Wednesday, October 7 , 2015, 11:55 am | Fair 74º

Goleta Threatens Legal Action If County Supervisors Proceed with Goleta Beach Plan

City officials want the board, expected to select a project option on Tuesday, to first certify the environmental documents before taking any action

Goleta Beach Park has suffered major erosion over time. In some areas, there’s a dropoff of 10 to 12 feet from the grass to the beach.
Goleta Beach Park has suffered major erosion over time. In some areas, there’s a dropoff of 10 to 12 feet from the grass to the beach.  (Zack Warburg photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Goleta city leaders don’t agree with Santa Barbara County’s plans for Goleta Beach Park and haven’t been quiet about it, but now they’re threatening to take legal action if the Board of Supervisors moves forward with the project.

After years of environmental review, the supervisors are expected to pick a specific project at their meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Santa Barbara County’s most popular park has rock revetments installed to stop storms from destroying the park, but the California Coastal Commission has demanded a long-term strategy to deal with erosion instead of the rocks. The rocks were installed multiple times under emergency permits, which have expired.

The environmental impact report examines a “managed retreat” project that would remove the rocks, 107 parking spaces and relocate utility lines. Critics say the beach park will be washed away completely and want alternatives to be considered, which were also studied in the environmental documents.

Goleta leaders are partial to the second option, which would keep the rocks for 10 years and experiment with environmentally friendly protection options in the meantime.

In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, City Attorney Tim Giles said the City Council is concerned the county will send a project to the California Coastal Commission without certifying the environmental documents. That’s the process the county staff members are recommending for Tuesday.

However, the California Environmental Quality Act requires an EIR to be certified before a decision-making body (like the Board of Supervisors) takes any action toward selecting a project, Giles said.

Typically, the county Planning Commission would certify the EIR, the supervisors would make a decision on the project and then apply for a permit.

Giles urges the board to certify the environmental documents before they take any action.

“Consequently, shall the board move forward with the suggestions set forth in the staff report for this matter, the city will be forced to consider its legal options to challenge the board’s actions, including recovery of legal fees,” he wrote.

Goleta could file a writ of mandate action, asking a judge to order the county to comply with the CEQA process, Giles said.

County planning staff members say the county could be fined by the Coastal Commission if no action is taken on Tuesday to move the project forward. 

They wrote that it’s “premature and inefficient” to do a local permit process first, including EIR certification, since the Coastal Commission has the ultimate authority on approving a project. They propose going to the county Planning Commission with the permit and EIR certification after that.

Goleta wants the county to postpone any decision and get additional public input. The lack of outreach has had a “polarizing effect” on the community, Giles wrote in his letter.

“The bigger question is, why on a project of this size and a project that has so much public interest and affects so many people, wouldn’t you go through the normal process with public hearings?” he said Friday.

The City of Goleta doesn’t have an afternoon City Council session on Tuesday afternoon, so Giles and many of the council members are expected to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m., but the Goleta Beach 2.0 project will be heard at 1:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St.

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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