Pixel Tracker

Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 10:55 pm | Fair 49º


Jay Higgins and Eva Turenchalk: Stop the Coastal Commission Planning Grab

State agency sidestepping public process to propose major regulatory changes affecting Santa Barbara County business, agriculture, property owners ... and even nonprofits

Do you own property in the coastal zone? Do you run a business or farm? Do you care about schools, day-care centers or local nonprofit organizations? Are you concerned about the viability of small farmers, ranchers and local food options in our community?

Jay Higgins
Jay Higgins

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need to be aware of the potential for dozens of major regulatory changes to Santa Barbara County policy. If adopted, these changes will require a hearing for just about any permit in the coastal zone and outright prohibit several currently allowed uses on coastal property.

These changes did not come from the county’s own planners or elected officials; instead, they were initiated by state Coastal Commission staff in response to a reformatting of the county’s zoning codes, with no environmental review and no real effort to involve or even inform the people who will be affected by this increased regulation.

Fortunately, you have a chance to make yourself heard. The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on July 6 to decide how it will respond to the Coastal Commission’s proposal.

Eva Turenchalk
Eva Turenchalk

The following are just a few of the proposed zoning code modifications the county will consider next week:

» A significant reduction of “permitted uses” on each property. The current zoning code lists all permitted uses for each zone district. The proposed changes would designate just one “principally permitted use” and all other uses (for example, a guest house on agricultural property or the keeping of a horse on residential property) would require a higher level permit with a public hearing, and a lengthy and expensive review process. This will have a major impact on many currently allowed uses in all zone districts, particularly on residential and agriculturally zoned properties.

» A wholesale prohibition of important public uses from a number of zones, such as nonprofit and charitable organizations, day-care services, schools, churches, libraries and museums.

» Prohibiting new private stairways to the beach and forbidding repair and maintenance on existing stairways. For decades, the current zoning code has allowed private property owners to build and maintain beach stairways. Now anyone who has a private stairway must either open it to the public or stop maintaining it, and no new private stairways will be allowed. This is not only a property rights issue; it raises serious concerns for public safety as private stairs are often used by emergency personnel for rescue operations.

» A burdensome requirement that any intensification of agricultural use require a permit. With no definition of “intensification,” it is unclear just how far-reaching this will be. But in a social environment in which we are trying to encourage sustainable food systems and local food production, we should be moving toward streamlining the permit process and incentivizing local agriculture, not adding more regulations.

» Voluntary habitat restoration projects will now require an appealable coastal development permit with a hearing because they are not designated as a principally permitted use in any zone district. This is directly counter to efforts currently under way in our county to facilitate and incentivize voluntary restoration projects.

As you can see, these changes do much more than simply increase public input. The modifications eliminate the ability to even apply for certain uses in several zone districts. Additionally, the increase in time and cost associated with the heightened review process has the potential for a significant chilling effect on habitat restoration and local food production in Santa Barbara County.

There is another issue of concern here: These wide-ranging regulatory changes are based on new interpretations of the Coastal Act, without the benefit of environmental review or an adequate public process. The Coastal Commission has not solicited any input from local residents in making these recommendations, nor has it held any public meetings or workshops on the matter.

If you’re concerned about this underhanded maneuver by the Coastal Commission to increase its power over local land-use decisions and further restrict property rights, attend the Board of Supervisors’ hearing on July 6. Give the supervisors the support they need to stand up to Coastal Commission staff and say “Enough is enough!” If the Coastal Commission wants to change land-use policy in Santa Barbra County, it should do so in an open and transparent process that includes full review of the impacts of its proposals, as well as public input through an iterative process — just like any other land-use agency in California.

— Jay Higgins AICP and Eva Turenchalk AICP are past presidents of the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, Central Coast Section.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >