As development at Naples, the scenic stretch of coastline just a few miles north of Isla Vista, marches closer to fruition, the County Board of Supervisors voted last week to adopt a Transfer of Development Rights ordinance in an effort to curb coastal development.
Development at Naples has been a cause célèbre in Santa Barbara for many years, as environmental groups have fought to keep Matt Osgood, Naples land owner and managing member of Santa Barbara Ranch, from building several dozen estate-sized homes along one of the few remaining stretches of undeveloped coastline left in Southern California.
In principle, the Transfer of Development Rights program will allow the county to buy land from Osgood by allowing additional development in urbanized areas, such as downtown Santa Barbara. However, the TDR that was adopted is voluntary, prompting many to doubt the effectiveness of the program, especially considering the exceptionally high property values along the Gaviota coast.
“I’ve read the ordinance and I don’t think [it’s] going to work, and I think anyone can see it’s not going to work,” 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf said just prior to issuing the only dissenting vote.
Under the new ordinance, Osgood, the landowner, is not required to participate and could simply opt not to sell the property. Additionally, Osgood would be allowed to sell the land to private buyers, at which point the new owners could develop the land themselves.
Further hindering the TDR, the cost of one coastal plot is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars – many times that of a similar sized lot in downtown Santa Barbara.
The ordinance now heads to the California Coastal Commission, which has the last word on issues relating to California’s coastline, where it will be reviewed. If the commission decides not to approve the ordinance, it will go back to the board for additional fine-tuning.
First District Supervisor and board chair Salud Carbajal voted to adopt the TDR program, but clearly had reservations about doing so.
“I’m going to vote for it,” Carbajal said prior to casting his vote. “It’s with much trepidation and pain that I do so, but I would rather have something than nothing.”
Carbajal was joined by Supervisors Joseph Centeno and Brooks Firestone – Isla Vista’s sole elected representative – in voting for the ordinance. Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray was not present for the vote.
The board is expected to make a final decision on the development project itself at their October 13 board meeting. The proposed project, known as Alternative 1B, would see 54 estate sized homes built on the Naples townsite and an additional 17 built on neighboring Dos Pueblos Ranch. Under the proposed plan, 15 houses would sit on the coastal terrace, nine of which would be built directly along the coastal bluffs.
The Santa Barbara Planning Commission approved the project earlier this summer, despite large public opposition.
The Gaviota Coast, of which Naples is a part, is zoned for agricultural use, which restricts development to one house per hundred acres. However, a 19th century paper subdivision for the Naples area was found and later supported by the California Supreme Court, giving local officials few options when combating the proposed development.