The Santa Maria City Council is set to hear a presentation and take public comment on H-2A housing Tuesday in advance of a potential vote on an ordinance in April.
City officials have been working to develop a permanent H-2A ordinance since March 2018, when the council passed an emergency ordinance that imposed a 45-day-long moratorium on housing more than six workers in low- or medium-density residential buildings.
On Tuesday, the council will not not take any action on H-2A housing, only hear comments and questions from community members.
Under the H-2A program — which is used by several large farming operations in the Santa Maria Valley — employers may apply to bring temporary, nonimmigrant workers to the United States for seasonal farm labor. Under the program, employers must provide housing at no cost to workers, provide daily transportation to and from the work site and provide daily meals or facilities for workers to prepare meals for themselves.
There were 1,700 H-2A workers in Santa Maria during the 2016-17 fiscal year, with around 900 of them housed in residential dwellings and the remaining housed in hotels or motels, according to city officials.
Last year, city officials held five community meetings about H-2A housing and developed a draft ordinance that was presented to the Planning Commission in January.
The ordinance, which the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend to the council, would ban the housing of more than six employees in low-density residential zones after an 18-month-long period.
Under the proposed ordinance, a conditional use permit would be required to house more than six workers in a low- or medium-density residential dwelling. The permits would be granted through a new zoning administrator hearing process. For low-density zones, the ordinance has a sunset provision after 18 months.
There is no permit required to house six or fewer workers in a residential property.