The Bacara

Sue De Lapa

The Bacara

Coastal Commission to Fine Bacara

$575,000 Ticket for Developing Blufftop into Wedding Venue

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
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Sometime last summer, the blufftop overlooking Haskell’s Beach was developed by the Bacara Resort into a grassy, oceanview wedding venue, complete with sod, wood chips, and irrigation. But the work was done in an archaeologically sensitive area without any permits, so this Thursday, the California Coastal Commission will issue a $575,000 fine and officially force the resort to restore the site — believed to have been a Chumash village for 6,000 or so years — to its former state.

Since the development was done by the former owners, Ohana Real Estate, that company will bear the burden of the fine and restoration costs. Both Ohana — whose president Chris Smith had no comments to offer on this situation — and the current owners, Pacific Hospitality Group, have expressed intent to comply “amicably” with the ruling. “Bacara is committed to protecting our coastline and natural resources and has pledged our full support to local nonprofits that further this mission,” said Kathleen Cochran, general manager of Bacara Resort & Spa, in an email statement. “Bacara’s new ownership group takes this issue very seriously and is committed to working amicably with the Coastal Commission on a beneficial resolution.”

The Coastal Commission’s report describes in detail how the changes to the blufftop were reported in July 2012, and the commission quickly sent an inspector to verify. The inspector found that — contrary to the hands-off rules that were issued for the “eastern terrace” area when the Bacara was approved more than a decade ago — the resort had removed “major vegetation, including coastal sage scrub and eucalyptus trees” and put in non-native landscaping, eucalyptus wood chips, “geo fabric,” and an above-ground irrigation system. This, the report explains, “resulted in the creation of a private wedding and event venue, located directly on top of a highly sensitive archaeological zone and on or near an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area.” The latter refers, in part, to the Bell Canyon Creek on the other side of the terrace, which may have sustained damage from the development.

The inspector also noticed a new no-trespassing sign and metal gate that were contrary to the existing permits, which mandate that the bluff must remain open to the public with a hiking-equestrian trail. Additionally, the inspector realized that the original order to erect public access and interpretive signs around the bluff had also been ignored, apparently since the property was opened by the original owner-developer, Alvin Dworman, in 2000. Further analysis of historic maps revealed that brush-clearing on the site may have happened repeatedly over the years as well.

Other than the presumed ignorance of the Coastal Commission’s strict rules, the prevailing concern about the work revolves around potential impacts to the Chumash archaeology, which has been well documented in that entire canyon. According to the 2008 book A Canyon Through Time: Archaeology, History, and Ecology of the Tecolote Canyon Area, the area was home to numerous cemeteries — including the grave of the Swordfish Man, one of the most elaborately adorned burials of the region — as well as a ceremonial dance platform. Among other artifacts detailed are two obsidian tools originally from Inyo County, evidence of how extensive California’s trade network was prior to the arrival of Europeans. A Chumash consultant has been involved in assessing the matter since last fall, and will continue to advise the Bacara on how best to undo the potential damage.

Read the Coastal Commission’s extensive report here.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

What part about private property rights does CA not understand?!!?

Muggy (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 12:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What part of ecological and archeological preservation (as part of the purchase agreement ) don't you understand Muggy?

In addition there's a giant, partially depleted oil field underneath the Baccara emitting toxic gases, at low levels but still being released into the immediate atmosphere (breathing air).

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 12:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

private property rights are certainly important, Muggy, but they don't trump's been known for decades that this was an ecologically sensitive area and BEFORE Bacara bought the area (the orig. developers) that aspect had been made clear.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 12:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We should remember that Bacara has new owners and hopefully the hostility the past owners/management have treated the community with will also go.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 1:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This is absolutely fabulous news. The Coastal Commission has grown a pair! Now perhaps the rest of the Gaviota Coast can be monitored and handled the same way.

Have to disagree with the presumed ignorance quote. It was more like presumed arrogance. Alvin Dorkwin didn't give a @#$%@# about any rules he negotiated when he bought the election with Willie Chamberlin and weasled this development in. The whole place would have never gone in if it weren't for that guys brief stint before a recount. Now we have to live with it. I hope that the people sue AD for all of this.

That being said, the new owners seem alright. I hope things continue to go in a positive direction.

Muggy, 6000 years.. vs what? More presumed arrogance. Ridiculous. Especially when you BS everyone to get the development in in the first place.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 1:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I love horse riding that area

avolition (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good to see. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people go through the correct processes, be respectful of the rules, pay loads of cash for permitting, studies, monitoring, etc. ect. ...just to see their neighbors blatantly break the rules and end up with a minimal fee and slap-on-the-wrist when they get caught. The rule-breakers always play dumb of course, but that's really just all a part of the strategy; even knowing they'll likely get caught. Sadly, those weak fines just promote doing what you want and paying the (*minimal*) consequence later, and unfortunately that's the route I see a lot of wealthy people take when developing property.

Gaijin (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well hopefully the Coastal Commission will take a walk about a mile north and see some of the shenanigans that Wendy's X, Craig McCaw has done and do something about it.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

While I am not sure what all of the information about the Chumash village site has to do with this, private property rights are also not relevant; Bacara was developed under certain agreed upon contractual rights and they violated the tenets of that contract. The Coastal Commission finally stands up for what they should stand up for. Now maybe they will go after some of the elite landowners in Malibu that are still holding public beaches hostage from the citizenry.
I am no Progressive but a deal is a deal.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken and DrDan - if this is a sensitive area or has some history that the state and the people of the state deem necessary to protect, then it shouldn't be up for sale. It should be kept as some sort of public park or recreation area for the public to have ownership in. It shouldn't be allowed to be sold. Now, since the property was sold to private development, the state shouldn't have a say in what they can or cannot do on the property. How would you like it if you buy your house for $1million and you can't do anything to your backyard because the community has decided it needs to be preserved? That's your bought it, you pay taxes on it. Where is the individual right and individual freedom in this state in today's world for heaven's sake?

Muggy (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Italiansurg is right, all buyers would be informed of such restrictions. Nobody forced them to buy the land or build a hotel, quite the opposite really.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Still not getting my point? If land is considered sacred and the community, state, and taxpayers want to keep it such, it shouldn't be up for sale. What's so confusing about that?

Muggy (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No Muggy we disagree with your point.
The Bacara owner(s) knew what they were doing. They actually had Chumash representatives down there in an attempt to "bless" it during the initial grading of the sight. I believe the agreement that was come to was, as Dorkwin told them, that dirt would just be added near the hotel sight and nothing would be dug up so as not to disturb artifacts or graves. The agreement was that they wouldn't develop or disturb the east terrace.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 2:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

hope you're getting the point, Muggy, you're way off base on this.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 3:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If they didn't like the terms, they didn't have to buy.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 3:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

When someone purchases land with restrictions on it the price of the land is reduced to reflect those restrictions. As a result, the new owner must comply with those restrictions on the land and their property rights aren't being violated since they got what they paid for. The sacred Chumash land for whatever reason isn't owned by the public but it isn't necessary to preserve it due to the restrictions placed upon the owners of the land. I am happy that the Coastal Commission is enforcing the restriction and the integrity of the land will be restored.

islanddolphin (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 3:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Pete here...
I`m as Chumash as the next Chumash person, & I say..both sides have merit. Muggy is absolutely correct in stating that "If the land is sacred,then it should`nt be sold"....I agree 100% with that....But in Amer. 2013, everything is bought & sold whether it`s right or wrong,known or unknown.
Having stipulations along with the sale that protects a small amount of special areas is appreciated & should be respected by the purchaser..."A deal`s a deal" someone said.
A $500K fine would go a long way in building an esthetic perimeter around this site.

PeterPeli (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Get Real Peter,
If anything Chumash related were to have an aesthetically pleasing perimeter built around it, half of SB/Goleta would have to be removed. How about just returning it to it's natural state, and leaving it alone like the agreement stipulated? No fences, no nothing. I think the Casino could come up with $500k in about half a day and hopefully find something better to do with it than build an aesthetically pleasing perimeter.
I have a question: Why did the Chumash not protest or sue to stop the Bacara construction in the first place?

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 4:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The big question now is, where does that $575,000 go?

Haskullsloke (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 5:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe they didn't know it was happening bimbo.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 7:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

They absolutely knew. They had representatives there to monitor the grading in case anything was brought up that shouldn't have been. Alvin also hired a bevy of thugs to be there to guard against anything that might stop progress. I remember the day.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 10, 2013 at 9:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Bacara is committed to protecting our coastline and natural resources . . ." That is so cute. I can go to sleep with a big smile on my face.

chilldrinfthenight (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 12:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wasn't the entire area of Santa Barbara county once Chumash land?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 1:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Come to think of it, everything from the Bering Straight down to Tierra del Fuego belonged to Inuit/Indian peoples. Just food for thought.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 1:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@ Bimbo...Why so hostile?...Why bring the casino into something that is occouring on the coast, Why must I "Get real"...Am I not "real" enough simply by participating in this discussion?

PeterPeli (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 7:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am a regular to that bluff. About 4 trees were cut down, Eucalyptis trees, two or three circular huts were erected on the gently sloping hillside, and grass was added, with watering system. When people say "grading occurred" one thinks bulldozers, lots of soil moved. No chance that happened. Maybe shoveled some dirt for the huts.
What bugged me was the bluff was made instantly private property, locked gates, scary signs. Thinking wtf? I kept violating their rules. Wish I'd been arrested, I need the money. No chance those Bacara actions to redesign the bluff were by accident. Oops we forgot, and we're wealthy, oh just charge us some money happened again.

khiggler (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 8:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Bacara behavior has long been a sore spot with the people of Goleta. While our heritage doesn't go back 6000 years, people did/do care about the place, and were careful about respecting the previous people that lived in the area and their artifacts. Beside the fact it is a huge fine and crime for any average Joe to disturb any artifacts.

The first Bacara owner/developer didn't exhibit caring about anything but himself, because he really didn't even need the money. He just wanted a place to play. For some reason, no one cared enough to stop him, they just saw dollar signs. So here we are. The new owners seem nothing like this.

I think a $575K perimeter would be poor decision. That money should be used to fight other legal battles regarding misuse of land/beach access by the Coastal Commission for the people of California. If the Chumash feel there needs to be a monument built, have the Casino chip in. The last thing we need are a bunch more fences put up at the beach with my tax money paying for it.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 9:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Unlike the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that the founders mentioned, there are NO PROPERTY RIGHTS IN NATURE. Property rights are entirely the creation of human governments and legal structures. Best not to bite the hand that feeds you, Muggy.

JayB (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 11:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Now, since the property was sold to private development, the state shouldn't have a say in what they can or cannot do on the property."

So Muggy doesn't believe in contracts.

Muggy, the other comments here are intelligent ... yours are completely lacking in that quality.

JayB (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 11:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"How would you like it if you buy your house for $1million and you can't do anything to your backyard because the community has decided it needs to be preserved? "

If I bought it with that condition in place, as Bacara did, I would do so liking it just fine, or I would be a fool (like the person who asked the question). If I bought it with that condition in place with the intention of ignoring the condition, I would be a criminal and a sociopath (like ...).

JayB (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"I`m as Chumash as the next Chumash person"

Fallacious argument from authority.

"@ Bimbo...Why so hostile?"

It's your over-the-top defensiveness here that is hostile.

"Why must I "Get real"...Am I not "real" enough simply by participating in this discussion?"

You can choose to be unreal and ignore the point made by bimboteskie and billclausen, but it will do harm to your credibility and the persuasiveness of your arguments.

JayB (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

" How would you like it if you buy your house for $1million and you can't do anything to your backyard because the community has decided it needs to be preserved?"
-- Muggy
How would you like it if you bought a house for $1 million in an area zoned residential and somebody built a body and paint shop next door?

Property rights come with property constraints. It's one way society preserves its cohesiveness.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
April 12, 2013 at 1:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Woops. Is it my imagination or does the Bacara historically and purposely make its own little poop-piles to willfully step in? No permits? Really. No wonder its been sold so many times. No one knows what the heck they're doing.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
April 14, 2013 at 11:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The air there is literally toxic from the oil field underneath it.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 14, 2013 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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