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Riverside County Working on Rancho Ordinance to Support Events and Small Businesses

Thu, 30/03/2023 - 05:00

At Supervisor V. Manuel Perez’s direction, the Riverside County Planning Department is working to create a new county ordinance that could be a first of its kind in establishing a new land-use category for “Ranchos” in the Coachella Valley.

Generally, Ranchos are large agricultural properties, date palm ranches, which include a primary residence. Many are located in rural areas throughout the unincorporated communities of the Fourth District, especially in the eastern Coachella Valley.

Over the years, these properties have been used by families holding birthday parties, quinceañeras, weddings, baptisms, and other family and cultural celebrations. These events are also part of the economy, from food caterers, table and chair rentals, dress makers, beauty services and more small and micro businesses.

There are countywide temporary events and zoning ordinances that apply to all the unincorporated communities of the county. Supervisor Perez saw the need for a new ordinance specific to Ranchos in the Fourth District that could take into account the unique characteristics of these types of properties and establish more flexible policies and a permitting pathway.

The county is preparing a draft ordinance that would define Ranchos, where these are located within the Fourth District, and determine what types of activities would be allowed, to give more options beyond those that exist in the countywide temporary events and zoning ordinances.

Supervisor Perez seeks to make a distinction in the ordinance that Ranchos are not for where there is money transfer on the premises. Supervisor Perez and Riverside County encourage people to pursue the permitting process for those who are trying to use their spaces for commercial purposes.

The ordinance language is under development, and Supervisor Perez expects there will be a draft version coming within the next few months that he will be able to share with the community and thereafter hold community meetings to discuss.

“A couple years ago, Ranchos were brought to our attention in terms of how potentially we could go further to support these venues which support the heritage of our community and residents while contributing to the local economy,” said Supervisor Perez. “With my colleagues’ support on the Board of Supervisors, we have started the formal process of creating a new ordinance just for Ranchos in the Fourth District. Soon, I hope to announce community outreach meetings to include community input on the draft policy. I believe we may be onto a first as a county ordinance that recognizes and defines these types of agricultural properties, date palm ranches, in the Fourth District, that are rural in nature, and have been important for Latino families for generations.”

In August 2021, Supervisor Perez held a meeting with the Rancho community, vendors and residents. He committed at the meeting that, while studying the issue further to create a new ordinance, for code enforcement to not cite Rancho properties for violations.

The direction that was agreed upon by Supervisor Perez and the Code Enforcement Department to halt citations applies to violations for land-use, and remains in effect while an ordinance is being developed.

Ranchos can still be cited for violations of the county’s noise ordinance, parking violations and construction without a permit. Noise citations are only issued due to neighbors’ complaints when there are high levels of noise beyond 200 feet. Each call is taken by code enforcement on a case-by-case basis. Parking violations or construction without a permit are standard codes, and not only Rancho issues.

Ranchos that are five acres or less and have celebrations with 200 people or less can continue to rent their locations. Renters can hire vendors without any concern of a violation. These Ranchos are not commercial properties and are truly living up to their true purpose of renting their spaces for cultural events to continue to take place.