Goleta Beach Park is a special place visited by over 1.5 million men, women, and children each year. While it is adjacent to UCSB and the City of Goleta and near the S.B. Airport, it is within the jurisdiction and responsibility of the County of Santa Barbara. Nevertheless, those of us who live in the City of Goleta or in the unincorporated Eastern Goleta Valley feel a special connection to Goleta Beach. After all, it is where we take our children for birthday parties, attend retirement parties, watch the sunset, eat at the fabulous Beachside Restaurant, and stroll along the magnificent beach with our loved ones, including our dogs!
As 2nd District Supervisor, I am proud to have this beach park in my district, and I take the responsibility of its preservation, infrastructure, and safety very seriously. I fought hard to ensure that parking remains free at Goleta Beach. Many thought parking fees would be a “cash cow” for the county, but I consistently and successfully argued that they would have an adverse impact on the use and access of the beach park.
The county’s commitment to and investment in Goleta Beach Park is reflected in the recent replacement of the sewer lift station — an important project from an environmental and health and safety perspective that was completed with over $600,000 from county capital maintenance funds.
I have also worked closely with our Public Works department on the Goleta Beach Bridge replacement project — securing local and federal funds for the replacement of this 60-year-old bridge. Once completed this redesigned bridge will improve safety with dedicated pedestrian and bike access and increase access with a new MTD bus stop.
I am disappointed that the ongoing environmental review process for a project to improve and maintain Goleta Beach Park has been met with some misleading comments. I feel an obligation to ensure that the residents in our community are presented with the facts.
Over a decade ago, the county received an emergency permit from the California Coastal Commission to install rock revetments to help stop the erosion of the park following several significant storms. That permit required the county to return to the Coastal Commission with a permanent plan consistent with Coastal Commission guidelines and the voter-approved Coastal Act. The Coastal Commission mandated that the county conduct environmental studies on the impacts of retaining the rock revetments and identify possible alternatives to protecting Goleta Beach Park.
Subsequently, the county sought and received some permit extensions while the community met to discuss possible options. In 2007, just after my election, the county submitted a proposal for a “permeable pier” solution to the Coastal Commission. The proposal was heard in 2009, and the Coastal Commission denied this project on a 9-1 vote.
The county returned to the drawing board, and after several months of meetings with individuals and community groups and conducting public workshops, county staff developed a proposed project called Goleta Beach 2.0. The Board of Supervisors unanimously moved Goleta Beach 2.0 forward for engineering and environmental review — a process required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The purpose of the CEQA review is to obtain input from the public on the proposed project and make sure that the project and alternatives have been analyzed before the development project can be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
For over a decade, the county has carefully followed the proper legal and regulatory process for environmental review and development of a long-term solution for the treasure that is Goleta Beach Park.
Early in the environmental review process, the public was invited to provide input so the Draft EIR (DEIR) would include a variety of potential alternatives and analyze issues of importance to the community. The DEIR was recently released, and the county has sought additional public comment. The county has received very important and useful comments that will influence the final EIR. In fact, the county has extended the comment period for an additional 30 days and all comments will be responded to in the final document.
The county’s investment in the long-term viability of Goleta Beach Park is well established as I noted earlier. As a decision maker, CEQA demands that I allow the public process to be completed before reaching a final opinion or decision on the project.
I do not believe that anyone wants Goleta Beach Park to “wash away.” It is my hope that the conversation moving forward is positive, instructive, and collaborative and that we all do our best to contribute to an effective solution that allows the county to comply with state laws and mandates while ensuring that this vital recreational and environmental jewel remains for generations to come.