March 2006

This month’s news brings you excerpts of a recent MMPC press release.

South Coast residents face many challenges protecting our environment and quality of life, including traffic congestion, provision of affordable housing and protection of agricultural land and open space. Protection of irreplaceable agricultural land and critical open space is often the most hotly debated of these issues. Residents’ passion for open space protection is exemplified by successful efforts to protect coastal areas; i.e., Ellwood Mesa-Devereux Slough, Wilcox property, Carpinteria Bluffs and the debate over how to protect the Gaviota Coast. Among these coastal treasures, perhaps the most significant and threatened unprotected land is the 300 acres of stunning bluff top open space on More Mesa.

Located in the east Goleta Valley west of Hope Ranch and 2 miles east of Goleta Beach, this incredible open space has survived several past development efforts. However, the irreplaceable values of open space are threatened by the potential for development of 70 mansions onsite and by encroaching development of “McMansions” on surrounding properties.

How or whether to save More Mesa from potential development and how to address the environmental and visual impacts created by encroaching development will come into focus over the next four years. First, the “visioning process” currently underway in for the eastern Goleta Valley could change the Goleta Community Plan’s land use plan and policies which guide development on More Mesa and the surrounding properties. In addition, a new Second District Supervisor will be elected in November. The convergence of the election of a new County Supervisor for the District encompassing More Mesa and the emergence of a new or amended community plan create both opportunity for protection of More Mesa or increase the danger presented by new development.

The visioning process presents the community with an opportunity to foster protection of More Mesa and its resources through creation of new polices to protect public views, strengthen habitat protection, limit McMansion style development and encourage the County to actively pursue purchase of More Mesa. If championed by the Goleta Visioning Committee and a new Second District Supervisor, the protection of More Mesa could take its place alongside environmental victories such as the protection of the Ellwood Mesa. However, a divided Visioning Committee and a new Supervisor unsympathetic or hostile to protection of More Mesa could sow the seeds for a calamitous environmental defeat such as the development of critical coastal open spaces at Haskell’s Beach and Hammonds Meadow.

Citizens interested in the protection of More Mesa and its resources would do well to carefully follow the visioning process and to clearly understand the views of the candidates seeking the Second Supervisorial District seat regarding protection of More Mesa. The Visioning Committee and the new Second District Supervisor may well hold the fate of this critical coastal open space in their hands.

White-tailed kite over northwestern More Mesa, March 20, 2006