Pixel Tracker

Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 4:33 pm | Fair 61º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Supervisors Rule Against Chumash in Los Olivos Land-Use Dispute

Los Olivos family can redraw lot lines without first undertaking thorough archaeological study as tribe had sought.


The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has denied an appeal by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which objected to a Los Olivos family’s plan to redraw lot lines without first undertaking a thorough archaeological study for ancient artifacts believed buried on the property.

The 5-0 decision in favor of the family came after a discussion on the appeal’s specifics took a rather tense detour into the historical factors that led to the creation of Indian reservations in the first place.

Tuesday’s vote upholds an earlier approval by the county Planning Commission, and means veterinarian Douglas Herthel and his family will be able to redraw the boundary lines on 16 acres of their farmland property near the 2500 block of Grand Avenue, possibly in preparation to sell some of it.

But if people choose to purchase and develop some of the lots — which used to be part of the historic Montanaro Farm — they still must hire an archaeologist to do a dig, officials said.

The tribe, which owns the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez but does not currently own any of the Los Olivos land in question, argued that the county’s own initial study turned up what they believe to be an ancient tool near a creek on the property. As a result, the tribe believed the county should have followed up with a more detailed study before allowing the lot line adjustments.

Their claim that the land contained artifacts was bolstered by the testimony of archaeologist Larry Spanne, the retired chief of cultural resources at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“It’s very probable that there are buried deposits on that property,” he said. “This project is located along trail corridors that connected several villages.”

Spanne added that he believes people started using the trails as early as 10,000 years ago.

The Herthel family’s representatives argued that redrawing the lot lines is simply a “paper and pencil” procedure that needn’t involve detailed archaeological analysis.

The family’s attorney, Barry Cappello, further argued that the tribe is not an “aggrieved” party, because it is not a neighbor of the property. (Santa Ynez is about seven miles away from Los Olivos.)

He added that the Chumash is a “sovereign nation,” and as such, its members are “not citizens of the county.”

“They have no right to take the position they’ve taken,” he said.

Cappello said it appeared to him as though the tribe was taking a jab at a political enemy.

“I hate to say it, but let’s call it what it is,” he said. “The Chumash and the Herthels are politically on different sides of the issue of whether there should be more developing or gaming for the valley.

“This is simply a way for one political enemy to get at another political enemy.”

Cappello’s comments drew fire from tribal representative Freddie Romero, who said he feels like a citizen of Santa Barbara County, because he and other members of the tribe must live with the decisions concerning areas near the reservation.

“This has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “I’m here to express my concern over the possibility of losing cultural material that is very, very meaningful to me, as well as my elders.”

At one point, 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who represents the area in question, interrupted Romero to ask him if he found it “fair and equitable” that the Chumash should get involved with projects located on land outside their reservation, when the county cannot have any say on developments that occur within the reservation.

Romero answered: “(The reservation) was created by your government. … It wasn’t our choice to be put on those reservations.

“As a people we lost a lot of our culture and identity,” he added.

When Cappello returned to the podium to deliver his closing arguments, he addressed Romero’s objections.

“I’ve got to say this. White man in this country owes an apology to the Indians in what we did to them, absolutely no question about it,” said Cappello, adding that cavalry troops wiped out bison and were alleged to have given Indians blankets covered in smallpox. (The latter offense is widely believed to be a myth.)

“The Indian nation known as the Chumash today suffers from the same arrogance that (the white man’s) ancestors did. … It’s that arrogance and that lack of credibility that I question here today.”

Ultimately, the board agreed with Cappello’s client, the Herthels.

Fifth District Supervisor Joe Centeno said the family isn’t trying to do anything more than draw “some imaginary lines.”

“It just seems to me by moving lines over we’re not creating any hazards,” he said. “That is created once the permits are issued. At that point in time there has to be some severe studies done.”

The 16 acres in question are separated into two halves by a chunk of land between them that is owned by the same family but not in need of lot-line adjustments. As a result, Tuesday’s discussion on the matter took the form of two separate appeals on the same topic — one for each segment of land.

Because the seven lots in question were drawn up in the 1800s, some of the boundaries bisect existing buildings. Also, some of the lots are landlocked, meaning if they were purchased in their current form by a developer, the developer would need to get permission from owners of the surrounding lots to put a road through their properties. Redrawing the lot lines will eliminate this possibility, officials said.


Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

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 >