The Goleta City Council is calling on a non-profit organization to help keep the Ellwood Mesa designated as open space.
At its meeting last night, the council unanimously selected the Trust for Public Lands, a national non-profit land conservation organization, to help negotiate tax credits that would facilitate the transition of Ellwood Mesa from private to public property.
The transition is part of a proposed land swap between the city of Goleta, UCSB and private developer Bob Comstock that is meant to preserve environmentally sensitive areas on the Ellwood bluffs, including the well-known monarch butterfly groves.
Under the proposed land swap, the city of Goleta would give Comstock housing areas in Santa Barbara Shores Park, west of Ellwood, in exchange for a bluff-top meadow in the Ellwood area. Some of Comstock’s planned development at the new location would be available to the university for faculty and student housing near the Ocean Meadows Golf Course.
Because Comstock’s 135-acre parcel on the Ellwood bluffs will become public property, the TPL will grant him tax credits after it surveys and appraises the land.
“We are continuing to work with the TPL and we’re hoping to have our first drafts from our [tax credit] agreements looked at this week,” Comstock said.
Goleta City Council member Cynthia Brock said selecting the TPL to help facilitate the landswap does not mean the council is unable to handle the property acquisition by itself.
“The TPL is a group I very much admire and respect. They’ve been involved with a number of wonderful projects. I’m just thrilled this has happened because of their reputation and their successes, and their savvy in these areas,” she said.
The council also decided to officially change the name of the property in formal documents to Ellwood Mesa, instead of Monarch Point Bluff.
Chris Lange, director of the Friends of Ellwood Coast, said the name change suits the area better because it has been known to the community as the Ellwood Mesa for the past 12 years.
“What seems like a small point today actually is one of those lovely symbolic things like monarch butterflies are symbolic to Ellwood Mesa – that is, to get the name right. When you get the name right, the community lights up,” she said. “The experts, the people who evaluate it, recognize Ellwood and Ellwood Mesa.”
The Goleta City Council will hold their next meeting on Monday, June 3 at 6 p.m. in the Goleta Union School District Boardroom at 401 N. Fairview Ave.