Channel Islands Chapter
Conservation Issue: Naples/Santa Barbara Ranch
A savy and greedy group of landowners who own what is collectively known as Santa Barbara Ranch, located at the townsite of Naples, in Santa Barbara County, is forcing the county to permit them to build a development consisting almost exclusively of McMansions.   I say savy because they have deeded the square parcels that make up Naples in a checkboard pattern so that no one parcel owner has title to two or more adjacent parcels.   This is to prevent the County from down zoning the parcels to lower densities, as the County would like to do.   However, this group of landowners, under the front, Santa Barbara Ranch, LLC., have come together to develop the ranch as one project instead of simply developing each parcel according to existing zoning.   The Santa Barbara Ranch is situated right on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on generally flat land that is dominated by grassland habitats, and has been used primarily for grazing cattle for well over 100 years.

Naples Location Map

This proposed Santa Barbara Ranch development, which now includes the much larger Dos Pueblos Ranch immediately inland, north of U.S. 101.   The project site contains grasslands of various types, Coastal Sage Scrub associations, chaparral associations, vernal pool and other seasonal wetlands, and coastal bluff scrub vegetation.   All of these habitats/plant communities are habitat for rare plants, and the communities, particularly the grasslands, are of great concern to CNPS because of the historic and cumulative loss of this once very widespread habitat.   The most current version of the project would destroy over 229 acres of grasslands, without fully mitigating for that impacts.

Development could occur on Santa Barbara Ranch without as much ecological damage, but the County is running scared because the developer has a current lawsuit against the County over zoning related issues.   Below is a September 2000 aerial photograph of the project site, showing the project boundaries, existing parcels, and areas dominated by the native wildflower/grassland dominant, Deinandra fasciculata (Fascicled Tarplant), a yellow-flowered annual in the Sunflower family.

Aerial Photo of Naples Site showing grasslands dominated by Deinandra fasciculata

CNPS has weighed in on this project, with primary concern focused on the inadequacy of the EIR in assessing impacts to grasslands and rare plants.   CNPS provided written comments to the Board of Supervisors, expressing great concern over the inadequate descriptions of the existing conditions and impact assessments, and lack of feasible mitigation measures.    Unfortunately, almost all comments on the botanical resources issues were ignored, with only minor or unsatisfactory comments provided.   Channel Islands Chapter president, David Magney, provided substantial written comments and oral testimony through David Magney Environmental Consulting as a consultant to the Environmental Defence Center, who was retained by the Surfrider Foundation to critically review the project EIR.

It is vitally important that all CNPS members tell your Santa Barbara County Supervisor, assuming you live in Santa Barbara County, how you feel about their decision on the Naples/Santa Barbara Ranch development project, both over concerns about the lack of adequate identification of existing biological resources and the inadequate review of project-related impacts to these resources.    Furthermore, the mitigation measures proposed are inadequate or will fail because of poor or flawed design.    If the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors certify the EIR and approved the project, CNPS may consider filing a CEQA lawsuit on the EIR, which must be filed witin 30 days of EIR certification/project approval.

As of mid-November 2010, the project has been approved by the County, but final approvals of the project require approval by the Coastal Commission, which is requiring additional information.   The developer wants to decouple the Coastal Zone portion of the project from the inland portion, so that they can move forward with development on the inland portion since the Coastal Commission is requiring further analysis.   Such a decoupling would likely be considered piecemealing and may be illegal, but such distinctions are not so black and white in this case.   Visit the County's webpage for this project for some details on this.   The last actions taken by the County occurring in late 2009.   It is just possible that the opposition to the development project has put enough doubt into the minds of the Coastal Commission that the project either dead, or put on hold.   Back in May 2010, the bank that had loaned the most to the developer, Matt Osgood, foreclosed, as described in an article in The Santa Barbara Independent.   So, the project is stalled for the time being.

Four comment letters on the Draft EIR, Revised DEIR, and Final EIR can be downloaded here:
  • David Magney Environmental Consulting (DMEC) DEIR comments dated 26 Sept. 2006, on behalf of the Environmental Defense Center
  • DMEC Revised Draft EIR Comments dated 23 January 2007, on behalf of the Environmental Defense Center
  • DMEC Final EIR comments dated 8 Oct. 2008, on behalf of the Environmental Defense Center
  • CNPS letter from Executive Director, Amanda Jorgenson dated 25 September 2008.

Sections of the Revised Draft EIR and Final EIR can be downloaded here:

More Information

Links to other websites featuring the Naples/Santa Barbara Ranch Project:

Special thanks to Carlin Moyer for the beautiful illustrations on our site.

Last updated: 10 November 2010
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