Judge rules Hollister Ranch can't exclude access advocates

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Coastal Commission directs staff to proceed with access plan development

On December 13, 2018, Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Coleen Sterne rejected a motion by the Hollister Ranch Owners Association to dismiss the advocacy organization Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance (GCTA) from a lawsuit concerning public access to a portion of Hollister Ranch. Judge Sterne ruled that Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance had “standing” to participate in the lawsuit because it had an interest in the litigation and proposed Settlement Agreement as the Judge had previously ruled in August 2018. The judge rejected all other elements of Hollister’s “Demurrer” and ruled the Alliance could pursue all of its claims and defenses to the proposed Settlement Agreement and in any ensuring litigation.

GCTA Counsel Marc Chytilo stated, “The public’s interest in gaining access to the coastline by Hollister Ranch will continue to be represented by the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance. This ruling represents another failed effort by Hollister Ranch to maintain their private use of the public lands along the Hollister Ranch coastline. The state tidelands are owned by and for the people of California, not an elite few. The California Constitution and Coastal Act mandate public access to this coastline and we will not be deterred.”

The case will next be in court on January 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm, for a hearing on the fairness of a proposed Settlement Agreement between Hollister Ranch and the California Coastal Commission. After Judge Sterne expressed concern in May that the public should have an opportunity to participate in the court’s review of the fairness of the proposed Settlement Agreement, the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance formed from the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, California Coastal Protection Network, Santa Barbara County Trails Council and COASTWALK/California Coastal Trail Association, and successfully intervened in that case in August 2018.

All parties have submitted extensive briefing and the fairness of the Settlement Agreement will be decided on January 14, in Judge Sterne’s courtroom.

Coastal Commission Hearing in Newport Beach

On Friday December 14, 2018, the California Coastal Commission held an informational hearing addressing the agency’s plans to revise the 1982 Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Program, as directed by Governor Brown in his September 2018 veto message for AB 2534, a bill authored by Assemblymember Monique Limon. For background on the CCC process, the Staff Report can be found at https://www.coastal.ca.gov/meetings/agenda/#/2018/12.

Videos of the hearing are archived at http://cal-span.org/static/meetings-CCC.php.

During the hearing, a number of Hollister Ranch owners argued the Coastal Commission should not pursue public access, while others asked to be involved in the Commission’s stakeholder process. Although the Commission took no action on the informational item, Chair Bochco and other Commissioners restated their commitment to secure public access to the Hollister Ranch coastline, stating that the Coast belongs to everyone. The Coastal Commission is a member of an inter-agency working group (California Coastal Conservancy, State Lands Commission, State Parks) to develop an updated access plan. A stakeholder process is in development, and a public workshop will be convened in Santa Barbara in March 2019.

About The Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance

The Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance is an association of non-profit groups dedicated to opening Gaviota Coast beaches for equitable public use and completing the California Coastal Trail. Tax deductible donations may be made to the GCTA’s fiscal agent, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy for GCTA. For more information, visit http://gaviotacoastconservancy.org/