Pole Position

A Closer Look at Naples Development

by Ethan Stewart

Last Friday’s scorching sun and 90-degree temperatures provided a picturesque yet taxing backdrop for a public walk-through of the proposed Naples development. The daylong affair was an official site visit for the county’s planning and development staff, led by the developers’ consultant Mark Lloyd, and organized by Santa Barbara Ranch owner Matt Osgood and the Schulte family of Dos Pueblos Ranch.

Thanks to the Brown Act, the public was also invited, and by 9 a.m. nearly 100 people — including several members of the Naples Coalition, a community group whose goal is to see that the development of Naples does not marginalize the area’s unique environmental qualities — gathered in a parking lot on Dos Pueblos Ranch to get a close look at the project. Of particular interest were the 35 story poles erected to depict the exact size and location of potential multimillion-dollar homes. After about six hours of driving and walking various portions of the several-hundred-acre project site, the day concluded with a question-and-answer session that proved lackluster despite leaving some attendees with a bad taste in their mouths.

Perhaps anticipating the tension that would increase as the tour progressed, Lloyd kicked things off by stating that the purpose of the day was not to critique or endorse the project, and that he did “not intend to debate the public at all.” However, as the noon hour came and went with nary a story pole closely inspected, many of those traveling in the 15-car caravan became restless, expressing their frustration with generally good-natured catcalls such as, “When are we going to see a story pole?” and, “Where are the goods?” Lloyd was quick to point out that every stop of the tour was related to the project in some capacity. “The numerous stops were not stops just for tourism’s sake,” he later explained. “They were all totally pertinent.”

Nonetheless, due to the abundance of scheduled stops and an unexplained shuffling of their order, a majority of the attendees who were not there for work purposes were forced to leave well before the tour arrived at the controversial ocean mesa area. Calling the day a “filibustering of the important things,” Gaviota Coast Conservancy leader Mike Lunsford expressed his discontent with the tour stops that cut into valuable time that he felt should have been spent with the story poles, such as the lengthy, behind-the-scenes look at an onsite abalone farm and a jaunt around the Mosier Mansion. “Sure it’s nice to get an overall feel, but the field trip was specifically for seeing the story poles and the visual impact of the project,” he said. “Proportionally speaking, there was very little time spent looking at the poles. … As far as I’m concerned, we got snookered.”

Even more troubling to Lunsford and his supporters was the fact that the last-minute, voluntary story-poling by Osgood and company did not cover all of the proposed 54 homes. “They avoided the full impact by not story-poling all the homes, especially on the marine terrace,” Lunsford charged. “As a result, the county and public did not and could not see the realities of the mass, bulk, and scale of what’s being proposed.” Lloyd disagreed, maintaining that the story poles cover all of the proposed sites that fall in the Highway 101 viewsheds. With the draft environmental impact report set for a public comment hearing on July 27 and an Architectural Review Board meeting on the project slated for August 11, the most recent chapter in the ongoing Naples debate is only just beginning.

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