Thursday, February 11, 2010

Naples Project Status Report

reposted from:


    Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
    The Naples Coalition applauds and thanks the legion or volunteers and supporters that have played important roles in the fight to save Naples. We are in the midst of battle on a number of fronts, and making significant positive progress. Saving coastal open space lands that others want to develop is never simple or quick. But so long as we can fight at every step, the developers will be held at bay and a permanent solution will eventually be achieved.

This is a status report to give you background on where the key battles are being fought today and will be in the future. We close with some simple “talking points” to answer questions other people may ask you about Naples. It is important that we state clearly our resolve to fight each and every inappropriate development at Naples and elsewhere on the Gaviota Coast. Naples and the Gaviota Coast are community treasures that cannot and will not be destroyed while we watch. We are committed for the long haul to saving these lands.

Naples Development Status: We have been whittling away at the County’s tentative approvals for the 71 houses the Supervisors approved in December 2008, immediately before the retirement of Brooks Firestone. The new supervisor for the 3rd District, Doreen Farr, is more protective of the Gaviota Coast and led the charge to rescind the development agreement for the 16 coastal lots. The County concluded the development agreement for the inland area had taken effect and couldn’t thus be rescinded without potential County liability. We believe the County has mis-read the operative documents, and are continuing to advocate for rescinding the inland development agreement as well.

The development agreements are long term contracts (30+ years) that lock the approvals in, preventing additional requirements and forcing future Boards of Supervisors to support the approvals regardless of changed circumstances.

The tentative County approvals remain in place, but all of the development requires approval of either infrastructure (roads, water lines) or the houses themselves from the California Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission has demanded, in accordance with Coastal Commission practice, that the County recognize the act of merging the substandard lots as a form of development, since they facilitate development on the site. The Coastal Commission position requires additional County approvals that are now less certain due to the changed makeup of the Supervisors. This issue will go to the Coastal Commission first, probably in the next year, for an unusual “dispute resolution” hearing. The public will be alerted and asked to participate in that Coastal Commission hearing.

Assuming the County clears that hurdle, the Coastal Commission will then consider the revisions to the Local Coastal Plan and the permits themselves. The Naples Coalition, along with our allies the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and EDC, consider the County approvals defective due to a number of Coastal Act and Local Coastal Plan inconsistencies, and the Coastal Commission hearing will be an important forum to air and resolve those claims, including concerns that the County failed to protect public access and require a trail network that enables public use in those areas where historic public use has created a prescriptive easement. The Naples Coalition and Gaviota Coast Conservancy are collecting surveys of the public’s areas of use that will be important to the Coastal Commission.

The Naples Coalition, Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and Environmental Defense Center filed a lawsuit challenging the County’s approval of the development on a number of grounds. This lawsuit will be heard sometime later this year.

At the moment, there are no buyers for the mansions proposed at Naples, and it appears there will not be for many years. The Santa Barbara Ranch developer, Matt Osgood from Orange County, is currently experiencing financial difficulties and may be unable to fund the many expenses required to perfect his approvals. It is unknowable at this time what may happen and who may own the property in the future. Numerous attempts to sell even parts of the project have been unsuccessful, and the Naples Coalition believes strongly that applicable policies and land use constraints render virtually all the Naples lots unbuildable. In any case, any development proposed on Naples lots will face staunch opposition and be scrutinized from every angle.

Naples and the eastern Gaviota Coast should be preserved as public open space, not be used for a wasteful and inefficient subdivision of gated, second homes. For over 100 years, many developer’s dreams have died at Naples, and the land is figuratively littered with their broken pick-axes. The Naples Coalition seeks to preserve Naples for future generations as an example of the undeveloped Gaviota Coast, and will continue its efforts for as long as it takes to preserve in perpetuity the rural character.

In a related development, another Orange County developer, Makar, has proposed 2 mega mansions next to Naples. Those houses are under review at the County. Makar also owns 25 additional Naples lots, but has not formally proposed development on those lots yet. The Naples Coalition and Gaviota Coast Conservancy are collecting evidence of the public’s historical use of the Makar lands as well. Any development would have to be approved by the County Supervisors and the Coastal Commission. Makar lost in a lawsuit filed by Gaviota Coast Conservancy and the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and may not have a water supply for half of the project. That decision is on appeal.

Other Gaviota Coast developments have faced opposition. GCC successfully stopped a mega mansion on Farren Road known as the Ballantyne residence and coined a “massive house and wall of dirt” by local journalists. The house was approved by the Supervisors at the behest of Brooks Firestone, but blocked shortly after. The Court of Appeal recently upheld the trial court decision to stop the project.

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is monitoring and engaged in a number of other development proposals along the coast, and is active in the GavPac, the General Plan Advisory Committee that is reviewing land use protections on the Gaviota Coast.

Generic Naples Messaging:

► The development was poorly conceived and the approvals deeply flawed. The community will fight to preserve Naples for as long as it takes

► Any attempt to develop an individual grid lot will be subject to a series of obstacles and staunch opposition

► This property should be open space open to the public. Eastern Gaviota Coast must be protected, not developed

► Past public use of eastern Gaviota Coast has created permanent public rights of use by implied dedication. The Naples Coalition is collecting surveys from individuals that have used the area.

For more information contact Janet Koed at (805) 683-6631

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