Citing insufficient research by presenters, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors recently shelved the city of Goleta’s request for $350,000 in funds to help purchase a parcel of land on the Gaviota Coast.
At the Tuesday board of supervisors meeting, city representatives claimed grants from the Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund were necessary for their fundraising to purchase the Doty property, a one-acre parcel northwest of the Ellwood Mesa area. The representatives said the property would provide a public access point and help preserve the tract of open space along the coast.
However, the supervisors decided to delay its decision on the issue due to inconsistent appraisals of the price value; the city had the property appraised at $400,000, but other sources have valued it as $595,000.
Earlier in the year, the city of Goleta purchased an option from the current property owners to be the sole bidder for one year. The option, which cost $47,000, allows Goleta the first chance to purchase the land, but this privilege ends in December.
Gaviota Coast Conservancy President Mike Lunsford said additional funds on top of other money raised are necessary because the property owners received word of an offer equaling $575,000, which dwarfs Goleta’s offer of $425,000. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy, an organization dedicated to protecting and researching the area of land that comprises 15 percent of Southern California’s coast, was involved in the acquisition of nearby Ellwood Mesa and is now responsible for its preservation.
Lunsford said the purchase of the Doty parcel is an essential component for allowing public access to the coast.
“We’re confident that the city of Goleta will secure the funds to make the acquisitions and if it’s not then we may gear up to do more public advocacies and outreach to promote this,” he said. “We’ll wait and see what the supervisors do with this.”
Citing the land’s environmental and recreational value to the community, 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the board does support the acquisition of the parcel, but wants to complete it on a sound economic basis before allocating any monies from CREF – a fund that has provided $15.8 million in coastal preservation grants since 1988.
“We didn’t approve it, but we didn’t disapprove it,” Firestone said. “The city of Goleta made application for $350,000 of CREF funds to assist in the purchase of this property. We did not spend the money; we put the money in reserve. We want to hear [the proposal] again, but without prejudice.”
Lunsford said most people associated with the Gaviota Coast conservation efforts will continue to ask for funds.
“This [deal] is all pieced together,” Lunsford said. “The decision is just not completing what everyone was anticipating. I’m still hopeful that once they get their questions answered, they’ll still go forward with funding the [Costal Resources Enhancement Fund] grant to help the city gain the property.”