The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ efforts to remove restrictions on land for additional housing units has hit a setback, as Congress adjourned without taking action on the bill H.R. 1491. According to a press release from Thursday, the bill, also known as the Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act of 2018, was unable to make its way through the Senate despite passing in the House. If it passed, the bill would have placed around 1400 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley known as Camp 4 in trust to the benefit of the Chumash tribe and remove restrictions on the land imposed by certain state laws.
As per a memorandum of agreement between the tribe and Santa Barbara County approved in 2017, the Chumash wouldn’t be able to use the land in trust for gaming. As the News-Press reported in June 2018, the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition was quick to oppose the bill on grounds that it would allow the Chumash tribe to “develop environmentally sensitive land in the Santa Ynez Valley without adhering to local and state controls.” In the press release, the coalition stated that the bill’s most recent iteration would allow the Chumash to build 143 houses and a new tribal center on Camp 4, thereby exceeding zoning limits. It also claimed that H.R. 1491 would have violated the area’s community plan from 2009 and eventually give the Chumash free rein to build large high-density housing and industrial developments on Camp 4, which is agriculturally zoned. SYV Coalition chair Bill Krauch was pleased Congress decided to not act on the bill.
“The fact that Congress declined to pass H.R. 1491 after hearing all the arguments against it is a victory for local land use control, as well as the rights of affected parties,” he said.
The Chumash did not respond to News-Press requests for comment by deadline.
However, the Chumash have before stressed the importance of additional housing and its impact on the tribe’s future. As the News-Press reported in April 2018, Chumash tribal chairman Kenneth Kahn spoke before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and said placing the land in trust for new housing was necessary for the growing number of Chumash members and the Chumash’s cultural survival.
“Self-determination is vital. Enhancing our housing opportunity is really a chance for us to thrive culturally,” he said.