No one argues that the Gaviota Coast isn’t unique. Not only is the 50-some-mile stretch of pristine coastline one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, but it is one of the final California frontiers that developers haven’t gotten their hands-and houses-on.
Not that they aren’t close. Matt Osgood’s Naples project has been going through Santa Barbara County for the better half of a decade, and it seems far from a resolution. After years and years, what will eventually end up happening at Naples remains uncertain.
Furthermore, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent as the Naples issue has inched through the county system. For these reasons and more, the usual advocates for the preservation of the Gaviota Coast-ranging from the Environmental Defense Center to the Naples Coalition and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy
-came out to the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, hoping the board would spring on a plan to outline policies and needs specific to that irreplaceable stretch of earth.
Even though the state recommends updates every five to 10 years, such a plan unique to the Gaviota Coast has never existed, though policies impacting the area currently sit in the county’s Coastal Land Use Plan-which hasn’t been updated for 26 years-and its General Plan .
The board-with 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray dissenting-eventually did okay the Gaviota Coast Rural Plan. Similar to a community plan, the Rural Plan would address the specific needs of the Gaviota Coast, building upon the standing policies the area already falls under. Specific policies on public access, design standards, water and viewshed protection, and agricultural open space can now be worked on through a public process with its special character in mind. “This is an opportunity for the community to step up and look at the Gaviota Coast in a comprehensive way,” said Mike Lunsford, president of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy.
While the plan will set the county back $234,000 next fiscal year and $1.4 million in total, the supervisors encouraged staff to work with the supporters of the plan to find grant money and other sources of funding, as the county is trying to pinch as many pennies as possible.
But the plan was just one of two top priorities set forth by the supervisors, the other being a Climate Action Strategy. State policies are already beginning to reflect the reality of climate change. Most significantly, Assembly Bill 32 will require a 15-percent reduction in greenhouse gases. The goal: to bring the state’s carbon footprint back to what it was in 1990. Several other related bills are in place that will require action over the next several years. “The process is already unfolding,” said Dave Matson, long-range planning deputy director.
The county, through a Conservation and Sustainability Team founded by 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, has been working to reduce the county’s carbon footprint as an example to the community. Though more than likely contributing less than one percent of the community-wide carbon footprint, Santa Barbara County government is nonetheless focusing on efforts to both save the county money and make it greener. “We have a responsibility to lead the way and set the example,” said General Services Director Bob Nisbet. From shutting off fan and pump systems in county buildings at night to expanding the use of technology to allow people to work at home, the county is making big efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
The hope is to inspire the community in helping the state achieve its target. And, in theory, the passage of some of these principles in support of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will open the county up to state grants and federal stimulus money that will help the county in its roles as a greenhouse gas producer and regulator.