Gaviota Coast Plan


August 1, 2018

F16a Gaviota Coast PlanCounty of Santa Barbara LCP Amendment No. LCP-4-STB-18-0039-1 Part B (Gaviota Coast Plan)

The proposed Gaviota Coast Plan will function as a new stand-alone area plan in the County’s LCP. The plan covers several important topics including environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA), agriculture, principle permitted uses and public access and recreation.

The Environmental Defense Center participated in the development of the plan for many years to ensure maximum environmental protections. “Through the Coastal Commission process, the Gaviota Coast Plan has been improved to provide better protection for wildlife and habitats, agriculture, public access and recreation, and cultural resources,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center. “The Plan provides a vision to retain the unique scenic, rural nature of the Gaviota Coast for years to come. We will urge the County of Santa Barbara to accept the Commission’s recommended improvements when the matter is considered later this fall.”

The Plan, as proposed and modified by Coastal Commission staff, includes important modifications with relation to blufftop development and public access. The Surfrider Foundation strongly supported the policies that address bluff top development and ensure consistency with the Coastal Resiliency Project. Further, Surfrider supported the Plan’s public access policies. There is a great need for more vertical access opportunities and the plan as modified sets the intention toward that goal. Specifically, staff recommended modifications that new development does not interfere with the public’s right to beach access – and that without the “if feasible” loophole. The Plan also protects informal roadside parking. Such parking areas are integral to ensuring safe, equitable access to area beaches.

A few discrepancies remained between the County of Santa Barbara and Coastal Commission staff at the time of the hearing. Specifically, the County wanted to retain autonomy over determining ESHA buzzer zones for new development. Commissioners unanimously approved the Gaviota Coast Plan with one small caveat that facilities at El Capitan Campground can be repaired and maintained without an increase in ESHA buffer zone.

Why You Should Care

The proposed Plan, with Coastal Commission staff’s modifications provides greater assurance that public access, recreational opportunities, sensitive habitat and agricultural practices will be preserved and restored.


Pro-Coast Vote

Anti-Coast Vote

Commissioner Mary Luevano motioned to approve staff recommendation and Commissioner Erik Howell seconded the motion. Commissioners made one small concession to the County, amending staff’s recommendation to add an exception that legally existing development at El Capitan campground may be maintained and repaired without an increase in additional ESHA buffer zone.

Organizations Opposed

Decision Type

LCP Amendment

Staff Recommendation

Approval with Modifications

Coastal Act Policy