The California Coastal Commission (CCC) will hear an appeal of the County Board of Supervisor’s approval of the Paradiso del Mare development project a half mile west of the Bacara Resort this Thursday, April 10. The project was approved by the Santa Barbara Planning Commission in November 2013. After an appeal by the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC), Surfrider and other groups soon thereafter, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to deny the appeal in early February.
On February 28, GCC, Surfrider, the Santa Barbara Chapter of Audubon and Peter Howorth filed an appeal with the Coastal Commission citing a failure of the project to conform with the standards in the County’s Local Coastal Program (LCP). Acting as attorney for the groups, attorney Marc Chytilo argued the LCP requires protection of environmentally sensitive habitats such as the Naples Seal Rookery, White-tailed kite habitat and public access to the beach.
According to the Commission Staff Report, which can be accessed on the CCC website, notes that evaluation of such an appeal requires that it raise “a substantial issue” as to the consistency or inconsistency of the County’s LCP, extent and scope of the development proposal, significance of the coastal resources affected by the decision, its potential for serving as a precedent for future interpretation of the LCP or whether the appeal raises only local issues or those of regional or statewide significance. In a 58-page document that included several hundred pages of appendices, the Commission Staff concluded “no substantial issue is raised with respect to the consistency of the approved development with the policies of the County’s certified LCP.”
Staff also noted, “In addition, the development is not extensive in scope given the large area of the parcel proposed to be retained in open space, the project is not expected have adverse impacts on significant coastal resources, the project is not likely to serve as a negative precedent for the County’s future interpretation of its LCP or the Gaviota Coast Plan given the unique site circumstances, and, although the appeal raises issues of statewide importance, the above analysis indicates that no substantial question regarding policy consistency exists based on the project components and unique site circumstances.”
In a telephone interview with me yesterday, Chytilo strongly disagreed with the Staff recommendation to deny the appeal. “We believe there were important coastal resources at issue here, including the seal rookery, the kite habitat and public access to the beach, Chytilo said. “The key issue is whether there are conflicts between the Coastal Act and our Local Coastal Program. We think they [Staff] got it wrong.”
Though typically the Coastal Commission doesn’t override its Staff’s recommendations, Chytilo pointed out that the Commission composition continues to change and “you never know” how they will decide this.
The CCC meeting will be held at the Hyatt Hotel located at 1111 E. Cabrillo Boulevard beginning at 8:30am. The Paradiso appeal more-than-likely will not be heard until the afternoon. While the Staff recommendation was not encouraging, Chytilo is urging community members to attend the meeting and let the Commission know there is solid opposition to the development proposal.