For more information, contact Marc Chytilo, Law Office of Marc Chytilo,
Attorney to the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance
Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance Files to Intervene in Hollister Ranch Public Access Settlement
Settlement is Unfair to the Public and Should Not Be Approved
SANTA BARBARA, CA – Today, the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance (the Alliance) filed a formal request to the Santa Barbara Superior Court to intervene in the ongoing lawsuit Pappas v. California Coastal Conservancy concerning public access to a 3⁄4 mile stretch of Hollister Ranch.
The Alliance argues that the public was not adequately represented, consulted or informed when the California Coastal Commission and the State Coastal Conservancy and the Hollister Ranch Homeowners proposed to settle the litigation initiated in 2013 by the Hollister Ranch Homeowners.
“This proposed settlement was conceived and executed behind closed doors, and offers no benefit to public coastal access while conferring substantial advantages to Hollister Ranch as they prevent access to a public beach,” stated one of the Alliance lawyers, Marc Chytilo. “It has become necessary for community groups to step into the breach and prevent this one-sided relinquishment of public rights and misuse of funds.”
To support representation of the public’s interest in access at Hollister Ranch, donate to the Gaviota Coastal Trail Campaign.
The terms of the proposed settlement permanently extinguish rights of public access that were a condition of a coastal development permit obtained by the YMCA back in 1980 that provided road access for the public to a 3,880 foot stretch of a beach on the gated Hollister Ranch. If the Settlement is allowed to stand, the state would abandon all rights to access this beach over land, and only public access from the water would be would be possible. The settlement limits the boats that can be landed to small soft-bottomed boats no larger than 12 feet, paddle or surf boards, and kayaks no larger than 16 feet.
The Settlement requires people to paddle or boat 3+ miles from Gaviota State Park to Cuarta Canyon Beach and then return the same day, in potentially hazardous wind and sea conditions that typically arise in afternoons.
Sea and weather conditions on the Gaviota Coast can change rapidly without warning. Winds are often calm and seas smooth in the morning, lulling boaters. In the afternoon the sea is typically much rougher, and on some days, strong Sundowner winds blow ferociously down canyons. On the Gaviota Coast, down-canyon winds are funneled out to the ocean, and create challenges for inflatable boats, kayaks and paddleboards that are allowed to land at Cuarta Canyon Beach. More public notice of the proposed settlement would have afforded an opportunity for the public to inform the Commission and Conservancy of these significant hazards.
As Chytilo stated to the Coastal Commission on July 13, “The Settlement Agreement puts the public in harm’s way.”
Significantly, the Settlement Agreement exempts Hollister Ranch from liability for injuries or deaths that might occur from members of the public attempting to use this beach. The Settlement Agreement continues Hollister Ranch’s existing programs providing highly restricted land-based access for groups of school children and non-profits who serve children, underserved populations and the disabled, but shifts the funding of this program to state agencies, and improperly commits restricted “in-lieu fees” to this program instead of securing public access to Hollister Ranch as is required by law. “The in-lieu fees are intended to fund a Hollister Ranch subdivision-wide public access plan that calls for completion of the Coastal Trail - a pedestrian trail and bike path - that will connect Gaviota State Park to Jalama County Park,” explained Cea Higgins, Executive Director of Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association. “We seek the connectivity of the Coastal Trail through Hollister Ranch.”
“Three decades ago, special legislation authorized Hollister Ranch owners to participate in an in-lieu fee program whereby they could proceed with construction of their homes and estates without providing an individual Offer-to-Dedicate (OTD) public access as a condition of their coastal development permits. The legislation required them to pay a $5,000 in-lieu fee per permit to a special public access fund and required that the funds to be used to provide public coastal access to the Hollister Ranch subdivision ‘as expeditiously as possible.’ Thirty-five years later, Hollister Ranch Homeowners enjoy their private gated community and the homes they have built, while the public remains unfairly and illegally shut out,” said Susan Jordan, Executive Director of the California Coastal Protection Network.
“There have been few new coastal trail segments added in Santa Barbara County in recent years, and one of the highest priorities is gaining access and a Coastal Trail through Hollister Ranch,” declared Mark Wilkinson, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Trails Council. “At the July Coastal Commission meeting, the Alliance requested that the Commission and the Conservancy withdraw from the Legal Settlement. Given that neither the Commission nor the Conservancy have chosen to do so, the community must step up and stop this flawed and highly deficient Settlement Agreement. The Judge’s foresight to require that the public be informed of the Settlement before her final ruling created an opportunity to request intervention. Otherwise, the public would continue to have been shut out of public access to Hollister Ranch and its 8 1⁄2 miles of extraordinary coastline, possibly forever."
"We're grateful for the opportunity to request intervention and we intend to fight for the public coastal access rights guaranteed by the California Constitution and the California Coastal Act,” said Phil McKenna, board member of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy.
A hearing on the Alliance application for intervention has been set for Monday, August 20th at 9:30 am. A hearing on the fairness of the Settlement Agreement will be heard on September 10th, 2018 at 1:30 pm.
Members of the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance include the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, the Santa Barbara County Trails Council, Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association and the California Coastal Protection Network.
The goals of the Alliance are to:
- preserve the use of the Hollister Ranch Road to provide safe access to the beach,
- prevent the use of the In-Lieu Fees to operate Hollister’s private managed access program,
- preserve them for use in acquisition of easements to complete the Coastal Trail,
- and to secure a permanent Coastal Trail Corridor for the public’s non-vehicular use.
"The City Project, GreenLatinos, and California LULAC support the Alliance to advance equal access to the California coast. We oppose the proposed settlement agreement as unfair and inadequate, especially for people of color and low income people with limited or no access to the beach and coast. These communities disproportionately lack access, are harmed by sea level rising and climate warming, and are ignored or marginalized by the state. Free the Beach!” stated Robert García, Director and Counsel to The City Project.
The Alliance heeds the words of the Coastal Commission’s former Executive Director, Peter Douglas. “The coast is never saved. The coast is always being saved.”
Supporters are encouraged to contribute to what is expected to be a protracted effort to achieve public access to Hollister Ranch.