For the last four years, our South Coast representatives on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors have pushed — and in some cases, declared — that there is no place for any rock protection of Goleta Beach Park or the parking lots on its west side.
Activists in a radical environmental movement found a soft target here on the South Coast and pushed their agenda onto our elected officials. If victorious, they would have established statewide credibility and certainly would have been contagious for their cause of “managed retreat” along the California coastline.
Until recently, they appeared unstoppable. But on March 18, with a 5-0 vote, the decision makers gave the good citizens of our county a gift. The unanimous vote assured us all that they now have our backs and will defend and protect the legacy of this wonderful park and beach — as well as be held accountable if they don’t.
What changed this course will be debated behind closed doors and around water coolers for some time, but for Friends of Goleta Beach Park, we want the good citizens of our county to know that it’s the end product that trumps any political triggers that may have influenced the final outcome. Although we should be proud and most satisfied that common sense won here, the battle has just begun. The challenge now is getting the California Coastal Commission to issue the permits.
The arguments that county staff will draft for the justification will come from the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). The report documents the importance of any coastal community in placing any armoring above the highest tides so as to not interact with the seasonal tides and only be a buffer for severe winter storms for protection of landward assets. Unlike many rock revetments and sea walls throughout the county, Goleta Beach Park meets that burden of proof.
Another argument defended vigorously by those who favored removing all rocks, was that sea-level rise is coming and when that day arrives, that the scouring of this beach will occur … so therefore all revetments are bad. Again, the supervisors did not buy this rationale as the FEIR finding documented that any sea-level rise wouldn't be significant until after 2050.
So putting the Goleta Beach Park coastal zone into perspective, it’s now better understood that this beach continues to fluctuate, up-coast sand continues to migrate south every year, and in those years when major storms hit the coastline, sand is going to be deposited back into the sea. This negates the constant erosion theory.
There were six options on the table for the decision makers, and although the option 5 alternative that was approved may be most difficult for California’s unelected commissioners to approve, Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf knew this when she made the motion to approve. The action certainly gives her cover even though it is the correct path.
Now county staff, the City of Goleta and Friends of Goleta Beach Park et al., get to reargue the same to both the Coastal Commission officials and staff. Although this will be difficult, we need to be equal to the challenge. Our citizens need to be aware that the Coastal Commission staff sent a letter to the county in August 2014 that said “Grass parks are an amenity that can readily be provided for at any number of inland locations in the vicinity of Goleta Beach.” The commission’s arrogance is overwhelming and has the unmistakable whiff of a condescending attitude that Sacramento knows better what’s in the best interest of Santa Barbara County when it comes to recreational interest. We have 1.5 million visitors/year at this recreational park and I hope you are as insulted as I am by such bureaucratic insensitivity to local needs.
The reality is that the grassy portion of our park has already lost acres of enjoyment because of a lack of total protection against recent winter storms and poor landscape maintenance of weeds. But, for now, it’s time to bask in our success and go enjoy the amenities of our Goleta Beach Park for another day and relax in the good lands.
— Michael Rattray represents Friends of Goleta Beach Park.