Urban sprawl threatens to envelop the remaining scenic coastal ranchland and orchards in Southern California.
The 76-mile Gaviota Coast is located in Santa Barbara County beginning 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles, and encompasses many of the coastal watersheds of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The Coast is well known for its remote beaches, rural landscapes, and expansive ocean, island and mountain views.
The Gaviota Coast is the largest stretch of undeveloped coastline remaining in Southern California, and is representative of the only coastal Mediterranean ecosystem in North America. In many areas, a narrow coastal terrace offers spectacular views of both the mountains and the sea. West of Gaviota Pass, the Santa Ynez Mountains descend to meet the coast at Pt. Arguello, creating a beautiful pastoral landscape and rugged coastline. Northern and southern marine and terrestrial bio-geographic boundaries merge along the Gaviota Coast, producing increased biodiversity. The variety of habitat present here serve as safe harbors for Southern California's many rare, threatened and endangered species, including significant monarch butterfly winter roosting sites. Throughout the Gaviota Coast there are many important archaeological sites. Five state and county parks and National Forest lands provide recreational opportunities.
The Gaviota Coast has no official designation to protect the scenic qualities of the area. Urban development, including a hotel, housing development, and a big box mall, crowd the urban limit line on the eastern end of the coast. On the rural side of the urban limit line the development of 55 mansions is proposed for the sensitive bluffs and uplands of the 450-acre Naples Antiquated Subdivision.
Large development companies, which own several ranches along the coastal terrace located immediately west of Goleta, are proposing major projects. Four area landowners are seeking to increase their development potential by initiating legal action against Santa Barbara County. Asking prices of $30,000/acre for large agricultural parcels and $10,000,000 for building sites imperil the long-term economic viability of existing farmers.
Last Chance to Save the Gaviota Coast
The National Park Service will release a feasibility study (mid-2003) on alternative strategies to permanently protect the unique environmental and cultural resources of the Gaviota Coast. The State of California and Santa Barbara County should take immediate steps to work with land owners and local citizens to limit development to appropriate sites and scale, develop a watershed management program for the region, develop public access, and extend the California Coastal Trail through the Gaviota Coast.