The Summerland Citizens Association and two prominent members of Summerland prevailed Tuesday in an appeal to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors over a project on Padaro Lane on the banks of Toro Creek.
The project involves a lot split and large home on a coastal bluff. For decades, members of the public hiked down Toro Creek to access two pocket beaches that are isolated from other Summerland beaches during moderate and high tides.
The 1992 Summerland Community Plan designated a trail corridor along the creek, but county planners told the Planning Commission that the trail designation had no effect. After the Planning Commission approved the project, SCA appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
SCA argued that the project violated county policies requiring a coastal access trail easement for developments on lands that had trail corridors designated in the General Plan. Public coastal access is protected under the California Constitution and the California Coastal Act, and specific policies in the Local Coastal Plan and Summerland Community Plan require trail easements.
The landowner argued that the project’s impacts were insignificant, so a trail easement could not be required. The board directed staff to prepare an environmental impact report examining the project’s impacts to coastal access and its consistency with applicable policies.
“We are gratified that the board voted to uphold the Summerland Community Plan’s trail designations and take a close look at how to provide public access to this unique area of the coast,” explained Reeve Woolpert, a member of the Summerland Citizens Association and one of the individual appellants. “If this project is approved without providing for public access, the public will likely never secure permanent public access to two of Summerland’s pocket beaches that are otherwise inaccessible during most tidal conditions.”
“The board’s action recognized an important public right that had not been acknowledged before,” said Marc Chytilo, attorney for the appellants. “It is well established that the county’s ability to actually require a trail easement may be limited, depending on the facts of the case. But this decision recognized that when a trail easement identified in our coastal plan is not offered by the applicant or required by the county, the project then conflicts with the policies mandating coastal access, and this conflict is an impact that must be considered in an EIR.”
SCA was supported in its appeal by the Montecito Trails Foundation and the Santa Barbara Trails Council.