To Develop or Not to Develop Naples
by Jaymi Berbert


The conflict over whether or not to develop the Naples coastline west of Goleta is currently at a standstill. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors held an all-day meeting on Monday with the intent of voting on whether or not to approve proposed development by the owner of Naples, Vintage Communities of Orange County. However, after a lunch-time rally held by opponents at the County Adminstration Building in Downtown Santa Barbara and a public comment period, the vote was simply to postpone a decision until next week. 

The debate over the undeveloped coast is a local microcosm of the present battle between land developers and environmental conservationists that is raging all over the world. 

Matt Osgood, spokesperson for Vintage Communities of Orange County, purchased the land in 1997 and has been preparing to develop it for years. He originally proposed to build 54 homes on 485 acres. He later purchased the adjacent Dos Pueblos Ranch area and proposed to build 72 residences on 3,254 acres. 

Since a closed session of the Board of Supervisors on October 7, the total may amount to 117 lots. The Board decided to consider the inland area separately from the coastal area, allowing up to 50 inland lots and 67 coastal lots. 

“[Osgood] does not understand how it works in Santa Barbara,” said a member of the Naples Coalition at the lunch-time rally. “You don’t just ruin the nest for the sake of profits.” He said that the board actually receives bonuses for working on this sort of project. “It’s as if [the Board of Supervisors] is in the deveolper’s pocket.”

The Naples Coalition consists of various local groups such as the Surfrider Foundation, the Audubon Society’s Santa Barbara Chapter, and the Sierra Club, which joined in 2000, and is dedicated to preserving the Gaviota Coast.

The rally continued with more arguments for preserving the land. Roberta Cordero, a native Chumash tribe member, said there is no place in Santa Barbara County where there have not been Native American ceremonies for centuries, and there are now hardly any places where the tribe can have ceremonies in privacy. According to Cordero, with this sort of development there is “no respect, humility, knowing one’s place in the web of life.” 

Brian Troutwein, of the Environmental Defense Center, said, “Are we gonna let them pave over our precious landscape with 72 mansions, guesthouses, equestrian center, pools, tennis courts, cabanas, and waste-water treatment plants? Are we gonna let them pave over the Chumash village out there, the sensitive habitat, the prime farmland? We say no!” He stressed the importance of those who showed up to in support of the Naples Coalition, and the need for more to continue to help their fight. 

The chair of the Naples Coalition, Phil McKenna, said that the beginning of the next stage after the decision by the Board will be more positive because of consistent questioning by people in power that is beginning to occur in meetings. “The tailwind that Mr. Osgood has been experiencing with Santa Barbara County government is fast ending, and what he will face is the headwinds of our effective opposition,” he said. 

The meeting for the decision of whether to approve development at Naples will be held next Tuesday, October 21.