Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

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By Julia Laraway

To Those Who Would BUY an “Estate” at the San Marcos Foothills West Property:

In the spirit of full disclosure about the environment surrounding your new home, this letter will address three issues: the wildlife that lives on the property, the weather and the threat of wildfire.

The animals found in the foothills range from harmless prey to apex predator. Smaller, less visible creatures are gophers and ground squirrels. In any given square yard, there are between one and two gopher or ground squirrel burrows. They are darling little animals, and absolutely willing to eat every last one of your plants, be they vegetable or ornamental. Other less visible, and less darling, animals are the tarantula and the rattlesnake. Tarantulas are big, hairy spiders and while they look ferocious are not venomous. Rattlesnakes on the other hand are venomous and do pose a danger to you and your pets. Among the larger animals, there are bobcats, mountain lions and coyotes. All three of these predators have been sighted regularly on the property and all enjoy a tasty snack of gopher and ground squirrel. They would also make a meal of your cat, small to midsize dog or puppy, chickens or baby goats. There are also all manner of birds that will serenade you at all hours of the day and night. This is lovely if you like that sort of thing, but it just might keep you awake all night if you are used to the sounds of the city. Coyotes tend to howl as well, so be aware of that.

Regarding the weather that you will be experiencing after you settle into your new estate, it will not be the temperate climate for which the City of Santa Barbara is so famous. As advertised, your home sits on the largest debris flow recorded in the Santa Barbara area. The lots on the upper mesa are at elevations 400 to 700 feet above sea level and are roughly 3.5 miles from the coast. Our temperature tracking weather station is at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport which is at sea level and roughly a quarter mile from the Pacific Ocean. The temperature reading at the Airport is generally 10 degrees F cooler than it is on the upper mesa at the San Marcos Foothills. You and your lovely home will be subjected to temperatures that reach into the low 90’s in August, and commonly into the high 90s and low 100s in the months of September and October. Additionally, April and May have those types of temperatures occasionally before the June Gloom sets in. The upper mesa is also in the direct path of our local sundowner winds that roar down the San Marcos Pass and the front country of the Santa Ynez Mountains, sucking all the moisture from the surrounding vegetation.

Which brings us to FIRE danger. The upper mesa of the San Marcos Foothills burned in the Cave Fire on November 25, 2019. People who live in homes above Foothill Road have evacuated for fires in 2014, 2013, 2011 and 2009. You are buying a home in the path of barreling winds that suck moisture from the air and vegetation and raise the air temperature precipitously in a short amount of time. One spark can spell destruction, and it regularly has here in Santa Barbara. 

If you find that the view is worth it, may you enjoy rattlesnake sightings and the sweltering fall days, and remember to have a go-bag ready and waiting in your car at all times for as long as you live in your “estate."

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Zenyatta19 Nov 06, 2020 11:54 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

Yes they are more at risk than the homes on Via Chaparral. The 154 provides somewhat of a fuel break where firefighters and equipment can stage. The homes on La Vista are at extreme risk as evidence from previous fires in which two burned and one was saved by fire repellent foam.

dukemunson Nov 06, 2020 12:21 PM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

I would agree with that, though I would add that the houses (with requisite fire department approved road and fire hydrants) provides another line of defense for fire essence it creates another spot for firefighters to fight a fire...a front line off 154 if you will.

notme Nov 03, 2020 10:45 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

I agree, well written. Anyone who has been here long enough to remember the multitude of fires that have ravaged the area will understand. 1990's Painted Cave fire, fueled by the sundowners, nearly made it to the ocean, burning 400+ buildings. Plus, there is the wildlife. I used to work up there, and can remember seeing a bobcat in the parking lot at work. Even down in the flatlands, where I live, I can hear the coyotes at night. A friend in Phoenix recently found his indoor/outdoor cat torn to shreds by coyotes (he assumed the cat was savvy enough to avoid the predators). Back when the Goleta Valley Voice newspaper was still around, I remember an article where the writer mentioned watching 4 coyotes trotting up San Marcos, each carrying a cat in its mouth. Even if I did have the money, there is no way I would sacrifice my safety to buy an "estate" up there.

SB1961 Nov 03, 2020 10:56 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

I truly wish we could save this property and add it to the SMFP. I'm a hobby wildlife photographer and spend quite a bit of time here enjoying all the wildlife...including those mentioned in the article.
However, this is kind of a silly attempt to scare off would be buyers. No doubt they are well aware of these downsides. The only way to save the property is for people to pitch in and buy it. The original sellers of the property made a fair deal and we were lucky to get SMFP. They could have fought to develop the entire parcel.

notme Nov 03, 2020 11:03 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

I agree that we need to raise the money to purchase the rest of the property, but many would-be estate buyers don't believe any of those bad things will ever happen to them -- kind of like my naive friend in Phoenix, who truly believed his cat had the smarts to avoid a predator.

Simpleton Nov 03, 2020 11:00 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

Based on similar developments nearby (The Boulders, etc.) these properties in SM Foothills West will sell very quickly and at a premium. Coyotes and elevated fire risk aren't much deterrent. At any rate, good luck with raising funds to acquire the property for preservation. You should again include the link for donations.

a-1604442349 Nov 03, 2020 02:25 PM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

Simpleton- Interesting comparison to The Boulders. The two developments have some things in common. Both have detrimental impacts on the environment, mainly native grasslands. The Boulders got away with faux mitigation of the damage by “transplanting “ some to the Modoc Preserve. At least the SMF preserved some on site. Both have or had beautiful boulders scattered throughout the landscape. Both will increase fire danger by adding more people and flammable ornamental landscape, into fire prone areas without adequate ingress or egress. Both have impacts from the addition of thousands of square feet of non pervious surfaces. The run off at The Boulders is voluminous, even with the mitigation of a one acre retention basin,. One day of moderate rain fills the basin, which overwhelms the outflow and causes muddy water in the streets south of the project. The run off from development contains everything from oil, fertilizers, dirt and other toxins found in urban areas. Both have/will remove vital forage land for local wildlife. Both have/had archaeological artifacts that deserved proper preservation. This is where the similarities end. Unlike the SMF, The Boulders was THE last open space on the West Mesa area. Unlike the SMF, The Boulders are on small parcels with merely 40 feet between homes. I am not sure why you think homes at The Boulders have sold quickly. I assume you have a stake in them or you wouldn’t have brought the development up. FYI The three completed homes sat vacant on the market for three years, only recently have two sold. Construction of two others are almost complete with one of them sold. The developer assumed the homes would sell for between 3-4 million. Even with the price reduced to 2.5 M, they sat on the market for years. The Boulders project broke ground in 2015. The surrounding area has been impacted by the construction of this project for nearly 6 years, and it isn’t even 1/4 of the way finished. How long will the construction at SMF take? We do not need more overpriced multimillion dollar homes in the wild land urban interface. More homes which will ruin the environment, increase fire risk, and sit on the market for years. What a waste.

Sail380 Nov 05, 2020 12:38 PM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

Being I have made a living in the construction industry I see it differently. 9 of this type of home will provide long term employment for several trades. Start counting up the ongoing need for landscaper's, plumber's, electrician's, pool supplies and general maintenance and repair among others. Not to mention the increased revenue from new property tax assessment's That's a long term benefit that benefita us all.

Julia Laraway Nov 04, 2020 10:53 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

For those who wish to contribute to keeping this parcel free of development, this is the link to the CIR website where you may donate. You will need to copy and past this URL.

dukemunson Nov 04, 2020 11:17 AM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

Julia - I think everyone here is rooting for you to come up with the money to buy the place...that is the best outcome for all. But the outcome is still a pretty great one for everybody. It's an interesting tact (almost to the point of parody though) to try and claim it's not a desirable spot. People tend to go/want to live in beautiful spots. There is a reason you visit this spot...and it's the same reason it would be a beautiful spot to live. We still get the preserve...and that is and remains a win for us all!

Julia Laraway Nov 04, 2020 07:22 PM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

Duke, I absolutely agree that it is a beautiful spot and I have daydreamed about coffee on a porch at the the top of the mesa. I have. The "preserve" for the upper mesa isn't exactly what we might think though. While the "landscape envelopes" are three acres, the actual lots are between 27 and 3.5 acres. The trail, as I understand it from looking at the plans, will no longer loop from the west around the top and meet up with the preserve on the eastern side of the development. You will merely be able to walk out to the 154 overlook and back on what will still be private land. I too think the best way to manage this is to buy it. I acknowledge the many years of work that has been put into the planning. And while there was a bit of tongue in cheek writing in my piece, what is absolutely true is that it will burn again, there will be another drought and at some point we need to stop sprawling into places that should be left as a buffer zone. When I dream of that coffee on the porch, I go take a walk there. I don't have to live there to love and enjoy it. I really do hope this ends up a win for us all, animal inhabitants included.

a-1604552253 Nov 04, 2020 08:57 PM
Truth in Advertising for the San Marcos Foothills West Estates

I just had to say -- THE "SB temperature," from the airport, is a gigantic, the biggest pet peeve about SB reporting! lol
Follow local weather reporting stations on Wunderground for real temps!
Carry on, and I appreciate your effort, Ms. Laraway.

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