In an effort to block development on the Naples Coast, local environmental groups have once again taken to the courts.
Claiming the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors violated numerous environmental protection laws in their approval of developer Matt Osgood’s plan to build along the coastline a few miles north of Isla Vista, the Naples Coalition, in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Center and the Surfrider Foundation, filed a lawsuit against the county and the board on Thursday. The suit is the most recent tactic in the decade-long battle environmental groups have waged against the proposed development.
Under Osgood’s Santa Barbara Ranch Project — which was approved by the board of supervisors on Oct. 21 by a vote of three to two — 71 estate-sized homes would be built at Naples. Of those 71 homes, nine would sit directly along the coastal bluffs, and each would be between 7,500 and 10,000 square feet, not including additional structures such as barns and guest houses.
“The county not only ignored its own well-established coastal protection policies,” Nathan Alley, staff attorney for the Environment Defense Center, said in a press release, “but also state law, in permitting a massive development project that is totally incompatible with the rural Gaviota Coast.”
The Gaviota Coast, of which Naples is a part, stretches from Coal Oil Point Reserve to Point Sal State Park, near Lompoc, and is the longest remaining stretch of undeveloped, pristine coastline left in Southern California. While a vast majority of the Gaviota Coast is either protected or zoned agriculturally, the Naples town site was parceled into a subdivision in 1888. This 120-year-old subdivision — which was upheld by the California Supreme Court — in large part allowed the county to approve the development plan.
Those in opposition fear the consequences of permitting any new development along the Gaviota Coast.
“As Naples goes, so goes the rest of the Gaviota Coast,” Ken Palley, a member of Surfrider Foundation’s Executive Committee, said. “We must turn back this decision and make sure the county follows the law.”
The Naples Coalition is claiming the county violated several different environmental protection laws when they approved the development, including the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Coastal Act, State Planning & Zoning Law and the California Land Conservation Act, also known as the Williamson Act.
Adding to the complexity of the issue, a new Board of Supervisors will take over come the New Year, with Democrat Doreen Farr replacing the conservative 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone. This will effectively shift the balance of power in the county from the more conservative North County to the liberal South County, and Farr has already publicly spoken against the development of the Gaviota Coast.
In addition to the lawsuit, representatives from the involved environmental groups have said their organizations plan to appeal the County’s decision to the California Coastal Commission, which has the final word on all coastal development.
Firestone, who voted in favor of the development, has questioned what authority the CCC will have, considering the Supreme Court’s decision concerning the antiquated subdivision.
“The Coastal Commission is going to find itself in the same situation we’ve been in,” Firestone said in an earlier interview. “It’s not a question of whether there will be development or not. The [California] Supreme Court found [the 233 lots provided by the 1888 subdivision] were legitimate, and the Supreme Court trumps the Coastal Commission.”