By Raiza Giorgi

After the results of the election were made official by the City of Solvang, newly elected Mayor Charlie Uhrig took his seat along with new council members Claudia Orona and Mark Infanti. Orona was made Mayor Pro-Tem during the assignment portion of the meeting Monday evening.

During the City Manager report Uhrig, along with Infanti and Orona said they were glad to be on the council and wanted to make a statement they did not agree with the past council’s stance of going against the state and not enforcing the stay-at home orders.

“I am not in favor of going against public health officials and applaud the business owners and restaurants for adhering to the rules. A few dollars lost are not worth someone’s life,” Uhrig stated.

Infanti said the national news coverage to the decision also brought negative attention to Solvang. Several national news outlets from Fox News, Business Insider and the San Francisco Gate all wrote about Solvang’s non-compliance with Governor Newsom’s Stay at Home Order.

City Attorney Chip Wullbrandt urged the council to look at the message put out by former Mayor Ryan Toussaint, stating that only the city wouldn’t enforce but that had no action to supersede the County and State public health nor California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

Restaurants who did not comply and move to “to-go” only services were threatened by public health with fines of $5,000 and business licenses suspended, according to the staff report.

“To clarify that decision our intent wasn’t for the businesses to go out and break the law, but after talking with counsel, was to create an opportunity within the law to continue their business,” said Councilman Jim Thomas.

The previous council discussed ‘renting’ the tables and chairs outdoors to create a public space for people to sit and eat their meals without violating any orders, Thomas explained.

In their first order of business the new council held a public hearing for the renewal of the Santa Ynez Valley Tourism Business Improvement District (SYVTBID), which was created in 2010, and is managed Santa Ynez Valley Hotel Association dba Visit the Santa Ynez Valley (Visit SYV). Revenue of roughly $900,000 is generated from hotel rooms within the SYVTBID help fund marketing and sales promotion efforts for Santa Ynez Valley lodging businesses that otherwise couldn’t do it on their own, according to the staff report.

The annual assessment rate is $3 per paid occupied room per night. The annual assessment rate may increase to $3.50 per paid occupied room per night in year four (2024), but Visit SYV CEO Shelby Sim said that increase isn’t close to being implemented.

Sim said that their petition to renew needs 51 percent of support and 93 percent signed an agreement to renew. The City of Buellton and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to continue the renewal.

“Do you know why the remainder chose not to renew and what can be done better or encourage them to join,” Orona asked Sim.

Sim said none of the hotels gave a reason, a few were going through ownership changes and the others declined to state reasons.

Infanti ‘picked on’ Sim and asked what he does for the businesses who are charged membership fees of $250 to be apart of Visit SYV.

“Our goal is heads in beds and mainly we have to benefit the hoteliers,” Sim clarified.

Infanti said he never signed a contract with someone who implied they ‘may or may not do something’.

“What are your goals and how you measure yourself against those goals,” Infanti said.

Sim shot back their goal is to increase TOT and both Buellton and the County agreed and their agreement with the hoteliers are clearly defined. Infanti responded he never saw that report and would like to see it.

Visit SYV Board Chair Linda Johansen implored the council to continue the SYVTBID because it has greatly enhanced tourism in the valley and benefitted everyone.

Infanti clarified he wasn’t trying to put anyone down, just the draft wasn’t specific.

The SYVTBID will come back before the council on Jan. 11.

After listening to the City Managers report on the upcoming months of council meeting agenda topics and the need for members on the Planning Commission and the Branding and Design Committee (formerly the Board of Architectural Review).

The council also voted to let the United Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara County to use the Solvang Veteran’s Memorial Hall for their after school program due to being misplaced from Solvang Elementary School for COVID-19 reasons. The agreement will go until at least the end of the school year.

Council members gave a list of things they would like to see on future agendas.

Infanti proposed none of the council be allowed to use their cell phones while on the dias, and that councilmember comments be moved to the beginning of the meeting so the public will have the most opportunity to listen.

“The General Plan update is needed but it looks like there’s three project managers and the schedule looks like a kid drew his finger across it. In a time when we don’t have a lot of budget I would like to revisit the schedule,” he added.

Infanti also proposed none of the council receive their $600 a month stipend for the next year and the funds be put towards helping small businesses.

Mayor Uhrig also called a special closed meeting for 5 p.m. Dec. 21, to discuss the city attorney contract.

To watch the meeting in its entirety visit their YouTube page at