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Don't expect the courts to provide public access to the beaches near Hollister Ranch

Don't expect the courts to provide public access to the beaches near Hollister Ranch
Cattle graze on Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County. (Hollister Ranch Owners' Assn.)

To the editor: Kudos to Los Angeles Times reporter Rosanna Xia for her meticulously researched and balanced articles on the Hollister Ranch coastal access conflict.

People forget that Santa Barbara County has a certified local coastal plan that calls for mandatory easements as a condition of most beachfront development. However, the county stopped requiring new easements after the Supreme Court’s decision in Nollan vs. California Coastal Commission in 1987, which voided an access easement the commission had required.

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As a result of President Trump’s court packing, it may be even harder in the future for public agencies to require beach access over landowner objections. In my view, the only realistic way the public will set foot on Hollister’s sandy beaches is by agreement or by acquiring easements through condemnation.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision last month to veto a bill to jump-start the process of planning for the acquisition of these easements was unfortunate. Still, public agencies should continue to plan and negotiate for a level of overland access that balances public use with privacy and environmental constraints, as is required by the Coastal Act.

Jana Zimmer, Santa Barbara

The writer is a former member of the California Coastal Commission and a former chief deputy counsel for Santa Barbara County.

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