Longtime coastal advocate Mike Lunsford accepted a lifetime achievement award at a recent Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) event to launch its annual award series.
Lunsford, GCC founder and board emeritus member, accepted the Coastal Legacy Award from friend and colleague Robert Field.
A retired state park ranger with 25 years of service, Lunsford is known for his achievements in resource management, and the creation of the Gaviota State Park trail system.
Lunsford became a charter member of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board of Directors, where he served as president for 15 years.
“There is something about having your worth validated that induces a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment,” he said.
“You are my colleagues, my collaborators, and friends, so to receive such recognition from you gives me great pride and humility. I believe GCC will continue to accomplish extraordinary things,” he said.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board Members, local dignitaries, coastal advocates and dedicated supporters gathered at he event hosted by the Belmond El Encanto to toast the GCC’s ongoing coastal preservation efforts.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal paid tribute to Lunsford with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition presented by his predecessor, Rep. Lois Capps, who represented the Central Coast for two decades in the House of Representatives.
During Lunsford’s acceptance, he thanked friends and family for their continued contributions to the legacy of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, pointing to numerous shared legislative and environmental triumphs along the way.
“In creating the Coastal Legacy Award, we sought to honor in individual who has offered a lifetime of service and leadership in the ongoing mission to protect the Gaviota Coast,” GCC President Steve Forsell said after the event.
“In selecting Mike as our first honoree, we’ve set that bar very high. Mike Lunsford’s commitment to the preservation of the Gaviota Coast is legendary,” Forsell said.
The 76-mile Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County encompasses many of the coastal watersheds of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The coast is known for its remote beaches, rural landscapes, and expansive ocean, island and mountain views.
On October 16, 2018, by a 3-2 vote, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors took their final step to fully adopt the Gaviota Coast Plan. The Plan, over 10 years in the making, contains the policies, programs and goals for Santa Barbara’s Gaviota Coast planning area.
To become effective in the coastal zone, the Gaviota Coast Plan had to be certified by the Coastal Commission, and if there were any modifications, to have the County Board of Supervisors accept those modifications. The Coastal Commission conditionally certified the Gaviota Coast Plan on August 10th with 13 suggested modifications. Today the Board had to decide whether to accept all 13 suggested modifications and complete the Gaviota Coast Plan, or to reject or take no action on the modifications in which case the Plan would not apply in the coastal zone.
The Supervisors received over 100 letters of support for accepting the Commission’s modifications and finalizing the Gaviota Coast Plan. Three letters were received by the Supervisors in opposition. Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann made the motion to accept the modifications and adopt the Local Coastal Program (LCP). Supervisor Hartmann thanked former Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr who initiated the Gaviota Coast Plan process by forming the Gaviota Planning Advisory Committee (GavPAC) over 10 years ago. A majority of the Supervisors expressed the opinion that the County got the best deal it could from the Coastal Commission. With all modifications accepted, the Plan will be deemed and effective upon a Coastal Commission Executive Director determination that the Board’s action is adequate, and Commission non-objection to that determination.
Notably, as modified, the Gaviota Coast Plan includes new exemptions for ongoing and historic agricultural operations, providing Gaviota Coast farmers and ranchers with substantial flexibility to change and evolve their operations without first obtaining coastal development permits. This represents a major change from the County’s existing certified LCP which required permits for cultivation and grazing generally, including changes in ongoing operations, and renewed use of historically farmed or grazed areas. The County’s practice had been to exempt all agriculture from permits contrary to the LCP’s requirements, but the Coastal Commission soundly rejected that practice as inconsistent with the LCP and Coastal Act. This had been a major source of disagreement, with the County and agricultural interests on one side, and the Coastal Commission on the other. However, Supervisor Hartmann’s initiative to form a Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the Board and hold a public workshop with Coastal Commission staff in attendance, allowed for an open discussion of this issue and its ultimate resolution. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy proposed, and the Commission included, key language to clarify and broaden the scope of the exemptions for ongoing and historic agriculture.
Other disputed issues included the definition of and protections for Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHAs), permitting for residential accessory uses, biological study requirements, among other things. On each of these, County and Coastal Commission staff were able to negotiate compromise positions that Supervisors Hartmann, Wolf, and Chair Williams agreed adequately resolved the County’s concerns.
Now that the Gaviota Coast Plan can take effect in the coastal zone, there will be new meaningful controls on coastal development including stronger view protections (including a view corridor overlay, site design hierarchy, and design guidelines), stronger protections for sensitive habitats and watersheds including minimum setbacks from creeks, and stronger protections for the Gaviota Coast’s rich cultural and historic resources. With the Plan in effect in the coastal zone, there will also be new opportunities for coastal farmers and ranchers to process and sell their agricultural products on-site, and new flexibility and permit relief for ongoing operations, helping to maintain the vitality of Gaviota Coast agriculture.
Phil McKenna, Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board member and an appointed member of the GavPAC, stated, “The Board’s action is a major accomplishment that will help protect the Gaviota Coast into the future. The Plan establishes trail corridors, visual standards, habitat protection, exemptions for historical agricultural operations and a path for expanded regenerative agricultural practices that enhance habitat, reduce water consumption and sequester carbon in soils.”
Judge Issues Ruling Granting Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance Intervention in Hollister Ranch Public Access Settlement
Hearing on Fairness of Settlement Agreement Postponed until November 19, 2018 at 1:30 PM
SANTA BARBARA, CA – The Honorable Judge Colleen Sterne issued a ruling allowing community groups to intervene in the Hollister Ranch access case. (The SB Independent has the background story). The ruling states that “the court would benefit from having the participation of the GCTA in presenting views on fairness that are not now being presented by the State Defendants or by plaintiffs.” (Ruling, Pappas v. California Coastal Conservancy, Santa Barbara County Superior Court #1417388 for hearing on Monday August 27, 2018, page 8 of 9).
“The Court recognizes the importance of public access to the State’s lands by Hollister Ranch, and the role that community organizations have in advocating for these rights” explained Marc Chytilo, one of GCTA’s attorneys. “The public has a right to enjoy the wet sand beaches at Hollister Ranch as much as anyone else. These are rights that were reserved at statehood in 1848. Hollister residents and their chosen guests have enjoyed near-exclusive access to state tidelands and marine resources for nearly 40 years, but the public has an equal right to enjoy these state lands. The California Constitution guarantees public access to Hollister Ranch.”
The Court will finalize its ruling on GCTA’s intervention on Monday August 27 at 9:30 at a hearing in Judge Sterne’s courtroom in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court. In the tentative ruling, the Judge identified a number of issues she wants the parties to provide argument on, and postponed the “Fairness Hearing” until November 19, 2018, at 1:30. Previously, that hearing was set for September 10.
Underlying the intervention is a proposed Settlement Agreement between the Hollister Ranch Owners Association, a class including all 578 owners of lands at Hollister Ranch, the California Coastal Commission and the State Coastal Conservancy. Under that proposed Settlement Agreement, the State would waive its rights under certain easements and/or licenses that exist from an Offer to Dedicate accessways from a 1982 Coastal permit issued to the YMCA of Los Angeles.
The proposed Settlement Agreement was approved by the State defendants privately in closed session, and when the terms were announced, an immediate public outcry arose. Nearly 2000 public comments have been submitted to the Coastal Commission objecting to the proposed settlement, but the only way to stop the Settlement is by intervening in the
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.”
Members of the public that support this effort are encouraged to visit the Gaviota Coast Conservancy website and make a contribution to achieve public access to Hollister Ranch.
For more info, please contact Marc Chytilo, Law Office of Marc Chytilo, 805-682-0585, Attorney to the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance
Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance
Gaviota Coast Conservancy • Santa Barbara County Trails Council •
COASTWALK / California Coastal Trail Association • California Coastal Protection
Today the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved the long awaited Gaviota Plan. The plan now goes to the SB County Board of Supervisors for final approval.
The Gaviota Plan becomes the guiding planning document for the Gaviota Coast into the future, supplementing and replacing parts of the countywide 1982 local coastal plan. The commission rejected most of the requests for changes, mainly following staff's recommendations. The next step will be a hearing before the Board of Supervisors this fall to decide if the County will accept the Commission's changes.
At the behest of then-Supervisor Doreen Farr, Santa Barbara County initiated a new community plan focused on the Gaviota Coast in 2009. Through an arduous process that included 62 meetings of the “GavPac” (an appointed advisory committee of diverse stakeholders that worked through many of the most challenging issues), an environmental review process and then adoption at the County level, the Gaviota Coast Plan is nearing the final steps for completion.
Today, Friday August 10, the Coastal Commission approved the Gaviota Coast Plan for incorporation into the County’s Local Coastal Plan. Following that action, the version adopted by the Commission will be presented to the Board of Supervisors who will have an up or down vote on the plan, probably this Fall.
The product of many compromises, the Gaviota Coast Plan strives to balance the protection and enhancement of sensitive biological, cultural and visual resources of the Gaviota Coast with community goals for agriculture and recreation while addressing residential and industrial development and transportation issues. It is a carefully constructed plan, reflecting extensive give and take among competing interests. Thanks to a community workshop convened by Supervisor Joan Hartmann in July, many misconceptions and concerns were addressed and resolved, including objections raised by agricultural groups and landowners. The Coastal Commission staff attended the hearing, answered questions, and ultimately made a series of modifications to accommodate those concerns. Some of the modifications used language that was developed by Gaviota Coast Conservancy representatives.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy has participated at every stage of the Gaviota Coast Plan; from helping shape its initiation, having two GCC board members appointed as members of the GavPac, commenting extensively on the EIR during the review process, and attending dozens of hearings before the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and now the Coastal Commission.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy is supportive of the Gaviota Coast Plan as it now stands, and urged that the Coastal Commission adopt it as submitted. While there are always issues that could be addressed more to our liking, we are confident that the Gaviota Coast Plan will add substantially to the protections needed to ensure the rural Gaviota Coast will remain for future generations to farm and enjoy while retaining the rich tapestry of ecosystems and resources that have made the Gaviota Coast so special to our community and country.
After the County had completed its process for the preparation of the Gaviota Coast Plan, the Coastal Commission added specific language concerning Hollister Ranch access. Unfortunately, that language failed to resolve any of the current disputes concerning public access, and may confuse and complicate current ongoing efforts we are engaged in to gain public access to beaches at Hollister Ranch and extend the Coastal Trail.
With the Commission signing off on a sweetheart deal with Hollister Ranch behind closed doors, Gaviota Coast Conservancy feels this new provision should be stricken from the Gaviota Coast Plan, and the existing language should remain in place while the Hollister Ranch access issue is in dispute.
For more information about Gaviota Coast Conservancy participation in the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance, and how you can help these efforts to open public access to Hollister Ranch, visit the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance.
Here's a compilation of recent media coverage of the Hollister Ranch Settlement intervention by Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance, including Gaviota Coast Conservancy.
US News and World Report and Associated Press: Deal Would Allow Limited Access to Disputed California Beach
Today the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance, of which Gaviota Coast Conservancy is a founding member, filed legal papers to intervene in the Hollister Ranch access case. Although the 1982 YMCA “Offer to Dedicate” concerns only a ¾ mile section of Hollister Ranch’s 8.5 miles of beach, it represents the first opportunity to bring the issue of Hollister Ranch access into the public discussion.
And now today's front page of the California section of the LA Times:
Judy Alexander of Santa Barbara, who said the Hollister Ranch settlement is concerning, calls on the Coastal Commission to fight for public beach access for all. (photo by David Royal / For the LA Times)
Here's local editor Jerry Roberts' take on it, in Newsmakers
In addition to that and upcoming NPR coverage, we had a San Jose CBS reporter rent a kayak and try to paddle it himself, which caused a splash!
On July 13, the Coastal Commission held a hearing about the settlement and received nearly 1500 emails, nearly all opposing the settlement.
It turns out that the Coastal Commission and the California Coastal Conservancy never made any announcement about the proposed settlement, and as far as the minutes show, never announced any action on the proposed settlement. Nevertheless, their lawyers assert they have approved the settlement and cannot go back on that.
Which leads us to Judge Colleen K. Sterne’s courtroom. Back in May, she was presented with the settlement, but felt she could not rule on it until there was public notice. Judge Sterne set July 23 as the date by which anyone that wanted to intervene in the lawsuit - and to comment upon the Settlement Agreement - to file papers. And that’s what happened today.
The Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance, including Gaviota Coast Conservancy, California Coastal Protection Network, Santa Barbara County Trails Council and Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association, filed papers to intervene and object to the Settlement Agreement. The proposed Settlement Agreement is found here.
This is a big undertaking, and the Alliance is asking beach lovers and coastal access champions from across the state to donate to this effort.
Supporters are encouraged to contribute to what is expected to be a protracted effort for public access to Hollister Ranch.
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.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy counsel Marc Chytilo and Santa Barbara kayak guide Tamlorn Chase were interviewed for San Francisco CBS Channel 5 regarding the Hollister Ranch Settlement and the difficulty of actually accessing the beach by sea as the settlement proposes.
Together with a coalition of five organizations, Gaviota Coast Conservancy recently issued a group letter on the settlement to the CA Coastal Commission. The group invites supporters to donate to fuel the Hollister Ranch Coastal Trail Campaign.
As covered in this recent piece in the Santa Barbara Independent, below is the group letter that was sent to the CA Coastal Commission before their hearing on the Hollister Ranch Settlement. We invite donations to the Hollister Ranch Coastal Trail Campaign. Thank you for your support.
Honorable Coastal Commissioners,
This letter is submitted on behalf of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC), California Coastal Protection Network (CCPN), the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association, and the Santa Barbara County Trails Council (SBCTC). Together we are committed to effectuating a continuous Coastal Trail from Gaviota State Park to Jalama Beach County Park, including appropriate vertical access to the ocean.
The public’s right to access the ocean is guaranteed by the California Constitution, and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) is charged by the Coastal Act to maximize public access to and along the coast. However, 36 years since the legislature specifically directed the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) “to implement, as expeditiously as possible, the public access policies and provisions of [the Coastal Act] at the Hollister Ranch”, there is still no public access whatsoever to any portion of the 8.5 miles of beach fronting Hollister Ranch.
The YMCA OTD (Offer to Dedicate) is, to our knowledge, the only OTD that exists that could be used to provide public access anywhere at Hollister Ranch. The YMCA OTD is admittedly limited in scope, but if effectuated would allow up to 50 members of the public to access the Cuarta Canyon Beach at Hollister Ranch over land per day. The ability to access this beach over land is especially important. First, the public already has the legal right to access the beach from the ocean up to the mean high tide line.
The small amount of dry sand opened to the public at Cuarta Canyon Beach will disappear as sea level rises, so the only permanent public benefit that can be gained from the YMCA OTD is access by land. Second, ocean-only access can be extremely dangerous and available only to the most able-bodied and experienced individuals, not to the public at large.
The Settlement Agreement requires the CCC and SCC to permanently relinquish the public’s right to access Cuarta Canyon Beach over-land, conveyed by the OTD, without providing any substitute access for the general public. The Managed Access Program provided for in the Settlement Agreement is extremely limited both in the number of individuals that could access Hollister Ranch (maximum 880/year as opposed to 18,250/year that are allowed under the OTD), and in the narrow category of individuals that qualify for the Program (school children as part of the Tidepools program, disabled individuals, children, and individuals from underserved communities to the extent they are chaperoned by an approved non-profit). Moreover, while the Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association (HROA) currently funds a similar managed access program,
1 Art. X, § 4
2 Public Resources Code § 30001.5
3 Public Resources Code § 30610.8
the Settlement Agreement shifts the burden of funding the program to the State by diverting “in-lieu access fees” collected from individual development permits at Hollister Ranch that were intended to fund a public access plan required by the Legislature in 1982. Once depleted, the approximately $295,000 of in-lieu access fees currently in hand will no longer be available for public acquisition of public access easements at Hollister Ranch, denying critical funding for easements to complete the California Coastal Trail, which significantly could include portions of the Rancho Real Road easement relinquished by the Settlement Agreement.
The HROA would have us believe that the OTD conveys no public rights, but we have independently evaluated the issues and evidence relevant to the HROA litigation over the YMCA OTD, and agree with Judge Sterne that there are material factual issues that are yet to be resolved. Judge Sterne has previously ruled that while the easement contemplated by the OTD may not itself be enforceable, there exists an “irrevocable implied license” for the public to access and enjoy Cuarta Canyon Beach. This important ruling should not be abandoned in exchange for, at best, temporary public use of a sliver of dry sand and an invitation for the HROA to exhaust the Hollister Ranch-specific in-lieu access fee funds. Given the importance of the potential public access rights at issue, it is critical that the public have an opportunity to weigh in in a substantive way regarding what constitutes safe and appropriate public access to Cuarta Canyon Beach.
Accordingly, we ask that the Coastal Commission first, not oppose intervention by the public in the Pappas v. State Coastal Conservancy, et al. litigation; second, direct its attorneys to withdraw from the Settlement Agreement; and third, direct its staff to immediately develop and implement an action program for the completion of the Coastal Trail across Hollister Ranch.
Phil McKenna, Land Use Committee Chair
Gaviota Coast Conservancy
Susan Jordan, Executive Director
California Coastal Protection Network
Cea Higgins, Executive Director
Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Ass’n
James Hines, Chair
Sierra Club, Los Padres Chapter
Otis Calef, President
Santa Barbara County Trails Council