Hollister Ranch Showdown

County Passes on Chance to Create Public Access to Exclusive Property

Thursday, April 11, 2013
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There is no denying the beauty and paradisiacal surf that lies behind the gatehouse of the Hollister Ranch, the private coastal community just west of Gaviota State Park. Similarly, there is no denying that the 14,600-acre swath of Central Coast land is about as exclusive and guarded of a neighborhood as you will find anywhere in Santa Barbara County, if not the state. In fact, it is one of only two properties noted in the California Coastal Act as a place that does not have any public access but, in the eyes of state policy makers at least, desperately needs it.

Now, thanks to a mitigation measure imposed by the California Coastal Commission more than 30 years ago, that access has the potential of becoming a reality. This week, with the promises of that measure set to expire, the Santa Barbara County Supervisors had the opportunity to accept the Hollister Ranch’s irrevocable “offer to dedicate” a public access trail inside its gates and set the stage for what would be an immensely popular county-owned and county-operated way to the beach. However, citing the more than $10 million in operating deficits and the fact that folks with the Hollister Ranch Owners Association have promised to sue over the legality of the easements, the supes took a reluctant pass on the opportunity with a 4-1 vote. A visibly upset 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, a self-described supporter of “maximum public access to the coast,” summed up the feelings of the majority of her fellow supervisors. “I am very conflicted about this [decision],” explained Farr. “I’m just not going to be happy with it either way.”

Driving Tuesday’s discussion was a never-realized plan to build a YMCA Ocean Center and Camp project on Hollister Ranch back in the early 1980s. At the time and as part of the approval, the Coastal Commission required that Hollister provide an “irrevocable offer to dedicate public access easements.” Specifically, the condition of approval called for lateral access both along the beach and the bluff top to a designated point 3.5 miles inside the Hollister property, a vertical footpath to the beach at the same location, and some sort of transit system that would bus the public in to the access point from Gaviota State Beach. However, in order for these mandates to have a shot at being realized, that “offer” has to be accepted by a public agency no later than April, at which time the terms of the deal expire.

Hollister Ranch representatives, however, aren’t so sure the easements are enforceable at this point, especially since the YMCA camp was never built and the ownership of the parcel in question has long since changed hands. “There will certainly be an effort to have a judge or a court tell all of us whether there is even an easement there to be created,” said Hollister lawyer Steve Amerikaner at this week’s meeting. “No matter what you do today, we don’t believe any easements actually exist.”

Despite the supervisors taking a pass on the trails (and avoiding the legal cost of fighting to see them come to fruition), the issue is anything but dead. Per state code, the California State Coastal Conservancy is required to accept any soon-to-expire standing offers to dedicate beach access that have yet to be accepted by a public agency. It was this knowledge that helped the supes vote the way they did. “I feel like the public’s interests are still going to be taken care of,” said Supervisor Salud Carbajal. “Without that, it wouldn’t even be a question. I would 100 percent support [accepting the offer].”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

The 1% who own the beach, they say no beach for the 99% because they own the politicians....

contactjohn (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 4:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I fail to see any showdown? Sounds like they just plain chickened out.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 9:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Bought out or chickened out, depending on the supe.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 9:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In an article about a Board vote [4-1], leaving out how the votes broke down is a glaring omission.

djfranchise (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 10:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Busses? Really?? Is that necessary?

Why can't they just having a parking lot and a bike trail? It won't cost the county barely anything and the Ranch won't have any legal basis to stand on.

I have been trying to explain to those with access to the ranch that a bike/hike trail would be the best option for everybody. It's a long bike ride to the breaks, over a mile to the first reef break and almost 2 miles to the first point break, then another 3/4 or so of a mile to the next, and then another 3/4 of a mile to the next which is usually the most popular among residents.

Sure, you're going to get a good crowd of people out there, but they are going to spread out and there won't be that many because of the long distance from the parking lot to the breaks. I can't tell you how many times I've hiked in from the beach and had these breaks empty all to myself. However hiking the beach is not a safe way to get there on a good swell.

The people biking and hiking in will likely surf the closer breaks while residents will likely be at the ones further out, so this is a good solution on all sides imo.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

While I really wish I as a local, could access HR via foot or bike, simply to walk the beach and enjoy the view.....I can appreciate that the folks who bought and own property without access and would like to keep it that way- the ultimate NIMBY yes, but I guess I would feel that way too.

Here in the Valley, folks want the riverbed open for a bike path/walking path- and I really am for that! Again, private property owners are lock stock & barrel against it. I certainly understand their sentiments as well- and I am not sure forcing someone to give up the rights to parts of their own property is a good idea. Do I want a trail going thru my property- no I do not.

Hope some kind of access to both is something that can be worked out in the future.

losolivoslocal (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 12:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With the way that people haul in trash and do not haul it out again. I would be against a riverbed being used for a bike or walking path - not for the rights of property owners but the rights of all the critters that do not own trucks to get rid of brought-in and left bottles, cans, diapers, etc.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 1:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sigh, one can only dream... We (SB Co) can't maintain the infrastructure we have; adding more at this time isn't affordable. I'm glad the state (CA) is forced to accept this easement instead, but they can't afford it either. I wish we could do as LoonPt suggests, and just provide a bike path or maybe a restricted road and parking lot too, 1-2 miles in.

However, the reality is that even with explicit signs saying, 'private property,' folks will trespass. And they always leave their trash behind. (If you can hike it in full, you can haul it out empty! Leave no trace.) I'd love to be able to share these beaches responsibly. The problem is that too many people are inconsiderate and irresponsible.

Becky (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 5:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The California Coastal Commission extorted these "easements" (Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987) and any attempt at accepting this one will come with a HUGE legal bill and it will be for naught when the courts rule the easement was not validly required. The Supreme Court long ago ruled in Nollan that the dedicated easement requirement by the CCC in exchange for a building permit was a taking in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Anyone who wants to access the Ranch can do so in a number of ways, including but not limited to buying an interest, boating in, applying for a visitor's pass to either Bixby or Hollister, or hiking in below the mean high tide line.

DarrylGenis (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 6:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's let the courts decide. The coastline should be for all to enjoy.

Surfrider_2 (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 7:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nollan v. CCC was a different circumstance. Anyone who believes that the beaches belong to all Californians should contact the California Coastal Commission. emails and phone numbers for CCC members are on the CCC website.

Surfrider_2 (anonymous profile)
April 11, 2013 at 7:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There's so much more to this story than 5 paragraphs can provide.
Come on independent, you can do better.
Another weekly fluff story

easternpacific (anonymous profile)
April 12, 2013 at 7:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

One interesting aspect of this long simmering controversy is, what happened to the original YMCA project? Well the story is that after they bought the 100 acre parcel and started to develop plans for a summer camp for kids from the LA area the other owners of parcels on "The Ranch" made life so difficult for them they eventually sold the parcel in question. There was physical intimidation of the owners and their volunteers, destruction of property, blocking of access, just all manner of obstruction. Our Board of Supervisors, again, showed their favorite position. Head in the sand with their derrieres sticking up in the air.

dontoasthecoast (anonymous profile)
April 12, 2013 at 8:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)


"With the way that people haul in trash and do not haul it out again. I would be against a riverbed being used for a bike or walking path - not for the rights of property owners but the rights of all the critters that do not own trucks to get rid of brought-in and left bottles, cans, diapers, etc."

If the Coastal People really cared for the "Critters" they would tear down the dams on the Santa Ynez River and let the water flow, the critters would be so appreciative. It is so easy to be smug as you sip your Stolen Water. The river would not be dry in its Natural state and the Critter population would be 100 times larger. Coastal People speak with Forked Tongue.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
April 12, 2013 at 9:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with an Edhat poster: "I used to think this was a good idea. Then I saw what happened after me and many others donated to the Douglas Preserve. (In short: Gone to the dogs.)"

My limited experience with the beach at Hollister Ranch was with an escorted tour. I was blown away with the tide pool wildlife. We even saw an octopus.

Perhaps we can have some areas kept as true reserves with limited access given with supervision. This is how other delicate ecosystems are treated in places like the Galapagos Islands.

sbrobert (anonymous profile)
April 13, 2013 at 11:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"sbrobert" and others, the OTD requires all of the protection you mention, in plain black and white (the OTD and other relevant documents are available online, see ). The BOS decision on 4/9 was strictly economic and political: let the state Coastal Conservancy accept the OTD, along with the major burden of defending against the threatened lawsuit. The really crappy message this sends is, if you want to do something that needs county approval and have access to piles of cash for your lawyers, all you need to do to get your way is threaten to sue. The BOS majority will cave in to such threats, because they-we need to spend money to fix roads. If you doubt my take, review the hearing online and draw your own conclusions.

The BOS action was cowardly, duplicitous, and completely predictable and understandable. We as taxpayers will foot the bill for legal defense, no matter what. Some day, somehow, people other than HRA members and their faves will have access to that coastline. I was encouraged by Mr. Amerikaner's apparent offering of the proverbial olive branch, to work something out, but for cryin' out loud: it's been 31 years since the OTD was recorded, and well over 40 years since the ranch was subdivided and walled off to the unwashed masses. If Sea Ranch up north could work out a deal for the public's benefit, while protecting the interests of property owners and the natural environment, we can do it here.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
April 13, 2013 at 12:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People feel entitled to everything these days. Nothing needs to change with regards to Hollister. Keep it as it is. This stretch of coastline is pristine and creating more access to it will eventually impact the coastline, tide pools, aquatic life, etc. Currently there is access to anyone who wants to surf Hollister ranch. You can boat in, or walk in. Your choice.

bb805 (anonymous profile)
April 15, 2013 at 1:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't own there. I'm not a friend or guest there. I don't care if the locals sabotage the hoist or whatever. Yes they mostly represent a continuation of an elitist white culture. Yes it's NIMBYism. Whatever , keep it closed to the public. It's sad to say but most people are selfish idiots who will litter the place. Plus it will attract mostly surfers, truly some of the most ego driven white people around. Yes I am white. My bad attitude is merely a product of a lifetime of studying history. Have nice days : )

Jmikey (anonymous profile)
January 9, 2015 at 7:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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