With three months left before the deadline, a recent donation put local conservationists closer to their fundraising goal for saving the Ellwood bluffs.

The Goleta Valley Land Trust recently pledged an additional $500,000 to the Save Ellwood Mesa campaign organized by the Trust for Public Lands – a 31-year-old national land conservation organization – and the Friends of the Ellwood Coast, a non-profit organization formed in 1999 to ensure the conservation of the Ellwood bluffs. This is in addition to the $500,000 donated by the trust last January. Currently Friends of the Ellwood Coast has over $7 million pledged toward its goal of helping Goleta purchasing Ellwood Mesa.

Friends of the Ellwood Coast started its latest campaign to raise money for the purchase of Ellwood Mesa and the adjoining bluffs in January 2003. The group needs $8 million by December to help with the purchase of the mesa, which is currently zoned for residential development.

UCSB and the city of Goleta have proposed a land swap with the site’s owner, Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners, in which the proposed development would be relocated from Ellwood Mesa to city-owned land next to the Sandpiper Golf Course. The swap would decrease the size of the development from 161 units to 78 units. The deal would also involve swapping land with UCSB, allowing it to build 151 student housing units near Ocean Meadows Golf Course and 50 faculty housing units near the Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve.

In order to compensate Comstock Homes and Santa Barbara Development Partners for the smaller development size and subsequent loss of revenue, the city of Goleta needs $20.4 million by Dec. 31 to purchase the land. Trust for Public Lands representatives in Sacramento and Washington are trying to secure government funds to complete the $20.4 million total.

If the city does not raise the funds needed to purchase the site, the developer could resume plans to develop the site.