Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall, Chancellor Henry Yang and various developers have been working to form a proposal which will permanently protect 599 acres in the Ellwood Mesa and Devereux Slough region, located in-between Isla Vista and Sandpiper Golf Course.
The proposal, which was tentatively approved in August, would resolve long-debated issues of how to balance development opportunities while ensuring environmental protection, and would secure one of the largest public coastal spaces on the South Coast.
The plan would protect beaches, vernal pools, wetlands and grasslands and one of the state’s largest monarch butterfly groves. Also included are 10 miles of hiking and biking trails.
The Santa Barbara Development Partnership – a group made up of several private developers – would suspend building 123 homes on the 135 acres they own in the Monarch Point Reserve and instead build homes on 40 acres in the northern part of the county. Plans to build on the Monarch Point Reserve have resulted in major opposition in the form of numerous hearings and four lawsuits.
In compliance with the county, the university would suspend developing 122 units south of the Ocean Meadows Golf Course and in exchange would be allowed to build north of the golf course.
“Providing opportunities to members of our campus community to own housing in this region’s challenging market is a priority for UCSB. But we also recognize that access to coastal natural resources is a major priority for all who live in this beautiful region,” Chancellor Henry Yang said.
“The proposal that we have developed with Santa Barbara County offers tremendous potential benefits to the region’s population while helping us to meet our housing goals, and that is why we are so excited about it.”
Mark Chaconas, 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall’s assistant, expects a draft specific plan to be completed in January, which will provide a detailed map of land development.
“The plan is going to have four key components: protection of resources, restoration of resources, public access and the fact that this will be one master environmental impact report,” Chaconas said. “The university feels this approach brings value to the property and gives them certainty of where they can provide housing for their faculty and students.”
Environmentalists have opposed the development because some of the construction will take place on degraded wetlands, according to Chaconas,
“We have to balance loss of resources with gain of providing housing. It’s a responsible approach to a solution for this area,” he said.
Sierra Club member Ariana Katovich said that despite the building proposed on degraded wetland, the plan is the best one environmentalists have seen for the area.
“Environmentalists are pretty stoked, but we don’t want to sign this off as a good thing because the wetlands are critical,” Katovich said. “The proposal is an example of a good compromise.”
The university also assured environmentalists that no construction will take place at Coal Oil Point, which leads to Sands Beach.
“The university is promising to keep Coal Oil Point open space. I have worries that the university will go back on its word because they are not held accountable to anybody,” Katovich said. “I will feel relieved when the proposal is completed and signed.”
UCSB Planning Director Tye Simpson said the university plans to build 250 units of student and faculty housing north of the golf course and 200 units north of existing housing on Storke Road. According to Simpson, the university will not build faculty housing on Coal Oil Point.
“The intention of the university is not to build there. The intentions are clear. We have no intent to build on Coal Oil Point,” he said.
Randy Fox, an attorney and landowner in the Monarch Point Reserve, is working with the university and the county on the proposal, which will specify where he may build housing.
“The master plan requires coordination. [The Santa Barbara Development Partnership] is willing to participate,” Fox said. “The new master open-space and habitat management will be done in about 18 months and will govern what facilities will be used in the open space.”
After a final draft of the proposal is completed, an environmental impact report will be compiled stating specifically what construction will occur on the 2.25 miles of undeveloped coastal open space.