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
Public Access at Hollister Ranch:
Please Email the Coastal Commission
Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association (HROA) and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) have formulated a wildly imperfect settlement that seeks to resolves a long-standing dispute about public access to a portion of the Ranch. It’s a very long story, stretching back to 1973 with a changing cast of characters, but always a firm resolve by the HROA to thwart the public’s ability to gain appropriate public access to the coastal portion of the Ranch.
The settlement has been agreed to by the HROA and the CCC, but awaits judicial approval that will involve a hearing in Santa Barbara Superior Court on July 23, 2018.
In the meantime, the CCC will accept public testimony about the settlement. This is your opportunity to express your opinion.
Please send a brief email by 5 pm on Friday, July 6,
to the CA Coastal Commission at Hollister@coastal.ca.gov
- The Commission should withdraw approval of the settlement as it fails to reflect the objectives of the Coastal Act and the desires of the broad public.
- Why has public access at Hollister Ranch, as clearly intended by the Legislature, been blocked for 35 years?
- The settlement disregards the interest of the general public. Those without the financial resources of an owner and/or the physical capacity to land on the beach from the ocean will be unable to make use of the beach.
- The settlement provides very limited access to the general public, i.e., access to the sand above the mean high tide to the bluff toe over the 3880 feet of Cuarto Beach. The public’s access to this “dry sand” is hazardous, as it is only accessible through the surf after of voyage of 2 miles from Gaviota State Park.
- The limited increase of a maximum of 480 individuals per year to Cuarto Beach through a Ranch-managed access program will be paid for by public funds earmarked for the realization of the CA Coastal Trail and beach access at the Ranch. The settlement allows for the inappropriate use of public money.
- The parties to this agreement (CA Coastal Commission and Hollister Ranch Owners Association) explicitly tried to exclude the public from commenting or participating in the settlement when it was clear that the public has a strong interest in the matter.
- An important easement for access across the first 3.5 miles of the Ranch will be waived in the settlement.
Please take our Hollister Ranch Survey
Here are the main elements of the settlement:
- Allows the public to use a 3,880 foot section of dry coastal sand (we already have the right to the wet sand) that can be accessed only by sea after a 2 mile voyage from Gaviota State Park, braving the gale force winds of Gaviota Canyon and the surf of the Ranch.
- Uses public money collected over decades that is intended to be spent on the Coastal Trail and coastal access, for Hollister Ranch expenses in bringing 480 school children and 400 underserved or disabled individuals per year onto the Ranch in a managed access program.
- Voids potential road access for up to 50 people/day to 3.5 miles of the Ranch access road.
- Creates a “poison pill” that eliminates the modest benefits of the settlement if condemnation is ever undertaken to secure an easement for the trail.
- Sets a very bad precedent.
Very little is gained by the public and much is precluded.
You can review the emails submitted a https://www.coastal.ca.gov/meetings/agenda/#/2018/7 to gain a sense of the broad statewide opposition to this settlement; scroll down a page to item #5 “Hollister Ranch” and click on “Correspondence”.
While on that web page if you click on “Hollister Ranch” you will find the staff report providing background and a summary of the settlement. The “Exhibits” page provides maps of the Ranch and photos of Cuarto Canyon, the site of the access under consideration.
You can attend the Coastal Commission meeting and speak directly to the Commissioners on Friday July 13, at the Scotts Valley Hilton, 6001 La Madrona Drive, in Scotts Valley. The item is first on the agenda and will be heard about 9:30.
You can view a real time video of the meeting at http://www.cal-span.org/.
This is an historic moment to inform the Commission of the public’s objection to a settlement that will void appropriate public access at Hollister Ranch, potentially forever.
Please make your voice heard.
Due to recent coverage in the LA Times, locally and elsewhere, a public comment hearing has been scheduled for Friday, July 13 (at the Hilton in Scotts Valley, 6001 Madrona Drive, near Santa Cruz) by the California Coastal Commission, who is considering a settlement regarding public beach access at Hollister Ranch.
Please send your comments before 7/6 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So far, more than 600 have been sent, the vast majority opposing the settlement. Judge Sterne will accept motions from individuals or organizations arguing that they have legal standing to intervene in the settlement, in the last chance to legally disrupt the agreement.
The Gaviota Coast Conservancy has been monitoring the YMCA easement issue for over a decade, including the litigation initiated by the Hollister Ranch against the California Coastal Conservancy when they accepted the offer to dedicate after Santa Barbara County refused.
We are reviewing the proposed settlement.
GCC believes that beach access is a core principal of the California Coastal Act and is protected by the California Constitution and the public trust doctrine.
Hollister Ranch occupies an extraordinary location on the California coast, with substantial biological, cultural, agricultural and recreational resources and opportunities present. There are significant public values at stake at Hollister Ranch. We are reviewing the proposed settlement and are conferring with other community organizations and agencies that have shown an interest in this issue.
Please share your comments with us: https://www.gaviotacoastconservancy.org/hollister_ranch_survey
For more, see the recent coverage:
- In the SB Independent, https://www.independent.com/news/2018/jun/28/hollister-ranch-dustup-heading-coastal-commission/
- In Newsmakers by Jerry Roberts: Last Chance to Protest Cozy Hollister Deal | Newsmakers With Jerry Roberts | Santa Barbara, California
- Steve Lopez and the Los Angeles Times have been covering this story for the last month, on the front page, and GCC is mentioned a number of times, including here: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-hollister-followup-06242018-story.html
- Hollister Ranch access agreement is a wipeout ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-hollister-followup-06242018-story.html June 24, 2018 - Hollister Ranch access agreement is a wipeout and a sellout, hundreds of beach lovers scream. Tamlorn Chase paddles his kayak around ...
- California's newest public beach is glorious, but ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-lopez-hollister-06172018-story.html Jun 16, 2018 - Tamlorn Chase paddles his kayak around rocky headland cliffs from Gaviota State Park toward Hollister Ranch. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times).
- The untouched coastline of Hollister Ranch - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/local/.../la-me-lopez-hollister-pictures-20180615-photogallery.html Jun 15, 2018 - The view from a kayak along the Hollister Ranch coastline inaccessible to the general public. (Tamlorn Chase / For The Times). 1 / 10.
- Wilderness guide discusses access to Hollister ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/local/.../la-seib-lopez-hollister-ranch-ac-20180615-premiumvideo.h... Jun 15, 2018 - Tamlorn Chase, wilderness guide, filmmaker, environmental activist, talks about access to Hollister Ranch as he launches his kayak from ...
- The proposed deal on public access to Hollister ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-hollister-20180612-story.html Jun 12, 2018 - Of a proposed deal on Hollister Ranch, a letter writer asks: What good is beach access if there is no way to get there?
- Who gets to enjoy California's natural treasures ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/.../la-oe-sipchen-hollister-ranch-coastal-commission-20180606-stor... Jun 6, 2018 - It seems possible to love the Hollister Ranch, and to protect it, without hiring lawyers and a militia of armed guards to intimidate the rest of us.
- The Hollister Ranch settlement is a giveaway to ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/.../la-ol-le-hollister-ranch-coastal-commission-20180529-story.html May 29, 2018 - Even with beach access, Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County is isolated and would never draw crowds like Malibu, where a détente ...
- Soon you can visit this pristine California beach ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-hollister-ranch-settlement-20180522-story.html May 22, 2018 - Jeff Kamer, right, of Goleta, shows Debby Kamer, his visiting sister, the view of the ocean at the entrance to Hollister Ranch west of Santa ...
- Hollister Ranch owners are fighting the state ... - Los Angeles Times: www.latimes.com/local/la-me-ln-hollister-ranch-20160726-snap-story.html Jul 26, 2016 - West of Santa Barbara is a remnant of old California: Hollister Ranch. The 14,500 acres of hilly grassland, coastal sage scrub and secluded ...
On June 19, the Board of Supervisors is considering adopting a resolution and policy that they won’t expand the Tajiguas Landfill or site a new landfill on the Gaviota Coast when Tajiguas reaches capacity. This is an important step to protecting the Gaviota Coast into the future.
In addition, the Board is also preparing to approve and fund a new trail on the Gaviota Coast at Baron Ranch. The new trail will connect the coast to Camino Cielo above in the Los Padres National Forest. Once completed, the trail will be opened to public for hiking, biking and equestrian use 7 days a week. The Board will commit up to $130,000 to fully fund and expedite completion of this project.
Finally, the Board will initiate the preparation of a comprehensive master plan for the 1000 acre Baron Ranch, including opportunities for public input. The final plan will focus on expanding recreational opportunities, protecting open space and promoting agriculture on the County’s Baron Ranch.
Send emails to: email@example.com for the Board of Supervisors hearing, Monday, June 19
Message: I support the resolution pledging to not expand Tajiguas Landfill, opening the Baron Ranch Trail and initiating a master planning process for Baron Ranch
Sample Email Message:
- I support the proposed actions for Item # A-46 on the Board’s June 19 agenda.
- The Gaviota Coast has provided a location for our solid waste for many decades, and should be closed when filled.
- I/we support opening the Baron Ranch Trail to Camino Cielo as quickly as possible. Our community needs more trails, especially in light of the closure of other trails in Montecito.
- The County should dedicate Baron Ranch for public recreational use.
We're grateful that SeaVees, a Santa-Barbara based shoe company with an international following, has again chosen to support Gaviota Coast Conservancy as a donation partner through 1% for the Planet, "a global network of businesses, nonprofits and individuals working together for a healthy planet."
Gaviota Coast Conservancy is honored to count SeaVees among our community of supporters, and grateful for their valuable and important support for a second year. Their contribution forwards our mission to protect the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for present and future generations. Their support helps us protect this spectacular biodiversity hotspot from development.
We'd also like to recognize our gratitude to SeaVees for generously supporting our local community during the tragic flood in Montecito. It has been traumatizing, and together we're growing stronger. Thank you for the shoes and all the love.
Limited Public Access to Hollister Ranch
Today, the Hollister Ranch stands as one of the few privately owned sections of the coast inaccessible to the public. Unless you are an owner or know one that will invite you as a guest, you cannot legally go above the mean high tide line on the Hollister Ranch beaches. A rock formation that extends into the sea blocks people from walking down the beach from Gaviota State Park on all but the lowest tides, and a gatehouse and security force keep the public at bay.
Virtually all general public access to Hollister Ranch today is by boat. Repeated and sustained acts of vandalism have rendered the Gaviota hoist inoperable for extended periods of time, leading people to either launch small inflatables from Gaviota State Park or boat in from Santa Barbara harbor. Conditions in the Santa Barbara Channel can change rapidly and the waters can be quite dangerous at times. Hollister’s famed surf breaks and empty beaches are typically only enjoyed by owners, invited guests, and those with boats that beach-launch from Gaviota State Park or make the long ride from Santa Barbara harbor.
While the Coastal Act requires the provision of maximum public access to the coast, that provision is not self-executing, and rights of public access are typically granted as conditions of development approvals. Depending on how effective local governmental agencies are, how engaged the public is, and how resistant the landowner is, there are a wide variety of access rights along part of Santa Barbara County’s coastline. Hollister Ranch is one of the least accessible privately owned areas of Santa Barbara’s coastline.
The YMCA Easement
In 1970, the YMCA purchased a 160 acre parcel, including road access easements and easements to access a 3880 foot stretch of beach as part of a planned recreational facility. In 1971, the Hollister Ranch was subdivided to create the Ranch as its known today. In 1979, YMCA applied for a Coastal Development Permit for a recreational lodge on their parcel that was approved, subject to condition including a mandated public access program for up to 50 people per day to be shuttled in for day use of the 3880 foot stretch of beach. The permit was exercised and some development started on the lodge, but it was never completed and the mandated public access program never completed.
In 2013, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors declined to accept the YMCA’s “Offer to Dedicate” the easement for access to the beach, and as required by law, the California Coastal Conservancy accepted the easement and was immediately sued by Hollister Ranch. Hollister argued the OTD was invalid, along with a host of other claims.
The Lawsuit and Settlement Agreement
The case has been in litigation since, and in Spring of 2018, a settlement was proposed whereby the public could go onto the private 3880-foot stretch of dry sand beach for day use, accessed by boat only, subject to a number of restrictions. The Santa Barbara Independent published that Hollister Ranch settles with State to provide limited public access. Practically, this would allow the non-boat-owning public to kayak or paddle board from Gaviota State Beach to the 3880-foot beach and to pull onto the dry sand. From there, it's possible to walk in wet sand (below the mean high tide line) or paddle to surf Drakes and Razors.
The Settlement Agreement also makes an on-going voluntary Hollister Ranch managed access program permanent. This program invites up to 44 groups annually of K-12 school groups, groups of disabled, special needs and disadvantaged youth, as well as disabled groups such as wounded warriors, to visit the Ranch and surf.
The Public Access License Agreement describes the terms of access to the 3880-foot beach. Here's the Tentative Ruling, Tom Pappas et al v CA Coastal Commission. The Hollister Ranch Managed Access Program is described in the HROA Stipulation and Agreement of Settlement. Here are the YMCA Easement Maps.
The Public’s Role
Although the Coastal Commission and Conservancy, along with Hollister Ranch, had proposed to enter this settlement quietly, Judge Colleen Sterne, while making a preliminary determination that the Settlement was a fair resolution, ordered the parties to publish notice of the Settlement in newspapers and allow objecting parties to file to intervene in the lawsuit by July 23 and to lodge objections to the settlement.
A final hearing in court to consider the settlement has been scheduled for September 10. The Coastal Commission has created a website for the public to review documents and provide comments to the Commission, https://www.coastal.ca.gov/hollister-ranch/, however the Commission and Conservancy Boards have each approved entry into the Settlement Agreement in closed session. There has been no public Commission or Conservancy hearing on the settlement.
People concerned with the Coastal Commission’s closed door approval can contact the Coastal Commission and ask that they schedule this issue for a future public hearing. Their website is https://www.coastal.ca.gov/. The Coastal Commission’s Executive Director is at John.Ainsworth@coastal.ca.gov.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy is investigating the terms, considering the pros and cons of this proposed settlement, and exploring related issues concerning public use and access to Hollister Ranch. The YMCA easement is not the only authority for obtaining public access to parts of the Hollister Ranch, but it’s the one that is in play right now.
We welcome public comment and input about Hollister Ranch access
Thank you for supporting Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s work on the Coastal Trail, public access, saving Gaviota Coast open spaces, promoting regenerative agriculture, stopping the industrialization of the Gaviota Coast and fighting development by making a contribution here. You keep us in action!