior or exterior renovations for any project, that may lead to ‘obnoxious or offensive’ operations.”

Calonne responded that the city attorney investigator and assistant city prosecutor have made numerous site visits to the Santa Barbara Fish Market in response to complaints, and “to date, we have been unable to document any offensive or obnoxious conditions at the site, much less nuisance conditions.”

The grand jury report makes several other allegations and conclusions, all of which were dismissed by the City of Santa Barbara.

One of the requests was that the Santa Barbara City Council direct the Community Development Department to issue a report clarifying the uses that are allowed by the City Code’s land use regulations for the commercial-manufacturing zone.

“It should be reasonably expected that persons who choose to reside in a commercial or manufacturing area may experience the inconveniences of commercial or manufacturing uses,” Calonne wrote. “The city does not condone or encourage use conflicts or nuisance activities, but such conflicts are unavoidable when a person chooses to reside in an area zoned for intensive business use.”

In the report, the city listed 29 types of businesses in the area, including a car wash, a tire retreading shop and an auto paint shop.

Santa Barbara Fish Market owner Brian Colgate told Noozhawk that the company enjoys being part of the community.

“Santa Barbara Fish Market makes significant efforts to operate with respect to our surrounding community in our daily operations to minimize disturbances and impacts,” Colgate said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to provide seafood to our community for the past 22 years.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.