After 15 years helping to preserve the Gaviota Coast, I pay particular attention to who runs for the office of 3rd District Supervisor. Experience shows that the inclination of the person holding this office has a very real influence on the conservation efforts there. So it is important that everyone in the 3rd District is well informed about the candidates.

Bruce Porter is one of the candidates, but he is not well known in much of the district. Because it is not realistic for voters to spend much time getting personally acquainted with a candidate, we often find ourselves making judgments based on a candidate’s associations.

Who are Porter’s backers, what do we know about them? What does our experience with those people tell us about Porter’s political inclinations? Here is what I have learned.

Porter is backed by C.J. Jackson and Brooks Firestone. Jackson was Firestone’s planning commissioner and voted to approve a massive residential development (Naples) on the Gaviota Coast. Then Firestone led the Board of Supervisors in a 3-2 vote to also approve the project after an illegal, closed-door discussion, which later caused much of the action to be overturned. Firestone’s actions were clearly contradictory to his public promises to protect the Gaviota Coast while running for office.

Firestone also pushed for increasing non-agricultural businesses on lands under agricultural preserve contracts, even though he was to be one of the beneficiaries. Fortunately, he was forced to recuse himself at the last minute on advice of County Counsel.

These non-agricultural land uses included commercial events, which, if allowed, would have become vested property rights in direct conflict with the agricultural zoning and the Uniform Rules of the Williamson Act.

The hoped-for, commercial event privileges are now known by the euphemistic “Good Neighbor Ordinance” so as not to offend. Bruce Porter is a member of the executive committee of an organization which is actively promoting this Good Neighbor Ordinance. That ordinance would allow unlimited commercial events without permits on every agricultural-zoned parcel in the county, including the Gaviota Coast.

I personally know of instances in which farmers have quit farming because they are making more money with unpermitted events. If the Good Neighbor Ordinance is enacted by the supervisors, any and all owners of agriculturally zoned land will suddenly have an economic incentive to conduct other, more lucrative businesses rather than produce agricultural commodities for the market.

What then happens to the future of agriculture? What happens to the Gaviota Coast, where agriculture has been the principal land use since the time of Spanish land grants?

Supervisor Peter Adam is known to be one of Porter’s primary recruiters and supporters. Again, what we don’t know about Porter, we can infer from his relationships with others whose behavior we have already experienced. Peter Adam has made public statements about his intentions for the Gaviota Coast.

Adam has proposed that the county allow development of mansions on the Gaviota Coast to collect more tax revenue. This reflects a willingness to turn the Gaviota Coast into an exclusive, Malibu-like enclave for the very wealthy. Do we really want to turn the Gaviota Coast into a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder?

I don’t, and I know I am not alone. If we want to protect the Gaviota Coast, let’s elect another candidate, other than Porter, for the 3rd District.


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