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Chumash join opposition to Naples development plan



Chumash Indians and surfers found common ground Tuesday as they urged the county Board of Supervisors not to make a deal for the development of Naples, saying it would spoil property they love and revere on the Gaviota coast.

Paul Pommier Sr., a member of the Barbareno band, said he was a descendant of the Chumash who had lived in coastal villages about two miles west of Goleta, close to where Orange County developer Matt Osgood wants to build 55 luxury homes. He said the Barbarenos were prepared to go to the United Nations, if necessary, to seek the return of Naples to the Native American community.

"We will never allow anybody to develop this land, which would be a desecration of our sacred sites," said Mr. Pommier of Sherman Oaks. "Until now, our ancestors have slumbered peacefully there."

Keith Zandona, president of the Surfrider Foundation's local chapter, said Naples was in danger of becoming another luxury gated community like the Hollister Ranch.

"I hope everybody understands what's at stake here," he told the board. "We're talking about a world-class coast which in its uniqueness is one of a kind. Please go back to the negotiating table and bargain for a better deal for the public and the beautiful environment of the Gaviota coast."

Next, several members of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, a nonprofit group, contended that if development at Naples was unavoidable, it would be better to approve a dense, Summerland-type community instead of what they said would be "McMansions" complete with guest houses and pools. At least, they said, smaller homes would be more affordable.

The proposal under discussion Tuesday would put to rest 20 years of wrangling, in and out of court, over a subdivision map that was drawn up in 1888 for a township called Naples-by-the-Sea. The board postponed a decision until April 23.

Based on this map, the landowners at Naples have claimed the right to build more than 400 homes. Modern-day zoning for the property allows only for agricultural uses and one home per acre, or about five homes.

Specifically, the deal now on the table would allow Mr. Osgood to apply for the right to build up to 54 new homes on both sides of Highway 101 at Naples, in addition to the home he already has built there. Nine of the new homes would be built on the coastal bluffs above the beach. All of the homes would use septic tanks, because county policy prohibits the extension of sewer lines into rural areas. Half of the water supply would be imported through the state water pipeline, and half would come from wells.

About 160 acres of the 485-acre property would be permanently set aside for orchards and pasture; and 20 acres would be reserved for public use, with a parking lot, a biking campground, open space and trails. A special rezone would be required for the plan to proceed.

"Due to the many points of tension surrounding this property, this may be the last opportunity for a cooperative and global settlement," Mr. Osgood told the board.

In 1999, Mr. Osgood was proposing to sell 220 acres on the south side of 101 to a land trust; and to apply for up to 88 homes on the north side of the freeway. The board signed onto the plan, but it fell through, partly because Mr. Osgood could not produce a buyer for the south side.

County attorneys told the board Tuesday that the new deal would ensure sound planning at Naples. There is no danger it could be repeated anywhere else on the coast, they said.

"There is no location anywhere on the Gaviota coast or in the entire coastal zone that approaches this density of lots," Chief Deputy County Counsel Alan Seltzer said.

If the agreement is approved by the board, the Naples landowners would drop their lawsuits against the county. Mr. Osgood would not, however, be guaranteed the right to build 54 new homes. Most of his applications would go through comprehensive environmental review; they would also go before the county Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and state Coastal Commission for a vote.

On Tuesday, a number of environmentalists urged the board not to sign the Naples agreement, saying it would encourage "leapfrog" development into a rural area, effectively moving the urban boundary of Goleta two miles west. They said it would set a precedent for urbanization of other properties on the coast.

The opponents asked the board to pursue a transfer of the development rights at Naples to a piece of land within the urban limits. They suggested that the county might be able to buy Naples, using funds from Proposition 40, the parks bond that was approved by voters March 5. They invoked the Carpinteria Bluffs, Douglas Family Preserve, More Mesa and Ellwood Shores as examples of the public's desire to save the vacant lands that remain along the coast.

South Coast Supervisor Naomi Schwartz said she was troubled by the lack of affordable housing in the Naples proposal, and by the uncertain future of agriculture there.

"I want to raise the question of agriculture to a high level," she said. "It's not just a matter of planting avocado trees. It constitutes an understanding of how the Gaviota coast can be productive."

Ms. Schwartz asked county planners for more information on the environmental constraints that might prevent development on parts of Naples. The entire property has been designated by the county as a "special problems area" for septic tanks because of its sandy soils.

Supervisor Susan Rose, whose district includes the eastern Goleta Valley, said she had "a lot of problems with development south of 101."

She also asked whether a transfer of development rights from Naples could help provide some affordable homes within the urban limits.

"Yes, by approving a whole lot of them," John Patton, director of county Planning and Development, replied. "But it's a steep hill you've got to climb. We have assumed that looking for receiver sites is always a difficult thing to do."