Battle over Hollister Ranch: Judge allows challenge to limits on public access

A May ruling between landowners and the state restricted entry to the 14.5K-acre stretch of pristine coastline

A northerly part of the Hollister Ranch coastline below Point Concepcion
A northerly part of the Hollister Ranch coastline below Point Concepcion

The effort to open a 14,500-acre swath of undeveloped coastline known as Hollister Ranch to the public in Santa Barbara County got a boost this week.

A judge allowed public access advocates to challenge a May agreement between landowners and state officials that greatly restricted access to the pristine stretch of Pacific coastline, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The groups argue that state officials failed to represent the public interest in making the deal.

The Hollister Ranch property, which stretches between Gaviota State Park and Point Concepcion, dates to the 1800s. It was subdivided in the 1970s and is now owned by a small group of landowners who agree to abide by strict land use and development rules with the goal of keeping Hollister Ranch largely undeveloped.

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The vast majority of it is set aside as a cattle ranch and nature preserve, but it also includes an 8.5-mile stretch of coastline that community groups say the public has a right to access. The May agreement restricted entry to a three quarter-mile stretch of beach that is two miles from Gaviota State Park. It is only accessible only by “surfboard, paddleboard, kayak or soft-bottom boat,” or supervised tours, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Monique Limón introduced a bill that opens the possibility of a public seizure of land through eminent domain. It would also potentially implement a 1982 plan to allow access via a dirt road owned by the YMCA.

[Los Angeles Times] – Dennis Lynch