Ocean Meadows Golf Course

Ocean Meadows Golf Course

A History of Ocean Meadows

Elbowing Goleta Aside

Thursday, December 13, 2012
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Fifty years ago in the Good Land of Goleta the Bishop Ranch property stretched to the ocean. Southwest of the country roads intersection of Storke and Hollister were 640 acres of grassy fields criss-crossed by gulches and a few agricultural access roads. Geologically, the area was a “fan delta” created by repeated erosion of the hills to the north, resulting in seasonal mud flows toward the ocean. The gulches certainly had winter water-flow but were generally dry in summer.

In 1960, a proposal was put forth and accepted by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to allow the owners to design a community and sell parcels for development. Maps were drawn, road easements were created, and a community was put on paper. To allow home building, massive grading was undertaken to straighten the gulches and create storm drainage from Hollister Avenue to the ocean.

John Olson
Click to enlarge photo

John Olson

Part of this flood-control grading was the creation of a 63-acre flood plain we now know as the Ocean Meadows Golf Course. The civil engineers wisely found a dual purpose for this flood water collection area. It was first a collector for storm runoff and secondly, a golf course that could accept the annual flooding. That’s how Ocean Meadows Golf Course was conceived.

Following the accepted community plan, a golf course was built around 1966. Further grading was minimal, with mounding for greens and tees and some improvements to area drainage. Culvert crossings and bridges were installed to facilitate golf. Devereux Creek and the Phelps Ditch were gulches that were then named. To control the silting of the existing semi-wet-land toward the ocean a weir (a low dam) was installed. The weir helped reduce the silting of the slough to the south by slowing flood runoff, allowing the silt to drop out of the storm runoff. This low dam saved the now Devereux Slough from filling with seasonal silt.

In the 40-year history of the Devereux Creek, the golf course has received four-plus inches of silting over 30% of the total area on at least six occasions. While these natural events caused headaches for the golf course crews, the dual function of the course property worked beautifully. Witnessing the occasional storm runoff on the golf course is an opportunity worth taking. Water moving at 15 miles per hour completely overwhelms the small creek and stretches to a width of over 100 yards, four to six feet deep. The dish-shaped golf course becomes a flood plain.

Great wealth is created by land use changes and the 640 acres discussed is no exception. Documents identify the University Exchange Corporation, Devereux Creek Properties, and the Bishop Ranch as participants although Google searches fail to really tell a clear picture or identify individuals involved.

In 1995-99, Mark Green (the golf course owner, who lives in Los Angeles) engaged Bermant Development (specifically Vice President John Campannella) to process proposals to build houses on the higher ground of the 72-acre property. The Planned Residential Development proposal was processed, and 50-59 units were approved along with rebuilding the golf course clubhouse and adding workforce housing. For unknown reasons, the last step, final approval before the Board of Supervisors, was withdrawn in 2007.

Why the project was abandoned is a very good question but probably is related to the crash of the housing bubble. Also interesting to this saga is the involvement of Carla Frisk, who was working as a Santa Barbara County planner during this application period. Frisk is currently employed by the Trust for Public Lands and a key player. She advocated diligently and successfully to obtain $7.2 million in public funds to purchase purchase 63 acres of the golf course floodplain. The public funds include environmental mitigation fees collected by various public agencies, such as the Coastal Resource Enhancement Funds distributed by our local governments.

I believe the proposed deal was arranged by the Green, Campannella, and Frisk, using grant-seeking tactics, over a five-year period. Significantly, the proposed deal leaves the high ground and possibility for 28 units to the owner. It would appear that land-use plan is to coattail onto planning processes being proposed by UCSB as part of its Long Rang Development planning, to take advantage of UCSB’s likely success and influence with the California Coastal Commission. The Trust rejects allowing Goleta to even be considered for involvement with this proposal. UCSB is developing North Campus, with about 300 units on 28 acres. This building site borders the golf course, clearly lacks open space by design and is not set back away from flying golf balls. I feel the environmental factions at UCSB would probably restore the creek next to their housing, but they fail to provide anything but vague planning ideas for the remaining 60 acres. My objection is that the existing environment, of an irrigated open space, is being destroyed without CEQA or an EIR review.

Frisk, using her current employment, the Trust’s website, and her environmental organizational connections, lobbied and misled various politicians to gain support for obtaining the grants that are being used to fund this insider transaction. She continues to promote the purchase vigorously. Specific Trust misstatements:

– The Trust says that The Devereux Creek was filled to create the golf course. It was not.

– The often-cited protection of the 63-acre floodplain from housing development is a false, unrealistic statement. Given the given the lack of access and the creek-setbacks that would be required, the current floodplain (at least half the 60 acres of the golf course proper) would not be buildable under any current building policies anyway. In the development proposal by Campannella (Bermant Development) in 2000, everyone involved agreed that the Devereux Creek would require setbacks of 50-100 feet and that much of the golf course property flooded annually. That is why the approved plan for the 58 units (2005) avoided the lower elevations for residential building and assigned the golf course as “recreational open space.”

– Even the vision of creating a wetland will not be possible because the elevation is too high and there is no natural source of moisture in the summer.

– Neighboring property values will not be enhanced.

– Furthermore, the golf course has never been offered for sale on the open market to determine its true value.

Ocean Meadows in 1960
Click to enlarge photo

Ocean Meadows in 1960

If the purchase is allowed, the golf course will quickly go dry and dusty due to the lack of irrigation. A beautiful existing habitat will be destroyed for the benefit of a few insiders. No engineering studies, environmental impact reports, or California Environmental Quality Act procedures have been required to confirm the vague visions presented by the advocates of this misguided, undocumented plan. The Trust for Public Lands should investigate and reconsider.

The lot split that facilitates the Trust’s purchase was appealed through the County’s process but then approved by the Coastal commission on October 21. During appeals, biased planning agencies inappropriately blocked CEQA, EIR, and necessary expert opinion as to vague concepts presented.

To be clear, the purpose of this letter is not to advocate maintaining a golf course, but rather to point out how public funds are manipulated for the benefit of a few. The public should have a voice in what grant and mitigation funds are used for. Sadly, our County Supervisors and Goleta Council have been blinded by the current environmentalist culture, and have not even considered uses for this land that would benefit the majority of citizens. The proposal being considered will greatly benefit Green, and Campannella, and further UCSB’s invasion of the Good Land of Goleta.

Raising awareness in this matter is not easy but I have been taught that citizens should speak up when a deal doesn’t pass the smell test.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"the current environmentalist culture"?
"the majority of the citizens"?

This is vacuous and libelous tea party rhetoric intended to deflect from other financial interests. The bell tolls for thee.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2012 at 6:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ocean Meadows Golf course is not too high for wetland. I see it almost daily. The only thing keeping it from returning to wetland status is golf course landscaping. Why should I believe anything in this article after that?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2012 at 10:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The "Ghettos Club" rewards card includes free PBR's and Crisco sandwiches after only 5 punches.

All and all, a wonderful place to play after work during the Summer provided your ball doesn't end up on a dirt patch. Giggles for all.

Stumbling_Distance (anonymous profile)
December 13, 2012 at 11:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So sad that you entirely missed the point! Mr. Olson is not trying to save a golf course, he is passionate about NOT spending public funds (over 7 million) for a vague concept that no one can explain. Why is it for every other change in land use an EIR and CEQA are required, but not in this case? He is correct, it doesn't pass the smell test. There has been an environment created there over the last 50 years which wildlife and humans have enjoyed, and there WILL be an impact to the environment when the water is turned off. A studied report would identify how much of an impact it will be, but none of the players in this scheme seem to care - they just want their $7 million public money. I don't know where you went to school, but I have never seen water run uphill, and when the golf course irrigation is turned off it will be a dry dust bowl. When the mice and gophers and squirrels and birds are gone because they have no water perhaps then humans will realize this was a bad idea. By then it will be too late.

Jodie (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2012 at 10:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If I understand this letter properly, Ocean Meadows was created as a buffer to absorb water from the flood plain above (to the north) as that water travels down into Devereux Lagoon.

My question is ... considering all the upstream development that's happened since 1960, and considering whatever plans there are for Ocean Meadows now, is that buffer function still needed, and will it still be there after the golf course is gone?

That old photo is fantastic! I had to fire up Google Earth and tilt the view to match the photo before I could get my bearings.

Hollister Ave is at the top of the photo. The middle of the photo appears to be the current UCSB married student housing. To the right is the lot where the Francisco Torres towers will eventually be built. The curved line of trees below married student housing is Slough Rd, the street that takes you out to West Campus, past Devereux Lagoon, and ending at Coal Oil Point. You can see a bit of water in the lagoon at the far left.

It's pretty cool how that photo shows the flood plain and allows you to visualize how water would run off.

The letter mentions a weir (low dam) ... I wonder if that is now the asphalt road that runs East-West on the southern border of Ocean Meadows (goes up to the two oil tanks and Ellwood Mesa)?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2012 at 12:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If hank were stll here, I'm sure he'd comment about BMX riding between Ocean Meadows and Ellwood :)

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2012 at 12:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"mice and gophers and squirrels and birds" are all over the area in question, in irrigated and nonirrigated land. If the vernal pools aren't a dust bowl why would Ocean Meadows become one? Why is just that patch subject dehydration but the other areas that aren't manually watered aren't?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 15, 2012 at 1:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's consider this. John Olson vs. Carla Frisk. Who to believe? Uh, Frisk.

BongHit (anonymous profile)
December 16, 2012 at 6:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Also interesting to this saga is the involvement of Carla Frisk, who was working as a Santa Barbara County planner during this application period [1995-99 and, apparently in the view of the author Olson, up to 2007]."

For the record, Carla has never been employed as a county planner. In 1979 she was the office manager at the former county Department of Environmental Resources (DER), and left in 1980 to work for a private firm, EarthMetrics. I know this because I was hired by DER in January 1979, and Carla processed my paperwork.

Carla is a friend of mine and, given this blatantly false depiction of her professional history, I must question the whole of Olson's story.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
December 16, 2012 at 9:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There are so many inaccuracies in this "History" that it is impossible to address them in this format (e.g., as noted above, I was not employed by the Santa Barbara County Planning Department--I have worked for The Trust for Public Land for the past 10 years).

Mr. Olsen continues to beat the drum that there are no plans for the property and that an EIR was not required. On this account, he confuses apples with oranges. The project reviewed by the County was a simple lot split to allow for the purchase of the property. Plans are moving forward on the proposed restoration, however, they cannot be submitted and reviewed until the property is acquired. Those plans will go through a separate environmental review and permitting process, including public hearings, which will give people more than ample time to review the project.

Finally, Mr. Olsen's assertion that the project will benefit only "a few insiders" couldn't be further from the truth. With its educational and public access amenities (trails, boardwalks and interpretation) this project will provide substantial and lasting benefits to the entire community.
Carla Frisk

CarlaFrisk (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 2:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What exactly are the "substantial and lasting benefits" Carla? There is no benefit to the existing neighborhood by jamming in even more housing on to scarce in city open space. The devils at UCSB have already severely impacted this area with no regard for the adverse effects of high density and general lack of resources for it's maddening crowd.

Mr. Olsen is absolutely right in that this is a windfall for the seller and the deal should be that all the property is purchased and no housing is put in. The public has spoken out every time against these developments yet they are always ignored in favor of collecting taxes from the developers to pay off those fat public pensions they all look forward to and the citizens/community be damned!

That is a lasting benefit worthy of public money.

sa1 (anonymous profile)
December 18, 2012 at 7:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Any plans to build housing there make me very unhappy and ready to roll up my sleeves and fight. The highest and best use, IMHO, for that old third rate golf course ( it wasn't known locally as Ocean Ghettoes for nothing) would be wetlands and general habitat resoration and passive use such as hiking, bird watching and just sitting quietly enjoying nature. We need a lot more of that. I hope TPL doesn't go off half cocked and try to recoupe some money via an ill conceived development scheme. Bad enough we now face the threat of some oil billionaire from Arabia developing More Mesa. Although if he were wine making millionaire from france it would be just as bad, I have nothing in general against Saudi oil billionaires.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
December 24, 2012 at 3:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A random commentator may have proposed building houses on Ocean Meadows, but in reality the wetlands are slated to be restored.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 24, 2012 at 3:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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