There’s a saying among environmentalists that developers name projects for the thing that they’re destroying. According to environmental attorney Marc Chytilo, that describes the two properties along the Gaviota coast that are being auctioned on Wednesday. The combined 130-acre properties that carry an asking price of $25 million are known as Paradiso del Mar and Paradiso del Norte.
The two properties are located just east of Naples, the 57-acre undeveloped Gaviota coastal area that has been a battleground between developers and environmental conservationists, including Chytilo, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, and Surfrider, for many decades.
Naples held special horrors for those opposed to developing the pristine Gaviota coast because it was originally conceived as a township over 100 years ago, and the property had been zoned for homes and infrastructure.
Though that plan never materialized, a legal path to construction remained. In 2008 an Orange County developer, Matt Osgood, revived the township idea, but the Great Recession hit and he was forced to sell Naples, now known as Dos Pueblos Ranch, to Chinese investors, who, in turn, hired Osgood as their project manager. According to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s attorney, it’s a project with a thousand warts — and has yet to be developed.
According to Chytilo, similar problems exist for the Paradiso properties. Paradiso del Mar is on the coastal bluffs, and Paradiso del Norte, lies between the railroad tracks and Highway 101. “There’s no economic incentive for a developer for the land,” Chytilo stated.
For starters, each property is permitted one house, the size of which is constrained by a deed restriction — about 7,000 square feet — agreed to by a previous owner in order to get an easement across a neighbor’s land for water pipelines.
The property has no water-producing wells itself, and the pipes from the Goleta Water District currently stop at the edge of the Bacara property. From there the easement goes under Eagle Creek, up onto a mesa where the pipeline would have to be drilled beneath the existing railroad tracks, then head down a new access road to the west end of Paradiso.
The railroad belongs to Union Pacific, which is “fussy” about people crossing the rail corridor, Chytilo said. The rail freight company requires 100 feet of clear span 28 feet above the tracks, the entire bridge to be no more than 14 feet wide, which is necessary to access Paradiso’s property along the coast.
The houses can only sit on two acres of the parcels, with the rest dedicated to a conservation easement and a public trail and parking area. Three acres of citrus trees must be planted to screen the northern property from the highway, said Chytilo, but the fruit cannot be farmed commercially. One project nearby was stopped because it was a habitat for the endangered red-legged frogs and nesting white-tailed kites, both fully protected species in California.
Though the auction has been heavily advertised, including on CNN, Chytilo hopes that no one shows up to bid. The owners were completely unrealistic, according to Chytilo. “To me it speaks volumes that the broker said the owners have decided to let the market decide the value of this property.”
Any bidder must put down $250,000 to qualify to enter the auction, and although it is advertised as a “no reserve” auction, they still have the ability to cancel at the last minute.
According to Chytilo, there’s a reason the property hasn’t sold in the past four years. It’s simply too expensive to build the roadway and pipelines that are locked into the property.
The property is among the impressive agricultural acreages brokered by Kerry Mormann, who did not return requests for information about the auction.
[Update: Dec. 11, 2020] DeCaro Auctions announced the property had sold at its website but details were not available.