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Local News

Community Takes First Pass at a Gaviota Coastal Plan

Workshop identifies initial areas of concern, interest as stakeholders begin blueprint process

It’s the stretch of majestic, rolling landscape you encounter as you leave Goleta’s western edge and travel north. With its abundance of open space and coastal grassland, it all makes up Gaviota, about 100,000 acres of land that stretches between the Pacific on the south, follows the watershed along the Santa Ynez Mountains to the north, Vandenberg Air Force Base to the west and the Goleta Valley on the east.

This expansive area was the subject of the Gaviota Coastal Plan Workshop that was held Thursday night in an effort by Santa Barbara County planners to gauge what residents feel is important.

Many localities in the county are in the midst of updating their community plans. Gaviota lacks such a blueprint, however, and falls under the jurisdiction of the county’s General Plan, which was last updated in 1980. Now, the county is soliciting applications for the Gaviota Coast Planning Advisory Committee, which will provide community input and bring it before the Board of Supervisors for consideration as it updates the county-wide plan.

“You don’t have to live in this county very long before you know how rich this area is,” said 3rd District Supervisor Dorreen Farr, whose district includes Gaviota. “Now we have this wonderful opportunity for our residents to craft a local vision of what we want.”

Large, colorful maps were placed on easels throughout the packed Goleta Union School District board room, and participants rotated from different areas to express their ideas. Planner Justin Feek stood by a large map of Gaviota and offered passers-by red and green stickers to place on the map, signaling areas of concerns and interest.

Gaviota coast workshop participants packed the Goleta Union School District board room Thursday to provide input on the area's future.
Gaviota coast workshop participants packed the Goleta Union School District board room Thursday to provide input on the area’s future. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Several circles and areas of concern were placed on Naples, the 800-acre tract that has been at the center of a development standoff for several years.

“Most people don’t want to see more of that in the future,” Feek said.

Tajiguas Landfill, which is located incongruously in Gaviota, was also an area of concern mentioned to Feek on Thursday.

“It’s been expanded before and people don’t want to see it expanded again,” he said. “They’d like to see it in some other area of the county, instead of the Gaviota coast.”

The facility will be shut down in the next decade or so when the landfill reaches capacity.

“The whole purpose of the GavPAC is to figure out what the community wants to do on the Gaviota coast,” Feek said. “Do they want to see it preserved? Do they want to see more recreation?

County planner Allen Bell talks open space and agriculture with Santa Barbara resident Joanne McGarry.
County planner Allen Bell talks open space and agriculture with Santa Barbara resident Joanne McGarry. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

“It doesn’t happen overnight, but through all of our hearings, we try to come up with a plan that most people can live with,” he said.

“There’s never been a plan for Gaviota,” he added. “Without the community’s input, we can’t do anything.”

Rick Sawyer has lived in Gaviota since 1971, on the sprawling 14,400-acre Hollister Ranch. Not much has changed in the four decades he’s lived there, except for the occasional fence and a few more homes, he said.

“Right now you have a fairly consistent natural area, even though you have railroad, highway and state parks,” he said But having it potentially dotted with lots of homes is a concern for many residents, he said. Other concerns comes from rules and regulations that may stem from having a community plan that could prohibit property ownership.

“This is the time to look at this,” he said.

Joanne McGarry, a Santa Barbara resident who grew up in Los Angeles, said she’d like to see open space and agriculture emphasized going forward.

“I lean toward wanting to preserve this patch of coastal lands in a more open way,” she said. “We really need to step back and look at the big picture, and design our projects big and small to do less harm.”

People who couldn’t attend the workshop can still apply for a position on the GavPAC until Aug. 21. The county is accepting applications from Gaviota residents, business and property owners, and other stakeholders. Click here to download an application or pick one up at the Board of Supervisors Office, County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St., Room 407.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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