Putting a near end to years of bureaucratic back and forth, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to propel the Las Varas Ranch development proposal closer to a final decision. The Gaviota Coast project’s environmental analysis has put it in limbo for some time, as it was punted from the county’s Planning Commission to the board twice over concerns about its depth. But the supervisors — led by 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr — okayed the environmental review this time around and asked that the Planning Commission provide them a final recommendation on the ranch’s future. For years, the Doheny family has sought to recalibrate their property for a small slate of future houses, plus trails and a public parking lot to soften the deal.
For several hours, the board listened to dozens of conservationists — a few got quite zealous — who expressed concern about the potential “mansion-ization” of that area, and others who worried that the proposal’s trails were too much of a compromise. Fears about impeded views, changes to agriculture operations, and reduced recreational opportunities also punctuated the hearing. Acknowledging those concerns and “how deeply people care about that stretch of precious coastline,” Farr said it was time for the commission to either give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. Farr requested that the commission schedule their meeting as soon as possible so that the Dohenys could get closer to their long-awaited answer. “A process that should be linear is starting to become circular,” she said. “I think it’s gone on long enough.”