Scenic Highway Hearing

Santa Barbara County planners are holding a meeting (Thursday, August 18 at 6pm) on a proposal for a Gaviota Coast Scenic Highway Designation. Their invitation is below. See you there!

Good afternoon,
Santa Barbara County Planning & Development invites you and other interested persons to a public meeting on August 18, 2016 at 6pm, to discuss the Gaviota Coast Scenic Highway Proposal. The County is completing an application to CalTrans to designate 21 miles of Highway 101 on the Gaviota Coast as a State Scenic Highway. The State Scenic Highway Designation will apply to the section of Highway 101 from the City of Goleta’s western-most boundary to Route 1 at Las Cruces.
The purpose of the proposed Scenic Highway Designation is to recognize the scenic and visual qualities along the Gaviota Coast Highway 101 corridor. No new land use policies or ordinances will be adopted in association with the Proposed Scenic Highway; existing policies are sufficient to protect the corridor’s natural and aesthetic resources.  
Staff will be holding a public meeting to provide information to all interested parties; please pass along this information to others that may be interested in attending this meeting. The meeting is scheduled as follows:
Thursday, August 18th, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.
Goleta Union School District
Jack Kramer Administration Center
401 North Fairview Avenue, Goleta, CA 93117
For more information, Please contact Alyssa Krag-Arnold, [email protected] or call (805) 884-8060.
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Sherpa Fire

Gaviota Coast Conservancy will be posting fire updates on the #SherpaFire that began on Wednesday, June 15, on the Gaviota Coast (El Capitan, Las Flores and Venadito Canyons) by social media. Check our Twitter (@GaviotaCoastC ) and Facebook (@GaviotaCoastConservancy) for the latest posts from Santa Barbara County Emergency Operations and local media outlets.




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2016 Spring Tajiguas Update


On Tuesday, 4/5/2016, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to direct the Public Works Department to proceed with the risky (and mis-named) Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project, to be constructed with public funds. Use of public financing shifts the considerable risk of project failure to the County and public, instead of private investors, as originally planned.  The cost is projected to be at least $110 million, making it one of the most expensive capital projects undertaken by the County.

Gaviota Coast Conservancy opposes the Project as inappropriate industrial development on the Coast, and because the EIR admits that the output from the anaerobic digestion process will be contaminated and result in poor quality compost that cannot be used by agriculturalists. The Conservancy believes traditional composting is a better approach that can generate high quality compost useful in carbon farming on the Gaviota Coast.  The Gaviota Coast Conservancy's legal counsel sent a detailed letter to the SB County Board of Supervisors on April 1st, detailing the many Project flaws. GCC joins in those concerns expressed in a letter sent by Community Environmental Council regarding the County Resource Recovery Project.

A final decision is projected for later this year.  The Board has tentatively scheduled approval hearings for July 12, which will be followed by hearings for all participating cities, and then a final Board hearing in October.

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Spring 2016 Coastlines Pres Msg

Gaviota lupin image by Jill Frandsen
Spring flowers are blooming all over the Gaviota Coast. Hiking out to Naples is a visual explosion of intense green hillsides and delicate wildflowers popping up all over the place. It’s beautiful. 
Many thanks to Phil McKenna, who recently stepped down after two years as President of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC). Phil served during a critical transition following the long-time leadership of Mike Lunsford, one of the founders of GCC, and as a key voice on our Board. Phil’s leadership led to a stronger financial base, and newly active committees that do the majority of GCC’s work. Phil will remain on the Board and continue his critical role in helping protect the Coast.
Also, I'd like to welcome two new board members to our crew: Nancy Black and Karen Feeney. Each bring critical skills, proven track records and well-developed talents to our team, and we're grateful for their participation.
I’ve assumed the Presidency earlier this year after joining the Board several years ago. For those of you who may not know me, I’ve been active in local environmental issues for several decades, serving on the boards of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, Environmental Defense Center, and Santa Barbara County Action Network, where I was a representative on the Naples Coalition. More recently, I'm currently a Governor’s appointee to the Ocean Protection Council.
While my kids are scattered across the country and the globe, they find time to regularly come back and visit my wife and I, and spend time enjoying this special part of the California coast. In my professional life, I’m a partner in a sustainability consulting firm with clients across North America, Europe, and Israel. 
This is a critical time for the Gaviota Coast. All that is special about the coast, the unique confluence of varied habitats and biological richness, complemented by Chumash heritage, a strong ranching culture, agricultural productivity, abundant marine resources, and incomparable waves and beaches, make it a place worth saving. 
Currently, GCC tracks 27 separate issues that have the potential to adversely affect the integrity of this coastal area. The California Coastal Commission recently voted 7 - 5 to fire their Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lester. Perhaps there has never been a time in the last 40 years when coastal California appears to be subject to greater risk of inappropriate development. Regardless of who takes over the Executive Director role, it appears that the Commission is moving in the direction of quicker development approvals and fewer opportunities for coastal advocates to intervene and offer changes that would enhance protection of the coast.
Now, more than ever, we need to find permanent solutions that protect and restore this special place. We invite you to join with us in these efforts. Whoever replaces Dr. Lester, we will continue our work and, as always, we value your ongoing support in our efforts to protect the Gaviota Coast.
In respect for the earth,

Michael S. Brown, President

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Gaviota Coast Energy Issues Update


The worldwide slump in crude oil and natural gas prices and the major Plains Pipeline leak and spill near Refugio State Beach last May continue to roil energy operations on and offshore along the Gaviota Coast in multiple ways. The final report from the federal agency charged with maintaining pipeline safety and proper operations (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Agency or PHMSA) issued findings late this winter indicating that the Plains Pipeline had:

  • more corrosion than expected,
  • more than reported,
  • and more than was found by a scheduled mechanical in-pipe inspection;
  • that more oil escaped than had been previously reported;
  • that delays by company personnel in sounding the alarm was actually slower than originally reported;
  • and that none of the occurrences and findings met current federal standards.

Because of questions about the reliability of automated in-pipe mechanical inspections, all the Pipeline components must be re-examined using different tools and techniques, before any normal operations can be resumed by Plains. No estimate was offered about when new pipeline transport could resume.

This PHMSA report gives extra credibility to several proposed improvements to pipeline inspection and safety now making their way through Congress, including an important one co-sponsored by Lois Capps. As the American Petroleum Institute remainopposed to any changes in inspection-regulation rules, the fate of the bills is uncertain during the current session.

The report findings do not directly affect other inquiries, such as the criminal investigation and civil action now ongoing.

Exxon is processing a permit application to truck a minimum "essential" amount of oil from its offshore platform that ordinarily would go through the Plains Pipeline, to clear its lines and draw down its storage holding tanks, which are now near maximum capacity. If approved by the County (and several state agencies), this would necessitate the use of extra-large oil trucks, making many multiple trips over at least one month's time, along the 101 on the Gaviota Coast.

The combination of the Plains Pipeline total shutdown and a depressed world oil and gas price have badly crippled income for Venoco over the past year. As a result, Venoco filed for federal bankruptcy protection in March. It should be clearly understood that this is not a bankruptcy process in which Venoco would permanently close operations, but rather one where it "reorganizes its operations and refinances its corporate debt."

Venoco borrowed significant sums of money in the prior decade when interest rates were relatively high, and with low revenue from Platform Holly on the Gaviota Coast due to the Plains Pipeline shutdown, plus the huge drop in world oil and gas prices, Venoco was challenged to service its existing debt.

As a probable condition of refinancing Venoco's debt, and reducing interest (and/or principal) on existing money owed, expect to see representatives of Venoco's major lenders assume a much larger role in Venoco's operations, until the bankruptcy is discharged, and the debt service has been paid down. How such changes to management or the corporate board might play out this year is unclear.

Because of a desire for additional revenue, Venoco's extended reach application to extract more oil or gas from the Santa Barbara Channel along the Gaviota Coast from Platform Holly continues to go before the California State Land Commission's three-person board, and whether Venoco's financial ills - or this year's election year stresses - affect the application's prospects remain unclear. The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is carefully monitoring Venoco's proposal for new energy operations in state waters off the Gaviota Coast.

Venoco is suing Plains All American Pipeline for $12.4 million in lost earnings

Concurrently, the City of Goleta, as part of their first Local Coastal Plan and Zoning Code, have been evaluating Venoco's Ellwood Terminal (an inherited "nonconforming land use" from Santa Barbara County when Goleta incorporated), to ascertain whether they want to allow Venoco to continue Ellwood terminal operations under the new LCP and Zoning Code. To become better informed, Goleta City Council authorized consultants Baker & O'Brien to update a much earlier County study which tried to decide when Venoco's investment at Ellwood terminal would be fully amortized.

In fall of 2014, the study was welcomed by GCC and many other Goleta civic and conservation groups, if only to obtain more reliable and up-to-date information on Ellwood terminal's status. Goleta's original intent was for the Baker & O'Brien update-study to be completed in February of... 2015. But when there was no news from the City about the findings of the study by last fall (a year after it was initiated), many community groups began to press the City of Goleta to publicly release the new study's findings. That finally happened in mid-March 2016.

The updated Baker & O'Brien study indicates that Venoco had fully amortized their original investment at Ellwood Terminal some time between 2006-2008, which suggests that there are no orginal costs left for Venoco to recoup there.

Goleta City Council has yet to schedule new hearings to specifically offer their staff "guidance" on whether they want to retain Venoco operations at Ellwood terminal under the new LCP and Zoning Code; on whether such operations might be designated as "an acceptable use", "a nonconforming use" or an "unacceptable use". The latter, if it were made a legal finding, could necessitate Venoco to present a bonded plan to expeditiously begin an Ellwood Terminal "retirement" or shut-down plan, with attendant timelines, estimated costs, and a suite of "viable alternatives".

At present, there is no hint regarding which direction Goleta City Council might be leaning, nor even whether a final decision will be made before this fall's municipal elections.

6. Oil Train SLO hearings continue: Phillips Petroleum's application to ship large amounts of oil & gas to a proposed new facility in Nipomo [south San Luis Obispo County] by rail, across the Gaviota Coast[and many coastal communities, has gotten very high level of staff review, and very high level of community interest, testimony, and participation. The SLO County Planning Commission held multi-day hearings, just to receive public comment.

The status of the project - which GCC, like many area conservation groups, opposes - is undecided.

SLO County has set no firm timetable for a "final" decision. Given the exceptional level of public interest and controversy, experts predict that an appeal is a foregone conclusion, no matter how the issue is decided, and that litigation [by whichever side loses] is a real possibility. Because of the low world price for oil and gas, Phillips initial sense of urgency to process the application is somewhat reduced.

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150 Years on the Gaviota Coast

PROFILE:  Oldest Ranching Family Celebrates 150 Years on the Gaviota Coast


Story by Guner Tautrim and Eric Hvolboll, images courtesy of Orella family archives


Family farmers are an anomaly along the Gaviota Coast – an anachronistic remnant of the past. Of the few ranching families left today on the coastal plain west of Goleta, only a handful date back into the 1800s. The most deep-rooted of these is the Orella family

Five ranches in the Refugio area are still owned and operated by descendants of Bruno Orella and his wife, Mercedes Gonzales y Guevara.  

Bruno Orella was Basque, born in Spain in 1830. After arriving in California during the gold rush era, he worked in the 1850s for the Gonzales family at their cattle ranch on the Oxnard plain, which they had received as a Mexican land grant in 1837. In 1858, Bruno Orella married Mercedes Gonzales y Guevara, the daughter of his employer, Leandro Gonzales.

Mercedes Gonzales y Guevara was born in Santa Barbara in 1841. Her family arrived in Santa Barbara and San Buenaventura in 1782. They were soldiers and settlers in Spain's colonization of California, and included indigenous Cahitan, Mexican, Black, Spanish and mestizo people from what is now Mexico. 

One hundred and fifty years ago, in 1866, Bruno and Mercedes Orella moved to the Ortega adobes at the mouth of Corral Canyon between Refugio and El Capitan. The adobes are County Historical Landmarks, and are now owned by ExxonMobil.  

Beginning in 1866, the Orellas purchased Refugio Canyon and then Venadito and Corral Canyons from the Ortega family, that had received the ranchos as land grants before the American conquest of California. The Orellas' ranch spread from the Tajiguas ridgeline to El Capitan Canyon, and included Refugio Beach.

Handpainted_photo_Gaviota_Coast_by_Orella_Family.jpg   image007.jpg   image017.jpg   image019.jpg

The Orellas also maintained an adobe home on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara at the southwest corner of Figueroa Street. The adobe has been remodeled, and is now Aldo's Italian Restaurant.

In the 1880s, Bruno Orella invited three of his nephews from Spain to come to California and seek claims on public lands north of his ranch. All three, Julian Orella, Patricio Alegria and Ramon Saralegui, established ranches in upper Refugio Canyon before 1890.

When Bruno Orella died in 1901, his land was subdivided into 10 ranches for 10 of his children. The ranches produced sheep, cattle and then in the early 1900s, walnuts, lemons, lima beans and tomatoes. Garbanzos and avocados were farmed after 1950.   

Over the ensuing century, eight of the 13 Orella family ranches were sold. Five, however, are still owned by Orella descendants. 

In upper Refugio Canyon, Frank Alegria and Joyce Saralegui Orsua and their families live on their ancestors' two ranches, which their families have owned for about 130 years.  

On the coast just west of El Capitan, the Erburu family, descendants of Juana Orella Erburu, have maintained their ranch overlooking the channel for 150 years.

At the mouth of Venadito Canyon and on the hills overlooking Refugio Beach, Mark Tautrim and his family operate Orella Ranch. In upper Venadito Canyon, Mark Tautrim's aunt, Elizabeth Erro Hvolboll and her family raise avocados on her grandmother Josefa Orella Erro's La Paloma Ranch, with its iconic 114-year-old single-board wooden ranch house. Both ranches date from 1866. 

These five families have lived, ranched and farmed on the Gaviota Coast as neighbors and cousins for six and seven generations. While this span of time is very significant in California history, it of course pales to the Chumash people’s occupation of the coast for over 10,000 years. In fact, the historic period since the late 1700s is probably less than 2% of the time the land was occupied by Chumash people. Two of their largest villages, Kuyamu and Mikiw were located on the ocean bluffs at the mouth of Dos Pueblos Canyon. “Dos Pueblos” translates as “two villages” – named for these two villages. 

There are a number of interesting historic sites on the coast in addition to the Corral Canyon adobes, including Refugio Cove, which was a prominent smuggling site during the Spanish and Mexican eras, the Vicente Ortega adobe at Arroyo Hondo (1842), Gaviota Pass and pier, built for Hollister/Dibblee cattle shipping (1875), Point Conception Lighthouse (1881), Vista del Mar School (1927) at Alcatraz, the World War II German POW camp (1944) on the Edwards Ranch, and the Pico adobe (1871) atop Refugio Pass – Ronald Reagan’s Western White House during the 1980s. Sadly, other landmarks such as the Den Adobe and the Naples Chapel at Dos Pueblos, as well as the 1916 Gaviota Store, have been lost.

Other families, including the De la Guerra-Dibblee family northwest of Gaviota Pass, the Giorgi family near Las Cruces, and the Dreyfus family in Eagle Canyon, have also operated ranches in the area for over a century.

Local stories and history are recounted in J. J. Hollister’s book, Gaviota Boy, Elizabeth Erro Hvolboll’s book, Mi Refugio, and artist Chris Chapman’s books, Portraits of Gaviota and earlier this year, Stories of Arroyo Hondo.

If you spend enough time on the coast, you’ll undoubtedly meet some of the Orella family or visit their isolated ranch homes. If you’re familiar with the rugged beauty of coast and nearby mountains, you’ll understand why they’ve stayed living there now for 150 years! 

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GCC and One Percent for the Planet

The Corporate Benefits of One Percent for the Planet

or the World’s Largest Donor / Non-profit Dating Service


Assisting businesses to support Gaviota stewardship

by Greg Karpain

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy has been a non-profit member of One Percent for the Planet for over five years. Why does a non-profit join another non-profit like One Percent for the Planet? It's a good question, and one we’re happy that One Percent answered.

One Percent for the Planet has quickly become the largest environmental network in the world! It’s an international non-profit organization, whose corporate members pledge and contribute at least one percent of their annual sales revenue to support environmental causes, and the non-profits behind those causes, such as the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC).

Their One Percent for the Planet mission is to build, support and activate an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. One Percent for the Planet corporate members assist non-profit organizations, such as GCC, that protect land, forests, rivers, oceans, and also encourage sustainable methods of energy production.

The result? More than 1,200 member companies in 48 countries are currently giving one percent of their sales directly to more than 3,300 nonprofits. Donations totaling more than $130 million dollars are now helping our environment (and future). One Percent works with corporations to find a non-profit, to which the company feels most aligned, and introduces the two for further discussion. It’s kind of a dating service and match-maker for environmental companies that want to create change, and those non-profits whose sole purpose it to effect those changes.

Yvonne Chounard, the founder of Patagonia Corporation, and cofounder of One Percent for the Planet, says, "[We] have a responsibility to the planet. Give to the people who are willing to do the good work." 

Global Social Marketing and Increased Sales Revenues

Companies can participate in the One Percent global network at a variety of levels, including

  • Whole company participation (e.g. Patagonia)
  • Branding (e.g. Planet Petco)
  • Product line marketing (e.g. Honest Tea)

Associating your corporate brand with the One Percent for the Planet concept and network is solid global social marketing. For example, 1 billion impressions have been stamped on member packaging annually, helping promote $100 billion in network sales over the past 10 years. By donating one percent of annual sales revenue, your company gets double value on the dollar: increased brand recognition and sales, as well as pro-actively involvement to help non-profits meet your corporate environmental goals. 

As a small business owner noted, "It's helped my sales a lot to be part of One Percent, and given me added exposure, and easier access to some markets that I might not have entered into." 

The bottom line for profit: One Percent for the Planet helps companies grow their member’s businesses and revenue by being socially responsible.

Ask your company to join and donate to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy

In 2008, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, as well as the Naples Coalition, applied for and underwent the One Percent rigorous application process, and were accepted as a non-profit member of the organization. If you are a member of a local, national, or international business, we ask that you bring One Percent to the attention of your company and see if they would like to join One Percent and add the Gaviota Coast Conservancy to its annual giving list (see below for contact information as to how we can help you with your presentation to your company). 

If your company is interested in becoming an approved One Percent corporate partner and donating to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (or other member non-profit of your choice) please call Janet or Brook. Donating to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy helps to preserve the rural character and habitat of our unique and stunning Gaviota Coast.  

Or contact Janet Koed, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, 805-683-6631 [email protected]
Or Brook Hopper, One Percent for the Planet, 805-340-5034, [email protected]
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2016 SCAPE Benefit Art Show for Gaviota Coast Conservancy



Don't miss our annual Gaviota Coast Conservancy benefit art show by Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment (SCAPE), "Visions of the Gaviota Coast: The Jewel in our Backyard", featuring photography by Reeve Woolpert and paintings by SCAPE painters, with silent auction and art sales to benefit Gaviota Coast Conservancy. The Bacara Resort and Spa is sponsoring this event, with locally-handcrafted wine by Standing Sun, live music, a silent auction, high-value raffle and great schmoozing. 

This event is free to the public!

Friday, 5/13: 1-8p, reception at 5p

Saturday, 5/14: 10a-5p, raffle at 4p

Raffle prize: a one-night stay and a spa treatment at the Bacara Resort and Spa! 

Please RSVP here for Friday and RSVP here for Saturday so we know around how many to plan for, and thanks.



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GCC supports Gaviota Cove acquisition by Trust for Public Land


Gaviota Coast Conservancy provided the following letter to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors this morning, in support of awarding a CREF Grant for the acquisition by the Trust for Public Land of Gaviota Cove. We encourage our friends to add their own emails of support should they feel moved to do so. Send to:

Mr. Peter Adam, Chairperson      

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors

105 East Anapamu St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

By Email to: [email protected] 

Re: CREF  - Support for Gaviota Cove Property Acquisition 

Honorable members of the Board of Supervisors,

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) strongly supports staff’s recommendation and encourages your Board to award a CREF Grant to the Trust for Public Land for the acquisition of the Gaviota Cove property.

The GCC is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the rural character of the Gaviota Coast for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations.

The acquisition of the property will protect two creeks, protecting important wildlife corridors and habitat.

The beautiful coastal landscape to the south of Highway 101, including coastal sage scrub, riparian woodland and habitat, and unobstructed ocean views will be protected with the acquisition of this land.

The acquisition of Gaviota Cove is strategically important as it will provide appropriate connectivity to beach and bluff top portions of Gaviota State Park. The public will be well served by the potential public access and Coastal Trail segment that will be enabled by this acquisition.

The Gaviota Coast is nationally recognized for its beauty, biodiversity, cultural significance and recreational opportunity.  The GCC strongly supports the award of a CREF Grant to the Trust for Public Land for the acquisition of the Gaviota Cove property.

Thank you for your support of this important acquisition.


Mike Brown, President 


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Coastal Commission fires Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lester


It’s done. The California Coastal Commission voted 7-5 to fire their Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lester.

Dr. Lester’s response to being fired is noteworthy for his statesmanship and his commitment to the Coast: “It’s been a privilege to serve the Commission as the Executive Director for the last four years… I want to thank the public for your participation and engagement and as I said at the beginning of the day… it’s a real testament and it’s a celebration of the vitality of the California Coastal program to all Californians. So if there is any silver lining, I am so energized by all the people who came together for this…. This was a spontaneous expression of commitment to the coast of California and we should all be proud of that.”

Perhaps there has never been a time in the last 40 years when coastal California appears to be subject to greater risk of inappropriate development. Regardless of who takes over the Executive Director role, it appears that the Commission is moving in the direction of quicker development approvals and fewer opportunities for coastal advocates to intervene and offer changes that would enhance protection of the coast.

This is a particularly challenging time for the Gaviota Coast. To date, my colleagues at the Gaviota Coast Conservancy along with concerned citizens and partner environmental organizations have been remarkably successful in holding the line in the face of multiple development initiatives on the eastern portion of the Gaviota Coast. Our past successes were due not only to the hard work of many committed individuals, but also the strong stand that the Coastal Commission typically took on allowable development in the coastal zone.

But our recent experience with the Commission suggests that change is already occurring and the Commission is moving to speed up processing through restricting public participation in hearings and negotiating substantive changes in projects without opportunities for public input. That Dr. Lester publicly advocated for a more robust public process in a recent Gaviota Coast case may have been a contributing factor in his dismissal and the Commission may be looking for a new Executive Director who will share their view of the need to expedite the approval process and limit public participation.

Those who care about the future of the Gaviota Coast and all of coastal California need to make their voices heard. Please tell your elected representatives how you feel about the Commission’s action:

Governor Brown: (916) 445-2841

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson: (916) 651-4019

Assemblymember Das Williams: (916) 319-2037

Whoever replaces Dr. Lester, we will continue our work and, as always, we value your ongoing support in our efforts to protect the Gaviota Coast.

In respect for the earth,

Michael S. Brown, President         


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