Eleven years after its first symposium in 2003, members of the More Mesa Preservation Coalition gathered last Saturday at UCSB to bring the community up to date on issues, voice concerns about potential development of the property, and remind everyone why the area is so special and worthy of being preserved. “The geologic complexity has led to a mixture of habitats and species that has made More Mesa both unique and critical to save,” said wetland specialist Dr. Wayne Ferrin. Among the species noted by area biological consultant John Storrer was a range of raptors. “There is a wealth of habitat diversity that has led to the area being used by 16 different species, among them the white-tailed kite,” Storrer added, explaining that it and other raptors serve as an indicator for ecosystem health since they are at the top of the food chain.
In the later morning sessions, Coalition president Valerie Olson provided an overview of the area’s history while former County Planning Director Dan Gira provided an overview of the Mesa’s planning issues. Olson reminded the group that More Mesa has survived a number of attempts to develop it, including the Buena Vida project in 1965 that proposed an 800-home complex, and a second project in 1972, the Cuesta Verde development, that would have covered the Mesa with 750 homes.
In the 1970s, an environmental awakening led to the development of a Local Coastal Plan (LCP) in 1982. Gira described it as a landmark document that provided open-space areas with protections that they hadn’t had before. Many of the concepts embodied in the LCP were eventually included in the 1993 Goleta Community Plan. “What these provide are layers of protection for More Mesa if any developments are proposed in the future,” Gira said.
In 2012, the Mesa property was purchased by Sheikh Khalid S. Al-Shobily, a prominent Saudi developer. To this point, no formal development plans have been submitted to the county, but Olson described the Coalition as focused on working with him to ensure that if any proposal should occur, it will protect More Mesa’s unique qualities.