The California Coastal Commission approved the conditional permit to keep the Goleta Beach Park rock revetment in place by unanimous vote Wednesday.
After years of back-and-forth regarding Goleta Beach Park’s future, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors submitted an application asking to keep the 1,200-foot rock revetment along the beach, which was installed over the years to protect park facilities and utilities from erosion, particularly during winter storms.
The 20-year conditional permit includes an ongoing maintenance plan to keep the rocks covered with sand and monitoring system so potential environmental impacts can be re-evaluated over time, according to the staff report.
There is a midterm assessment after 10 years, and the conditions include certain triggers that can require the county to re-evaluate alternatives to the rock revetment and get a new coastal development permit.
There is broad local support for keeping the revetment to protect the facilities at Santa Barbara County’s most popular park, and groups came out in force to ask the Coastal Commission for approval at Wednesday’s meeting.
Coastal Commissioner Jana Zimmer commended the community for finding consensus, saying the dispute has narrowed over time. She put forward the motion to approve the permit application, which was unanimously approved by the commission.
Assistant County Executive Officer Renee Bahl and Second District County Supervisor Janet Wolf spoke for Santa Barbara County, encouraging the commission to approve the conditional permit. Wolf called it “the peoples’ beach,” used by residents all over the county.
The unanimous permit approval “feels fantastic,” she said after the vote.
The county still has work to do, meeting the conditions and managing the project, but can move forward with its plans to replace the bridge and other park facilities without this hanging over its head, she added.
“We have a permit!” she said. “We did it!”
The Environmental Defense Center and Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation have been longtime, vocal opponents of the plan to keep the revetment in place, but representatives narrowed their concerns to the westernmost end of the rock structure that was placed in the 1980s.
Brian Trautwein of the EDC said that 100 to 200 feet of rock structure is more frequently uncovered than the rest and it has caused environmental damage to sand supply and sensitive beach habitats.
The EDC submitted letters to the Coastal Commission last week about these concerns, and on Tuesday, the commission staff added an addendum to its recommendation that included more specifics about how and when sand should be added to the rock revetment to keep it buried.
Coastal Commission staff members said it’s clear the rock revetment is placed toward the back of the beach and the majority — about 90 percent — has remained buried, except during large wave and storm events. Retaining the rocks in place should have no significant impact on sand supply and other coastal processes in the near term, commission staff said.
The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, which created the Friends of Goleta Beach committee and funded community outreach on the project, spoke in support of the permit.
Goleta Beach Park is a “treasured asset” and the chamber has been advocating for protecting park amenities for more than 10 years, President/CEO Kristen Miller said. The rock revetment is the “last line of defense when waves threaten to erode the park, amenities and shoreline,” she said.
The commission received letters of support for the permit from Santa Barbara County, UCSB, the City of Goleta, the Goleta Water District, the Southern California Gas Company, Santa Barbara City Council members, the Santa Barbara Parks Commission, the Sierra Club and the Santa Barbara Trails Council. The EDC, Surfrider Foundation and Santa Barbara Audubon Society opposed the permit, citing concerns about the rock revetment’s environmental impacts.
Michael Rattray and Ed de la Torre, members of the Friends of Goleta Beach and longtime advocates of protecting the beach from erosion, still have concerns about meeting all of the conditions but look forward to working with the county.
The conditions are “onerous,” Rattray said. “There are poison pills in there that make it a lot harder than you think.”
— Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.