Bright, tall, portable lights - like the ones the police set up around downtown Santa Barbara during Fiesta - having been humming into the late night hours along a particular stretch of the Gaviota Coast this week. Joined by increased 24-hour security details roaming the property and trucks parked alongside Highway 101 just south of the Dos Pubelos Ranch exit, the measures are part of recently ramped-up efforts to prevent surf-minded trespassers from accessing the coastline commonly known as Naples.
As one area resident commented Friday, “It looks like some sort of militarized car lot out there right now.”
With Orange County developer Matt Osgood’s highly controversial plan to put 71 mansion-sized homes in the area approved earlier this fall by the Santa Barbara County supervisors, many passersby and hopeful wavesliders have speculated that the increased efforts to prevent them from traveling the well-worn - albeit illegal - routes from the highway, across the train tracks, and down to the beaches below had been put in place by the Osgood camp.
However, despite the fact that he has witnessed an increase in unwanted foot traffic on his property in recent weeks, Osgood pointed out that the security is not even on his land. Indeed, the activity is taking place to the east of Osgood’s sizeable holding, on a piece of land owned by Newport Beach-based luxury development firm Makar Properties. Once proposed as a site for a golf course along the stunning coast aspect, the Makar property is now the hopeful site of two homes - one of more than 8,000 square feet and the other in excess of 12,000 square feet - known as the Paradiso del Mar Estate.
While calls to Makar headquarters had not been returned as of press time, sources close to the development plan say that in recent days, in anticipation of a scheduled County Board of Architectural Review site visit on December 5, workers were attempting to mark areas of the property where site poles would be erected to indicate the location and size of the planned development. However, with a fair bit of northwest swell running, area surfers - many of whom have been using the area for decades-have been relocating the stakes and generally causing mischievous mayhem for the planning process as they made their way across the land. Hoping to put an end to this and allow the site pole preparation to proceed, Makar beefed up security. However, according to the Santa Barbara County Web site, the County Board of Architectural Review site visit, originally scheduled for early Friday morning, was abandoned nonetheless.
Last year, also at the beginning of the South Coast’s surf season, Makar replaced much of the fence line surrounding their property, sparking the ire of the local wave-sliding community. As a result of surfers’ decades-old practice of hunting waves in the area via the sprawling coastal bluffs, the efforts to deny access touched off a debate about prescriptive rights - the legal theory that trails through private property are recognized as public if they have been in place and widely used for more than five consecutive years. The California Coastal Commission opened a file on the matter though nothing has since come of it. It remains to be seen if the latest anti-surfer movement will rekindle that investigation.