Big Day for More Mesa – County Approves Coastal Commision Recommendations
As reported in our last update, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) was extremely supportive of MMPC’s positions on preservation of More Mesa, and supplemented them with even stronger language than currently existed in the new Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan. At a meeting on November 7th, the County Board of Supervisors approved these California Coastal Commission modifications. Our very special thanks to everyone who spoke in favor of the recommendations at the meeting, attended the meeting or sent e-mails. We never could have achieved this wonderful result without your help.
Ask the President
Q: What role does the California Coastal Commission play with regard to any development on More Mesa?
A: The California Coastal Commission is a state agency whose role is to make sure that California’s coastlines and public beaches are protected for public use. It came into being in 1972 when California voters, concerned about coastal development and its impact on public access, passed a proposition creating the Coastal Commission. Four years later, the State Legislature enacted the California Coastal Act, which is the primary law governing decisions of the Coastal Commission. The act outlines, among other things, standards for development within the Coastal Zone.
In order to implement coastal protection, a Coastal Zone was established throughout the entire length of California, extending from the Oregon border to the international border with Mexico. While generally 1,000 yards from the mean high tide line, this zone has some variation in width depending on several factors, including the density of development and environmental and recreational values of the particular coastal area.
The purple line in the map below shows the extent of the Coastal Zone in our area; that is … all of More Mesa is in the Coastal Zone. Therefore any request for development on More Mesa must be reviewed and approved by the Coastal Commission. Further, any local planning that involves areas in the Coastal Zone must also be approved by the CCC and, as you can see from the news above, has been accomplished for the updated Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan.
To learn more about the Coastal Zone and California’s beaches, visit beachapedia.
This Month on More Mesa
MORE GOOD NEWS … Kites are roosting on More Mesa again!
This month we have some excellent news about our famous “signature” bird … the White-tailed Kite.
White-tailed kites are semi-social animals that gather in communal overnight roosts in the fall and winter. Kites can begin to gather in late August or September, with roosts typically breaking up not later than February. The dynamics of roost occurrence are not well understood and roost occurrence can be difficult to document without continuous observations at dawn and dusk over an extended time period.
One of the largest known communal roosts for White-tailed Kites in California was found on More Mesa in 1965, with the greatest numbers recorded in the mid 1970s. Moreover, during the winter of 1978, a record 110 birds were observed roosting on More Mesa! However, for a variety of reasons, roost population exhibited a precipitous decline to a low of 40 in 1998. After that, roosting was sporadic for nearly a decade with the last known roost of 16 birds recorded in 2003. UNTIL NOW!
In late August, after nearly two decades, the White-tailed Kites appear to be, once again, using their traditional communal roost on More Mesa. This is especially good news because the recent drought (driest period on record in California history) had precipitously reduced the number of kites in the entire Goleta Valley. For example, there were 15 nesting pairs of kites in 2012, at the beginning of the drought, and only a single pair in 2016 … and that pair was at More Mesa.
Now, this fall, as many as twelve birds have been observed at the traditional More Mesa communal roost. This is yet another indication of the recovery of these important bird species in our area. Unhappily, and for two separate reasons, the roost is not as safe as it once was. First, the historical roost area has become part of a heavily used trail, and second, the recent plague of hundreds of aggressive crows on More Mesa poses yet another problem for our lovely and light weight kites.
To learn more about White-tailed Kite roosting check out pages 31-32 of the More Mesa Handbook.
You can Help… Tread Softly
Because roosting birds are easily disturbed, walk and talk softly when you are out on More Mesa, especially in the late afternoon and the early morning. Now that our favorite birds have “come home to roost”, we don’t want them to be frightened away.
On August 10, Valerie Olson (MMPC Board Chair) and Linda Krop (Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center and MMPC’s attorney) represented the More Mesa Preservation Coalition at a California Coastal Commission hearing in Calabasas. The hearing was in regard to the County of Santa Barbara’s Eastern Goleta Valley Community Plan. We both spoke in support of strong protections for More Mesa and its rare and sensitive coastal habitats. In general, the Commission was favorable toward our views on preservation of More Mesa, but their recommendations must now go before the County Board of Supervisors for review before the whole plan is certified. We will continue to advocate for strong policies when the County holds its next, and possibly final, hearing on the Plan.
Ask the President
Q: What does it mean when the Community Plan specifies that More Mesa must have a Specific Plan?
A: That everything is planned together … at the same time.
Santa Barbara County defines a “Specific Plan” as “A plan that provides for a more a more precise level of planning for an area than is ordinarily possible in the Comprehensive Plan or the Coastal Plan.” Potential development on More Mesa has required a Specific Plan ever since More Mesa was first protected in the Community Plan for our area … over 20 years ago. This means that whatever is being planned for More Mesa, no matter when various parts of the development will actually be built, all planning must be submitted and approved before any actual building begins. For example, you may recall a development that was being discussed about 5 years ago. This proposal included 27 “Casitas” and 12 Mansions. According to the guidelines of More Mesa’s Specific Plan, all 39 of these structures would have had to be fully planned and approved before any development could occur.
This Month on More Mesa – The Mystery of the Anise Swallowtail
Our website has photos of all 19 species of butterflies found on More Mesa. One of these species is the Anise Swallowtail, so named because this butterfly lays its eggs on fennel, a plant that tastes like anise or licorice. Caterpillars hatch from the eggs and gorge themselves on their fennel hosts until they are big enough to become pupae. Metamorphosis occurs within the pupae, and the life cycle is completed when the butterfly emerges to begin the cycle again. It all sounds straightforward until we recognize that fennel is not native to Southern California!
Fennel was probably introduced by Italian immigrants settling in the Goleta Valley in the late 1800s; relative newcomers who used fennel extensively in their Mediterranean diets. The introduction of this non-native plant leads to some interesting musings:
When did the Anise Swallowtails appear here? One possibility is that the species has been here for a long time and BF (before fennel) they fed on other close members of the fennel family; carrots, parsley, coriander, dill and probably wild members of the same family as well.
If they were already here, why were they called Anise Swallowtails? The naming logic is hard to track, but it probably happened after naturalists were around to name them.
Naming aside, these are beautiful creatures and can be found in many areas of More Mesa. Take a walk, enjoy this magic place … and look for the Anise Swallowtails. They will be there … along with lots of other butterfly friends!
How You Can Help
Between now and the day we learn of the plans of the owners of More Mesa, we will continue to strengthen our argument for why any development should be opposed. You can help in formulating that argument in these ways:
Send us a photograph of you and others enjoying More Mesa … demonstrating both public interest and use;
Share a particularly interesting way in which you enjoy the Mesa;
Help us clean up trash on More Mesa … to keep it beautiful while, at the same time showing community support;
If you have some money left over at the end of the month send us a contribution, of any amount, to help us in defending More Mesa. You can do this on the home page of our web site or by mailing a check made out to the “More Mesa Preservation Coalition”, P.O. Box 22557, S. B., CA 93121; and,
Encourage your friends and acquaintances whom you know enjoy the Mesa to do one or more of the above.
Thank you very much for your continued interest and support. We look forward to the day when we can purchase More Mesa and preserve for all time this rare and remarkable place … the last great place in Santa Barbara.
Be attuned to, and look for messages in the news, and from MMPC reporting on the Board of Supervisors hearing on the Goleta Community Plan.
The owners remain quiet on any development plans so we are continuing to build our Defense of More Mesa campaign fund (you can contribute by visiting the home page of our web site) and ensuring that the land is protected and maintained … see “How You Can Help”. Thank you for your interest.
Ask the President
Q: Who does the legal work for MMPC to help protect More Mesa?
A: The amazing EDC.
We are extremely fortunate to have the Environmental Defense Center representing us in all our legal matters. EDC, organized as a nonprofit corporation, provides legal counsel to other non profit organizations, and is the only such public interest environmental law firm between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Historically, EDC has been involved in efforts to preserve More Mesa since 1979, a mere two years after they were founded. During that time they have represented four different More Mesa organizations, with MMPC being the latest. In particular, Linda Krop of EDC has been our counsel for the entire 17 years we have been around and represented us, in exemplary fashion, in every legal issue we have had. Thank you Linda!
In early June, EDC celebrated its 40th Anniversary. As part of the festivities, all attendees were asked to vote on their favorite victory from EDC’s four decades and many triumphs. The EDC newsletter about this event reports: “One of the best moments of the day came when the winners were announced; three huge, multi-year efforts that are truly representative of so much that EDC has fought for.” Two of the three top winners were campaigns for preservation of open space: specifically Ellwood Mesa and the Carpinteria Bluffs.
MMPC looks forward to adding More Mesa to this impressive list and is certain to accomplish our goal with EDC beside us.
This Month on More Mesa
As summer is fast upon us, it is time for young birds to strike out on their own. We currently have a wonderful example of this in a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that has been spending lots of time flying over the northeast corner of More Mesa. Red-shouldered Hawks tend to soar over forests or perch on tree branches while hunting for prey; small mammals, amphibians or reptiles. And although these birds are found in thicker forests over wide areas of the U.S., those in the west are typically found in riverside forest, oak woodland and sometimes in eucalyptus groves. In fact, populations in California are often more visible, as they successfully adapt to our more open habitats.
Our newest youngster is not only flying over More Mesa, but it is constantly vocalizing … whether flying or perching. Red-shouldered Hawks are the noisiest of the hawk family and this particular youngster is competing for the most vocal Red-shouldered Hawk ever!
And on a fun note, the Red-shouldered Hawk has a much less vocal, but much more common cousin, who also lives on and around More Mesa, the Red-tailed Hawk. You are not likely to ever hear its cry on More Mesa, but you have heard it hundreds of times in your life. Very reliable sources attest to the fact that Hollywood did not think the call of the Bald Eagle, America’s National Bird and the one usually associated with eagles, was majestic enough for their taste. So they substituted the “soaring” call of the Red-tailed Hawk and this call, and not the Bald Eagle call, is the one most movie-goers think is a Bald Eagle!
The Past – The End of the Monarchy
When we left the Monarch of More Mesa in our last issue, he had succeeded in getting himself appointed “Administrator” of his brother Alex’s estate. With this bit of skullduggery, he began a frantic two year process by which he systematically swindled his relatives out of many of the assets of the estate. In 1896, when finally, and legally, removed from his “Administrator” position, he had successfully appropriated $80,000, which a San Francisco court ordered him to pay back to the estate. But More did not have the $80,000, as he had been losing heavily in Nevada mining stock promotions. So, in order to comply with the court order, King John gave up his 1/8 interest in Santa Rosa Island. In 1901, the remaining heirs sold their interest in Santa Rosa to Vail & Vickers who ranched on the island for more than a century, until the island was officially made a part of Channel Islands National Park in 2011.
It was a busy and productive year for More Mesa. As is our custom, below are the highlights for the year 2013.
More Mesa Sold More Mesa was sold to a Saudi investor in mid-December of last year. Obviously MMPC is disappointed that the seller offered the property to the community for $35 million, but subsequently sold to the new owner for $25 million. However, it is important to remember that, even though we do not know the buyer’s plans, the legal instruments that govern More Mesa have not changed. Whoever owns the property must comply with the policies, standards and regulations of the County’s Goleta Community Plan and the California Coastal Act. This means that development will be restricted, public access will be maintained, and the habitat areas covering most of the property must be protected.
Citizen Scientists Busy At Work
iNaturalist: Early this year we introduced a new educational resource to our website, “More Mesa Natural Resources” on iNaturalist. With this new feature, supporters who report sightings become part of a well organized Citizen Scientist movement.
Sightings Reports: Unusual sightings were a real highlight of 2013. For example, a fox reported in July and a rare weasel in September. In addition, there were various sightings of our signature bird, the White-tailed kite. A total of three young were fledged on More Mesa. While this is a small fraction of the 8-12 chicks we observe in years with ample rainfall, our three chicks represent a third of all kites fledged in the entire Goleta Valley. Moreover, teams of kite observers noted that 2/3 of all the kite nests in the Goleta Valley were abandoned by late May. These data show, once again, how important More Mesa is to the survival of kites in our area.
Monthly e-mail Update Well Received
May of this year saw the inauguration of our Monthly e-mail Update. This report is sent to all our supporters who have supplied us with an e-mail address and contains the following information: potential development, answers to frequently asked questions, what’s happening on More Mesa, the past and ways that our supporters can help.
Plans for the 2014
Symposium: Update to Symposium of 2003 – March
Potential Forum: Views about More Mesa from Candidates for Second District Supervisor – Spring
Dialogue with the new owner: We look forward to working with the new owner in a manner that not only protects the biological, aesthetic and recreational resources of More Mesa, but also addresses his interests, as well as those of other More Mesa stakeholders.
As always … thank you all for your wonderful support, and for loving this very special place.
Our warmest holiday wishes,
More Mesa Preservation Coalition
As many of you may already know, More Mesa was sold to a Saudi investor in mid-December. Obviously MMPC is disappointed that the seller offered the property to the community for $35 million, but subsequently sold to the new owner for $25 million. However, we look forward to working with the new owner in a manner that not only protects the biological, aesthetic and recreational resources of More Mesa, but also addresses his interests, as well as those of other More Mesa stakeholders.
Finally, it is useful to remember that, while we do not know the buyer’s plans at this time, the legal instruments that govern More Mesa have not changed. Whoever owns the property must comply with the policies and regulations of the County’s Goleta Community Plan and the California Coastal Act. This means that development will be restricted, public access will be maintained, and the habitat areas covering most of the property must be protected. We look forward to a productive dialogue with the new owner on all these issues.
Welcome to a New Year!
While typically one or two female Northern Harriers overwinter on More Mesa, this year there were a number of Harriers, including the male in the photo, taken on January 3, 2013.