Sentiment among the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday seemed to reflect the ruffled feathers of its staff as it reviewed amendments recommended by the California Coastal Commission to the county’s Coastal Development Code for Montecito and unincorporated areas of the county.
Although the Coastal Commission staff had been reviewing the county’s amendments to its coastal code since 2007 as part of a certification process required by the California Coastal Act, county staff had only a few days to process the information before handing it off to supervisors for approval.
“I haven’t had a chance to digest this information,” First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said Tuesday, summing up comments by the other board members. “They have directed us to consider de facto new [coastal] policy that they want us to implement.”
Carbajal was referring to the commission’s 36 proposed changes to the county’s revised coastal land use code — known as the Zoning Ordinance Reformatting Project, or ZORP.
The document, already 1,000 pages, includes an additional 400 pages of revisions from the commission, which county planners said they had not anticipated. The supervisors urge the staff to direct the Coastal Commission to put the item on their meeting agenda later this year. It had been scheduled for the commission’s April 15 meeting in Ventura.
“A lot of what we did was just a reorganization of what we already had. I think [the Coastal Commission] took this opportunity to fix things in the code that they’ve been wanting to fix,” said Noel Langle, a project manager with the county’s Planning and Development Department, suggesting that the Coastal Commission’s staff had made what the county wanted to be a simplification of its coastal land use code into something much more complex.
Only a few members of the public spoke Tuesday, but everyone from Brian Trautwein, an analyst with the Environmental Defense Center, to Christopher Price, an attorney with Price, Postel & Parma, a law firm specializing in land use issues, agreed that more time is needed to review the commission’s changes before the board makes a decision on how to proceed.
There was underlying discontent in the board room Tuesday, with some people floating accusations that the Coastal Commission had overstepped its bounds in making drastic policy changes to a local coastal plan.
Andy Caldwell, executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business — a taxpayer advocate — accused the Coastal Commission of hijacking local coastal planning.
Trautwein maintained that while the changes the commission made would expand public input into coastal development, the county needs more time.
The board voted unanimously to request a continuance from the commission. Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf confirmed Tuesday afternoon that commission staff had been contacted, and the item was removed from its April 15 agenda.
Wolf said the changes most likely will be heard at the August commission hearing.
— Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.