The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is preparing to vote Monday, Oct. 13 on whether or not to save Naples from the private gated community of more than 70 mansions that an Orange County developer wants to put there. As it does, one man can – with his vote – ensure both that the largest remaining South Coast oceanfront open space remains a treasure for future generations and that his own legacy as a public servant be that of a promise keeper, a deal maker and a wise steward of the natural treasures that make our home so unique. That man is Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who represents Isla Vista and the 3rd District. Brooks needs to know that students and Isla Vista residents want him to step up and save Naples.
The Gaviota Coast is the largest piece of relatively undisturbed rural coastline left in Southern California. For centuries it has been a working ranchland; for thousands of years before that it supported the densest Native American population on the continent. It is a rich and vital natural resource whose qualities are sensitive and irreplaceable.
Historically, the landowners who live on the Gaviota Coast and the government officials who regulate it have acted as wise stewards of this land and its wealth of resources. This is obvious as soon as you head west on 101. Any development on the Gaviota Coast should proceed prudently, with strong safeguards in place to preserve the public interest in this precious place.
Orange County developer Matt Osgood wants to build nearly 700,000 square feet of mansions on both sides of the freeway at Naples, with nearly 300,000 cubic yards of grading, forever changing the nature of the eastern Gaviota coast and sprawling out miles past the Goleta urban limit line. And, in order to do so with a minimum of public accountability and to minimize his costs, Osgood wants the county to break multiple laws, public planning policies worked out laboriously over years of public hearings and even the 2002 agreement between him and the county itself! Osgood has teamed with Dos Pueblos Ranch to create a sham agricultural conservation easement and inadequate public access trails as a principal benefit of project approval. Unfortunately, the easements and trails won’t happen if Dos Pueblos Ranch doesn’t get California Coastal Commission approval for massive amounts of development approved on its property, which will never happen.
Sadly, the county has already caved this week and approved a shameful giveaway to Osgood, allowing him to develop the inland portion without waiting for Coastal Commission approvals. This lets the horse out of the barn, and if allowed to stand, prevents the county from achieving the most important community goal – protecting the ocean bluffs from development. Coastal policy mandates clustering of coastal development to protect the bluff, but the county has been oblivious to coastal priorities and policy requirements. The county should cluster the inland development too, to reduce impacts and keep it out of the view shed. The county did not even bother to show how intrusive the project would look from the Naples Reef, where thousands of people surf and boat every year. The county appears satisfied with a freeway trail instead of a coastal trail on the coastal bluff as required by state guidelines.
The supervisors will conduct an all-day hearing on Monday, Oct. 13, starting at 9 a.m., in the County Administration Building downtown at 105 E. Anapamu Street. Our friends at the Naples Coalition and Surfrider Foundation are hosting a public rally over the lunch hour at the courthouse sunken gardens, across the street from the county building, with free lunch and music from Spencer the Gardner. Public comment to the supervisors will start in the afternoon. Spend the day if you can, or come at noon and stay through public comment. This will be the day that matters most in the effort to save Naples and the Gaviota Coast, and is your best chance to tell Brooks to save the coast. For more information, visit www.gaviotaaction.org.