Monday, April 13, 2009

Save Gaviota - No Development South of Hwy 101

The Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County, California, lies between Coal Oil Point in Goleta and Point Sal near Lompoc, and includes the coastal watersheds from the top of the ridge to the ocean.  The coastal Mediterranean ecosystems of the world are among the world's most threatened environments. The Gaviota Coast is the largest intact remnant of such an environment in the United States.  The Southern California Coastal Province (Pt. Conception to Mexico) contains the highest density of imperiled species of anywhere in the United States.

While the Gaviota Coast represents only fifteen percent of the 300-mile Southern California coastline, it contains about fifty percent of its remaining rural coastline. Even though most of the Southern California coastal areas have been dramatically altered and biologically degraded by expanding human occupation, the Gaviota Coast retains a high degree of biodiversity.  This is true because of three key factors:

  1. Natural and agricultural landscapes still prevail;
  2. The area is a transition zone between two distinct eco-regions;
  3. The Santa Ynez Mountains serve as an effective wildlife migration corridor from large interior wildlands.

The marine ecosystem of the Santa Barbara Channel is also a mixing zone between the northern and southern marine biota, due to dominant current patterns.  The ocean current patterns in the Channel connect the mainland watersheds with the offshore marine ecosystem, including the Channel Islands and the Marine Sanctuary.

The Gaviota Coast faces an increasing threat from development.  There are numerous development projects being planned, the most significant of which would permit 72 luxury homes – some as large as 13,000 square feet – on the property known as Naples, an antiquated subdivision located just two miles west of the urban limit line in Goleta.  The development would occur on and amidst land currently zoned for agriculture with a minimum lot size of 100 acres, parcels on which the average home size is 4,000 – 5,000 square feet.

Since its inception in 1992, Surfrider Foundation’s Santa Barbara Chapter has been a leader in local efforts to halt and/or limit further development of the Gaviota Coast.  SB chapter members co-founded the Gaviota Coast Conservancy in 1991, initiated a letter-writing campaign opposing the building of a hotel on Haskell’s Beach, and successfully blocked ARCO from its bid to build a golf course on the parcel that adjoins Naples to the east.  The chapter has spent years attempting to negotiate the preservation of this land in perpetuity with the new owners of this parcel, the Makar Development Corporation.   Surfrider Santa Barbara is currently a co-plaintiff, with the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, in a lawsuit challenging the illegal annexation of the Makar property to the Goleta Water District.  Annexation would provide Makar the water it needs to develop its parcels.

The Santa Barbara Chapter is a member of the Naples Coalition, a group of local environmental organizations (Audubon Society, Citizen’s Planning Association, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, and the Santa Barbara Community Action Network) that since 2000 has been working to ensure there is no development south of Highway 101, and to move all development at the adjacent property, Naples, to an inland portion out of the viewshed.  The long-term goal is to protect the Gaviota coastline from any future development.

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