Monday was meant to be D-Day at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors-a no-holds-barred final hearing on developer Matt Osgood’s plans to build large-scale luxury homes on the picturesque Gaviota property popularly known as Naples.
But after nearly nine hours of presentations, threats, and public testimony, the supes opted to return next week and tackle the subject again. In the meantime, at the behest of 5th District Supervisor Joe Centeno during a last-minute plea to the parties involved, Osgood and the major players of the Naples Coalition were asked to broker a compromise that would provide, in Centeno’s words, “something we can all embrace.”
Ironically, Monday’s special hearing was almost over before it started. Visibly upset with the supervisors’ closed-door session decision last week to amend the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Osgood and the county and allow the inland portions of the 71-unit project to begin construction even if the coastal portions of the project are delayed by the California Coastal Commission, 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, armed with late-breaking knowledge that the aforementioned MOU tweak had yet to be signed into reality, lobbied hard to have the hearing continued in the name of due process. However, after her efforts failed at the hands of a North County-dictated 3-2 vote, the main event began.
County Planner Tom Figg-the county’s Naples pointman for much of the nine-year process-gave an in-depth and occasionally glowing breakdown of Osgood’s vision. Peppered with tough questions from Wolf and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, Figg detailed Osgood’s Naples development scheme, which includes 71 units ranging anywhere from 6,500 to 10,000 square feet, more than 2,700 acres of open space, and a network of public coastal trails.
However, it was the trails and the lack of actual public access to the beaches below them that set off Wolf and Carbajal. (As presently proposed, Osgood’s plan would provide beach access via two neighboring properties, the Makar property to the east and Las Varas Ranch to the west.) With the California Coastal Commission needing to sign off on all coastal portions of the project, Carbajal opined, “Quite frankly, I think the Coastal Commission is going to have a field day : It doesn’t seem like there are any real substantive public trails or beach access at all.” Wolf took the point further, calling the purported public benefit of the trails the “pretty much the most incredulous thing I have ever seen.”
Once county staff had finished, both Osgood’s camp and the legal forces of the Naples Coalition gave their sides. Osgood threatened the supes with what they face should they reject his plan. “I don’t want to see a court situation,” he said, referring to a previous Naples-related lawsuit over whether the county should recognize an antiquated map that indicated 219 legal lots on the property. “And, trust me, I don’t think you want to see the downside either,” he continued. “I could start selling these lots today.”
Then came hours of public testimony, only one of whom-an Osgood employee-supported the project. Former 3rd District supervisor Gail Marshall as well as both current 3rd District candidates, Doreen Farr and Steve Pappas, decried the presently conceived Naples plan as well as the MOU amendment. With lame duck 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, in whose district the project resides, finishing his term this December, the testimony of these past and future 3rd District reps revealed a greater truth to Osgood’s sense of urgency.
To that end, the meeting that Centeno urged did indeed occur Tuesday morning in an office just off State Street. While all parties involved remained tight-lipped about what transpired, Osgood, after explaining that this was the first time in two years that both sides had come to the same table, offered this: “Right now it is just talk, but I think there will be a follow-up to see if there is anything we can do : If there is a better idea that leaves me net neutral, I am open to it.”