The Goleta City Council and Planning Agency heard public comment last night on the draft environmental impact review (EIR) for the preservation of Ellwood Mesa.
The EIR covers the proposed land exchange between the city of Goleta, UCSB and private developer Comstock Homes. Under the agreement, Goleta would receive a 137-acre parcel of land on Ellwood Mesa adjacent to UCSB’s West Campus from Comstock Homes in exchange for $20.4 million and a 36-acre lot in Santa Barbara Shores Park to be used for residential development. The city has already raised $13.3 million for the swap.
Two subjects emphasized by the public were the importance of maintaining the biological integrity of the mesa and the protection and enforcement of areas closed to the public.
Julie Love of the Santa Barbara chapter of the Audubon Society asked the council if it would be possible to zone additional plots within the Ellwood Mesa to be preserved exclusively for conservation and protection. She also said any revegetation of the property must be done using plant specimens taken from immediately adjoining areas.
“I suggest the reevaluation of the issues toward the genetic integrity of plants,” Love said. “Species should come from Devereux Slough.”
Goleta resident Ed Easton said he agrees with Love on the necessity of using local plant species.
“All seed and root stock must be native, and not just native to California,” Easton said. “The species must come from the Devereux Creek watershed.”
Easton also pointed out the necessity of finding new ways to keep people out of protected areas, besides posting signs, which he said is an ineffective solution.
“People do not and will not read signs; they do not change behavior,” Easton said. “People will continue to use and abuse the environment to suit their own habits, often in violation of the law.”
Diane Conn, board member of Isla Vista Recreation and Park District and Save Ellwood Shores, said she agrees with Easton’s proposal for further protection and enforcement of public areas.
“We must have enforcement of the public area to protect it,” Conn said
Sherry Baker, treasurer of the local equestrian club, said she used to ride her horse all over the mesa, but more and more areas have been restricted for horseback riders. She asked the council to consider providing more horse trails in the final plan.
“I was very disappointed to see only one loop trail in the EIR,” Baker said.