Nearly three weeks after eight people were arrested at a protest, the swath of land above Santa Barbara that is at the center of a dispute over development might get sold to preservationists. 

After reaching an agreement with the developer, The Chadmar Group, an organization called Foothills Forever is looking to raise money to buy the land in the San Marcos foothills.

The group hopes to raise $20 million to cover the cost of acquisition, the campaign, and an endowment for maintenance and management of the property. 

“As of March 10, 2021, the community has donated or pledged a collective total of $1,707,680 from 955 individuals, families and businesses in the Santa Barbara area,” the group said in a news release. “We have until June 2, 2021, to raise the remaining funds to protect it forever.”

The group said its vision is to permanently protect and preserve the 101-acre property, and add it to the 200-acre San Marcos Foothills Preserve.

The agreement stipulates that if the group cannot raise the money, construction can proceed on the site. 

Channel Islands Restoration, Inc. and other conservation partners in Santa Barbara have the goal of protecting the nature preserve forever.

“We envision managing the property in concert with the existing preserve, inviting people to walk and hike on the trails, sit on a boulder or under a tree, and enjoy the breathtaking ocean, island, and mountain views, and engage in reflection,” the news release states. “We will include members of the Chumash community in the planning, stewardship, and uses of the land.

“We intend to restore the native grassland using sheep grazing for a few months each year, and to remove invasive non-native weeds as needed.”

The Chadmar Group already has approval to build the final eight homes in a 20-unit project on the San Marcos Land Preserve. 

The area is considered sacred to the Chumash tribe, and environmentalists have formed the group Save the San Marcos Foothills and want to buy the land and spare it from development.

The San Marcos Foothills project has been the source of ongoing litigation and legal challenges.

A group of about 40 demonstrators stood at the gate to the development, on public property, on Feb. 25, to stop the construction crews from accessing the site. 

The developers said they preserved 89% of the land, but as a compromise, obtained approval to build 20 homes. About 12 of them have already been constructed.

The Foothills Forever Fund is a fiscal sponsorship fund at the Santa Barbara Foundation, and is collecting tax-deductible donations from the community. 

To make a contribution to the Foothills Forever Fund, make checks payable to: “Santa Barbara Foundation,” with “Foothills Forever Fund” in the memo line, and mail to: Santa Barbara Foundation, 1111 Chapala St #200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

You can also donate on-line at

To donate gifts of stock or other assets, contact

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.