Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 2:17 am | Fair 57º


Michael Rattray: ‘Goleta Beach 2.0’ a Slippery Slope

A decision by the California Coastal Commission threatens the future of the treasured park

I attended the first informal public hearing held last Tuesday by Santa Barbara County officials for what’s now called the “Goleta Beach 2.0” concept planning process.

This has come about because the California Coastal Commission denied our locally supported plan to save Goleta Beach in July 2009. The interesting news is that there was consensus from the Goleta Beach working group, County Parks, professional engineering consultants hired by the county, the county Board of Supervisors and recommended support from the Goleta City Council.

The agreement was that the path of least resistance to save Goleta Beach from further erosion was to install a permeable pier addition, a groin installed on the east side of the existing Goleta pier to serve as a natural barrier, slowing the movement of sand down the coastline and allowing the gradual buildup of protective sand at the park.

Even though the Coastal Commission review was 18 months, low and behold the commission’s staff actually recommended approval of the permeable pier addition. But without any warning, the commission voted down this universally acceptable solution 9-1. This is yet another example of a state entity overruling the will of the people, disregarding local experts and ignoring the recommendation of local governments.

And this is where we find ourselves today: The Coastal Commission wants to hold our park hostage to a concept called “managed retreat.” The funny thing is, now the county decision-makers have decided that this trumps any consideration of our agreed-on solution and has acquiesced by punting the ball on second down.

Years of study, hundreds of hours of volunteer and staff time, and lots of taxpayer money to find a common solution that could go forward is now considered dead and buried because some of our elected officials don’t want to stand up for our community sense of ownership for one of our best local treasures.

So let’s get a peak under the tent and explore what “managed retreat” might look like. It would essentially let the western edge of the park and 170 parking spaces (about 48,000 square feet) give way to the sea and a new artery for the Goleta Slough to enter the sea. The county’s new offer is to move the lost parking spots to the other side of Highway 217 (only if demand requires replacement), dig up and move a lot of utilities, and relocate the bike path. What we’ll have is a lot of slough water that is uninhabitable just as it meanders on the east side of the park today (most of us cringe when we see little kids playing in this water).

Then at the point the sea takes back the land we have invested decades in building and preserving for up to 1 million visitors a year, Goleta Beach will be reduced to an island that potentially will shrink every year because that is what our state Coastal Commission, and now our county government wants — “managed retreat.”

This experiment at our expense is absolutely ridiculous. There are thousands of beachfront parks, man-made harbors and private coastal properties that have been shored up with a lot more man-made investment so citizens can enjoy the amenities of being on the coastline. To have our local public servants ignore the wishes of the good citizens who really do want to preserve Goleta Beach for generations to come is just plain wrong.

If there ever was a time to voice your opinion about a local issue, this is it. Once we go down this slippery slope, there is little chance of turning back. Our legacy should be one of saving our treasured park for future generations of families to enjoy the same peace and harmony we have enjoyed for decades.

The ocean and our coastline can live in harmony in the other 99 percent of our county. Goleta Beach needs a helping hand.

— Michael Rattray is a longtime resident of the Goleta Valley and a member of the Goleta Beach Park Coalition.

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