Hollister Ranch Settlement

Public Access Settlement at Hollister Ranch

For decades, the public has been frustrated with the lack of public access to the coast at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

On Friday, July 13 there is an informational item on the proposed Hollister Ranch settlement agreement. The staff report, exhibits, and extensive correspondence are posted on the Commission web site.

At the previous Coastal Commission hearing on Wednesday, June 6, Executive Director Jack Ainsworth presented information about a recent legal settlement with Hollister Ranch HOA. The settlement attempts to resolve a public access dispute at the development in Western Santa Barbara County. The report on the Hollister Ranch settlement was part of the Executive Director’s report – item 6.a on Wednesday, June 6. Video here. The 16-minute Hollister Ranch presentation starts at about minute 29 of the video. Public comment starts at 45:45 with Susan Jordan’s presentation and goes for about 18 minutes, followed by some additional comments from Jack Ainsworth and about 10 minutes of commissioner discussion. About 45 minutes total.

There is a lot of information, including the legal documents, on the Commission web site. Additional information on the court’s review of the proposed class action settlement agreement is available on the court-approved notice. If you have any comment on the settlement you would like to share with the Coastal Commission please email Hollister@coastal.ca.gov. Comments emailed to the Commission will be public records so please do not include information that you wish to remain private.

Here is a good article that might give you some ideas: Last Chance to Protest Cozy Hollister Deal.

One interesting item that is NOT on the Commission web site is a public access plan that was prepared by the Commission staff in 1981. It includes an overview of the situation that is still relevant today.

A Short Summary of a Long Story

The Hollister Ranch HOA, representing a property owner who purchased a property that was previously owned by the YMCA, filed suit against the Coastal Commission to dispute a vertical access easement that was put on the property in the mid-1980s. The original easement required the YMCA to construct a stairway down to the beach and to run a shuttle service from a parking lot for day-use visitors to access the blufftop property

The judge ruled that the offer-to-dedicate vertical easement is, in fact, irrevocable. The parties engaged in settlement discussions, which resulted in an agreement that includes a license for public access to a stretch of beach known as Curate Canyon Beach. The public, however, can only access by way of the ocean – small watercraft, surfboard, paddleboard, etc.. The closest location to launch a watercraft is two miles away. The settlement also includes a “managed” access program on 44 occasions where disabled persons or underserved youth participating in programs can reach the beach with a chaperone.

For decades, the public has been frustrated with the lack of public access to the coast at Hollister Ranch and this settlement agreement does little to address those concerns. Concerns with the settlement include:

  • Lack of public input or notification of the settlement
  • Inconsistency and insufficiency of the settlement compared to the original easement
  • Lack of access from land for the general public
  • Reliance on public funds for the proposed youth access program
  • Potential precedent for accepting “chaperoned” access as acceptable under the Coastal Act to fulfill access requirements.
  • The apparent inability to construct the California coastal trail along this portion of the coastline

Susan Jordan with the California Coastal Protection Network, along with representatives from the Sierra Club and Banning Ranch Conservancy expressed their concerns to the Commission. Ultimately, the Commission agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter at the July meeting. Jordan lamented that it would have better for the Commission to, “go down fighting as opposed to giving up this way.”

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