A stroke of the governor’s pen may have put to rest an issue that’s been debated for decades and that cuts to the heart of property rights in the state: Who has access to the pristine beaches of central California’s Hollister Ranch?
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed a bill that gives the public a right to easy access of 8.5 miles of shoreline effectively closed to the public since the 1970s, according to the Los Angeles Times. The measure, Assembly Bill 1680, had wde support.
The coastline of the 14,500-acre property — stretching from Gaviota State Park and Point Concepcion in Santa Barbara County — is one of the state’s best preserved coastal landscapes.
Various groups and state agencies have tried to secure the public’s right to access the coastline, but have met stiff resistance from a group of 1,000 or so people that own Hollister Ranch property.
The Hollister Ranch Owners Association has argued that the stretch of coastline is so well preserved because they have limited public access to it. The owners adhere to strict land use and development rules and have set aside most of Hollister Ranch as cattle ranching land and a nature preserve.
AB 1680 makes it a crime to “impede, delay, or otherwise obstruct” public access to the coastline, punishable by fines.
Last year, the group settled with state agencies to allow access to less than a mile of shoreline, but only by water. Later in the year, a judge allowed public access advocates to challenge that agreement.
State agencies promised in an agreement with owners earlier this year to expand access in an environmentally sustainable way. A representative for the owners said that AB 1680 threatens that effort and risks more litigation. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch