Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 7:57 am | A Few Clouds 56º

Santa Barbara County Leaders Set to Decide Future of Goleta Beach

Leaders back a plan calling for 'managed retreat' to handle ongoing erosion, and may send the project to the California Coastal Commission

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Santa Barbara County leaders will decide the future of Goleta Beach Park in two weeks, and may send the project directly to the California Coastal Commission.

A draft environmental impact report has several alternatives for how to handle erosion at the popular park, and the county has been pushing for the “managed retreat” option of removing all the rock revetments and letting nature take its course.

That plan would result in the loss of two parking lots and a lot of the shoreline lawn area due to erosion over time.

The City of Goleta and community members, including a group called Friends of Goleta Beach, are advocating for other options to protect the park.

The county Board of Supervisors set a March 18 hearing for the Goleta Beach 2.0 project, and plans to pick a project to submit to the California Coastal Commission.

The supervisors expect the meeting to take three hours, and will undoubtedly hear a lot of public comment, especially in light of recent high tides and large surf that pummeled the park.

Anne Wells, Goleta’s planning manager, expressed concern that the county Planning Commission won't be vetting the draft EIR. Usually, there would be a local permit process before the project is packed up and sent for a coastal development application, she said.

County planning staff said the process has been used before; the county submits an application to the Coastal Commission without certifying the environmental documents.

Ed de la Torre, who frequently uses the park, said the environmental documents have flaws and the alternative project options like planting Canary Island date palm trees should be seriously considered.

The Friends of Goleta Beach group already haspurchased trees and was given more by UC Santa Barbara.

The park’s future could be complicated by the damage done by this weekend’s winter storm. It was evacuated and closed to the public on Saturday and was set to reopen Wednesday.

Crews have been working to clean up parking lots, repair the Beachside Bar-Café restaurant and evaluate the damage to the Goleta Pier.

The west end of the park and beach lost a substantial amount of sand, community services director Herman Parker said. In some areas, there’s a drop-off of 10-12 feet from the grass to the beach, so the county got an emergency permit to cut walking paths down to the water for public access.

The restaurant’s patio was hit by waves and the restaurant itself was flooded, but the scariest part of it all was a restaurant manager being swept out to sea by a huge wave. He was able to grab onto the pier to be rescued, and was taken to the hospital for a dislocated shoulder.

Parker said the restaurant has Public Health Department clearance to reopen, which was planned for Tuesday evening.

The Goleta Pier remained closed since some of the railings are missing and some of the boardwalk itself has a 5-6-inch lift.

The damage doesn’t seem overwhelming and county inspectors are assessing what repairs are needed, Parker said. They believe the damage is from waves, but a boat did hit the underside of the pier and get destroyed, he noted.

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino told new CEO Mona Miyasato that it’s always an exciting time in Santa Barbara.

“This is just one of many disasters,” he said.

He and Supervisor Peter Adam tried to delay the March 18 hearing, but the other three board members wanted to stick with the staff recommendation.

Adam has a problem with one of the consultants used for the EIR, former county planning employee Dan Gira.

About 10 years ago, a court found that the county wrongly prohibited Adam Bros. Farming from cultivating some Orcutt land after it falsely designated it as environmentally sensitive wetlands.

Adam asserted that Gira had lied to the Board of Supervisors in the past so his conduct makes his involvement in the EIR questionable.

Supervisor Janet Wolf said she was “stunned” the issue had come up again, and said the hearing shouldn’t be suspended because of a personal lawsuit.

The Goleta Beach 2.0 project hearing will be held at the County Supervisors Hearing Room at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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