Shopping carts, trash appear near Lompoc’s wine tasting rooms

Posted at 8:03 PM, Jun 10, 2018

Business owners in Lompoc’s wine ghetto have concerns over the growing riverbed homeless population. 

Law enforcement believes hundreds of people are living in the nearby riverbed.

Now, a new area where transients’ items and shopping carts have gathered is frustrating some who run tasting rooms. 

The encampment is just feet away from where Lompoc has dozens of wine tasting rooms off of 12th street on the well-known "Wine Trail". Debris and shopping carts have surfaced on nearby PG&E property surrounding those wineries.

“When people are driving into the area and see thirty shopping carts over there full of junk, and a lot of times there is a woman over there swearing at people, it’s not the best thing in the world for business," said Frank Reed, with Kessler-Haak Vineyards.

“It’s horrible, it definitely looks horrible," said Lisa Liberati, with Sweetzer Cellars. "We spend a lot of time making our space look nice so we would like it to be a welcoming, inclusive place that people can come to and feel comfortable.” 

The local winery owners say the shopping carts and belongings have been brought by only one person this week, who police say is suffering from mental issues.

“Certainly people are very, very aware of it and feel that everyone is dumping on Lompoc and sending bodies here," Liberati said. 

A small number of tasting rooms have been dealing with transients on their property, and say it’s been a constant problem. 

“Well, people are enjoying the deck, having a nice glass of wine, then a troop of homeless people go by with a bunch of shopping carts," said Jason Carter, with Zotovich Vineyards. "The trash that gets left around, the shopping carts. They vault the gate, cut through, anything that’s not nailed down disappears and that’s another problem for us.”

“We all as a community have a responsibility to care for each other," Liberati said. "We have to figure out how to do that.”

“It’s a complicated problem and I’m not sure what the solution is but it’s definitely increasingly impacting our business and I’m sure citywide," Carter said. 

Many business owners who have wineries adjacent to the riverbed are also concerned about more fires sparking in the riverbed.

“But I think one of the things that’s not being talked about as much, and a big fear for me, is the potential for fire," Carter said.

Because the small encampment is on PG&E property, PG&E officials have given a 72-hour notice to those that may stay there. PG&E representatives say they will be cleaning the area up soon. The City of Lompoc is also discussing ways on how to best manage the riverbed.