The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will review a report today in preparation for formal hearings regarding the fate of the Naples property, Southern California’s last stretch of undeveloped coastline.
Located approximately two miles west of Goleta, the Naples property has been the center of a recent debate between local environmental groups and landowner Matt Osgood. Osgood, managing member of Santa Barbara Ranch, LLC, bought 3,200 acres – 219 buildable lots – of Naples property 10 years ago, and hopes to construct 54 estate-sized homes upon it. Opposed parties have countered Osgood’s design by proposing a Transfer of Development Rights that would move the projected development into already urbanized areas of Santa Barbara and preserve the coast’s natural state.
Osgood said he opposes the TDR, and said that environmentalists have overstated the environmental exceptionality of his property.
“There are no environmental resources on my property,” Osgood said. “There are no special birds, no special mammals. There’s nothing. It’s just a bunch of cow manure.”
The Naples Coalition, formed in 2000 to protect the area from development, has been a proponent of TDR. Marc Chytilo, Naples Coalition attorney, said he and the coalition believe building outside the urban limits will cause development to cascade down the coast.
“If [the Naples] project is approved, the urban limit line is effectively moved two miles west,” Chytilo said. “That will cause a lot of pressure for urban infill and cause other land owners to act as Osgood [plans to]. It will create a domino effect down the coast.”
Councilwoman Helene Schneider said she supports TDR and that she agreed that coastal preservation is essential while Santa Barbara still has a natural coast to protect.
“It’s priceless, absolutely priceless,” Schneider said. “[Naples’] ecosystems have the kind of biodiversity you don’t see much else around the world. Once the Gaviota Coast is built, it is lost forever. We’ve seen it before – you can’t find an area like this heading south until you reach Mexico. This is it.”
Osgood said that he is not considering development on a significant portion of his property, thus protecting the land from the complete urbanization that many have feared. However, Osgood also said that the matter boils down to property rights, despite environmental protests.
“At the end of the day, the courts have ruled that there will be development at Naples, and the [Environmental Impact Report] says 125 lots,” Osgood said. “We have laws in this land. It’s not about people showing up and protesting, it’s about understanding and protecting rights.”
The lack of current bluff-side properties has made the proposition of Naples development all the more lucrative. According to 2006 census information, the median price for a house in Santa Barbara stands at well over $1,000,000.
Environmental Defense Center analyst Brian Trautwein said that he respects the rights of the landowner but also favors an undeveloped Naples region. Trautwein said that a TDR program would be able to serve both interests.
“We’re very supportive of transferable development rights,” Trautwein said. “It’s a win-win situation where the developer will get paid to not develop there.”
According to Osgood, his land has been estimated at a worth of $200 million, which he said is conservative. He said that not enough receiver sites – areas where up zoning could increase density – exist to accumulate the necessary funds needed to purchase his property and fairly transfer the development rights.
“Why talk about the [TDR], because no one has the money to come buy my land,” Osgood said. “The concept is nice and it has potential, but the dollars here are pretty significant.”