Santa Barbara Assemblywoman Monique Limón’s bill to allow public access on the beaches of Hollister Ranch passed the state legislature this week with strong bipartisan support, and awaits the governor’s signature.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto AB 1680.
The measure requires the California Coastal Commission, in collaboration with the California State Coastal Conservancy, California Department of Parks and Recreation and State Lands Commission, to develop a Hollister Ranch coastal access program to replace the 1982 coastal access plan adopted by the California Coastal Commission more than 30 years ago.
The bill requires public access to the beach by land controlled by the Hollister Ranch Owners Association by April 1, 2022.
“Through the California Coastal Act, the general public is given the right to access California’s beaches,” Limón said in a statement to Noozhawk. “For almost 40 years that has not happened at Hollister Ranch.
“The strong bipartisan support in the state legislature and thousands of voices who have weighed in asking for a solution to an almost 40-year problem, is evidence California is ready to move forward,” she continued. “The bill does not immediately grant public access but it creates a pathway to achieve future access. This is the first step of many that will be required to achieve the goal of public access.”
According to the bill, “a private person or entity impeding, delaying or otherwise obstructing the implementation of the public access or other program requirements constitute a violation of the public access provisions of the Coastal Act.”
AB 1680 was overwhelmingly approved by the state Senate on a 30-2 vote, and the California Assembly passed it by 69-1.
Hollister Ranch is a 14,500-acre gated, residential subdivision that includes about 8.5 miles of shoreline in Santa Barbara County, with no land-based coastal access for the public. It sits on a working cattle ranch west of Gaviota State Park and includes more than 130 parcels of 100-acres or bigger.
Conflict over the public’s right to access the sandy beaches at Hollister Ranch has continued for decades.
Attorney Steve Amerikaner, who represents the Hollister Ranch Homeowners Association, referred to a Sept. 4 letter sent to Limón.
Monte Ward, president of the Hollister Ranch Board of Directors, wrote to Limón that, “despite our ongoing efforts to collaborate, we have largely been left out of the legislative process,” adding that, “There are several provisions that seem to contravene the basic underpinnings of constitutional protections for private property, fairness and due process.”
Ward said the Hollister Ranch board of directors intends to collaborate with the state to improve public access to the Hollister Ranch coast.
“We have hosted an on-site tour of the beach areas for the many agency staff members and consultants working on the plan,” the letter continues. “We have engaged in outreach to entities that are seeking public access to better understand their perspectives and goals.”
The Gaviota Coast, which Hollister Ranch sits on, is the least accessible stretch of California coastline, with less than 2 miles of publicly reachable shore in more than 60 miles of coast, according to the State Lands Commission.
AB 1680 directs agencies to replace the decades-old Hollister Ranch public access program, set deadlines and establish violations and procedures for obstructing implementation of the program, according to the bill’s summary.
Several conservation and parks organizations support the bill, stating it will provide public access to the Hollister Ranch coastline and, in general, California’s coastline should be available to everyone.