As many have read and heard our Gaviota Coast had a “town” called Naples, named after its Italian counterpart. Well sort of. In 1888 an East Coast businessman bought 500 acres of very cheap farmland from the owner of the Dos Pueblos Ranch. His plan was to divide the land into lots of several acres or less and call it a "town". He would then await the completion of the Southern Pacific coastal train route, sell the lots, and likely flee with the money. His scheme faded when the railroad was delayed and he passed away.
Lots in the Naples Township grew in legal stature when they were recorded with the newly formed Santa Barbara County. The County had long maintained that none of these lots could be developed unless they were "merged" into single lots meeting the modern 100-acre minimum zoning requirement. The owners of Naples disagreed. After numerous court decisions, the California Supreme Court ruled against the County's merger ordinance, although the court did not rule on the question of whether or what type of development could occur.
The developer and new owner of Naples, Vintage Communities of Orange County, has proposed to build up to 54 homes on the property. Now that sounds better than the 400+ lots that the previous owner claimed possessed development rights. It's also better than the 233 lots the County agreed existed, but are not necessarily developable. The problem is that these 54 homes are not homes, but mansions, indeed mega-mansions that average over 8,000 square feet. Making things worse, these homes will be sited over the whole 485 acres, including up to nine mega-mansions situated near the bluffs overlooking the famed Naples Reef.
Members from the Sierra Club, Surfrider, Citizens Planning Association, Audubon Society, League of Woman Voters, and the Gaviota Coast Conservancy as well as unaffiliated individuals have formed the Naples Coalition. Our goals are to preserve the viewsheds, restore the biodiverse habitat, maintain wildlife corridors, protect the sensitive coastal bluff, and provide appropriate public access. We recognize the extreme sensitivity the Chumash Peoples have for this land.
The coalition realizes that some development may be inevitable, yet we resist the idea that the major criteria for development should be to maximize the economic return to land speculators. While respectful of an owners rights, we are also cognizant of the responsibilities of that steward to promote the broad interest of the public.
Significance of the Gaviota Coast
The Gaviota Coast stretches to the west of Goleta to Point Conception and some would argue 20 miles north to Point Sal. The southerly portion of the coast (Goleta to Point Conception) is the largest relatively intact remnant of the Southern California Mediterranean coastline, one of five representatives of the world’s rarest environments. It is the healthiest remaining coastal ecosystem in Southern California.
The Gaviota Coast is the ecological transition zone between northern and southern California. In this position it hosts a community of plants and animals that are unique. Similarly, the Pacific Ocean on the Gaviota Coast is extremely rich in varied marine life, hosting one of the largest summer populations of Blue whales in the world. These largest mammals congregate in the Santa Barbara Channel waters to feed for weeks at a time on the abundant krill produced by the clean and productive waters off the Gaviota Coast.
1400 plant and animal species are found in the broad Gaviota Coast, 24 of which are listed as threatened or endangered. Another 60 are rare or of special concern. It hosts the largest population of Southern Steelhead in a couple of its short and frolicking streams.
The Gaviota Coast is the site of the oldest indigenous settlement in North America. The Chumash developed a rich culture in this abundant land that is being resurrected and celebrated by descendents and the broad community.
This coast was visited by Cabrillo who marveled at the extent of the native population. It was settled by Spanish priests who used the broad marine terrace as grazing land. Americans settled here and brought a variety of agricultural enterprises to the coast.
And modern society is bringing the threat of “mansionization” and urbanization to the coast, undermining its long agricultural heritage, threatening the continuity of its environmental integrity.
It is a land of incredible scenery, rich biology, and cultural significance.
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