Posted by Ecochat on:
“ Some places are just too beautiful to destroy-“ These are the words a Santa Barbara developer said to me 10 years ago when talking about the Gaviota Coast. Words you rarely hear coming from a developer, but wish you would. It is the same insight Teddy Roosevelt had, when the natural beauty of this nation led him to create the National Park system, which preserves so much of our beautiful nation today.
We seem to be losing the battle to save the last of the undeveloped coastline in California. I wonder how this could happen. This is a National Treasure. I struggle to understand what would make an out of town developer want to come in and destroy a national treasure and the beauty that defines Santa Barbara. It is this beauty that separates Santa Barbara from other communities, such as Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande, which have already developed their coastlines. I recognize this is where Santa Barbara is headed, with our beautiful undeveloped coastline looking like Pismo Beach.
I struggle to understand why Brooks Firestone and two other County Supervisors supported the Naples development of numerous mansions (71 homes 7,500 to 10,000 sq ft along with guest houses, garages and an equestrian center)on our pristine Gaviota Coast. I struggle to understand what Supervisor Firestone meant by his parting words at a Board of Supervisors' meeting. Mr Firestone mentioned that many people in the Santa Barbara community can be too extreme when trying to preserve land and don’t understand a good development project when they see one. All I can see is that magnificent undeveloped coast and I struggle to understand why my vision is so different from that of Mr. Firestone’s.
I also struggle to understand why it is that the people who are wealthy enough to buy the best views and then surround themselves with hundreds of acres of land to ensure their own privacy, are often the same people not wanting to protect the natural beauty for everyone else to share. The concept of destroying it for the pleasure of an elite few often seems to prevail over Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of preserving it for everyone to enjoy for generations.
When I see beautiful open space I don’t think, I would love to build my home there, but obviously many people do.
Mr. Firestone, coming from the well-known Firestone fortune, is wealthy enough to surround himself with land and vineyards in a rural part of our County. He is no doubt under the school of thought, that private property rights prevail and one should be able to do whatever they want with their own land. I don’t agree. If I move into a rural area to have quiet and be surrounded by nature, I wouldn’t want my neighbor, who has political influence, to suddenly be able to build numerous apartment houses and developments next door. I want regulations, since regulations protect my property and my desire for a rural and quiet community.
I wonder if I were to purchase property next to Mr. Firestone and used my political influence to build 70 homes or apartment buildings, if Mr. Firestone would follow what he seems to preach and not say anything, since he seems to believe as a property owner I have the right to do what I want with my property.
It is interesting that many of the people who shout the loudest about individual property rights are the very people who make their money by either developing land or investing in land development; yet they are the very same people who usually live in the most exclusive and restricted areas when it comes to development.
Look at Montecito as an example. How many developers live there? How many people who invest or make money from development projects live in Montecito? Montecito has it’s own planning association because they fear leaving it up to the County may infringe on preserving their privacy and natural beauty. These are often the same people who complain about how strict the county is when it comes to developing their profit making development projects in other parts of the county. I have never understood how Montecito can have it’s own planning association-Goleta had to become a City to get it’s own planning commission, however Montecito is somehow granted this special privilege. Why can’t other areas in the county have their own planning association with the political influence of Montecito’s? Why do the people in Montecito have more opportunities to preserve the look of their community than other people are afforded? Montecito could become a city but then would have to generate their own revenues and possibly have ugly big box malls to get enough Sheriff protection and services they currently enjoy by tapping into County revenues. Also they would have to have affordable housing. Currently they say, “land is just too expensive” to justify it. Which isn’t true, since I have known communities on the East Coast with property values as expensive, that were required to find land to meet their affordable housing requirements.
So back to Mr. Firestone. Can Mr. Firestone, as he sits in his home, honestly say that he doesn’t care what someone builds next door to him? Does he honestly believe the Gaviota Coast is not worth saving? Even if he doesn’t see the beauty or the ecological importance, can he at least identify with economics and the need to preserve our tourist industry, that the beauty and uniqueness of our coast attracts? I don’t know why the Chamber of Commerce isn’t leading the fight to save the coast, given it's importance to the tourist industry.
Sometimes things just don’t make sense to me. I can’t understand why an elite few, who are able to collect very expensive works of art, are often the same people willing to destroy the very scenery that inspired that work of art. Do they really appreciate art since they should then appreciate the natural beauty that inspired it. Or is it that collecting art is just the thing to do, so it is just another status symbol versus a sincere appreciation. Would they have bought an Ansel Adams’ photograph if El Capitan had houses on it? When they look at it do they see the natural beauty that inspired the artist – or do they think—I wish I could build my house right in the middle of that beautiful scenery?
Yes, Mr. Firestone, I have singled you out from the other two supervisors who voted for the Naples development. One reason is because I heard your comment about this community going too far in trying to save everything. That might be because we have more natural beauty here than most places. However, even if you believe that about other projects, I’m afraid that view and your attitude based on previous projects may have altered your perspective of really looking at this unique national treasure as the last undeveloped part of the California coastline we are trying to preserve. After your statement I was concerned that your resentment and preconceived views over previous projects may have kept you from seeing the true value of preserving our coast.
There is also another reason I am speaking more directly to you and that is not because you were one of our County Supervisors but because you are from the well known Firestone family. Like Teddy Roosevelt, you have the money, the power and the influence to help preserve our coast. I can’t understand why you would want to be remembered as the person who helped develop our coast, when you could be the person who helped to preserve it. People rarely look at the mansions marring a natural coastline and say proudly, “look what Brooks Firestone did for us”. They would look at preserved beautiful open space and say “ look what Mr. Firestone made possible for generations to come.”
Mr. Firestone, at the Supervisors meeting mentioned the California Supreme Court ruling that allowed for the Naples development- I don’t know the details but I understand the out of town developer Matt Osgood from Orange County, dug up something from the 1800’s from when there was a development proposal for a town in that area and proved that this somehow supersedes the existing regulations. It appears this developer went to great lengths to destroy a national treasure, he must be planning on making a lot of money and I would imagine he must have very little conscience. If the people of Santa Barbara liked the look of Orange County we would live there, so most of us believe we don’t need Orange County developers coming up here to make Santa Barbara look like Orange County.
I do hope all the artwork that the Orange County developer Mr. Osgood collects for his personal collection consists of paintings of houses and developments and not of nature! Since Matt Osgood is about to destroy the very beauty than inspires artists, it would be quite hypocritical to be collecting art of beautiful natural landscapes while fighting so hard to destroy those landscapes.
Although I know little about the law, I do remember reading about Justice Douglas’ United States Supreme Court decision in the 1970’s stating that “ A quiet place where yards are wide, people few and motor vehicles restricted are legitimate guidelines in a land use project addressed to family needs. It is ample to lay out zones where family values, youth values and the blessings of quiet seclusion and clean air make the area a sanctuary for people” (Curtain’s California Land Use and Planning Law, 1997-p2)
The United States Supreme Court also stated “that land use regulations may be enacted to enhance the quality of life by preserving the character and aesthetic features of a city. “ Penn Central Transp.Co v. City of New York 1978 ( Curtain’s California Land Use and Planning Law, 1997 –p3)
Maybe someone needs to write a song about the monotony of ticky – tacky mansions on our coastline since the City of Pacifica’s anti- monotony ordinance was upheld by the California Court when the Pacifica City Council wishes were described as wanting to avoid ticky-tacky development as described by Malvina Reynolds in the song “ Little Boxes.”
I guess the new song could be named “ Great big boxes on our coastline. ” Development of mansions in an area of open space is not in keeping with the natural surroundings and will destroy one of our last great scenic places and threaten our coastal habitat. According to previous Supreme Court decisions it appears to me we have the right to protect the aesthetic features of our community. This is not just a piece of open space but one of the last remaining national coastal treasures.
We need to find a way to save this national treasure and prevent the development of Naples on our coast. As a Santa Barbara developer once said to me, “ some places are just too beautiful to destroy”