Friday, September 4 , 2015, 4:26 am | Fair 64.0º

Michael Rattray: Friends of Goleta Beach Park Submits Formal Complaint to the County Grand Jury

El Niño storms took their toll on Goleta Beach Park in a file photo from Jan. 1, 2002.

El Niño storms took their toll on Goleta Beach Park in a file photo from Jan. 1, 2002.  (Friends of Goleta Beach Park photo)

By Michael Rattray for Friends of Goleta Beach Park |

California has more than 1,100 miles of coastline, with Santa Barbara County the proud recipient of 10 percent of Mother Nature’s finest. Although much of this rugged coast is inaccessible to the general public, we do have a couple of gems and Goleta Beach Park is at the top of the list. Because of its proximity, easy access, scenic views, wonderful ocean and park amenities, more than 1.4 million visitors visit this jewel every year.

Michael Rattray
Michael Rattray

But our county government continues to take steps that would forever change the topography of our beautiful Goleta Beach Park through the implementation of what is referred to as Goleta Beach 2.0. A couple of years ago, our county supervisors approved a radical approach called “managed retreat” that essentially eliminates all protection measures on the west end of our 29-acre park, leaving it to the mercy of future winter storms.

This beach has been serving our citizens for more than 100 years as a public recreational park. Recorded data going back to the 1940s demonstrate that during El Niño cycles, this park without protection measures can suffer significant erosion damage within a matter of hours. We need to thank prior county parks staff and supervisors — going back to the 1970s and up through 2005 — for the installation of rock buffers that ever since have stopped this cycle of damage and allowed all of us to continue enjoying this small sliver of paradise.

Now I know you’re scratching your head and thinking what is going on? But under this new policy of “managed retreat,” all of those protection rocks are to be removed, ceding the battle to the sea and the damaging consequences of future storms. Mind you, you can’t even see these rocks today because they are buried under five feet of dirt, sand and grass, ready to do their job as the last line of defense, and already bought and paid for.

But Goleta Beach 2.0 goes much further than just taking out this investment of protection:

» It would remove 43,000 square feet of existing parking spaces (Lots Six and Seven), or approximately 150 parking spaces

» It would relocate all underground utilities into a new corridor out of the “coastal process zone”

» It would remove all existing rock revetments at the western end of the park on the UC Santa Barbara side, including the farthest-most 250 linear feet that may or may not be permitted, and the 950 linear feet of emergency-permitted rocks (approved in 2002-2005) that have expired

» It would establish a 40-foot-wide buffer corridor for the utilities and east/west transportation access by constructing a compacted earthen berm along the westernmost 500 feet of the corridor

» It would evaluate the relocation of the western public restroom to an area approximately 250 feet north of the “coastal area zone”

» It would install a protective geo-textile dune and buried cobble structure along 175 feet west of the Beachside Bar-Café to protect the Goleta Sanitary District’s underground sewer ocean outfall cathodic protection vault

Where are our families going to park when more than 25 percent of the on-site parking is eliminated? Who’s going to pay the $3 million to $5 million required to implement this experiment? Where’s the public outcry for this crazy experiment call “managed retreat”?

Currently, the county Planning and Development Department is going through an Environment Impact Review process to determine what new environmental impacts might exist and how they will be mitigated, i.e. spending more money that taxpayers don’t have. And we haven’t even talked about the unknowns when crews start moving earth, not knowing what’s underneath the ground.

Friends of Goleta Beach Park want to save and protect our park, not just for today’s families but so future generations can enjoy the largest and best county park. We have submitted a formal complaint to the county Grand Jury as our county watchdog because we need more checks and balances on unwise decisions like the “managed retreat” proposal.

We’re asking the public to get involved in this process, too. Please contact your county supervisor and help us stop this madness.

Click here for more information on Friends of Goleta Beach Park.

— Michael Rattray represents Friends of Goleta Beach Park.

comments powered by Disqus

» on 03.04.13 @ 01:56 PM

You might be missing a “million” after “1.4” in the first paragraph.

» on 03.04.13 @ 04:12 PM

Erosion and sand migration are natural processes. This sounds like a combination of very expensive mitigation to alter a natural process combined with very expensive mitigation to protect man-made structures. It sounds very,very expensive plan leading to not very successful results.

» on 03.06.13 @ 01:30 PM

I am writing to correct significant misinformation provided through Noozehawk regarding Goleta Beach. The writer is correct about one thing: Goleta Beach County Park is a gem on California’s coastline.

The Goleta Beach 2.0 Project came about in 2009 after the California Coastal Commission, citing to well known science and state laws, voted 9-1 to deny a $20 million sand-trapping structure (called a groin) on Goleta Beach. The groin structure would have prevented sand from reaching downcoast beaches like More Mesa causing them to narrow or disappear.

Goleta Beach 2.0 is designed to maintain and enhance Goleta Beach County Park and to protect the beach itself and downcoast beaches for our enjoyment and for future generations.

Unlike a rock seawall which the writer supports, Goleta Beach 2.0’s innovative approach will not cause Goleta Beach to narrow or wash away.

The fact is the County may face significant fines if it leaves the rocks on the beach, and doing so would cause significant harm to the beach itself, as can be seen throughout the world where seawalls are built.

The utility lines that will be moved inland out of harms way include a sewer line that is threatened and may cause a sewage spill on the beach if it is not relocated out of the “coastal erosion hazard zone.”

The writer significantly overstates the number of parking spaces that will be affected. Some if not all of these spaces can be accommodated onsite. In addition, the project includes a new bus stop, bike parking, bike paths and other amenities to ensure the park remains open and free to all beach-goers.

The Coastal Commission, which must approve any project for Goleta Beach, gave the county clear direction not to leave the rock seawall on the beach.  The County has responsibly come up with an alternative plan based on sound science and developed by a team of of coastal scientists and engineers.

The groin the writer supported would have cost $20 Million compared to a small fraction of that for the new project, which protects the beach and the park without robbing beaches of sand.

To clarify, not all rocks are being removed. Goleta Beach 2.0 is a compromise approach. All the rocks on the east end and in front of the cafe are proposed to be left. New stabilized dunes are proposed to further protect the café and the Goleta Sanitary District’s outfall line.

There are examples of successful managed retreat nearby, e.g., Ventura. Goleta Beach 2.0 is not an experiment. It is reconfiguring the park, moving infrastructure out of harms way, and adding amenities to enhance the recreational experience and protect the park and beach for people.

Goleta Beach 2.0 adds an acre of sandy beach to Goleta for people to sunbathe, read, watch the waves, picnic and build sand castles. The brilliant new plan for Goleta Beach will protect the park and beach for future generations to enjoy as we do.

The Grand Jury should not be swayed by misleading and inaccurate information.  If anything, the Grand Jury should evaluate how, if the rock seawall were left in place as the writer naively proposes, the County would become financially and legally liable for violating state laws and for causing our prized Goleta Beach to narrow and eventually disappear.

» on 03.09.13 @ 03:17 PM

One only needs to look at the photograph to see the efficacy of protecting the park with rock despite what the local EDC chapter likes to purport.  In the distance one can see rock protecting the parking lot where the car is parked just beyond the stalwart Canary Island palm that has stood there for more than 70 years.  That rock was permitted and placed in 1984 to protect the west end of the beach, and has worked very well for over 35 years.  There is no other inexpensive solution to protecting the park against the winter storms. The additional current rock placed farther down the beach has protected the the rest of the beach without any scientific evidence that this rock on this beach in this horseshoe bay configuration is inhibiting littoral movement of sand down the coast.

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