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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 9:28 pm | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Hollister Ranch Statement Reacts to Last-Minute Legislative Impacts on Court Settlement.

On Wednesday, Aug. 29, Hollister Ranch representatives expressed strong objections to proposed legislation that would affect the ranch.

The legislation is AB 2534, proposed by Assembly Member Monique Limon and co-sponsored by State Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson.

The objection was expressed at a hearing before the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on which Jackson sits.

Hollister Ranch’s letter to the committee objected to the bill’s language, which includes amendments to the Coastal Act that are currently being litigated in Santa Barbara Superior Court.

The litigation was brought in 2013 by Hollister Ranch against two state agencies that have claimed to own a public-access easement on the ranch; the ranch asserts that the easement does not legally exist.

The litigation has been settled by agreement between the ranch and the state allowing for limited and managed public access to the ranch. However, that settlement is being challenged by a group of trail advocates, the Gaviota Coast Trail Alliance.

The trail advocates successfully sought to intervene in the case in order to challenge the settlement.

Hollister Ranch’s letter to the committee noted that the legislation surfaced quietly just six days before the end of the current legislative session, with no prior notification to Hollister Ranch.

According to Hollister Ranch, the bill is being “rushed” through the legislative process at the behest of the Trail Alliance, who hope to use the new legislation to support their claims in court.

“What’s the rush?” asked Steven Amerikaner, counsel for Hollister Ranch. “The purpose for this last-minute legislation is clear — we believe the trail advocates intend to use this change in the law to argue for the settlement to be overturned.”

At the committee hearing, various senators asked proponents of the legislation about the last-minute rush. The answers appeared to sidestep the question.

At the end of the hearing, the new legislation was sent to the Senate floor on a 7-2 vote.

Chairman Hertzberg along with Sens. Allen, Jackson and Stern stated that their support for the bill was predicated on assurances that it would not be used to interfere with the settlement of the litigation.

“We are grateful for these clarifications from the senators,” said Amerikaner, “but if the bill is enacted, we remain deeply concerned about its potential effects on the litigation.”

In a letter to the committee, the Hollister Ranch also expressed concerns about its references to a coastal access plan adopted by the Coastal Commission 36 years ago and largely ignored since then.

The ranch’s biological experts believe this obsolete plan, if implemented today, would destroy environmentally sensitive coastal habitat and resources to construct parking lots, bathroom facilities, campgrounds and camp host residences.

It would also dramatically increase human impact on a stretch of coastline that has always had limited human use, which could have irreparable effects on wildlife, habitat and cultural resources.

“If this plan were being developed today, it would need to take into account these factors and have a much lower impact on sensitive resources. We don’t believe it is environmentally sound or economically feasible,” said Monte Ward, president of the Hollister Ranch Homeowners Association.

— Jim Youngson for Hollister Ranch.

 

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