I encourage locals, children, as well as the stream of cars going to and from Los Angeles to take a good long look at the Gaviota Coast. Just up the 101, the urban limit line is crossed, taking you from box malls and cookie-cutter homes to rural landscapes and vistas. On a coast determined worthy of inclusion in the National Park System (NPS study, 1998), it’s no wonder the semi-pristine nature of portions of the region have been preserved for generations to come. But in light of the recent firing of the director of the California Coastal Commission (CCC) and the recent court ruling opening the floodgate of gated estates at the (former) Paradiso Del Mare, conservation and protection of much of the Gaviota Coast is clearly a fleeting fantasy.
The reason this sacred stretch of coast with its cultural and biological diversity looks like it does is because of the tireless efforts of The Santa Barbara chapter of Surfrider, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, and the Naples Coalition. For over 20 years, we have fought golf courses, rezoning, massive housing proposals, and other symbols of an unsustainable and visionless society in decline. Our efforts have gone against a drumming of Planning Commission rubber stamps, Board of Supervisor empty lip service, and breathtaking backroom dealings at the CCC, all followed by expensive lawsuits. But through all this, the beauty and significance of this coast for the county, the state, and the world is what keeps us going. For everyone.
To be clear, nearly every major parcel between the Bacara and the upscale tents at El Capitan Canyon are poised for development. So, next time you are wondering what to do on a sunny Saturday morning, I recommend taking a short drive, reminisce, pay your respects, and prepare to say good-bye to this national treasure.
Mark Morey, PhD, is the chair of the Santa Barbara Chapter of Surfrider Foundation.