Santa Barbara Ranch Project
In 1999, the County was poised to strike a deal with an Orange County developer for the acquisition of an important stretch of the Gaviota Coast. Since that deal fell through, EDC and others have been working to preserve Naples from suburban sprawl development, currently in the guise of the Santa Barbara Ranch project.
“Naples” refers approximately to the area on either side of Highway 101, between Eagle Canyon (about a mile west of Goleta City limits) and Dos Pueblos Canyon. This area is rich in biodiversity and both cultural and agricultural histories. In fact, the coastal area including Naples Reef is one of the preeminent hotspots for biodiversity worldwide. The name “Dos Pueblos” refers to two Chumash villages that once sat on the project site. Much of the inland area is protected by Williamson Act contract.
In 2008, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the Santa Barbara Ranch project, which includes: (1) 16 units on Santa Barbara Ranch south of Highway 101; (2) 55 units in the foothills north of Highway 101; and (3) 5 units on Dos Pueblos Ranch (3 near the coastal bluff).
EDC, along with our client Surfrider Foundation and partner Naples Coalition, immediately filed a lawsuit to invalidate the County's approvals, and the litigation has been ongoing ever since. Currently, our case is before the Second District Court of Appeal. In addition, the California Coastal Commission must review the project and certain aspects of the County's approvals before any development can occur in the coastal zone. To date, no development has commenced on Santa Barbara Ranch.
What’s at Stake?
Naples is the broad coastal terrace incised by numerous canyons west of Goleta. Scenic views of rolling hills cradling the area on the north – inland from Highway 101 – and the gently sloping coastal bluffs south of 101 are postcard-perfect. In breathtaking fashion, the bluffs abruptly drop off over 100-foot tall shale cliffs to rocky Naples Beach overlooking the Naples Reef – 19 square nautical miles of one of Southern California’s most precious marine jewels. A National Park Service study found views in this area to be nationally significant and worthy of establishing a National Seashore.
The oak-studded, chaparral-blanketed Santa Ynez Mountains form a steep, scenic backdrop to the curving coastline which is punctuated by prominent rocky points. Highway 101 is eligible for listing as a state scenic highway and indeed County policy is to seek such a designation due to the area’s extraordinary beauty.
Gaviota was and remains special to the Chumash culture as the western gateway to the next world. Religious and cultural areas and relics are common there. Two major villages once stood at Naples, on either side of Dos Pueblos Creek. These areas have tremendous cultural significance that would be lost forever if Naples is developed.
One reason this area is so special to both the Chumash and to our modern culture is its rich natural resources. Species of every kind abound here! From the badgers, bear and mountain lions, the Gaviota tarplant, southern sea otters, seal and marine mammal haul-outs to the peregrine falcons, and golden eagles, Gaviota’s biodiversity is unparalleled in our region. At least 19 rare bird species, including white-tailed kites – a species so threatened the state designated it “Fully Protected” – depend on the extensive grasslands at Naples. The Gaviota Coast is a biodiversity hotspot and is in the top 15 areas for species richness in the world.
Living amongst this amazing landscape are family farmers who want to keep farming and not be hindered by urbanization or urban regulations. These families run a few head of cattle and cultivate orchards in the fertile soil. They generally coexist with the otherwise natural landscape – a balance that is rare in this day and age.
As the gateway to the 38-mile long Gaviota Coast – the last undeveloped coastline in southern California – if Naples falls to planned estate and “McMansion” development as planned and financed by people far removed from Santa Barbara, the rest of the Gaviota Coast could be next in line.
©2011 Environmental Defense Center · 906 Garden Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-963-1622 | Fax: 805-962-3152