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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Public Workshop for the More Mesa Biological Resource Study for 265 Acres Along Santa Barbara's Gaviota Coast

WHAT: Planning and Development Department has begun preparation for a biological resource study of More Mesa, an approximately 265-acre property located along the Pacific Ocean in Goleta in between the community of Hope Ranch to the east and the residences along Orchid Drive to the west. Planning and Development invites you to comment on our preliminary assessment of the biological issues to be evaluated as they proceed with the biological resource study. The workshop discussion will be limited to biological concerns and the focus of the study.

WHEN: January 10, 2008, 6:00 PM

WHERE: Planning Commission Hearing Room, 123 East Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara


The proposed Scope of Work is available upon request or at www.sbcountyplanning.org . Written comments on the scope of work may also be submitted no later than January 16th to: Planning & Development Department, c/o Alex Tuttle, 123 E. Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara

Background:
More Mesa is one of the most outstanding scenic and environmentally sensitive pieces of undeveloped open space remaining on the Coast of Southern California. Its open grasslands provide both valuable habitat and miles of informal trails. With sweeping views of the Santa Ynez Mountains and the coast, More Mesa is fronted by one of the largest and most pristine white sand beaches on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast. This 300-acre coastal bluff mesa is located in the Goleta Valley, just west of Hope Ranch and about two miles east of Goleta Beach Park and UCSB. Incredibly, given its very desirable location, surrounding growth and past building proposals, this unique site remains undeveloped. Sadly, this jewel of our coast could be lost to potential development. The More Mesa Preservation Coalition is working to protect this irreplaceable part of the South Coast.

The landowner is trying to sell the property to a developer. The asking price may exceed $100 million. But development potential is limited by the presence of rare habitats including wetlands and protected species such as the white-tailed kite – a bird of prey. County policies and state laws require the preservation of “environmentally sensitive habitat areas” (ESHA) including much of More Mesa. However, the landowner is seeking to re-evaluate the biological resources of the site and probably hopes to reduce the area of mapped ESHA to entice would-be developers into buying the land.

The biological resources re-evaluation will be a public process. The County is scheduling a public hearing to hear the community’s input regarding the ecological values of the land.


http://www.environmentaldefensecenter.org/
906 Garden St * Santa Barbara * CA * 93101
(805) 963-1622

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Additional information from the
More Mesa Preservation Coalition
http://moremesa.org/


the Development Threat:

More Mesa faces a substantial threat of development that could seriously harm existing ecological, scenic and recreation values. County Plans, adopted in 1993, currently restrict building to 70 large homes on the main Mesa’s northeast 40 acres. The remaining 260 acres is designated as environmentally sensitive habitat (ESH), inhibiting development of these areas. However, even development of 70 new large homes on 40 acres could harm the white tailed kite’s main winter roosting site, disrupt the major public coastal access trail, forever scar the Mesa’s current scenic vistas and harm the fragile beach through increased visitation. Although no development is currently pending, the owner of 265 acres of the Mesa strongly opposes protection of the extensive habitat on-site and has expressed interest in erecting many more homes than are currently permitted. A hotel and golf course have even been suggested in the past. Such a development would create even more extensive environmental disruption.

Yet more worrisome, the same owner has pending litigation against the County for rezoning More Mesa. Should this litigation prevail, up to 300 homes could be constructed. A development of this magnitude would likely destroy many of More Mesa’s resources. Although the Courts have thus far supported the County on procedural grounds, the threat of renewed litigation is cause for grave concern.

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