GCC Appeal of El Capitan Canyon Resort “Area F1-F2” Expansion

By Ana Citrin

The expansions at El Capitan Canyon Resort on the Gaviota Coast that SUN Communities, Inc. is pursuing are in several different stages in the permitting process.  The visible new construction on the north side of Highway 101 just before the El Capitan State Beach exit (“Area F3”) is fully approved.  The in-canyon expansion, which includes the addition of new and more modern structures and amenities, is still in the planning review phase. 

Finally, there are 47 new developed campsites and associated structures proposed in two areas of the open agricultural parcel east of the canyon, referred to as Area F1 and F2.   The proposal includes 22 “RV Cabins”, 25 yurts, restrooms and other supporting structures including night lighting.  Much of the proposed development is within the Highway 101 viewshed and Gaviota Coast Plan Critical Viewshed Corridor.  The Area F1-F2 Expansion Project is currently under appeal at the County and will be heard by the County Planning Commission on Wednesday, February 28th. 

A 2011 amendment to El Capitan Canyon’s 2004 Conditional Use Permit (CUP) authorized these developed campsites in Areas F1 and F2, but the Resort’s prior owner never perfected the approvals.  SUN now claims that no new permits are required and is attempting to secure final approval for the Area F1-F2 Expansion Project based on an expired Coastal Development Permit (CDP) from 2011. 

GCC appealed the Central Board of Architectural Review (CBAR)’s approval of the Area F1-F2 Expansion Project, on several grounds including that the CDP approved in 2011 has expired and a new permit is required, that the Project is subject to Gaviota Coast Plan requirements, and that CBAR improperly excluded the guest accommodations from their review based on the erroneous assumption that the Gaviota Coast Plan does not apply.  The issues involved in the Area F1-F2 Expansion Project appeal are relatively narrow but are important to ensure that SUN is held to the same requirements as any other landowner and that CBAR can exercise its full discretion under the Gaviota Coast Plan to protect the Critical Viewshed Corridor.

We will send out talking points and instructions for submitting public comment to the Planning Commission next week once the agenda and staff report are available.  Members of the public interested in commenting during the public hearing should be available by 9AM on February 28th.  The hearing will be held at the Planning Commission hearing room in Santa Barbara (123 East Anapamu Street, Room 17), and remote participation by zoom is also available. 

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