By the County of Santa Barbara, Public Works Department

 On February 15, 2023, the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) filed an amicus brief in support of the County’s authority to remove unlawful road encroachments in the County’s appeal of the preliminary injunction issued by the trial court in Anderson, et al. v. County of Santa Barbara, et al. 

The case raises the question of whether the court can enjoin the removal of unlawful private encroachments through a preliminary injunction when a property owner maintaining unlawful private encroachments files a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

CSAC determined that the case is a matter affecting all 58 California counties in that the Court of Appeal’s decision will impact important issues of governance statewide. Specifically, it will impact the ability to maintain safe and orderly roadways at both the State and local level.

Santa Barbara County Public Works Director and County Road Commissioner Scott McGolpin said, “CSAC providing amicus support to the County on appeal reaffirms that no party in California has the right to infringe upon the public’s enjoyment of their right-of-way nor the Road Commissioners’ authority to keep the traveling public safe.” 

In their brief, CSAC argues that the Court’s preliminary injunction order should be reversed for the following reasons: 

  • The ability of Road Commissioners and Caltrans to quickly enforce encroachment requirements is a statewide matter of public safety. 

  • Courts must give deference to the opinions of County road commissioners and other qualified transportation agency staff. This will ensure the speculative concerns of non-experts will not interfere with the safety and maintenance of the county road system. 

  • Preliminary injunctions are a remedy in equity that cannot be used to allow petitioners to continue unlawful conduct when the validity of the underlying statutes is not at issue. 

Last year, the Santa Barbara County Road Commissioner posted notices to remove unpermitted road encroachments to property owners along East Mountain Drive, near the Hot Springs trailhead, in Montecito. Four private property owners on East Mountain Drive sued the County arguing that removing unlawful private encroachments from the public right of way requires an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA. They sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the removal of the unlawful encroachments. The Santa Barbara County Superior Court issued the requested injunction. The County appealed that decision and is currently awaiting the Court of Appeal’s decision.  

CSAC is a non-profit corporation whose membership consists of the 58 California counties. CSAC sponsors a Litigation Coordination Program, which is administered by the County Counsels’ Association of California and is overseen by the Association’s Litigation Overview Committee, comprised of County Counsels throughout the state. The County Counsels’ Association of California is comprised of public attorneys who provide legal advice and representation to California’s 58 counties and other units of local government. 

To download the amicus brief, visit https://www.counties.org/post/anderson-v-county-santa-barbara-b322465. For information on road encroachment permits, visit https://www.countyofsb.org/2061/Road-Encroachment-Permits.  


Written by Anonymous

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  1. Shame on those property owners. That trail has existed for the better part of a century, they knew exactly what they were getting into by owning property there. To try to pit environmental concerns against public ROW rights is truly disgusting. I hope they charge them for all the court and lawyer fees, too, when all is said and done.
    Tow people immediately if they are blocking the fire lane, of course!!! But to place boulders to keep people from parking in the public ROW at a historic trailhead? Entitled, immature, holier-than-thou, I could go on…

    • To clarify my statement “To try to pit environmental concerns against public ROW rights is truly disgusting” –
      I’m referring to pitting these things against each other under the *guise* of environmental concern, when the true goal is to prevent the public from accessing the ROW.

    • Yes, it’s buried pretty deep in the article (the beginning is very hard to read with all the legal jargon), but this is a lawsuit brought about by uber rich property owners who, no doubt, spent uber amounts of money to place massive boulders alongside the road so that the public can no longer park there to access the trail head, an area people have been legally parking for decades and decades.
      They were ordered to remove the boulders, and what did they do? They hired lawyers to say “well, you’re going to need to do environmental studies to prove it people parking here doesn’t impact the environment.” This pauses all enforcement until it gets through the courts. The problem is, these people do not care about spending massive amounts of money to keep this case in the court as long as they possibly can. This means they are also costing the public massive legal fees (unless they are ordered to pay them, if they lose the case.)
      Did they do this because they actually care about the environment? Hell no! They are doing this because they are selfish, and it’s nothing to them to spend (likely) hundreds of thousands of dollars on hoity toity lawyers to find unprecedented loopholes. It’s gross.
      These people should be publicly named and shamed.

    • I gotta say, that’s a pretty sneaky way to fight removal of their illegally placed boulders. Smart, but greasy. Allowing them to keep the boulders would set a dangerous precedent. Anytime you don’t like the public ROW in front of your property being used by the public, just throw some boulders on it. An injunction shouldn’t be used to allow illegal activity to continue. I’m surprised the trial court issued one.

  2. I can sympathize with the property owners. I know how this parking issue can be taken advantage of. Blocking driveways, damaging landscape and the trash that is always left behind. I’m sure they just got tired of it, weekend after weekend. It’s too bad but people tend to ruin it for themselves.

  3. The County makes property owners do environmental reviews for trivial changes and the County should have to live by their own rules. So no, it is not really about the environment its about a taste of their own medicine. I’m sort of on both sides here. Some stuff should be removed but walls, boulders etc that have been there for 30 or more years should be allowed to stay. There are walls dating back to the 1920’s around Riven Rock area that are historical… that the owners could not legally remove or alter due to their historical value. The County needs to live by its own rules. People who leave boulders, landscaping in the right of way on E. Mountain Drive should have them be removed. When talking about Riven Rock Road, the road should be left as is. No one should park there because it actually does impede the Fire Department because the road is already very narrow and the only parking is in a riparian top of bank environmentally sensitive no go zone. Try messing around with the creek bank at your property and a S ton of hell will rain down. County should live by its own rules and not allow parking in the riparian zone even if it has already thrashed by careless visitors parking their Tesla’s on the roots of oaks and stomping all the creek bank native plants to death so they don’t have to walk an extra 1/8 of a mile to the trailhead

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