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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 3:01 am | Fair 54º


City Leaders Express Skepticism Over Proposed Goleta Beach 2.0 Plan

Project alternatives are the focus of an Issue and Policy Roundtable event hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce

If the proposed Goleta Beach project goes forward, there would not be much of a beach park left, according to Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett.

He and city planning manager Anne Wells spoke at Wednesday’s Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce event. This month’s Issue and Policy Roundtable focused on the Goleta Beach 2.0 “managed retreat” project, which proposes to remove rock revetments and parking lots on the western end of the park and relocate underground utility lines. That plan would result in the loss of two parking lots and a lot of the shoreline lawn area from erosion over time.

The City of Goleta and community members, including a group called Friends of Goleta Beach, are advocating for another approach.

Santa Barbara County’s Goleta Beach Park sees 1.5 million visitors a year and has parking spaces, lawn picnic areas, beach and the Beachside Bar-Café.

It's the most heavily used county park, and Bennett said South Coast residents want both the beach and park areas to be saved. 

“They say it’s the only place on the coast where they can take their young families and feel safe and secure, and being able to watch the older kids go out in the water and be with the younger ones up on the grass,” he said. “I think that’s pretty compelling.”

Wells said the lawn area of the beach park wouldn’t be protected under the proposed project.

Some of the rock revetments have been at the park since the 1960s, while others were placed throughout the shoreline with emergency permits to protect the park from major storms, Bennett said.

The Goleta City Council voted to support the second alternative, which would keep the rocks in place to protect the park for 10 years while experimenting to find a long-term solution.

Bennett called it “the best of both worlds.”

Goleta Councilman Roger Aceves, who has spoken publicly against the proposed project, said the community still hasn’t had an opportunity to get answers to its many questions. 

Environmental impact report documents include five project alternatives, and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is expected to pick a project at next Tuesday's meeting to present to the California Coastal Commission.

Wells said she is concerned about the process being taken out of order. Typically a planning project like Goleta Beach 2.0 is taken to the county Planning Commission for vetting and certifying environmental documents, then taken to the California Coastal Commission.

This time, county staff is reversing the process and wants the Board of Supervisors to pick a project next week for its application to the Coastal Commission.

The proposed final EIR didn’t change much from the draft form, but the firm did respond to 200 written comments, Wells noted.

Ed de la Torre, a member of the Friends of Goleta Beach group, has been involved in this issue for more than 12 years. His group has advocated protecting the park with Canary date palms, like the ones used at Refugio State Beach.

“My mantra today is protection, protection, protection,” he said.

The proposed project is estimated to cost $4.6 million, and some of the alternatives could cost more, according to county numbers.

The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce invited county representatives to speak at Wednesday's meeting, but they declined. However, representatives from Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino’s office and Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr came to listen to the presentation.

Lavagnino’s chief of staff, Cory Bantilan, said the Goleta Beach project will be heard at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The staff report won’t include a recommendation but will ask the supervisors to make some decision about which project to pursue, he said.

The Board of Supervisors meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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