Project Title:Farmstay Ordinance Amendment Project
Case Number: (None)                                
Project Location:Countywide in Agriculture-II zoned areas
Assigned Staff and Division:

Steven Counts Imara, Long Range Planning Division


On September 1, 2020, Planning and Development Department staff will brief the Board of Supervisors on the proposed Farmstays Ordinance Amendment Project. Staff is seeking the Board's input and concurrence on the project scope-of-work, and direction on any changes that the Board would like to make to the project scope-of-work. The staff report will be available to view before the hearing here.



The California Homestay Bill of 1999 paved the way for farmers and ranchers to offer overnight visits. This bill outlined regulations for farms offering overnight visits that exempted them from more stringent requirements that are typically associated with commercial restaurants. The bill expanded the definition of a "restricted food service transient occupancy establishment," also known as an "agricultural homestay" in the California Health and Safety Code (HSC, Section 113893). The HSC has since been amended, and this definition has been shortened to "restricted food service facility" with an additional agricultural homestay designation.  In order to be considered a restricted food service facility, the operation must: 

  1. Have not more than six guest rooms or accommodates not more than 15 guests.
  2. Provide overnight transient accommodations.
  3. Serve food only to its registered guests and serves meals at any time, and include the price of food in the price of the overnight transient occupancy accommodation.
  4. Ensure that lodging and meals are incidental and not the primary function of the agricultural homestay facility.
  5. Ensure that the agricultural homestay facility is located on, and is a part of, a farm, as defined in Section 52262 of the Food and Agricultural Code, that produces agricultural products as its primary source of income.

In 2016, the County of Santa Barbara used this designation and its development standards as a model to define farmstays in the County's Land Use and Development Code (LUDC, Section 35.220.020).

The LUDC (Sec. 35.220.020) defines "farmstays" as:

A type of working farm or ranch operation that is partially oriented towards visitors or tourism by providing guest accommodations. Such an operation may include interactive activities where guests participate in basic farm or ranch operations such as collecting eggs and feeding animals, or a work exchange agreement where the guest works a set number of hours in exchange for free or reduced rate accommodation. 

Currently, farmstays are only allowed within the Gaviota Coast Plan Area on property zoned Agricultural II (AG-II) (See Attachment 2) with a Land Use Permit (LUP) or Coastal Development Permit (CDP), if: 

  • Located on a single lot of 40 acres or larger; only one per lot
  • Farmstay housed in a single permitted or nonconforming dwelling [no new structures]
  • Primary purpose of the Farmstay shall be the education of registered guests regarding the agricultural operation on the lot:
    • Max 15 registered guests per night
    • Accommodated in no more than six bedrooms
    • Food service only available to registered guests
    • Lodging and meals are incidental and not the primary function of the Farmstay operation
  • Farmstay is located on, and is part of, a farm or ranch operation that produces agricultural products, and the Farmstay operation:
    • Does not constitute the principal land use of the premises, and
    • Is beneficial and inherently related to the farm or ranch operation
  • Farmstay operation not incompliance with above standards may be allowed with CUP

Project Description

The Farmstays Project specifically would allow farmstays on all AG-II properties in the Inland Area and Coastal Zone of the unincorporated county, subject to the same permitting requirements and special use regulations that apply to farmstays within the Gaviota Coast Plan Area.

Estimated TimelineFarmstays-image-1

  • Fall/Winter 2020
    • Prepare project description (draft text amendments to the LUDC, Article II, and Uniform Rules)
    • Consultant selection
    • Initiate public outreach
  • Winter 2020 / Spring 2021
    • Prepare environmental document
    • Public review of environmental document
  • Summer 2021
    • APAC hearings
    • Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors hearings
    • Coastal Commission certification process (could take approximately 15 months to complete)


Board Letter

Staff Report Attachment 2 - Farmstay Definition and Section in LUDC

Additional Information

We welcome any ideas, comments, suggestions or questions you may have throughout all stages of this project. Please contact the Long Range Planning Division via email. Join our mailing list to receive information about upcoming activities regarding the Agricultural Farmstay Ordinance Amendment project.