Powerful forces continue to develop on the Gaviota Coast, but at every turn Gaviota Coast Conservancy stands up and advocates for protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations, as we have for decades. Here's a copy of our annual appeal letter, with a summary of Gaviota news below, before the upcoming Coastline newsletter. We're grateful for your donations, now, at year's end, and especially on #GivingTuesday (11/29).
(Gaviota Coast, image by Land Trust for Santa Barbara County)
Today, Gaviota Coast Conservancy is engaged in over 20 projects, campaigns and issues, all of which are focused on stopping harmful projects and finding permanent solutions to protecting Gaviota’s ecosystems and preserving its distinct rural character.
While some challenges are new, others have been simmering (and occasionally boiling) for well over a decade. Here are the highlights:
- The 128-year saga of Naples took a turn when a new owner of two coastal lots applied to build two massive residential complexes, complete with de rigueur barns, pools and guest houses. We objected to the project at the Board of Architectural Review, and were rewarded by Board members’ comments agreeing that the project is ill-suited to Naples and unripe for review, given the multitude of hurdles any such development faces. GCC believes these out-of-place houses should not, and will not, ever be built. Developers’ dreams will fail in the face of implacable opposition to inappropriate development.
- Six years in the making, the Gaviota Coast Plan was adopted by the County Supervisors on November 8. The plan provides a streamlined permitting process for many small scale agricultural endeavors, elevates protection of the public viewsheds along the coast, reaffirms the importance of the Coastal Trail and inland access, develops innovative design guidelines for appropriate development, and bars potential development of a large community on the Cojo-Jalama Ranch north of Point Conception. The Coastal Commission is expected to conduct its review of the plan in 2017.
- At long-last, Highway 101 between the Goleta city limits and the Highway 1 turnoff to Lompoc is poised to be a state-designated California Scenic Highway. The Conservancy served an integral role in this designation, providing considerable support to the County. The designation provides another level of recognition to the irreplaceable scenic character of the Coast.
- The County is poised to commit over $120,000,000 to a risky new venture to “cook” South Coast trash in a massive anaerobic digester on top of the Tajiguas Landfill. GCC has advocated for the closure of this landfill for a decade but the County’s solid waste department has pursued extending its life and perpetuating the presence of trash trucks on the Gaviota Coast by siting the so-called Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project at the landfill. Anaerobic digestion of trash is a risky technology that has yet to be proven as financially feasible when used with general household and commercial waste. A key problem is the contamination of compost that is otherwise needed for agricultural use and to combat global warming through carbon farming. If (when) the project fails, disposal costs will rise even higher, and virtually guarantee the expansion of the landfill into an adjoining coastal canyon. With the help of two leading solid waste consultants, we are making the case that enhanced recycling and traditional compost facilities will be much more effective and less costly, eliminating the risk of a disastrous outcome for the project.
- A generous landowner is poised to construct a missing segment of the Coastal Trail to create the first new Gaviota Coast coastal access in decades. More to follow as the details become finalized.
But we need your help! Help us sustain these efforts through a generous, tax deductible donation. We promise to use your money to defend the environmental and cultural integrity of the Gaviota Coast. Every dollar helps. Thanks!
For the Gaviota Coast,
Mike Brown, President
Gaviota Coast Conservancy Statement on the Gaviota Coast Plan before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, November 8
(Santa Barbara, CA) On Tuesday, November 8, the Board of Supervisors will consider approving the Gaviota Coast Plan (GCP) and its Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The GCP updates the County’s General Plan, Local Coastal Plan and zoning ordinance for the Gaviota Coast Plan Area, which spans the relatively undeveloped stretch of coastline between Goleta and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GCP provides policy guidance and actions regarding natural and cultural resources stewardship, agriculture, parks, recreation and trails, land use, visual resources, and transportation, energy and infrastructure.
The County began the process of developing this long-term land use plan for the Gaviota Coast in 2009 by establishing the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee (GavPAC) to develop a draft plan. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy was engaged throughout the process from the beginning, with two board members sitting on the GavPAC. Phil McKenna, Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board member and appointed member of the GavPAC, explained, “The Gaviota Coast Plan is the product of an exhaustive stakeholder process that included many different perspectives. It reflects a vision that preserves the rural character that is the essence of the Gaviota Coast, encourages sustainable agriculture while protecting biological resources and allows limited development while promoting enhanced recreational opportunities for the public.”
GavPAC’s draft plan was refined by County staff and the Planning Commission, and initiated for environmental review by the Board in 2013. After receiving public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the Planning Commission reviewed the proposed final Gaviota Coast Plan, final EIR, and recommended that the Board approve the Plan.
The proposed Gaviota Coast Plan offers creative regulatory relief for small scale, sustainable agricultural endeavors while significantly protecting natural and cultural resources. The coastal and inland trail system is comprehensively envisioned, and Plan policies advance the creation of a world-class trail network along the Gaviota Coast, and up to and along the ridge-line of the Santa Ynez mountains. Visual resource protections are enhanced with the creation of a new Critical Viewshed Corridor, and important guidance is provided for residential development in the new Site Design Hierarchy.
Guner Tautrim, a 6th generation Gaviota Coast farmer, Gaviota Coast Conservancy board member and appointed member of the GavPAC, sought to promote policies and programs into the GCP that help small farmers hold onto their land and continue farming. “Farmers need to be creative to sustain agriculture on lands that are so desirable for development. I want to keep this land in productive agriculture for future generations and leave a legacy of a rural and rustic Gaviota Coast.”
The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rural character and the environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for present and future generations.
Protecting endangered coastal California Gaviota agriculture and open space
The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is pleased to share and celebrate the launch of the short film documentary, "Losing Ground", on urgent issues facing the Gaviota Coast. Created as a UCSB "Blue Horizons" environmental film project by filmmakers Trevor Lestak, Sara Battersby, Joseph Weston, Beverly Vasquez, and Brady Mears, the film interviews Gaviota Coast Conservancy board members Phil McKenna and Guner Tautrim, whose Orella Ranch features prominently. The filmmakers have granted us permission to share this treat here with you in its entirety... it's a delicious 14-minute look at a rare, unique and precious area of the world. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Naples Coastal Cow, photo by Reeve Woolpert
Applications have been submitted for the construction of two 7,500 square foot houses, replete with 800 square foot guest houses, 2,500 square foot barns and swimming pools, on two lots on the coastal portion of Naples (aka Santa Barbara Ranch).
The County Planning and Development Department has deemed the applications to be incomplete, but the applicant’s representatives appeared at the SB County Central Board of Architectural Review (CBAR) on Friday August 12, 2016 in Solvang for a “conceptual review” of the project.
Representatives of the Naples Coalition and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy were also there.
We objected to the development on the grounds that it induces growth, is incompatible with the rural character of the Gaviota Coast, and cannot even be considered without a full environmental impact report due to the sensitive nature of the property and the massive nature of the buildings. The CBAR must find that a proposed project shall be “compatible with the character of the surrounding natural environment”. The proposed development flunks this simple and clear test.
To approve a project, the CBAR must also find that structures “shall be sited so as not to intrude into the skyline as seen from public viewing places". The applicant claims they meet this test, due to the screening of the eucalyptus hedgerows planted along Highway 101 and the railroad corridor. However, the CBAR agreed with our position that vegetative screening is not durable and cannot be relied upon for such a purpose, flunking another simple and clear test.
While the following planning issues are not under the purview of the CBAR, they did recognize the substantial number of issues that must be resolved before the architectural character of this project can be considered. The difficulty of providing safe passage over (or under) the railroad tracks was not addressed. Water supply and delivery is assumed, but we question the assumptions. Human waste disposal or residential water runoff near the ocean bluffs could imperil the ocean water quality of the Naples Reef. Transfer of development rights is mandated where feasible by Coastal Land Use Policy 2-13. Numerous legal issues surrounding the earlier EIR and entitlements remain unresolved. And a host of additional “changed circumstances” since the partial approval of the 2008 development in the Naples antiquated subdivision, least of which is the drought, create difficult, if not impossible, barriers to development.
The CBAR held this one hearing on the conceptual review of Dr. Ma’s project, and members felt they would not likely hold another until most of the above issues are resolved. We are of the opinion they may never hold another hearing.
Speculators have been trying to develop the Naples property since 1888. One house has been built in the last century. A multitude of speculators have gone bankrupt or entered foreclosure. Naples is the place where developer’s dreams, and their money, go to die.
We at the Naples Coalition and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy and our numerous community allies are steadfast in our commitment to preserve and enhance the rural and scenic character, cultural significances and environmental integrity of Naples and the entire Gaviota Coast. We will fight this proposed development methodically and relentlessly, with the goal of securing these lands as open space for future generations to treasure and enjoy.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy past president Phil McKenna and legal counsel Marc Chytilo were interviewed and featured in the LA Times piece (on 8/11/16) by columnist Steve Lopez, "Between Hollister and Gaviota, fighting to keep rural beaches rural — and public". Here's Steve's blogpost, that discusses the role community groups like Gaviota Coast Conservancy play in guarding precious coastal resources, as a pdf. Marc and Phil took the the reporter with LA Times photographer Allen J. Schaben to the stunning Naples coast. "We want to be able to save this stretch of coast as a wild and rural area for our children and our children's children to explore," said Chytilo. "We want it to serve as a refuge for wildlife and nature... and serve as an example of how people can protect the character of their own community."
Gaviota Coast Conservancy will be posting fire updates on the #SherpaFire that began on Wednesday, June 15, on the Gaviota Coast (El Capitan, Las Flores and Venadito Canyons) by social media. Check our Twitter (@GaviotaCoastC ) and Facebook (@GaviotaCoastConservancy) for the latest posts from Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations and local media outlets.
On Tuesday, 4/5/2016, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to direct the Public Works Department to proceed with the risky (and mis-named) Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project, to be constructed with public funds. Use of public financing shifts the considerable risk of project failure to the County and public, instead of private investors, as originally planned. The cost is projected to be at least $110 million, making it one of the most expensive capital projects undertaken by the County.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy opposes the Project as inappropriate industrial development on the Coast, and because the EIR admits that the output from the anaerobic digestion process will be contaminated and result in poor quality compost that cannot be used by agriculturalists. The Conservancy believes traditional composting is a better approach that can generate high quality compost useful in carbon farming on the Gaviota Coast. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy's legal counsel sent a detailed letter to the SB County Board of Supervisors on April 1st, detailing the many Project flaws. GCC joins in those concerns expressed in a letter sent by Community Environmental Council regarding the County Resource Recovery Project.
A final decision is projected for later this year. The Board has tentatively scheduled approval hearings for July 12, which will be followed by hearings for all participating cities, and then a final Board hearing in October.