Hanging in the offices of prominent Santa Barbara attorney Barry Cappello are dozens of paintings of Native American tribes that were created in the 19th and 20th centuries. “I’m not anti–Native American,” he said, walking around the third floor of his State Street office. “That is not what this is about. This is about being bluffed.”
Cappello hopes to stop the Santa Barbara County Supervisors from striking a deal with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. The agreement surrounds Camp 4, the 1,400-acre property in the Santa Ynez Valley that the tribe purchased years ago. The Chumash have petitioned to annex the land into its existing reservation, and neighbors have fought them every step of the way.
Cappello represents Santa Ynez Valley resident Nancy Crawford-Hall, who owns the 10,000-acre San Lucas Ranch near Camp 4. Crawford-Hall had bankrolled the failed legal challenge to the election of former county supervisor Doreen Farr.
The deal would require the Chumash to pay $178,500 annually to the county and adhere to certain development restrictions. Nearly 900 acres would be protected open space, and the tribe would not build within 985 feet of Highway 154. In exchange, the county would drop its lawsuit against the tribe’s petition with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to annex Camp 4.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Cappello alleged the deal would violate the Santa Ynez Community Plan, a document that came out of several years of wrangling that, simply put, seeks to maintain the rural character of the valley. “We were involved in that effort,” Cappello said. He argued the plan must be amended to allow development on the property. “That has been short-circuited.”
Cappello has filed numerous high-profile complaints, including the district election claim against the City of Santa Barbara three years ago. He referenced the case on Wednesday: “We really didn’t want to go forward with it,” adding, “[The county is] going to waste several millions” of taxpayer dollars if it fights the Camp 4 suit.
Cappello’s legal action appears to be a dramatic gesture to scare the county supervisors out of approving the deal. They will consider the agreement on October 31.
A Chumash spokesperson and county counsel declined to comment on pending litigation.
Meanwhile, federal legislation, House Bill 1491, to expedite the Chumash annexation plan is moving through Congress. Karen Jones — a Santa Ynez Valley Republican and unsuccessful county supervisorial candidate — said she is taking matters into her own hands. She flew to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with several elected officials, including Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23), Representative Steve Womack (R-AR 3), Senator John Boozman (R-AR), and D.C. operatives to urge them to oppose the House bill. “I have all kinds of different connections to people,” Jones said, “and I’m friendly.” Republicans have been supportive of Native American tribes. But Jones noted Chumash leaders tend to support Democratic politicians. The bill is on the House’s “suspension calendar,” which means it can be heard at any time.