The Development of San Marcos Foothills

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By Julia Laraway

I am writing to you in desperation and at the last minute regarding the development of the San Marcos Foothills West property that is set to begin this year by the Chadmar Group out of Los Angeles.

I am wondering if the fires burning up and down the state of California are giving you pause as you think of the fact the County okayed the development of a property where fire ravaged the landscape a mere ten months ago in November of 2019? Without a doubt, you know that those hills have burned or were threatened before last year in 2018, 2014, 2013 and 2009. Five times in one decade alone! How can you continue to be complicit in allowing the development of land where there is such a great chance of it burning again?

Does the fact that water is scarce already in Santa Barbara make you wonder at all whether the building of excessively large homes which will undoubtably utilize more water than is needful is appropriate?

After the heat waves of the past weeks when the temperature got to an easy 109 degrees at the Foothills, and was probably hotter, do you still think 9 gargantuan homes gulping up the electricity to cool 3000 to 5000 square feet of living space is a good idea?

I recognize that this deal was made long ago, and that it is coming to fruition on your watch. I know that you do think about the impact this development will have on the community. My heart is broken for the animals that already live there and the loss of habitat this development will entail, and I know in my bones that what is planned is an abomination.  Do you know how many people take solace from the landscape as it is now? The climate is changing, and heat waves and fires will only get worse in Santa Barbara. You must have the will to stop development of places that will burn again and again in the coming years.

My family and I have donated to Channel Islands Restoration Project, which is spearheading an effort to buy the property, but when I last checked there is not a chance that the 5 million dollars will be raised by September 15 of this year. There must be something that could be done to make sure that this property stays in its present state in perpetuity.


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a-1599852117 Sep 11, 2020 12:21 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I truly sympathize with your position. You make some very, very good points. Unfortunately I believe the developer already make significant concessions in order to get approval for this development? I believe one of which may have been that they gave the land for the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. I'd love to have even more land set aside but land owners do have a right to build on property unfortunately, unless someone will agree to compensate them. How much money has been raised so far and how much more needs to be raised? Where can one go to donate?

Julia Laraway Sep 11, 2020 12:58 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I believe about 35,000 has been raised. They have a long way to go. Thank you for your kind words and for adding the link for donations

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 12:55 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

They tried to build several hundred here back in the 70's and 80's...you already got the win...don't be a sore winner! It's 8 houses on over 100 acres (and while that is counting the 80 acres they've already given to the public, that's not counting the 200 acres they did to get the project going). They have great access via the "bridge to nowhere"...taking the fight to the last 8 houses seems petty. Raising money to try and buy it, great...but being upset about a developer developing the land in just about as minimal of a way as possible is crazy...

Julia Laraway Sep 11, 2020 01:05 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

In case you weren't aware, the west property being developed is accessible via the bridge to nowhere. I find it interesting that my points about re-occurring fires, lack of water and heat waves don't seem to have made an impression on your opinion. I am hoping that CIR can buy it at the fair market price and I am hoping the community is willing to do for the San Marcos Foothills what they did for the Douglas Preserve...i.e. buy it.

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 01:30 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I'm with you in the sense that I'd love to see it bought and made completely into a preserve. And when I looked at the map, we're talking about the West property, which would be these 8 houses, right? So they have good access (via the bridge to nowhere). As for water? It's 8 houses on what was 100's of acres of private property! I'm totally with you in that I would love if this could be purchased and kept, but if an owner makes every concession on a developable lot of this size, trying to add a moral argument to this seems wrong. What do heat waves have to do with building houses? As for fire, adding roads and fire hydrants will add a nice accessible spot for fires to be fought...buys a nice line of defense for everyone on San Antonio Creek Road and Via Chapparal. I get the sense you probably live right next to this and don't want to see "your backyard" changed at all...but this property has literally been "preserved" for all of Santa Barbara. But again, I hope the money is raised and it is purchased as that would I guess make it slightly more awesome...the fact is though it's already been preserved...the huge development was shot down decades ago. It's OK to let a few things be built in this town...in fact we need it!

Minibeast Sep 11, 2020 01:10 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

It was an epic battle to keep part of that land as open space (San Marcos Foothills Preserve, as earlier commenter stated). Allowing even part of that land to be developed was heartbreaking. Protection of the Savannah sparrow/its habitat was, I believe, what drove many birders and preservationists to join in the fight. At this point in time, the only hope would be to convince some deep pockets person such as Oprah or Degeneres or Katy Perry or ------ any ideas? ------ to step up (a la The Sperlings or Kirk Douglas) and donate the money needed to purchase the land.

JoeG Sep 11, 2020 01:13 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

At some point we all need to understand that our community has reached its maximum carrying capacity. Lake Cachuma cannot provide water to an infinite number of showers, toilets and kitchen sinks. Rolling blackouts are becoming more frequent because there's just not enough electricity to meet the ever-increasing demand. Our roads are increasing in congestion. We're all asked to conserve energy and water, yet our politicians keep approving more and more development. This makes no sense.

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 04:38 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Joe - It’s 8 houses!!!! Seriously... 8 houses! Get annoyed if you must about the 4 story monstrosity downtown... but this is 8 houses on a massive property that was zoned for quite a few more. Not letting them build the 8 would be akin to seizure. Raise the money (or the county step in) but they seemingly jumped through every hoop...

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 05:13 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Also, in addition to giving the land to create the preserve, they had to build at least two maybe more low to mid income houses.

RHS Sep 11, 2020 06:08 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Joe-G.: It is not just Santa Barbara that has reached its carrying capacity but California as a whole. When people bemoan that folks are leaving the state I cheer. Anyone who wants to leave SB is welcome to as well. But we need to tamp down on population growth everywhere.

Babycakes Sep 11, 2020 02:06 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

We are very fortunate to have living in our immediate area some of the world's leading activists and visionaries concerning the protection of our air, water, environment, and climate. All it would take to "get some eyes" on this horrendous project is to get an Oprah Winfrey, Ellen deGeneres, Rob Lowe, Al Gore, Duke/Duchess of Sussex, Julia Louis-Drefus, Gwynth Paltrow, or James Cameron to do what they do best: Get Publicity. Can you imagine the PR nightmare it would be for the developers if Al Gore just slightly made an offhand mention of how bad the project is for the climate? I don't know any of these champions or the environment, but someone reading this just might.

a-1599860389 Sep 11, 2020 02:39 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I sympathize with the sentiment but the post- and appeal for money- are very misleading.
This project and these homes were approved in 2005. There is nothing pending, no proposal= they are approved; the recession delayed the construction [as it did for many developments] but the appeal period is long gone. All of the pertinent documents can be found on the County website, search "preserve at San Marcos".

Julia Laraway Sep 11, 2020 03:21 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Not misleading. The Channel Islands Restoration project has until Sept 15th to come up with money to buy the West property per an agreement with the owner. If the money is not adequate to the task, the donations will be refunded. If you look at the CIR website you will see this. Yes it was all a done deal in 2005 and you are right that development has been delayed, but the option to buy the west property is available. What is needed is money.

a-1599867577 Sep 11, 2020 04:39 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Julia- I've looked at that page, can't find the amount agreed to for purchase, your article mentions $5million- is that the amount the current owner agrees to sell the property for? Just seems very low, but if that's the case, seems that gaining support from a local benefactor for the bulk of the $$ would seem most feasible

Julia Laraway Sep 11, 2020 05:04 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I believe the amount is 5.5 million for CIR to buy at fair market price. So far over 60,000 has been raised according to an email I received this morning.

Julia Laraway Sep 11, 2020 05:28 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I believe the amount is 5.5 million for CIR to buy at fair market price. So far over 60,000 has been raised according to an email I received this morning.

hz Sep 11, 2020 03:43 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

praying for a benefactor..please..this is a beautiful area with expansive views. Santa Barbara deserves open spaces. I agree..we do need more housing...AFFORDABLE housing closer to down town. I have walked there many times and have observed all kinds of wild life. Begging some one, one of our billionaire/millionaire friends/neighbors to help the community out here. Five million dollars can save this space...there is no other space like it ... it is beautiful and unique. do we really need more multi million dollar mansions for outsiders to come in and buy? I am hoping for a solution,, please <3.

a-1599873454 Sep 11, 2020 06:17 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Wait— 100 acres for - $5mi!? Hard to believe... each one of those homes/parcels would bring several million individually.

Julia Laraway Sep 11, 2020 06:47 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Please feel free to contact Channel Island Restoration. Their website has all the information as well as phone numbers and emails of the director, lead biologist etc, and they are forthcoming and hoping to facilitate this deal. Ask them about it. They are willing to talk and answer questions

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 08:10 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

That’s the “buy as a preserve price”... not a buy to build price. And the houses don’t appear to have much fencing if any as the place is remaining a preserve... just with a few houses. Seems like a huge win for sb... they got the preserve and are “giving” a few houses on a property that at one point was going to have a lot more. This isn’t a water issue, density issue or ISSUE at all unless you just hate seeing anything built anywhere, which OK... but we have property rights and whoever owns this deserves after satisfying every requirement to build something and maybe make some money (big maybe there... building anything in sb is brutally expensive)

Sail380 Sep 11, 2020 07:34 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Everyone cry's about loss of habitat and using resources. No one here is volunteering to move to stack and pack housing, tear down there house and restore the land to its original habitat. This one is over.

a-1599879706 Sep 11, 2020 08:01 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

No, we just want fewer people. Or at least the number we currently have, and no more. And anyway, eight or nine fancy houses isn’t going to do a lot for the housing crisis.

a-1599969917 Sep 12, 2020 09:05 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

No, that's not correct. If the number is 8,000, which is probably fairly accurate, SB City will be mandated to _zone_ for 8000 more dwelling units for varying incomes, not to provide them. Developers can not be forced to build.

a-1599935369 Sep 12, 2020 11:29 AM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Art of the deal - this property is now a white elephant. Fires, mudslides, vagrant camps, high insurance premiums if they even will issue a policy, are all very different now than they were in 2005. Keep that in mind when you start talking price.

Julia Laraway Sep 12, 2020 12:45 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

After having read through the comment section, and taken a walk on the property in question this morning, I keep coming back to the "It's only 8 homes," "We have a right to develop" and "Move to pack and stack and tear down your house," comments. It IS only 8 homes. Someone has mowed the grass up there so one can get a sense of where the houses might sit. They are far apart, and they all have beautiful views, which is truly the point of building up there, and I understand that desire. Yet, those eight homes might burn or need to be evacuated at least once in the next five years based on what has happened over the past ten years, and there will be taxpayer money spent for the protection of those homes. Those 8 beautiful homes will require water for their sinks, toilets, showers and landscaping in a city that lurches from drought to drought trying to conserve water endlessly. ("Gold is the New Green," anyone?) And those eight large homes will be running their air-conditioning for a good long while, sucking energy from an already stretched thin grid if the heat waves that we are now experiencing get worse. Yes, you absolutely have the right to build on property that you own, and I recognize that the Los Positas neighborhood in which I live was once wild land on the outskirts of Santa Barbara. I also recognize that long term thinking dictates a measure of restraint going forward that has not been a part of the way our building practices have worked in the past. I understand I have no real say in the matter, as I am not the owner of the property, nor do I have the means to buy it from them on my own. But in my opinion, and it really is only an opinion, this is a choice between short term gain for a very few, and long term thinking that could benefit many. If you have read to this point, take a moment and watch the video embedded in the op-ed piece in orange text. The San Marcos Foothills West property is a gem, and while it IS only eight homes, they would be yet another sign that humans think primarily in terms of short-term gain. I am in the process of coming to terms with that fact.

Sail380 Sep 12, 2020 01:37 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I understand your concerns, I was part of "Goleta Now" 20+ years ago to stop runaway growth. This project your concerned about went through all the reviews and was scaled back, donated substantial free space to meet the concerns of residents and local government. Time to find the next battle. Maybe water hungry weed and grapes in the Santa Ynez Valley?

PitMix Sep 14, 2020 07:07 AM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Sail380, your post minimizing her points and directing her to other battles does not indicate that you actually understand her concerns. Great job on stopping growth in Goleta, by the way. But at least that growth has been in their urban core areas and they have kept their mitts off of the undeveloped land on the foothill side of the 101, so far.

Sail380 Sep 14, 2020 11:05 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

I think I understand her concern's. What we don't know is why suddenly this project is important to her. Does the OP have a track record of opposition to other development? The Comstock project on the bluffs next to Sandpiper Golf Course? The Barcara? The Mirimar? How about the Tree Farm tract on Patterson Rd? Does this project interfere with her view from higher up the hill?

Julia Laraway Sep 15, 2020 09:11 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Dear Sail380, the prospective development doesn't interfere with my view from higher up on the ridge, and I HAVE watched with concern as other developments move closer to the wild lands, and gobble up more and more habitat for animals that have no where to go. The reason this is important to me is that our family has been walking on and loving this slice of beauty for the last twenty-five years. My young adult kids, who have grown up playing and exploring on this property, and I take our old dog up for sniffs, we go to watch the sunset, we go to climb our favorite oak tree and every time we go we leave feeling renewed and a little less stressed after being out on the highlands. I've also learned from taking Geology classes at SBCC that this property is a massive debris flow from millenia ago. Walking with friends who are birders and naturalists has given me a greater understanding of the animals who live and thrive there, and watching the fires in California lately has lit a fire under me. I will say it again. This is a question of short term gain for a few versus long term gain for the community. Maybe I need to start yelling.

dukemunson Sep 15, 2020 09:36 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Julia - I appreciate your sincere passion and honesty. I do have a question though: do you realize this property was private land 25 years ago that no one could go on and appreciate? Now, because of the allowance of a few houses a preserve was made so you and your kids and everyone in Santa Barbara can enjoy it!!! To strip the reserve of their right/ability to build would be akin to stealing. I’m with you that I’d love to see it bought and Donated/preserved in it’s entirety. But the developers gave the land with the understanding they could build something. You have the preserve... we all do! That doesn’t change. This was a huge win for sb... paragliders of town salute you and everyone involved. But they deserve their 8 houses...that’s an honest and fair exchange for the gift that is the San Marcos preserve!

a-1600236285 Sep 15, 2020 11:04 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

This is not a new development. If you have been walking on this property for 25 years, why are you just now so concerned?

Julia Laraway Sep 16, 2020 06:57 AM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Have been concerned for all 25 years and the opportunity for the community to buy the property is new within the last year.

a-1600121732 Sep 14, 2020 03:15 PM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

"Rationing" water use by large rate increases over a certain level - 55 gallons. De facto self-rationing. Virtually the same thing.

Zenyatta19 Sep 15, 2020 12:02 AM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

You assume people buying these unnecessary houses are all going to pay cash for them? Because in order to have any type of loan to buy a home you must have Homeowners insurance. And to people buying homes in the foothills, fire insurance is the most important issue. You assume because someone has money they are fine with a catastrophic loss? They are fine with their major investment and personal items going up in smoke? Just because someone may be able to afford an overpriced house in the foothills doesn’t mean they can afford to lose it.

PitMix Sep 14, 2020 07:09 AM
The Development of San Marcos Foothills

Julie, the people that post the most on Edhat are not typical of the average SBian. I apprecite the info that you provided and am glad you are willing to endure the slings and arrows of the the neocons in our community.

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