FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Demographics
Local Economic Information Resources
Other Planning Resources
Other Local Government Links

"Why can't I just build . . . " One of the overriding concerns of government is to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the community. Building permits assure the community that applicable structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or fire codes have been checked and that the construction has been inspected. Without building permits, you may endanger yourself, your family, or the subsequent user of the structure. Even if you are knowledgeable in the construction trades, what assurance does the buyer of that structure have that the job was built correctly and inspected unless the City has a record of it? Lending institutions often ask for this type of information to protect the value of their real estate loans.

Planning permits (site development plan approval) may be required for certain projects. The review helps ensure that the land use is compatible with the community. The process serves to inform the adjacent property owners about the future plans for that "vacant lot next door."

"How do I contact the Planning Commission?" Planning Commissioners may be contacted through the Community Development Department. The Commission meets regularly in public hearings that allow people to address the Commission on any planning topic (not on the agenda) for up to five (5) minutes.

"How do I know what jurisdiction to contact?" or "Am I in the City?" City boundaries can be unclear and tend to change. See the City Map. We don't paint a line on the street and say one side is in the city and the other side is in the county. However, we have maps that do the same thing. Generally, there are few agricultural uses in the City Limits. The largest exceptions are on South Blosser Road and around the Santa Maria Airport.

The City of Santa Maria/Orcutt (County of Santa Barbara) interface around the Santa Maria Airport is most complex. Waller Park and the Santa Maria Valley YMCA are not in the City Limits, but the City of Santa Maria built and operates the Hagerman Softball Complex. The Santa Maria Airport and the Santa Barbara County Government (Curtis Tunnell Center) Complex on West Foster Road are in the City Limits. West of the Orcutt Expressway (SR 135), the County maintains jurisdiction generally south of the future "Union Valley Parkway," which will be in the City Limits; that puts the "Foxenwoods" and "Deerfield" subdivisions under the County's jurisdiction. The other residential island enclaves of "Tanglewood" and "Lake Marie Estates" are not in the City of Santa Maria.

On the east side of Broadway, near the Santa Maria Way "Y," the K-Mart and Hi-Way Drive-in theater delineate the southern city boundary. The "Sunrise Hills" subdivision is in the City Limits; the "Quail Meadows" developments are not in the City Limits.

"I received this letter in the mail and I don't know what it means . . ." Probably, you own property that is within 300 feet of a proposed project that requires a public hearing. The notice is a legal requirement. We also publish a legal notice in the Santa Maria Times and "post" a copy of the notice on the property (or properties) that are proposed for development. The letter generally describes the "project," location, meeting (date, time, and location), and includes file numbers.

If you have questions or concerns about the potential impact of the project, please contact the Community Development Department to ask your questions or share your concerns about the proposal. You are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission (and/or City Council) meeting(s) to provide your testimony during the public hearing. This testimony may be made in person (at the public hearing) or submitted in writing prior to the meeting.

There are specific requirements-a part of due process-that must be followed for an appeal. These steps are specified in SMMC Chapter 12-41 Interpretation and Appeals.

"Why can't you just give me a variance for that?" Variances are extremely rare actions. To grant a variance, the Planning Commission must hold a public hearing and make all three of the following findings:

  1. There are physical constraints with the lot that prohibit a reasonable use of the property. This might be the small size of the lot, the irregular shape of the lot, or the topography that makes building height, setback, or parking codes impossible to follow.

  2. There are similar situations (in the same zone) where similar constraints on the other properties have been relieved; a variance cannot grant one person a special privilege. Usually, variance situations occur in "older" areas of town, where development occurred prior to the application of zoning regulations.

  3. The granting of a variance does not permit a use or activity that would not otherwise be allowed in that zone. There are no grounds for granting a "Use Variance." If a desired land use is not allowed in the current zone, the proposed project must apply for General Plan and zoning amendments.

"How do I get more information about the area?" The Internet is full of information that may provide you with information about Santa Maria (or the Central California Coast). The following links have been useful to answer many of the different questions that we receive. The following links will connect you with some of the most current information available:

Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce
City Profile
Community Services Directory

" “How do I process my project under the Downtown Specific Plan?”" The City has recently amended the Downtown Specific Plan; here is the most recent version of this important document

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DEMOGRAPHICS

The Workforce Resource Center is your one-stop employment connection where numerous partner agencies have joined forces to assist you in reaching your employment goals. Whether you are looking for your first job, a new job or looking for career advancement, the Workforce Resource Center is here to help. The WRC provides a complete demographic portrait (2003) of Santa Barbara County online. (WARNING: NOT RECOMMENDED FOR DIAL-UP INTERNET ACCOUNTS)

United States Census Bureau - provides the definitive demographic picture of the nation, states, counties, cities, and sub-areas. The Census 2000 data is available from the Census Bureau's American FactFinder.

Note: Available here are Specific demographics for Santa Maria.

California Department of Finance (Demographics Research Unit) - between Censuses, the State DOF provides demographic estimates of state, county, and city populations.

Santa Barbara County Unemployment Rate - this site gives you the latest employment information for the county and sub-areas of the county.

Consumer Price Index (CPI) - Santa Maria uses the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area Index. You can compare "the cost of living" with other regions to see where you can expect to spend more, less, or the same amount of money on food, clothing, utilities, and housing.

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LOCAL ECONOMIC INFORMATION RESOURCES

UCSB Economic Forecast Project - provides access to economic profiles from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties. There is a charge for these resources, but these documents are comprehensive and updated annually.

Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce - if you want to know about the "business climate," these people can answer your questions.

Santa Maria Airport - the Santa Maria Public Airport District encompasses over 400 square miles and provides a first class airport (SMX) and includes 4 square miles of property in the City Limits of Santa Maria, which is about 20 percent of the City's 19.6 square mile total area.

The California Economic Forecast generates data and analysis that concentrates on economic conditions for real estate.

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OTHER PLANNING RESOURCES

State Agencies:

Land Use Planning Information Network (LUPIN) - provides excellent general planning resources.
California Environmental Resources Agency (CERES) - provides excellent environmental resources.
State Housing and Community Development (HCD) - addresses issues of housing.
Office of Planning and Research (OPR) - provides a gateway to several valuable State planning documents.

Universities:

Cal Poly SLO City & Regional Planning - Cal Poly is located about 35 miles north of Santa Maria. The university focuses on a "learn by doing" education.
UCSB Environmental Studies - UCSB is about 70 miles south of Santa Maria. The Environmental Studies program is a liberal arts education.
UCSD City and Country Reference Shelf - UCSD focuses on the international studies aspects of planning education.
UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies - IGS administers the statewide data base and gives a strong overview of governmental studies for research purposes.
UC Berkeley Planning Library - The UCB Planning Library serves as one of the three mandated State repositories for all planning documents and publications.

Statewide Organizations:

League of California Cities - The "League" organizes and hosts several statewide conferences for municipal governments.
California Chapter of the American Planning Association - CCAPA is the professional planning association. Membership in APA is required for AICP (American Institute of City Planning) certification.

Other State & City Links:

The State of California provides a portal to a variety of State agencies and services. The "Quick Hits" power bar on the right side of the page includes City and Count web sites that may further assist users of this site.

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OTHER LOCAL GOVERNMENT LINKS

Santa Barbara County - includes unincorporated areas like Orcutt, Sisquoc, Cuyama, New Cuyama, Mission Hills, Santa Ynez, Isla Vista, and Montecito.

Santa Barbara County Association of Governments - provides the SB County governments the opportunity to address issues and coordinate regional programs.

Cities in Santa Barbara County (from highest population to lowest population).
City of Santa Barbara - located about 70 miles south of Santa Maria.
Santa Maria - a livable place to work.
City of Lompoc - located about 20 miles southwest of Santa Maria.
City of Goleta - about 60 miles south of Santa Maria.
City of Carpinteria - located about 80 miles south of Santa Maria.
Guadalupe - located about 10 miles west of Santa Maria.
Solvang - located about 35 miles south of Santa Maria.
City of Buellton - located about 30 miles south of Santa Maria.

San Luis Obispo County - SLO County sits on the northern border of Santa Maria. It includes unincorporated areas like Nipomo, Oceano, Avila Beach, Cayucos, Cambria, Templeton, Santa Margarita, and Pozo.

Cities in San Luis Obispo County (from highest population to lowest population).
City of San Luis Obispo- located about 30 miles north of Santa Maria.
City of Atascadero - located about 55 miles north of Santa Maria.
Paso Robles - located about 70 miles north of Santa Maria.
City of Arroyo Grande - located about 16 miles north of Santa Maria.
City of Grover Beach - located about 18 miles north of Santa Maria.
Morro Bay - located about 45 miles north of Santa Maria
City of Pismo Beach - located about 20 miles north of Santa Maria.