Students and representatives from various local environmental groups met at Tuesday’s Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting to support a measure aimed at protecting the coastal bluffs north of Goleta from urban development.
At the meeting, the board adopted a transfer of development rights measure for the Santa Barbara Ranch property at Naples, which would allow the owners and developers to relocate their planned housing projects into already urbanized areas, preventing the process of rezoning the rural agricultural land for residential space. However, the board’s measure left environmental groups like the Gaviota Coast Conservancy wanting more, since it did not mandate that the owners could not develop along the bluffs, Gaviota Coast Conservancy President Mike Lunsford said.
Lunsford said that since the transfer of development rights measure gives the property owners the opportunity to build elsewhere but does not force them to, it is little more than another bidder for their development project.
“It would be up to the land owner to decide whether or not to participate in the [transfer of development rights] or not,” Lunsford said. “Then it would make the [transfer of development rights] just the status of another buyer in the marketplace.”
However, Lunsford said he believes Tuesday’s decision was still positive progress in the fight for the Gaviota coast, and that his environmental group will keep trudging forward.
“We are kind of looking at this one step at a time,” Lunsford said.
The Gaviota property was purchased over 10 years ago by Matt Osgood, owner of Santa Barbara Ranch, a subdivision of Vintage Communities. Although he was not available for comment, Osgood has maintained plans to construct over 50 multiple luxury homes in the coastal area of Naples.
Additionally, Osgood has previously stated that a transfer of development rights is not a feasible option for the Naples land, as the value of other potential development areas could not match the assessed value of Santa Barbara Ranch.
The Naples Coalition, the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board, the Surfrider Foundation and the Ecological Coalition accompanied about 30 students downtown to attend the meeting and support the transfer development measure. Jamie Creason, Naples Coalition intern and fourth-year aquatic biology major, said that he had reservations about the county’s plan, but still supported the measure in order to help preserve the environment.
“The Naples Coalition can’t stop all development, but Transfer of Development Rights will allow the developer to move his proposed building project to already developed areas,” Creason said. “Our goal is to stop development from occurring along the bluffs where it would have the most severe ecological impact.”