The battle over the development of Ellwood Mesa is nearing its end.
The developers, worn and bleeding from lawsuit after lawsuit, and the Goleta City Council and UCSB, weary and untrained in the art of war, have reached a compromise over the disputed territory.
In exchange for the Ellwood Mesa, which will become an open recreational area, Goleta will appease the developers and UCSB with parcels of land for their building pleasure – one adjacent to Sandpiper Golf Course and two others surrounding Ocean Meadows Golf Course.
Along with the exchange, the Goleta City Council has hired the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands to hammer out possible tax credits to sweeten the deal.
The proposal leaves both sides happy. The developers get to erect their residential homes. UCSB can put down more student and faculty housing in hope of attracting more professors to the campus. The city of Goleta will have this gory phase of the development war out of its hair.
As with all battles though, it’s usually the innocent civilians that take the most casualties.
For residents, the plan is probably the most they can hope for in terms of preserving the Ellwood Mesa and surrounding environment.
The butterflies will still exist and everyone will still have the opportunity to meander among the trees and along cliffs.
It’s just a shame that this proposed end would leave some nasty scars on the landscape.
Under the new plan, a paved pathway and gravel trails will stretch through the preserved area like the vericose veins on an old war widow’s leg.
Along with the walkways, the developers and UCSB will have parking lots stationed like military barracks – one near Coal Oil Point, one adjacent to the West Campus bluffs and a large lot butting up against Santa Barbara Shores County Park.
The parking lots and pathways are a pre-emptive strike against the California Coastal Commission, which wants the new recreational area to have easy, open access to the beach.
The CCC may intend well for the area, but the paths and lots will only subtract from the area’s surrounding beauty. All it will take is one late-night bicycle accident on one of the paths to encourage Goleta to station lampposts all throughout the recreation area.
Sands Beach already has a decent path; it doesn’t need any improvements. If people want a smooth ride down to the sand for a barbecue or picnic, they should head off to Goleta Beach.
The truce isn’t final and there is still plenty of time for the deal to fall through the cracks and start another round of heavy fire on all sides.
Make sure you go out and enjoy the scenery while it’s still there. Take a few photos, draw a picture and say your last goodbyes before the land’s face is marred with nasty battle scars.