While the California Coastal Commission partially saved agricultural land in Carpinteria, there was a concerted effort by management to convert agricultural land to urban development in other parts of the South Central Area. In three cases, the same “hit man” was sent by the central San Francisco office to facilitate this, over objections of the staff in the Santa Barbara office. This intervention resulted in a Ventura office building being built on agricultural land overlooking Pierpont Beach and the freeway, as well as the conversion of agricultural land to a residential marina north of Channel Islands Harbor. This second conversion was rationalized, ludicrously, by moving the productive soils to a different location. A third example, converting scenic grazing land on the landward side of the freeway in Morro Bay to a Williams Brothers shopping center, was fortunately never built. As Mr. Relis points out, certain influential people helped saved agricutural land in Carpinteria. Unfortunately, there was a lack of such people in other locations. My feeling has always been that there is either a covert exclusiveness to the environmentalists in Santa Barbara, or those in other areas of our region lack information and initiative or are unsophisticated, and that there are simply not enough good people to spread around.
Merle Betz served as staff to the California Coastal Commission from 1977-2000.