Developer’s dream a nightmare

After a meeting with Mr. St. George, I have discovered that he is not just a developer with plans to build an immense project, dwarfing the Veterans Memorial Hall, by putting up a four-story business complex along Mission Drive in Solvang — he is also psychic, and a uniquely gifted storyteller of both fairy tales and horror stories

He has predicted that the airlines will never come back and that the people in L.A. will no longer fly to vacation destinations. They will all come to Solvang. We will benefit from the Coronavirus. If he builds his complex “they will come,” in his field of dreams.

People will now come to Solvang, not just for a weekend, they will come for days, a week or multiple weeks. They will come to stay in his $400-$1,000-per-night hotel rooms to “rejuvenate” in his spa and fitness center. Solvang will become a health retreat where everyone will ride bicycles everywhere! We will become just like Europe — a phrase he used repeatedly and repeatedly. This is the fairy tale.

Now for the nightmare: The library will be torn down. He has informed us that books are a thing of the past. We do not need a library with books. The young people of today, who are of course the only ones who go to a library, do everything through technology. So we do not need a library, we need a technology center, which he will provide — a place where all the state of the art technology is available, instead of obsolete books. Oh, there will be “some” children’s books thrown in. 

Mr. St. George does not seem to recognize that America is not Europe. We have a different culture. We do not wish to substitute our culture for another. Most American families work for a living and are not free to spend days and weeks to “rejuvenate” on a continuous basis in any location and certainly not exclusively in Solvang. There is no overwhelming demand for our existing exclusive locations. In fact, it is extremely slow during certain times of the year. There is not a demand for what he is offering. 

People do read books — they want to read books. It is important for us to read books and have them available to all ages. Just because Mr. St. George has decided we don’t, does not make it so.

When asked what happens if he builds it and “they don’t come”? His reply was “that is a chance I am willing to take.”

We are so relieved that it is a chance he is willing to take. Because if it fails, he will walk away and will leave Solvang business owners and residents with a white elephant monstrosity far larger than the outlet mall at the south end of Solvang, which still looks abandoned. We warned the developers back then and we are warning this developer now that his idea will not work here. We were correct back then and we are correct now. 

What he is proposing is not the kind of experience visitors come here for. He cannot change American culture to the European plan he desires. What he purposes will tremendously harm our community while he goes off into the sunset to the retirement he has planned in his beloved Europe.

Mr. St. George needs to leave the Veterans Memorial Hall (and its surrounding structures) alone. It belongs to the citizens of Solvang and it is not for sale. He needs to build something on the property he already owns that will enhance our town. This way he will succeed and so will Solvang. Everyone can win. 

Joanne Clark



Solvang is not a brand

Solvang is family-owned and operated businesses which include bakeries, restaurants, gift shops, candy stores, historic trolley rides, cultural museums, the Santa Ines Mission and small-town holiday parades. It enjoys Theaterfest productions provided by PCPA on their outdoor stage and fundraising for local groups by nationally recognized talents. Solvang is turkey bingo and Elks events at the Veterans Memorial Building. Solvang is Danish Days in September. Solvang School’s children participate in sports and extracurricular activities among other local elementary/middle schools. By the time they enter high school most, if not known by name, at least recognize other freshmen. Solvang is trips to Figueroa Mountain in the spring to see the poppy blooms, and in winter after a snowfall for sledding or snowball fights. To visitors, Solvang is a weekend destination for wine tasting, pastries and good food. For others it’s a stop on the way to another destination.

Solvang is not Santa Barbara. Solvang is not Goleta. Solvang is not Thousand Oaks. Solvang is not Carmel. Solvang is not, as a proposed developer called it, “a bathroom stop.” Solvang is not an extended-stay location. Solvang is not a brand. 

Solvang is a community dedicated to keeping traditions alive.

Solvang is not a brand. Solvang is not 2.0.

Solvang is strong.

Trent Casberg



Mayor Toussaint and Councilmembers,

I attended the first of the Mission Drive Project workshops held June 27.

The City of Solvang’s flyer for the workshops begins with the following statement:

“The City of Solvang seeks your input! We encourage all interested residents and stakeholders to attend this first workshop opportunity to provide public feedback to the City.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. The workshop was clearly not designed to facilitate public input. It was designed as an opportunity for Santa Ynez Valley residents to hear about Ed St. George’s vision for our community.

He provided additional details regarding his revised plan that supposedly retains the Veterans Memorial Building, only to remove all the landscaping, lop off the western end and the Small Hall, turn the back into the front, and wall off the remaining structure from Mission Drive with four story buildings. 

The audience was not allowed to make statements. Instead, they were allowed to submit questions on file cards that were subsequently screened by staff so that Ed. St. George only addressed the slowest softest softball pitches.

Members of the City Council may have been lurking in the shadows. But they were certainly not up front ready to listen to the concerns of residents. Why should they bother?

The “workshop” I attended was a farce that needlessly endangered the health of residents at taxpayer expense. All the additional information regarding the revised project could have been provided online. 

My testimony to the council on May 20 spoke of the need for public input regarding the development of public spaces. What I saw that morning was not a legitimate public outreach event designed to provide “public feedback to the City” as advertised. It was a photo op and promotional spot for the developer.

Lansing Duncan