Santa Ynez Valley Alliance
- BREAKING NEWS (Oct. 4, 2013)— The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance has submitted comments to Amy Dutschke, Regional Director at the Pacific Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Camp IV Fee-to-Trust Draft Environmental Assessment. Click here to read our 50-page report to the BIA.
- The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance and the Santa Barbara Community Environmental Council (CEC) have partnered to offer the Solarize Santa Ynez Valley program, which makes it easier and cheaper for local homeowners to go solar. Our group purchasing model helps local homeowners install solar electricity through a streamlined and hassle-free process at a discounted price. CEC's 2011 and 2012 Solarize Santa Barbara Programs helped nearly 80 local homeowners go solar!
How does Solarize Santa Ynez Valley work?
The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance and CEC first carefully evaluates and selects experienced solar installer professionals for the Solarize program. A limited-time, discounted price is then negotiated to local residents who "go solar." By gathering residents together in a community-led effort to go solar, Solarize Santa Ynez Valley offers tremendous discounts made possible by collective purchasing. For more information about the Solarize Santa Ynez Valley program, contact Jefferson Litten, Solarize Program Coordinator at the CEC. [15 March 2013]
- The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will be considering the Inn at Mattei’s Tavern development project at it’s hearing of Dec. 19th. Although Mattei’s Tavern itself is now a County Historic Landmark, there remain many reasons why the development project should not be approved as currently proposed. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) identifies some of these reasons and includes many concerns expressed by members of the public regarding safety, access, traffic, noise, visual impacts, groundwater contamination, and historic preservation. [14 December 2012]
- In response to the Bureau of Indian Affairs decision to take into trust 6.9 acres in the Township of Santa Ynez on behalf of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians — and in unison with several other local citizens' groups — the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance has issued a letter to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors urging them to appeal the decision due to overwhelming negative financial and environmental impacts. [03 July 2012]
- The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance, in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County Action Network and the Citizens Planning Association of Santa Barbara, and the Montecito Association, have formed a Coalition to retain Santa Barbara jurisdiction over 1,400 acres of agriculturally zoned land in the heart of the County. [Link to Camp 4 Coalition declaration, 04 April 2012]
- Santa Ynez Valley Alliance receives grant from Fund for Santa Barbara to review SYV Blueprint [Link to SYV News article, 13 December 2011]
- Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Camp 4 Annexation Legislation
- Land Into Trust Reform: Request for Field Hearings in California [22 July 2011]
- Letter to Rep. Elton Gallegly re: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Camp 4 Annexation Legislation [08 March 2011]
- Op-Ed Piece re: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Camp 4 Annexation Legislation Economic Impact and Tribal Responsibility [14 April 2011]
- 2005 Position Statement on Chumash
- Board of Supervisors Designates Mattei’s Tavern Historic Landmark
- Valley Candidates Speak to Voters
- HLAC Designates Mattei's Tavern Santa Barbara County Landmark #47
- HLAC Votes to Pursue Landmark Status for Mattei's Tavern
[12 May 2010]
- SYVA Nominates Mattei's for Historic Landmark Protection
[12 January 2010]
- "Neverland" Position Statement
- SYV Community Plan Adopted
Letter to Rep. Elton Gallegly re: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Camp 4 Annexation Legislation [08 March 2011]
The Honorable Elton Gallegly Member of Congress 2309 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515-0513
Dear Congressman Gallegly:
In October of 2009, Santa Barbara County adopted the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, a regional planning document that guides development, assures the provision of services, and provides policy direction for the Santa Ynez Valley. The Plan reflects almost ten years of research, outreach, two million dollars of public expenditure, and extensive hearings and citizen testimony.
Valley residents are therefore understandably shocked to hear that less than a year and a half after its adoption, the Santa Ynez Band of the Chumash has asked for a federal legislative process to be initiated on their behalf to unilaterally remove from the purview of the Plan, the jurisdiction of Santa Barbara County, and the county tax rolls, the "Camp 4" property.
The 1,400 acre property, purchased by the Tribe in April of 2010, is currently zoned for agriculture and is conspicuously located in the heart of the Valley at the juncture of two highways. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the debate on this proposal will occur in Washington, D.C., 2,784 miles distant, and is driven by special interests.
The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance is writing to express its dismay that our national legislative process could possibly be abused in such a manner. Irrespective of the property's ownership, this proposal flies in the face of good government and purposely circumvents the authority of local jurisdictions. There is no clear overwhelming national public benefit that would warrant such an intrusion of federal authority into the purview of local governance and rural America.
The economic distress of tribal communities during the Great Depression resulted in the creation of the existing Fee-to-Trust process in 1934, but it was predicated on "need," which is clearly not the situation affecting the Tribe in the Santa Ynez Valley. With more than 250 million dollars in annual revenue and multiple large property holdings, the Tribe enjoys substantial economic prosperity.
The Tribe purchased this property subject to local controls, regulations and taxation. Like their neighbors, they should work through the existing County land use process when considering development. In return, they will share in the provision of public services provided by local jurisdictions.
Removing this land from the tax rolls would come at a great cost to the county at a time it can ill afford to lose revenues. The missing revenues would directly affect public services and school systems which the Tribe ironically benefits from without charge. Their tax responsibilities would thus be shifted onto the backs of others.
Finally, any process that seeks to remove this property from local governance should be open and transparent, consider all impacts to the entire community and give local citizens ample opportunity to comment in a meaningful way.
The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance works collaboratively with individuals, groups and governments to protect the rural character of the Santa Ynez Valley and support good stewardship of natural and agricultural resources through education, comprehensive planning and public participation.
The Valley Alliance strongly urges you to reject any effort to initiate this legislative process.
Thank you for your consideration.
Mark Oliver President
cc: Senator Barbara Boxer Senator Dianne Feinstein Congresswoman Lois Capps Assemblyman Das Williams Santa Barbara Salud Carbajal Santa Barbara Supervisor Janet Wolf Santa Barbara Supervisor Doreen Farr Santa Barbara Supervisor Joni Gray, Chair Santa Barbara Supervisor Steve Lavagnino Santa Barbara County CEO Chandra Waller Chairman Vincent Armenta, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
Op-Ed Piece re: Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Camp 4 Annexation Legislation Economic Impact and Tribal Responsibility [14 April 2011]
Enough is Enough is Enough.
At what point does the Chumash tribal government say, "We have achieved financial independence? "
According to Tribal Chairman Armenta, it's when the tribe says so. That isn't the law, but then the tribe doesn't play by the same rules as the rest of us.
The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash has approached Rep. Elton Gallegly to initiate a federal legislative process on their behalf. They wish to unilaterally remove from the jurisdiction of Santa Barbara County, and the county tax rolls, the 1,400-acre "Camp 4 " property at Highways 154 and 246.
This legislation would bypass local citizen concerns and land use processes, as well as the regulations of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
To put this power grab into perspective, those 1,400 acres are only 100 acres less than the size of Solvang, and 40 percent larger than Buellton.
If the tribe does transfer that property to their reservation, it could build a city with a population of 16,000 (the population of Carpinteria, which is only 100 acres more) if they wanted to, and never pay a cent of property taxes.
Imagine the impact that would have on the businesses and communities throughout the Valley. Free of local regulations, property and sales taxes, reservation businesses could undercut the prices of every competing business. Commercial property values could plummet. Tax revenues could fall.
To make matters worse, these new business entities wouldn't contribute to Valley road and utility upkeep, or emergency services, or public schools with property taxes and impact fees like other businesses.
Just removing the land from the tax rolls would come at a significant cost to the county at a time it can ill afford to lose any revenue. Those missing revenues would directly affect public services and school systems.
The tribe's tax responsibilities would be shifted onto the backs of others, again.
The economic distress of tribal communities during the Great Depression resulted in the creation of the existing fee-to-trust process in 1934, but it was predicated on "need," which is clearly not the situation of the local tribe.
The law clearly states that the annexation privilege can be used only when it is necessary for a tribe to achieve economic stability.
With more than 250 million dollars in annual revenue and multiple large property holdings, the tribe enjoys substantial economic prosperity.
But now, Chairman Armenta claims the tribe will decide when enough is enough — perhaps after planning for unlimited future generations.
Valley residents are understandably shocked by this outrageous position.
Well, enough is enough is enough — now.
In October 2009, Santa Barbara County adopted the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, a planning document that guides development, assures the provision of services, and provides policy direction for the valley.
The plan reflects almost 10 years of research, $2 million of public expenditure, and extensive hearings and citizen testimony. It is based in large part on the Valley Blueprint, a planning document created and signed in 2000 by local citizens of all political persuasions, including a Chumash tribal elder.
The tribe purchased the Camp 4 property subject to local taxation and regulations, including the Community Plan. Like their neighbors, they should work through the county land use process when considering development. In return, the tribe will share in the provision of public services provided by local jurisdictions.
That's fair. It's the deal we all live with.
The Chumash have achieved financial success because the voters of California, including those in the Santa Ynez Valley, voted them the opportunity to do so.
It's time for the Tribe to show respect for those same voters rather than abuse its financial advantage. Great financial independence brings with it great moral responsibilities.
Equally urgent, it is time for the tribe's neighbors to voice their concerns to each other and to their elected representatives.
We ignore the current annexation proposal at our own peril.
The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance works collaboratively with individuals, groups and governments to protect the rural character of the Santa Ynez Valley and support good stewardship of natural and agricultural resources through education, comprehensive planning and public participation.
The Valley Alliance believes that land use planning should follow the regular processes of local public jurisdictions and that for the sake of good planning, public involvement, environmental protection, resource conservation, public services, fiscal integrity, and social equity; land should only be exempted from the public planning process when the benefit to the greater public is clearly established.
Federal and State Laws exempt the development of existing tribal lands from most local regulation and taxation. Local, state and federal governments however, still provide services␣ and infrastructure that supports that development. This results in serious fiscal, planning, and environmental impacts to surrounding communities.␣ These effects are compounded by gaming activities and their associated impacts.␣ When additonal land is annexed (taken into trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on behalf of the tribal government) most of the same exemptions are extended to newly annexed land.
Comprehensive planning and public participation in Santa Ynez Valley land use decisions have already been adversely impacted by the independent development of Tribal land. The continuing annexation of additional Tribal land threatens to exacerbate existing impacts to the community, and further undermine the coordination of planning efforts,␣ the mitigation of development impacts, the support of necessary infrastructure, and the financing of public services.
Therefore, the Valley Alliance opposes annexing or changing the status of land that removes it from the jurisdiction of local cities and counties and the public planning process without irrefutable overriding public benefit.
Board of Supervisors Designates Mattei’s Tavern Santa Barbara County Historic Landmark
[03 November 2010] On Tuesday, November 2nd, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to designate Mattei’s Tavern as Historic Landmark number 47.
The Supervisors confirmed the designation consistent with the Historic Landmarks Advisory Committee (HLAC) action of September 13. The HLAC designated Mattei’s as County landmark, but the ninety-day designation would have lapsed if not confirmed by the BOS.
The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance nominated the site for Historic Landmark status almost 10 months ago, on January 13, 2010.
The Valley Alliance had been deeply troubled that the proposed construction of a large-scale resort at Mattei’s Tavern would dramatically impact the iconic character of the historic site of the former hotel, stage and rail terminal, restaurant, and gardens.
The Valley Alliance's meticulously researched, fifty-page peer-reviewed nomination document was consistent with Action HA-SYV-2.1 of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan which directs that, “The County and the community should continue to work to identify structures and places that qualify for nomination to Landmark Status and forward these requests to the County Historical Landmarks Commission.” The Valley Alliance is a non-profit organization which seeks to protect and preserve the agricultural, rural, and historic character of the Valley.
Eight notable institutions supported the designation, including the Pearl Chase Society, the Native Sons of the Golden West, the Santa Barbara Conservancy, and the Goleta Valley Historical Society. Californians from around the state and county wrote letters of support.
On May 10, 2010, the HLAC voted to pursue Landmark status and established a subcommittee to meet with representatives of Santa Rita Land and Vine LLC, the owners, to work out an agreement. The owners eventually agreed to the HLAC suggestions to "landmark" status prior to remodeling and demolition.
The landmark protection includes the historic elements of the Tavern itself, including the lobby, the bar, the glass-enclosed “Wicker Room,” the former stage office, a small dining room, and the upstairs hotel rooms. Apart from the exteriors, specific elements of the interiors are protected. Areas at the rear of the Tavern subject to more recent construction and revision, such as the kitchen, are not protected and are proposed for remodeling.
Also designated for protection are the water tower and base (known as the Tank Room), the historic exteriors of four cottages, and thirteen “character-defining” specimen trees located in the surrounding gardens. The existing Keenan-Hartley House moved to the site in 1998 is already a County Historic Landmark. The resolution adopted by the BOS recognizes the Tavern as "the most important historic landmark of the post-Gold Rush era in the Santa Ynez Valley." The only comparable historic structure in the Santa Ynez Valley is the Santa Iñes Mission, which is a National Historic Landmark.
The Valley Alliance wishes to thank all of those who made the landmarking possible, including the members of the HLAC, the Board of Supervisors, and especially the citizens of the Santa Ynez Valley who fought long and hard to preserve this legacy of the past. They deserve this.
Valley Candidates Speak to Voters
[01 October 2010] Local Valley candidates for Water Conservation District ID1 and the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board of Trustees spoke at a forum sponsored by a coalition of local non-profit citizens groups. The forums were held on Tuesday, September 28 and Wednesday, September 29 from 7:00–9:00 pm at the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School Little Theater, 2975 E. Highway 246, Santa Ynez, CA to enhance public awareness of local voter issues and candidates. To view the forums, click on the links below.
Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District ID1
Board Candidates Forum
Click here to view ID1 forum video
Both forums were sponsored by local non-profit organizations, including: the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance, Women's Environmental Watch, Santa Barbara Action Network, and the Citizen's Planning Association.
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
Board of Trustees Candidates Forum Click here to view SYVUHSD forum video
HLAC Designates Mattei's Tavern County Landmark #47
[13 September 2010] The Santa Barbara County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC) voted Monday morning, September 13, 2010, to designate the Mattei's Tavern in Los Olivos as Santa Barbara County Historic Landmark #47. The resolution for the designation had the consent of the property owners and passed with a unanimous 6-0 vote. This designation goes into effect immediately but will expire in 90 days unless the action is confirmed by the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors may confirm, modify or disapprove the designation within that period. The action of the Board of Supervisors is then final.
The Santa Ynez Valley Alliance nominated Mattei's Tavern for Landmark status in January and the HLAC voted to pursue Landmark status in May, at which time the HLAC established a subcommittee to discuss the issue with the property owners, establish the conditions that would apply, and compose the resolution.
HLAC Votes to Pursue Landmark Status for Mattei's Tavern
[12 May 2010] The Santa Barbara County Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC) met on Monday, May 10th, to consider the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance nomination of Mattei's Tavern for historic landmark status. On a 6-to-1 vote, the Commission voted to pursue landmark status for Mattei's, establishing a sub-committee of two commissioners to meet with the property owner in an attempt to work out the details of the nomination and bring back their results to the larger Commission. For background information on the effort to preserve Mattei's, see below.
Santa Ynez Valley Alliance Nominates Mattei’s Tavern for Historic Landmark Protection
[12 January 2010] At a press conference on January 13, 2010, the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance formally announced the nomination of Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos for designation as a Historical Landmark. The nomination has been submitted to the County’s Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC) for consideration.The nomination is consistent with the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, which speaks to community involvement in historic preservation:
HA-SYV-2: "Historic resources shall be protected and preserved to the maximum extent feasible."
Action HA-SYV-2.1: "The County and the community should continue to work to identify structures and places that qualify for nomination to landmark status and forward these requests to the County Historical Landmarks Commission."
Mattei's Tavern as it appeared in 1888.
On May 12, 1997 the Santa Barbara County Historical Landmark Advisory Committee voted unanimously "to designate the entire Mattei's Tavern property as a Place of Historical Merit"; however, the appropriate paperwork to finalize the designation was not completed by the owner. To this day, Mattei’s Tavern still cannot be found among the 68 historic places or landmarks recognized by the County.
“Like most people in the Santa Ynez Valley, we always thought that Mattei’s Tavern was an historic landmark. After all, following Mission Santa Ines, it is the second most recognized and beloved historic site in the Valley. We were shocked to learn that Mattei’s has no formal historic landmark status. And that is simply why we are here today, to ask the County’s Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the Mattei’s Tavern site be designated an historic landmark,” stated Mark Oliver, President of the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance.
“My family has many fond memories of the Mattei family. I remember my dad used to order a 'Chamberlin-sized' portion of Prime Rib,” stated Sarah Chamberlin, whose family has lived in the Valley since 1929 and is related to the Bixby’s of Flint, Bixby & Company that ran the stagecoach between Los Olives and Santa Barbara. “My sister Helen’s wedding breakfast was at Mattei’s in June, 1962, one of the last meals served under Elaine Mattei’s ownership. Each time a building is torn down or remodeled, we lose a little more history, history that is gone forever and then forgotten,” she added.
In 1886, Felix Mattei built the Central Hotel, later to become Mattei’s Tavern, strategically located right across the street from the soon-to-arrive train station for the Pacific Coast Railway. Later renamed the Los Olivos Hotel, and finally Mattei’s Tavern, this historic place has over a century of rich history, stagecoach legends and famous, perhaps even infamous, movie stars and dignitaries--not only from Hollywood, but from across the entire country.
The original Mattei’s Tavern was a two-story gabled redwood building with a one-story, flat-roofed wing added soon after. Fronting Railway Avenue, it housed a downstairs bar, dining room, and seven upstairs bedrooms, reached by stairs at the rear, which were protected by a shed-roof enclosure. Behind the hotel a large water tank and tank house were built.
Mattei’s Tavern qualifies to be an historic landmark, not just because it was built in 1886, but because of the cultural role it played in the early beginnings of Los Olivos. Mattei’s was virtually the social center of the Santa Ynez Valley from the 1890’s through the 1930’s. Up until the establishment and development of Solvang, Los Olivos was the principal community of the Valley and Mattei’s served as a magnet for local residents and visitors alike. There is no remaining historic development in the Santa Ynez Valley that better reflects the ‘American’ period of settlement and the accompanying cultural, social, economic and political growth.
The Goleta Valley Historical Society, which is a sponsor of the plaque at Mattei’s commemorating the Wells Fargo Old Stagecoach Route-1861 to 1901, has submitted a letter supporting the nomination and designation of Mattei’s Tavern as a Santa Barbara County Historic Landmark. “The history and legacy of the stagecoach era lives on through the location affectionately known today as Mattei’s,” stated Robin Cederlof, President, in the group’s letter.
The Valley Alliance nomination proposes the creation of a Historic Landmark encompassing the Tavern, the cottages, the historic water tower, specimen trees, and the site of the Keenan-Hartley House (the oldest wood-framed house in Los Olivos moved to the site in 1998 and already a Historic Landmark). Originally, the entire six square block area purchased by Mattei, supported the Hotel and the transportation network it relied upon. Barns housed not only the stages and horses, but also agricultural animals and crops used to feed guests. There were extensive vegetable gardens and orchards that made the hotel relatively self-sufficient in its early years.
Historic photographs of the property demonstrate the age of numerous specimen trees and the care with which the Mattei Family landscaped and maintained the property to insure an aesthetic experience for their guests. The boundaries of the Historic Landmark reflect the historic importance of the entire complex.
“Since the 1870’s, citizens of California have realized that it is important to preserve, acknowledge and celebrate the sites and structures that are hallmarks of our state and local history,” stated Kellam de Forest, renown historic preservation advocate. “In Santa Barbara County, Spanish missions have been preserved and even rebuilt and pioneer structures saved such as the Ballard Schoolhouse and the Sisquoc Chapel. The necessity to preserve, acknowledge and celebrate Mattei’s Tavern with its adjacent cultural landscape is a no brainer,” added Mr. de Forest.
April 2, 1908: The Italian race car, "Zust," stops at Mattei's Tavern (then named "Hotel Los Olivos") during the Transcontinental New York-to-Paris Auto Race.
The evolution of Mattei’s from a facility serving guests brought by horse or train, to those brought by automobile or bus, reflects the changing modes of American transportation. Mattei’s was one of the earliest hotels in the state approved by the influential Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) founded in 1900 and it prominently displayed the diamond shaped sign identifying it as the fourth contracted hotel in the state.
In 1918, the Auto Club’s ‘Touring Topics’ had this to say about Mattei’s: “For thirty years, those who travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles have enjoyed the hospitality of Felix Mattei, founder and proprietor of Mattei’s Tavern at Los Olivos. This inn, famous for its trout dinners and bounteous table, noted among two generations for the warm hearted hospitality of its proprietor and the charm of its location, has gained renown throughout the United States.”
In fact, Mattei’s had visitors from far and wide, not only geographically, but from all walks of life. The most famous were movie stars from Hollywood, including Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Dixie Lee, Edmund Lowe and Rosalind Russell, as well as dignitaries such as Herbert Hoover, Harry Chandler and William Jennings Bryan, not to mention the famous Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts.
Over the years, Mattei’s has received multiple recognitions for its historic character and importance from organizations such as Friends of the Pacific Coast Railway, the Goleta Historical Society, the City and County of Santa Barbara and the Native Sons of the Golden West.
One hundred years ago, Mattei was still running his regular stage to Gaviota. Today, one can still see the “Santa Barbara Stage Office” lettering identifying Mattei’s as a stage stop, and walk into a hostelry remarkably similar to that experienced by our ancestors.
“When Felix Mattei died in 1930, his obituary in the Los Angeles Times reported that Mattei’s Tavern was ‘a noted Inn for all Californians’,” stated Mark Oliver. “The time is now to provide this long-overdue landmark designation to Mattei’s Tavern, a truly unique historical resource,” he concluded.
The mission of the Valley Alliance is to work collaboratively with individuals, groups and governments to protect the rural character of the Santa Ynez Valley and support good stewardship of natural and agricultural resources through education, comprehensive planning and public participation. The Valley Alliance seeks to fulfill that Mission by : Supporting the unique character of the Valley's different communities while advocating cooperative solutions to Valleywide problems and regional planning.
- Santa Ynez Valley Alliance Press Release (Jan. 13, 2010) Mattei's Historic Timeline, 1880–1962
- Historic Landmark Nomination (excerpts)
“Neverland” Position Statement
[24 July 2009] The mission of the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance is to work collaboratively with individuals, groups and government to protect the rural character of the Santa Ynez Valley and support good stewardship of natural and agricultural resources through education, comprehensive planning and public participation. The Alliance supports the Williamson Act and it’s Agricultural Preserve program, works to ensure that growth is supported by comprehensive planning and infrastructure, and discourages urban or suburban sprawl.In 1988, the late Michael Jackson chose to purchase a large cattle ranch and residence in the Santa Ynez Valley because its remote location provided him with a private retreat distant from fans and media. The large acreage of Sycamore Valley Ranch, with almost 2,700 acres abutting Los Padres National Forest secluded from public view, offered privacy the pop star could not find in urban areas. Although Jackson expanded the residential footprint with a zoo, trains and amusement park rides and renamed the property “Neverland,” the great bulk of the ranch was still grazed by cattle. The acreage remains under Agricultural Preserve contract but is scheduled to be released in a few years. In 2005, Jackson left the Valley with no plans to return. Financial problems forced Jackson to mortgage and ultimately relinquish control of the property, although his estate maintains a minority interest. Jackson’s furniture, animals, rides, and trains have been removed from the site. Although the theater, train station, and empty cages distinguish the residential envelope, the property essentially remains what it always has been: large-acreage, agriculturally zoned, grazing land. It has now been suggested that the property be renamed “Neverland” once again and developed as a tourist attraction. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the remains of the late pop star be interred on the site and the property converted into a Graceland-style business. The Valley Alliance seeks to discourage the expansion and diversification of inappropriate non-agricultural uses on agriculturally zoned land such as Sycamore Valley Ranch. The Agricultural Element specifically points out the potential conflict with agricultural uses posed by “expanding residential, ranchette and tourist land uses” in the Santa Ynez Valley. The development of urban visitor-serving uses and facilities in a remote rural area is inconsistent with adopted County policy and not supported by existing infrastructure.
Figueroa Mountain Road, where the property is located, is a small rural road serving a handful of residences, a few ranches, two schools, and Los Padres National Forest. The intersection of Figueroa Mountain Road and Hwy. 154, which would be used to access the potential project, has limited sight distance and has been the scene of numerous traffic fatalities. At both Graceland and Hearst Castle, guests can number up to 4,000 or 5,000 on a single day. For comparison purposes, the population of the entire Valley is only 22,000. The nearest township, Los Olivos, is more than 5 miles from the property and is home to fewer than 1,000 residents. Los Olivos has a shortage of public facilities, including a sewer system. In order to protect groundwater from contamination the area has been deemed a Special Problems District and visitors must use portable toilets. Public services are already stretched to the limit within the Valley. Response times for fire protection services in Ballard and Los Olivos are already inadequate. The ranch is in a High Fire Hazard Area and it is more than 11 miles to the nearest Fire and Police stations. It is more than 10 miles to the nearest sewer system, gas station, and small hospital.Although the property is located outside the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan boundary, commercialization of the property is clearly inconsistent with the primary goal of the Plan: preservation of the Valley’s rural character. The Environmental Impact Report for the Community Plan demonstrates how seriously existing development potential will impact Valley roadways in the next 20 years. Valley roads are already burdened with commuters, tourists, casino visitors, wine tasters, and service vehicles. Additional traffic-generating development will only exacerbate future problems.The public costs to construct the necessary infrastructure and provide ongoing services for such a project would far exceed any revenue the community might expect to receive.
Infrastructure development would encourage more growth that would result in more impacts to the community. The majority of jobs at a “Neverland” tourist attraction would be poorly compensated service workers who could not expect to find housing within the Valley. Most workers would find it necessary to commute from more affordable housing markets and would therefore add to traffic impactsThe dramatic intensification of non-agricultural uses that would accompany such a project could serve as a precedent to undermine agricultural land use and existing County policy. It would encourage other property owners to exit the Ag Preserve program and pursue speculative non-agricultural development. The Alliance supports the Ag Preserve program and good stewardship of agricultural resources. The Alliance is dedicated to protecting the rural character of the Santa Ynez Valley and works to ensure that growth is supported by comprehensive planning and infrastructure. The Alliance cannot support the intensification and diversification of inappropriate non-agricultural uses on agriculturally zoned land in rural areas. For all these reasons, the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance is opposed to the development of a “Neverland” tourist attraction on the Sycamore Valley Ranch property.
Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan Adopted
On October 6, 2009 the Board of Supervisors adopted the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan (SYVCP). The Valley’s first community plan is a specific segment of the County’s General Plan, focusing on the future of the unincorporated areas. It applies to the townships of Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and Ballard, and includes the Inner Rural Area surrounding the townships and the cities of Solvang and Buellton. It also includes a small part of the Rural Area abutting the Inner Rural bringing the total acreage to approximately 47,000 acres.Since work on the SYVCP began in 2001, the final version reflects the involvement of three Third District Supervisors and two citizen advisory groups (the General Plan Advisory Committee and the Valley Planning Advisory Committee). In the interim, the scope of the plan changed significantly and the document received extensive Environmental Review and public comment. Given the Valley Alliance’s commitment to comprehensive planning and public participation, we have carefully monitored the development and processing of the Community Plan, provided testimony at numerous meetings and commented on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).The primary goal of the Plan is to preserve the Valley’s rural character while allowing carefully considered future growth supported by adequate infrastructure. Under the leadership of Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, the Board adopted the reduced development/ downzone version of the plan identified by the EIR as the Environmentally Superior Alternative and endorsed by the Valley Alliance. The Plan provides a policy framework to ensure new growth is consistent with community goals, such as preserving agriculture, reducing sprawl and preserving the unique qualities of our different communities.The SYVCP incorporates a Mixed Use Overlay for the commercial cores of Santa Ynez and Los Olivos to provide more diverse and affordable housing. It incorporates Design Review to address visual impacts on major corridors and preserve the buffers between communities. It includes measures to protect biological resources, support pedestrian-friendly development in our townships, and address the visual impacts of lighting on the night sky. The Plan incorporates mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of traffic and provide necessary infrastructure improvements, such as a new fire station in the Los Olivos Area.It now falls upon the County and the citizenry of the Valley to implement the collaborative vision of the future incorporated within the Community Plan. The Valley Alliance is committed to helping Valley residents achieve this vision and will continue to inform the public regarding new development.