Paradiso del Mare Development

From ActCoastal

Month April
Year 2014
Summary On April 9th, the Commission heard an appeal on two large-scale residential estates, approved by Santa Barbara County on the Gaviota coast. The proposed project would be constructed on sensitive coastal habitat that is home to special status raptor (White-Tailed Kite) and directly above a seal rookery (one of only two publicly accessible seal rookeries remaining on the mainland coast of Santa Barbara County). The public has used the project area for generations to walk along the coast to access the beach. One of the estates would block the public beach access trail used for decades to access the well-known Naples surf break.
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Outcome Description The Commission voted 7-4 to not find substantial issue, thereby approving the project. To reach that decision, the Commission engaged in an unusual process of negotiating with the developer from the dais to revise project conditions under the guise of amending an existing settlement agreement after the public hearing closed. No written documentation of the project modifications and new conditions were provided to the public or the Commission. That action effectively barred the appellants from commenting in detail on the specifics of what was being proposed. This process was so extraordinary that some Commissioners expressed discomfort on the record. Commission Shallenberger reminded everyone they were weakening the process and asked: “Is this legal to discuss brand new issues and facts, after the public testimony is closed and in the context of discussing substantial issue. I want a continuance to give the Commission and the public time to consider this”. The Commission’s Executive Director also advised the Commission of their option to find Substantial Issue, to provide a more public process for considering this new information. Unfortunately, a continuance was not adopted and the Commission found no substantial issue, thus approved the project, with new elements and conditions that were never part of any public dialogue and have not yet been incorporated into an enforceable agreement.
Why You Should Care The Gaviota Coast draws more than a million visitors to its beaches, coastal canyons and mountain trails every year. This area of coast is largely undeveloped thanks to the efforts of the local community to guard against large-scale developments. Locals fear the approval of this project will spur other large luxury residential projects on prime agricultural soils. The proposed project is sited in environmentally sensitive habitat and would negatively impact important coastal resources—which the Commission is mandated to protect. In addition to sacrificing the most productive white-tailed kite nest ever observed, potentially causing abandonment of the seal rookery and closing the principal public access trail along an isolated four mile section of the coast, the process that occurred at the hearing was questionable and “out of the norm”. It is extremely concerning the Commission started negotiating after the public hearing was closed, did not provide the appellants the opportunity to review the new ‘concessions’, nor were they allowed to speak about the changes. During the hearing, Commissioner McClure insinuated that people who currently use the trail down to Naples surf break are trespassing. However under the prescriptive rights doctrine, a well-established element of California law, the public can establish the right to use private property to access the coast if there has been an uninterrupted period of five years of use. The evidence in the case of the Brooks Street property clearly demonstrates that the public has established a prescriptive right to access the coast over the property.
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Decision Type Appeal to find Substantial Issue.
Staff Recommendation Staff recommended ‘No Substantial Issue.’
Staff Report
Opposition to Project Appellants include Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Santa Barbara Audubon, Peter Howorth (a local marine mammal scientist) and Surfrider Foundation. The appellants were specific in their opposition by identifying the project’s nonconformity with the Coastal Act and the Local Coastal Program (LCP) policies requiring: (a) protection of environmentally sensitive habitat area, including White-tailed Kite nesting habitat and the Naples Harbor Seal haul out, (b) protection of public access across and through the site to the beach and Naples surf breaks, (c) adequacy of highway access, (d) protection of agricultural resources, (e) protection of visual resources, (f) safety from site contamination/hazards, (g) reduction of growth inducing impacts due to an excessively large water pipeline and (g) the Naples Townsite TDR policy.
Coastal Act Policies LCP Policies 1-1, 2-11, 9-26, 9-28, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 2-6, 8-2, 4-3, 3-14, and 2-13 Coastal Act Sections 30210, 30211, 30212, 30241 30242, and 30251

Voting Detail for Paradiso del Mare Development

Individual vote detail for Issue: Paradiso del Mare Development
Martha McClureBad Vote
Mark VargasBad Vote
Mary K. ShallenbergerGood Vote
Greg CoxBad Vote
Wendy MitchellBad Vote
Erik HowellBad Vote
Steve KinseyBad Vote
Carole GroomGood Vote
Effie Turnbull-SandersGood Vote
Dr. Robert GarciaGood Vote by Alternate
Dayna BochcoBad Vote
Jana ZimmerBad Vote

Meeting Page

View Meeting Page for the meeting where this issue was discussed/voted on.