California Coastal Commission tours Gaviota coast

Beth Farnsworth, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Anchor/Reporter, beth.farnsworth@keyt.com
POSTED: 12:25 PM PDT Apr 15, 2013    UPDATED: 07:46 PM PDT Apr 11, 2013 
GAVIOTA, Calif. -

The California Coastal Commission spent the second of a three-day visit to Santa Barbara County touring the Gaviota coastline.

The 15-member group -- with city officials and locals in tow -- toured a half-dozen sites Thursday morning from Coal Oil Point off the campus of U-C Santa Barbara, north to Gaviota State Park.

The group saw a rendering for a proposed, two-home development on the bluffs along the pristine Paradiso del Mare site.

Dr. Charles Lester, the commission's executive director, said the 100-plus acres are zoned for agriculture, but there are two legal lots proposed for residential development.

The proposed plans are pending with Santa Barbara County, and according to Lester, are moving forward.

"Whenever you have something precious you have a lot of people interested in it, issues that need to be balanced; public access, habitat protection and development," Lester said.

The dozens of people who took part in the public tour could not have asked for better weather.

Wildflowers lined the coastline, south to Barcara Resort, where Steve Hudson, the commission's district manager, pointed out that a large portion of the 73-acre site contains eight separate, significant Native American archeological areas.

The commission moved forward with a proposed Consent Cease and Desist Order Thursday afternoon at the scheduled commission hearing against the current and previous owners of Bacara (BRS Investment Properties and SB Luxury Resort LLC) to stop using an un-permitted bluff overlooking Haskell's Beach for outdoor weddings.

The commission found that the previous owner (SB Luxury Resort LLC) had modified a restricted area of the property labeled "double protected" under the original permit, because of its significant Native American archeology and endangered habitat.

One woman, who wished to remain unnamed, said trees were taken out on the bluff top, and paths widened to make room for wedding ceremonies.

A spokeswoman for Bacara refused to go on camera, but said BRS Investment wants to "right a wrong."

"They'll pay a fine," said Lisa Haage, the commission's Chief of Enforcement. "But more importantly, they've agreed to provide for Native American access up there and to restore access to the trails. That's more important to us than the fine itself."

Lester said a 150-room hotel is also in the works for the shores along Grover Beach.