The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] – Volume 23, Issue 41
County supervisors ease child care facility requirements
By Taylor O’Connor
New child care operators will have an easier time beginning their programs as the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed amendments to revise permit requirements and standards for facilities.
“This will afford operators of day care centers greater flexibility and options for running day care centers,” a staff report said.
Now, small day care centers with 50 or fewer children can apply for a land-use permit—an easier-to-obtain and more cost effective permit—instead of the complicated conditional use permit, the report stated. Family day care centers serving 14 or fewer children can operate in any residential area as long as they follow state health and safety guidelines, and schools, churches, and community centers can also operate child care facilities with fewer restrictions.
Easing requirements will help day care operators open their doors more quickly and expand their reach, 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said at the Nov. 29 meeting.
“Child care is a business that operates at the margin, and we only have half as many child care spaces we need for kids under 5,” Hartmann said. “This is an effort to understand and recognize this as an economic issue for our workforce.”
Currently, Santa Barbara County has 9,767 licensed day care spots for infants and toddlers, but according to the Santa Barbara Child Care Planning Council, more than 16,700 children under 2 live in the county. Supervisors recently allocated $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help address the pandemic’s impact on child care.
Child care consultant Eileen Monahan told the Sun that the ordinance’s changes and investments will result in more open facilities, but local leadership should keep the momentum going. daycare
“I think we have a real opportunity in that the light is shining on child care; federal, state, and local policy makers are interested. Employers are seeing child care in a different light because parents are expressing how difficult it is to get to work,” Monahan said.
Monahan suggested the county create incentives like density bonuses where developers can take up more land if they include child care within their plan, or they could fast track anything that has child care in it.
“If you add child care to a housing development or school or a business park, it’s a much easier process than a child care operator trying to open a center all on their own,” she said.
Local leaders could also add child care to housing elements, prioritize child care in the next budget cycles, and keep an eye out for state or federal grants, Monahan added.
“Once you build it, it does have to be maintained, but it’s a child care facility for the long haul. If the operator changes, it will still be a child care center,” she said. “The idea is that it’s an investment for the community and it will stay a child care facility for years.”