Hollister Ranch Association Moves to Disqualify Judge

Hollister Ranch (Photo: Gaviota Coast Conservancy)

By edhat staff

The Hollister Ranch Owners Association has moved to disqualify the judge who ruled against them earlier this month, reports Steve Lopez with the Los Angeles Times.

To start from the beginning, there was a previous settlement between the Hollister Ranch landowners, the California Coastal Conservancy, and the Coastal Commission that was done behind closed doors without the public’s knowledge. The State of California agreed to forego public access and instead allow a few more visitors to come in with guides or to travel by surfboard, paddleboard, kayak, or soft-bottom boat. When the Los Angeles Times exposed this deal, the public and the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance petitioned to intervene.

Earlier this month, edhat reported Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Colleen K. Sterne endorsed the engagement of the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance and outlined a path to litigate issues to be resolved in order to achieve more meaningful public access to the beaches and coastline of Hollister Ranch.

Although, last week the landowners of Hollister Ranch, a pristine and relatively untouched section of the Gaviota coastline, were seemingly displeased with this ruling. Lopez reports the Hollister Ranch Owners Association recently filed a petition to have Judge Sterne disqualified because of “an appearance of bias, based on the judge’s suggestion to a party how to proceed.”

The following day, the Goleta Trail Alliance filed a claim requesting the previous settlement be thrown out, arguing that “the settlement conflicts with public rights of way to tidelands and navigable waters,” and was agreed to without public “notification and hearing protocols.” The claim also says the state “threw in the towel on ever getting meaningful beach access,” condemning adventurers “to brave the dangers” of access by sea, reports Lopez.

Evidence of the tension between two sides could be seen during the California Coastal Commission’s informational hearing in December last year. It addressed the agency’s plans to revise the 1982 Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Program, as directed by Governor Brown in his September 2018 veto message for AB 2534, a bill authored by Assemblymember Monique Limon.

During the hearing, a number of Hollister Ranch owners argued the Coastal Commission should not pursue public access, while others asked to be involved in the Commission’s stakeholder process. A video of the meeting can be found here. The informational presentation begins around 31 minutes and 40 seconds while public comments begin around 1 hour. 

Several Hollister Ranch landowners provided public comment expressing why the general public would ruin the land and the beaches. One owner specifically stated the Commission’s resources should be focused elsewhere with larger populations while another stated this is solely driven by surfers wanting to catch waves.

For reference, the California Coastal Act of 1976 guarantees state beaches are available to everyone and not a few landowners.

At the conclusion of this meeting, Commission Chair Bochco and other Commissioners restated their commitment to secure public access to the Hollister Ranch coastline, stating that the Coast belongs to everyone.

“Telling us that humans are ruining the beach, that access by the public is somehow going to make your pristine property no longer pristine, the wildlife will disappear, etc. I find that somewhat offensive. I find it … to be a very subtle kind of elitism, that for some reason you’re better at protecting the natural habitat than anyone else…. I can see why for the past 36 years the [residents] … have blocked the state from doing what it legally had the right to do, which was to have an access program to Hollister Ranch’s beaches. That’s the law and the law applies to everybody,” said Bochco.

The debate and proceedings rage on as it’s currently unclear how the two petitions will shake out.

[Sources: Los Angeles Times, California Coastal Commission, Gaviota Trail Alliance]

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  1. If that’s so, and I am not denying it, just don’t know, why don’t those who use it help with the clean up? …I pick up trash I see along the street in front of my house that’s near Franklin and Adelante Schools? …It’s a disgrace that schools (and parents) do not teach young people to not dump their trash.

  2. Did anyone else really read the article? Or keep tabs on what has actually been happening with this? The Hollister Ranch Association is trying to keep their beach private. Beaches are public for everyone. Pure elitism at its best.

  3. Another poster who hasn’t been keeping tabs on what is actually happening. Google: Beverly Boise-Cossart Noozhawk if you would like an accurate description of what this legal battle is about. If you want to get riled up and justify taking things from others please do rely on that LA times opinion piece crafted to do just that.

  4. Beautifully spoken, biguglystick.
    The only way to keep this small remaining piece of coastline pristine is to keep the littering public off it! Sure, I pick up beach litter, but it’s a hopeless task. No one can stop the careless people from breaking glass, leaving their flip-flops, clothes, cigarette butts, detritus of all kinds, and spray-painting the rocks. Once it’s trashed, like beloved Red Rock, it will never be the same.

  5. Seems as if the Gaviota Trail Alliance aims to gains benefits not obtained in the original settlement. Creating a walking trail within Hollister Ranch isn’t part of any agreement or legally feasible. And Yes CA Coastal Commission, the private residents of Hollister Ranch probably are a lot better at managing wildlife, habitat, and pollution.

  6. I don’t know… usually I am strongly for beach access, the beaches DO belong to everyone, but in this one situation, I might side with the land owners. Here we have the most pristine preserved coastline in all of the Southern half of California. I watched as encroachments and developers have RUINED the entire rest of the coast south of here, and I cherish the northernmost coastal areas of Santa Barbara County, praying all the time that greedy developers will keep their grimy mitts OFF of the coastline. If you look south of here the ONLY untouched area is the military Camp Pendleton base.
    I really do think that Gaviota and Hollister Ranch is sacred land, and I am a low income surfer and Native Californian, I don’t have money or a house, but I respect and love our coastline. People don’t need to be everywhere, crawling like ants on every single area. LEAVE IT ALONE.

  7. I hope it is never ever opened up to the public. I personally would love access, but I also personally saw what Red Rock has turned into…a filthy filth hole strewn with garbage, wrappers, dirty diapers…basically a sewer.

  8. The LA Times article is…. just unfortunate because now all of So Cal and beyond read that as news rather than a one-sided opinion piece crafted to rile up the masses against the evil wealthy landowners. State of our new outlets these days I guess.
    Right from the second sentence “Santa Barbara County judge put the brakes on a bad deal favored by area landowners that would provide only limited public access”. The writer makes it sound like the Judge thought the deal was “bad”, but that the authors opinion. The State of California and the Coastal Commission didn’t think it was bad, when was the last time the CCC didn’t use 110% of their efforts to try and extort as much access as possible.
    Driving on the beach so bad for the environment? Then why is okay for hundreds of vehicles a day to to drive on the beach just 40 miles away ast Pismo Beach, a State Park? Not to mention off-roading, camping, and bon fires, I don’t think any of that is allowed at Hollister Ranch.
    Most importantly, the beach isn’t private. Never has been, never will. People have been boating, walking and paddling in for years. The State’s and CCC resources would be better spent fixing the long-broken boit hoist at the Gaviota pier, which enables people in even the smallest of boats access to the ranch and many miles of coastline beyond.
    If you’re interested in an accurate summary of the litigation and issues at hand lookup Beverly Boise-Cossart’s piece in the Noozhawk.

  9. The trail isn’t legally feasible but isn’t financially feasible. Where would the state get all the money to buy the access (eminent domain) and maintain that access? Much better places to use the available money and accomplish their mission of greater access.

  10. The arrogance of these wealthy land barons and their exploitative mega-attorneys. I have an idea, since they want everything to themselves How about we cut off the publicly funded 101 Freeway access to the ranch entrance? Sorry fellas, this turnoff is no longer available. These are public lands and we don’t want to let you use them to access your private property.
    The ocean and beach are for EVERYONE.

  11. The issue that is before the court is not the whole coastal access ballgame. It is about a very narrow legal issue regarding a transfer of a limited access. Even if implemented it would allow a very minor use. It is not a hiking/biking trail.
    We all “own” the beaches and the surf but real individuals own land. The “taking” of land must follow due process and be fairly compensated. It’s not supposed to be a political act to right perceived social inequities or “wrongs.” Talk to the landowners along our southern border in the pathway of a potential wall. No one wants to illegally or unfairly have property taken. No one.

  12. There is strong public interest in limiting access to beaches along the Gaviota coast in order to protect this relatively pristine environment from human impacts. The GCTA and their attorney Marc Chytilo DO NOT represent the public interest, but merely a small subset of the public.
    We have been accessing many of the ranch beaches for decades by land, sea, and air. There is not an access issue but for weather. Naples is closer but it’s become overrun and trashed over the past 25 years. Where is the Gaviota Coast Conservancy and California Coastal Protection Network on that problem? Ellwood open space has easy access to the beach but not for the disabled. How is it that there is no equivalent hue and cry? Meanwhile the monarchs are being chased off by ever increasing human access through the eucalyptus grove. This rigamorole of a lawsuit is such a waste, and as much as I despise some individual ranch owners and employees, i feel the general public does not and will not respect the land the way the HOA generally does. Take an inventory of lands preserved by land trusts and conservation easements. Typically it’s once private land with little to no public access and minimal human disturbance, We should keep it that way.

  13. You also don’t know what is going on if you think Hollister Ranch is trying to exempt themselves from CA law. Please Ying Yang, read that noozhawk piece referenced here and come back to the board and let me know your thoughts.

  14. Beach use and access should be free… Yet the State of California makes you PAY $10 to park at El Cap or Refugio. I never understood why CA residents and state taxpayers pay the same rate as Canadians or out of state users of our State Parks…

  15. 1:13 pm. Yes we do allow people to drive through our “backyard” to get to the beach, freeway or whatever. We have alleys, streets, boulevards, roads that were taken to do exactly that. Why should the uber rich be exempt? I certainly cannot stop someone from driving by my house on the way elsewhere.

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