We Belong in Wild Places


photo by Shaw Leonard

I was raised in Burbank when the air was thick and the pastures were a distant memory. My father routinely took me to the “wild lands” surrounding the San Fernando Valley, expecially the Santa Monica Mountains. I discovered the marvels of geology at the top of a ridge with an ocean view, where my father showed me the fossils embedded in rocks we were sitting on and described the forces that created our perch. We discovered a mountain lion long after it had perceived us; the reality of a lion in our domain thrilled me then and now. My father showed me tadpoles in the creek and we visited them pond for a month observing the transformation to frog. I learned the value of patient observation.

So I was a city boy, but because I had access to natural landscapes (and a wonderful teacher), I became an armchair naturalist. I camped, fished, hiked, biked, and learned to marvel at the common and ordinary.

I have passed on my father’s gift to me by introducing my children to the natural world and I advocate for public access to that natural world so the same opportunity is not lost to others. Without the direct experience of nature one is a “tenant” on earth, without pride of ownership; a poor steward of our fragile home. So I will argue for the broadest possible public access to the Gaviota region, consistent with the preservation and restoration of our natural heritage. And there is the rub. 

We are part of nature. We belong in wild landscapes, be we change them. The vision of a static nature, pure in form, finished and complete, is a myth. We bring many of the trappings of society with us when we enter uncivilized landscapes. This is perceived as being negative, and it sometimes is. But, we can contribute to the preservation of nature through our understanding of the living earth, gained best from direct experience.

Citizens of our complex and increasingly crowded society are divorced from the natural processes that support them. It is quite possible to intellectually understand these forces. However, that understanding is incomplete without the imprint of direct experience. Appropriate public access provides the stage for this direct experience.

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New Naples Investors

‘Mythical Being’ Wants Naples

Chinese-American Investor David Liu Eying Prized Gaviota Property

 According to the recent story in the Santa Barbara Independent (Feb. 26, 2015), "The long-dormant fight to carve 1,000 acres of breathtaking Gaviota real estate along both sides of Highway 101 into 72 parcels ​— ​a k a the Naples Project ​— ​just woke up. Matt Osgood, whose bankruptcy in 2010 put the development of Santa Barbara Ranch into a state of suspended agitation, is back, hoping to revive his old project with a new ownership structure. Osgood and his brother Mark, a real estate investor, enticed Chinese-American investor David Liu of Arcadia to buy the Naples property for $44.5 million."

According to Gaviota Coast Conservancy board president Phil McKenna, "The Conservancy will continue its opposition to inappropriate residential estate development on the Gaviota Coast. A large tract of over-sized houses is antithetical to our objective of preserving the rural character of the Coast. This has been our position since 1998 and we will continue to actively promote it."

Here's a history of the contentious Naples area from articles in the Santa Barbara Independent. 



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Should Gaviota Go Residential?


(From the Feb. 12 article in the SB Independent by Matt Ketteman): Should a 3,500-acre Gaviota Coast ranch be allowed to reconfigure in a way that would open the door for a handful of new oceanfront homes while also dedicating trails and a parking lot for the public to use? That’s what the Doheny family is seeking to do with their Las Varas Ranch, which is located just east of El Capitan State Beach. But they’re running into a wall of conservationists, who’ve strived for years to keep the stretch of coast undeveloped, and public-access advocates, who don’t think the proposed trails are good enough. The nearly decade-old proposal is scheduled to come before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on February 17, when the Supes could accept the environmental review as is or order deeper analysis of the impacts to farming and recreation.


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Gaviota Trails



On January 24, friends and I took a hike up on the Gaviota Coast. The Bill Wallace trailhead is at the El Capitan Canyon Resort’s Ocean Meadows campground (pets are not allowed on this trail). Well, actually the parking lot is just BEFORE you go into the gate to the campground. We did a short loop of about 4 miles and the views were SPECTACULAR, especially because we followed the signs that read “hard” rather than the “easy” routes. Resting in the iridescent green fields we watched the beautiful sets of waves roll in, one point after another, from Coal Oil Point almost to Refugio. San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz and Anacapa all saluted us. Gaviota Peak dared us to push ourselves harder. This was enough amazing beauty for one day. The word “WOW” was way overused. I recommend this hike for a reminder of why we need to save these treasures. Remember that many volunteers spend endless hours protecting this place. Thank you. I am also grateful for the farmers and ranchers who work hard to preserve a rural way of life on the Gaviota Coast.




President’s Update

All of the coastal properties between the Bacara and El Capitan State Park, with the exception of a small holding just to the east of El Capitan, are actively being marketed or are engaged in development proposals. Here’s a few of the specifics from east to west (Bacara to El Capitan).

The coastal parcels immediately to the west of the Bacara known as “8501 Hollister Ave,” encompassing Driftwood Cove, has submitted a development plan that includes a bluff top house and a coastal trail dedication. We are in conversations with the owner’s representatives to seek community enhancements to their proposal.

We are engaged in settlement meetings with the County and the principals at Paradiso del Mare to resolve the major issues of our CEQA lawsuit against those parties. (Paradiso is to the immediate east of Naples.) The substance of these meetings is confidential but we are attempting to resolve significant issues.

On another front at Paradiso, we filed a suit against the Coastal Commission at the end of May. The Commission closed the public hearing on our appeal of the Paradiso approval and then continued to negotiate with the developer from the dais. We were not provided with the new information in advance or allowed to comment on proposed changes to the project before the Commission cast its vote. In the confusion of the vote, we lost. It was a tawdry affair, undemocratic, and an affront to the progressive heritage of the Commission.

At Naples the owner, First Bank, has appointed Mark Massara as their new representative to market the property. While Mark has championed the environment and community rights in other fights and issues, here he is working to advance development at Naples. The Bank has been unwilling to work with the community to achieve a conservation outcome and is instead moving ahead to prepare the property for development. The County’s 2008 approvals remain deeply flawed, and the Coastal Commission has directed the Bank to restudy various elements of the project and the environmental conditions, including a new comprehensive biological inventory, which is expected to take a year to prepare. In the meantime, the entire Santa Barbara Ranch property remains open for public visitation. The Conservancy and the Naples Coalition remains highly engaged and available to achieve a suitable workout and preservation of Naples.

Dos Pueblos Ranch was reportedly in escrow earlier this summer, but the deal fell out.

Finally, the Planning Commission took public comments on July 30 on the Revised Final EIR (environmental impact report) for Las Varas Ranch (just east of El Capitan). The Las Varas project is designed to increase the developability of the Ranch for luxury residential development, despite its agricultural zoning. Further, the Project routes the Coastal Trail incorrectly, in some places north of Highway 101 and not on the coastal bluff as may be easily accomplished.

Teed up later this fall is the public comment period on the County’s proposed expansion and repurposing of Taijiguas Landfill followed by the Gaviota Community Plan EIR.

The development and planning issues on the coast have never been so numerous and active. GCC is stepping up its efforts to respond to these threats, but needs your help. Please make a generous tax deductible donation and consider attending one of our monthly volunteer meetings, where a dedicated group of individuals are helping save the coast and having fun too.


Naples Kayak Paddle


We hope adventure seekers will join us on Sunday, October 12, for a kayak paddle from Haskell’s Beach to Naples and back. Aquasports of Goleta will deliver kayaks and equipment to the seashore and their guides will shove us off and accompany us to our destination and back – about 4 miles roundtrip. For the last three years, we have experienced beautiful weather and amazing paddling conditions. You do not need to have kayaking experience to participate but must have good swimming skills and comfort in the ocean.

Kayak rentals are $100/person and ALL proceeds go to benefit Naples Coalition because Eric Little and his outfitters wholeheartedly support the work we do. They donate their time. Click here to reserve a kayak. Advance registration is required by October 8.

We can certainly recommend them for other kayak adventures. For more information contact Janet Koed at (805) 683-6631 or email info@savenaples.org. We also have a special rate for those who bring their own kayaks or paddleboards.


Orella Ranch Work Party


When our musician friend Jack Johnson (local resident, and UCSB alumnus) comes to town there is always a good reason to celebrate. Not only did he bless us with an incredible 2 night run at the Santa Barbara Bowl, but as usual he shared his good fortune through advocating and supporting issues that matter. This time around his organization “All At Once” focused on sustainable and local food production as well as education and action around reducing our dependency on plastics.

When Jack and the “All At Once” crew contacted the Naples Coalition about wanting to host a preconcert event that focused on sustainable agriculture I was brought into the fold. As a 6th generation land steward on the Gaviota Coast and a long time board member of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, I have been trying to learn, teach and implement agricultural practices that aggregate our precious resources rather than degragate them. With the opportunity to host a large work party I wasted no time in preparing for implementing the next phase in the development of one of our agricultural fields. My training, philosophy and guiding inspiration is rooted in the design science referred to as Permaculture.

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Channel Islands Restoration


Channel Islands Restoration (CIR) is a Carpinteria based non-profit organization, and we are well known for our many habitat restoration projects on the Channel Islands. Fewer people know that we have restored habitat at several locations on the Gaviota Coast, including planting thousands of natives, removing miles of Arundo from Refugio Creek and removing invasive plants at the Arroyo Hondo Preserve and Refugio State Beach.

CIR grew out of a volunteer project to remove invasive plants on Santa Cruz Island in the early 2000s. Since then, and with the help of more than 6,000 volunteers, CIR has worked on all eight of the Channel Islands and at nearly 50 locations on the coastal mainland from Orcutt to San Pedro. CIR specializes in removing invasive plants in sensitive habitats, particularly where they encroach on threatened or endangered plant and animal species. We also construct nurseries and grow native plants that are used to revegetate restoration sites.

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Jack Johnson Concert


Jack Johnson testified to the importance of protecting the Gaviota Coast by inviting Naples Coalition and Gaviota Coast Conservancy volunteers to table in his All AT ONCE village at his September 1st concert at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. Jack also offered us $2,500 in matching funds which we have succeeded in raising.

Jack is a true friend of the Gaviota Coast.