Grassroots Activists Raise $18.6M to Save San Marcos Foothills from Development
By edhat staff
The nonprofit organization Foothills Forever has officially raised $18.6 million to save the 101 acres of San Marcos Foothills from residential development.
In three short months, the first phase of funding was achieved by contributions of cash, pledges, and bridge loans from over 5,500 community members.
The 101-acre West Mesa area of the foothills will now join the already protected San Marcos Preserve to include 300 acres of "contiguous wildlife habitat, honor Chumash heritage, maintain open space, and provide environmental education opportunities," according to a statement by Foothills Forever.
The nonprofit stated, their legal team is working to complete the complex transaction to acquire the property and it may take a few days. Phase 2 of funding will soon begin to reach the $20 million mark to allow the group to retire short- and long-term loans, create an endowment, pay any final costs, and help to restore and steward the land into the future.
"We do not anticipate major changes to the land. The West Mesa is being preserved by a community led effort to maintain this grassland open space for future generations to enjoy," the statement read.
In March, the nonprofit announced they reached an agreement with an option to purchase the land from the developer, The Chadmar Group. Grading and development were halted for 90 days, allowing the group to raise money. If the funds were not met by the agreed-upon cut-off date, both sides agreed developers could proceed with the housing development.
This agreement came after activists blocked heavy machinery from gaining access to the property for several weeks starting in February. During one exchange, eight people were arrested by Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Deputies and transported to the County's Mail Jail for willfully obstructing the free movement of any person, a misdemeanor violation. The charges were later dropped.
The Chadmar Group purchased 377 acres of the foothills in 2005 with the intent of donating 300 acres to the county. The San Marcos Foothills Preserve is a protected area of 200 acres between Santa Barbara and Goleta in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The 101-acre West Mesa area of the foothills owned by the Chadmar Group had previously received permits for eight large homes on 25 of those acres.
Over the next few weeks and months, Foothills Forever stated it will continue docent-led tours of the property on a regular basis to be announced on their website. After the rains next winter, the group plans to bring sheep through Channel Islands Restoration to help control the invasive vegetation.
Donations are being accepted to reach the Phase 2 goal at https://www.foothillsforever.org/.
February 25, 2021: Eight Activists Arrested While Protesting San Marcos Foothills Development
April 7, 2021: San Marcos Foothills PSA
May 19, 2021: San Marcos Foothills Impact