Supervising Gaviota

by Ethan Stewart

Several issues related to the Gaviota Coast had environmentalists and land conservationists alternating between smiles and frowns at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting this week.

¤  Supervisors heard a lengthy report on how Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) might help mitigate the proposed development of the Santa Barbara Ranch. TDR allows for the conversion of rural land in exchange for increased development in other areas. While all boardmembers expressed desires to protect Naples, they uniformly speculated that local communities would never support increasing urban density to preserve open space up the coast. As a result, none seemed particularly supportive of the idea.

¤  The Board voted unanimously to designate 140 acres of the Baron Ranch surplus property and directed staff to draft a proposal for its sale. They requested that the proposal include deed restrictions to prevent excessive development, and special considerations for a trail system.

¤  Heralded as a landmark compromise between developers and preservation advocates — the Board conceptually approved the revised plans for the Bean Blossom house. The new plans call for a one-story home instead of a two-story; no barn; reductions in the size of the garage, cabana, and guest house; and a square footage of just under 10,000 square feet. The house is to be nestled into the hillside, rendering it “nearly invisible” to passersby on Highway 101. Bean Blossom will return for final approval on April 18.

¤  The Board also unanimously amended ordinances governing oil and gas consolidation to reflect changes at the former Gaviota oil and gas processing site and to prevent future oil tank farms in the coastal zone. The amendments — which were applauded by the Environmental Defense Center and Gaviota Coast Conservancy — also call for the removal of large oil tanks just south of the 101; the land may be reused as a county park.

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