With concerns ranging from damaged wildlife habitats, drought, limited public access to the beach, and Chumash historical sites, dozens of public speakers sent a clear message Tuesday opposing two mansions proposed for a coastal parcel west of Goleta.
However, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors ultimately voted unanimously to allow the project, which sits on the eastern edge of the Gaviota Coast, to move forward, saying that the public benefit would outweigh the drawbacks.
The Paradiso del Mare project would result in two residences on 142 acres — a 6,000-square-foot home on the coastal portion of the property and a 7,000-square-foot project on the inland portion.
The mitigation measures required to build the project included public-access easements for lateral and vertical access across the property, a parking lot for public use, 117 acres of open space, on-site habitat restoration and construction of a portion of the California Coastal Trail.
Those attempts to sweeten the deal proved to be enough for the Santa Barbara County Trails Council to withdraw its appeal.
But other groups said that those mitigation measure weren't enough, and that the county should do more review of the environmental impacts.
More than 30 people spoke during public comment, opposing the development for various reasons, and urging the supervisors to uphold the appeal.
The decision to move forward clearly troubled Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district would be home to the project.
She said that no homes in the area is the ideal, but without someone to buy the land and keep it vacant, the development would move forward.
"I don't know how to get there without a conservation buyer," she said.
Farr acknowledged that residents care deeply about the Gaviota Coast, and that she did, too.
"There's a lot of public benefit that has been offered here," she said. "The greatest challenge is getting those easements dedicated, and once you have them, you can find the money."
Appellants had raised issue with the fact that the project site was the home to the nesting site of white-tailed kites, and that the project also borders an active seal rookery. The environmental documents hadn't adequately reviewed those issues, the groups asserted.
But Farr said she felt that providing more of a setback for the trees on the property, where the kites had nested, would constrain development, and that the seals would not be affected by the homes.
"I think there has been a thorough environmental review," she said. "I think there could be some temporal loss [of access to the beach] … . It's my responsibility to try and provide access for all users."