The Pressures Of Unlimited Growth

Let’s examine the cumulative effect of “housing mandates” from Sacramento (17,000 new living units are being demanded for the current five-year period; another mandate – perhaps more than 20,000 – for the next five years is coming down Highway 101 and Interstate 5 soon). In Montecito, Santa Barbara, Goleta, the Santa Ynez Valley and virtually the entire Central Coast, “affordable-housing” advocates push for ever-denser and ever-more living units, gobbling up farm and ranch land in the process. Vigilance and unremitting opposition are the only weapons available against the destruction of a way of life purchased by the sweat equity of forced savings, deferred spending, and toil of its residents.

Montecito is relatively safe from the onslaught; less than 300 building parcels remain undeveloped, although higher density is always a threat. In Santa Ynez, however, residents there have another, even larger, force: the Chumash Casino. How do Valley residents protect their way of life from an ever-growing casino enterprise when competition, negotiation, and compromise are forbidden?

The short answer is: it can’t.

The current system allows the California governor to make compacts with tribal groups without having to take into consideration the local constituency. In other words, the people most affected by casino expansion have little or nothing to say during the negotiation process. The Chumash do not need to negotiate, compromise, or even converse with their neighbors. Like any other business, the Chumash want and have the right to grow and expand. And, the citizens of Santa Ynez have a right to voice opposition to that growth.

The Santa Ynez Valley Chumash tribe is allotted two casinos, with a maximum of 2000 slot machines combined between them. Currently, the Chumash only have one casino, but they no doubt would like to build another; they have said so.

Two groups – Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO) and Preservation of Santa Ynez (POSY) – are attempting to fight the possible expansion of the Chumash gambling enterprise by going to Sacramento to plead their case. POLO and POSY have been lambasted by other local media outlets for those efforts.

To get an idea of what Valley residents are up against, imagine a 7-acre parcel located near the Upper Village; now imagine that a developer that owns the property has planned a 30-store shopping center and was not required to go through the Board of Architectural Review, Montecito Planning Commission, or the Board of Supervisors. The developer doesn’t even have to acknowledge that Montecito has a community plan. He, instead, has made a deal with our Governor. That’s the situation Santa Ynez Valley residents are facing, and the odds of their prevailing are not in their favor.

Blame our Laws, Not the Chumash

Major corporations are regularly monitored and often sued for closing down a market to competition, whereas the state of California has willfully – eagerly – signed compacts with Indian bands to guarantee those tribes a monopoly. Which flies in the face of the U.S. and California Constitutions. In 1890, Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, that states in part that, “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal… “ California has its own similar anti-monopoly restrictions enshrined in The Cartwright Act (Bus. & Prof. Code 16720).

Tribal entities enjoy “sovereign-nation” status, thereby allowing them to avoid anti-monopoly legislation. Consequently, they not only have gaming exclusivity, but they are also able to bypass all sorts of labor measures. Between labor, insurance, and tax exemptions, Tribal Casinos have huge advantages against would-be competitors.

We can’t blame the Chumash for exercising rights given to them by our state legislators (and voters). Curiously, however, the same legislators that have allowed tribal groups to operate classic laissez-faire operations that would be the envy of John J. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, or any one of a number of late 19th-century capitalist magnates, force the rest of us to wallow in quasi-socialist economic strangulation.

While we acknowledge the negative effects of hundreds of years of often malign neglect directed towards Native Americans, we do sincerely hope Chumash Casino owners and operators take the long view and limit their growth for the greater good of the area.

We also hope that Montecito residents contemplating adding a second story, chopping down some old trees, or paving over more bare ground will also take the long view and do what’s right for Montecito and for those that will follow.