Citizens of Goleta Valley v. Board of Supervisors

Decision Date22 January 1988
Docket NumberNo. B026619,B026619
Citation243 Cal.Rptr. 339,197 Cal.App.3d 1167
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesCITIZENS OF GOLETA VALLEY, et al., Appellants, v. BOARD OF SUPERVISORS of the County of Santa Barbara, Respondent. WALLOVER, INC., and Hyatt Corporation, Real Parties in Interest. Civ.
Environmental Defense Center and Philip A. Seymour, Santa Barbara, for appellants

Kenneth L. Nelson, County Counsel, Stephen D. Underwood, Jana Zimmer, Deputy County Counsel, for respondent.

Hollister & Brace and Richard C. Monk, Santa Barbara, Law Offices of Timothy A. Tosta and Timothy A. Tosta, J. Frederick Clarke, Jr., San Francisco, for real parties in interest.


WILLARD, * Associate Justice.

The real parties in interest, Wallover, Inc., and Hyatt Corporation (hereinafter sometimes jointly called Hyatt), seek to develop a resort hotel on 73 acres of beachfront land in Santa Barbara County. Respondent Board of Supervisors certified an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as complete, rezoned the site to permit the proposed use, and approved a preliminary development plan. Appellants, groups who oppose the development, sought a writ of mandate to set aside the certification and approval. They appeal from the judgment of the trial court denying their petition. We reverse.

Factual Background

Project Site: The project site, generally known as "Haskell's Beach," is located on the western edge of Goleta. It is bounded on the north by U.S. highway 101 and the Southern Pacific railway. To the east is the ARCO Ellwood oil processing facility and Sandpiper Golf Course. Westerly of the site is the Aminoil Dos Pueblos oil field and Ellwood pier (used by ARCO and Exxon for oil-related activities). The Pacific Ocean lies to the south. Directly across U.S. 101 from the project site is the 176-lot Rancho Embarcadero residential subdivision.

The project site has a central valley bounded by eastern and western terraces, each rising over 100 feet. Tecolote Creek runs southerly to the ocean through the western portion of the valley floor. It supports a narrow band of riparian vegetation and a small marsh. Eucalyptus trees border the northern edge of the property and screen the site from U.S. 101.

Site History: Haskell's Beach was for many centuries the site of a major Chumash settlement. At least five archaeological sites remain, including three recorded Native American cemeteries, containing over two hundred known Chumash burials.

Portions of the site were used for oil development and subsequently dismantled in the 1950's. Some remnants of the former development remain, such as old steel pilings visible on the beach during some months, and old concrete abutments and pipelines in other areas.

The area has a long history of informal recreational use by the general public, although public use rights have never been formally established.

Wallover acquired the property in 1968, along with the balance of the Embarcadero Ranch. A Wallover proposal to develop some 153 residential units at Haskell's Beach was rejected by the County in 1979 as inconsistent with the County's Local Coastal Program. The issue of defining an appropriate use for the property soon became an area of major controversy during review of the County's proposed coastal Land Use Plan by the regional and state coastal commissions. The State Coastal Commission ultimately refused to approve the County's proposed Land Use Plan designation of the site as an "urban" area suitable for planned residential development, recommending instead that the site be designated for new visitor-serving facilities. The County refused to accept this designation and zoned the area for planned development, with the result that the site became a "white hole" in the County's Local Coastal Program--that is, an island remaining subject to concurrent County and coastal commission planning authority.

Hyatt and Wallover jointly filed an application for development of the site in 1983. The application resulted in certification of an EIR as being complete, approval of a preliminary development plan, rezoning of the land from PRD (planned residential development) to CV (visitor serving commercial), and major amendments to the County's Land Use Plan designation and development policies for the site.

The Project: The project, as amended by the applicant and reviewed in a supplemental EIR, is planned for development in two phases. Phase I is a resort hotel of 400 rooms and related restaurants, a conference center complex, parking areas, tennis courts, swimming pools, maintenance and service facilities, an artificial "lagoon," and beachside snack bar and shower facilities. It also includes water wells and tanks to be constructed on Wallover's ranch property north of U.S. 101, water pipelines to the hotel site, and extensive landscaping. The access road for the project will cross two coastal streams--Tecolote Creek, on the property, and Bell Canyon Creek, along the property's eastern border. There will be a new access road, requiring a substantial cut through one of the terraces, but resulting in the removal of the currently dangerous access road across Highway 101. Phase II is a future addition of 100 hotel rooms and 24 villas. It would require future discretionary approval.

The EIR: An Environmental Impact Report was prepared for the project and certified as complete in September 1984. A supplement was prepared and certified the same month. The supplemental report was addressed to changes in the project to conform to the design described above, which deleted a tennis facility and 50 hotel units originally proposed to be located north of U.S. 101. A minor addendum to the EIR, listing the purported benefits of the project, was also certified. The EIR identified some 16 significant environmental effects which could possibly result from the project, including adverse impacts on visual aspects, archaeology, ethnic concerns ("cultural impacts"), transportation, water resources, air quality, biology, and others.

                The EIR proposed various mitigation measures intended to lessen the environmental effects of the project and examined four development alternatives for the project site, including a "No Project Alternative."   Among the alternatives considered was a scaled-down project consisting of 340 rooms.  This alternative was rejected on the ground that it was not economically feasible.  There was no detailed study made of the relative mitigation that could be provided by the 340-room alternative as compared to the 524-room plan or its first phase of 400 rooms.  It was found, however, that the 340-room alternative would provide greater flexibility to avoid sensitive archaeological and biological resources

Administrative Review of the Project: After public hearings, the Planning Commission voted to deny approval of the project. This decision was appealed to respondent Board of Supervisors, which held public hearings. On June 3, 1985, respondent granted the appeal and adopted an ordinance rezoning the site and a resolution approving preliminary plans for its development, subject to approximately 130 conditions imposed to mitigate adverse environmental impacts. It also adopted written findings and a Statement of Overriding Considerations with respect to remaining impacts.

On December 19, 1985, the California Coastal Commission, after reviewing the project for consistency with the policies of the California Coastal Act, granted a Coastal Development Permit subject to 14 special conditions. Subsequently, the coastal commission adopted findings in support of the permit.

Among the many conditions imposed by respondent and by the coastal commission are the following: The developers must dedicate a public easement for equestrian and hiking trails. The beach frontage which extends from the top of the bluff to the mean high tide line, and is approximately one-half mile long, is to be dedicated for public beach use and public access is to be provided. Hyatt will contribute a minimum of $100,000 to a regional hostel for low cost facilities available to the general public. Buildings must be in the California Mission style, not exceeding three stories. Improvements are to be located so as to interfere as little as possible with the Chumash archaeological sites and Tecolote Creek and its riparian habitat.

Additional facts are stated in connection with our discussion of the issues.

The Basic Issues

Some of the issues on appeal relate to requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Others relate to the Santa Barbara County Local Coastal Program, which has two components, the Coastal Zoning Ordinance, and the Land Use Plan. The issues, as framed by the parties, are summarized as follows:

CEQA Issues

1) Was the EIR fatally defective for failure to discuss potential alternative sites for the project?

2) Did respondent abuse its administrative discretion by rejecting a scaled-down, 340-unit alternative project proposed in the EIR? This issue involves two subsidiary issues:

a. Was respondent's finding that the 340-unit alternative was economically infeasible supported by substantial evidence in the record?

b. If not, was such a finding required in view of the fact that the project's impacts had been "substantially lessened" by various mitigation measures?

Local Coastal Program Issues

3) Was respondent's finding, pursuant to the Local Coastal Program, that the project's impacts were mitigated to the maximum extent feasible supported by substantial evidence?

4) Does the project comply with the County Local Coastal Program requirement for protection of environmentally sensitive riparian habitats?

5) Does the project comply with Local Coastal Program policies to avoid adverse impacts to Native American cultural and

archaeological sites to the maximum extent feasible?

Standard of Review


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