Our “Environmental” Santa Barbara County is at it once again with its “Final Revised Mitigated Negative Declaration” of the “Modoc Road Multi-Use Path.”
That document is an attempt to ramrod through more of an actual road than a path — it’s 14-feet-plus wide and paved with asphalt. Never mind there are already two bike paths on Modoc.
In actuality, it appears the county is fearful its grant money will disappear unless this project is given the green light and soon. Process be damned.
This “path” is something that is neither needed nor wanted by the residents who live, and even those who don’t live, in that neighborhood. More than 5,000 people have signed the petition against it. Fewer than 1,600 have signed in favor of it.
The county’s newest iteration, “Alignment B,” puts this trail on private land, a PRESERVE — land for which it has no easement AND is trying to get developed without an EIR, a process everyone else would be required to follow.
There are no photos or visuals of the 2,000 feet of walls it plans to install, just vague descriptions of walls 2 feet to 4 feet high, running that distance along Modoc.
Short shrift is given to wildlife throughout its more than 100-page document.
Here are just a couple of examples of the many instances the county claims wildlife would not be impacted: Because there are a number of different bat species in the Preserve, California Department of Fish and Wildlife requested an in-depth study be done on these animals. County’s take on that was to dismissively say bats live under bridges and there are no bridges in the Preserve. Therefore, no study is required.
County’s attitude is the same with other wildlife including Monarch butterflies, which inhabit the Preserve. However, since no one from the county apparently observed any, its attitude is, if there are Monarchs, then there are plenty of other places for the butterflies to nest and eat.
If that weren’t bad enough, “Alignment B” is the less egregious “option” of the two presented. The first iteration got so much bad publicity, the county had to come up with something else. In “Alignment B,” only 21 trees (or so it says) would be removed.
The county’s first proposal, “Alignment A,” used the right-of-way along Modoc. That proposal not only removed oak trees (the number still undetermined, as the county seems to have trouble counting trees in the field), but also removed a stand of historic palm trees, about 30, that line Modoc Road — more than 48 trees in all (its number). In reality the number of trees removed would be much greater.
Throughout the Negative Declaration, the county insists the palm trees are not historic, but provides no proof to the contrary — basically saying “these trees are not historic because we say they aren’t historic.” The definition of historic is “dating from or preserved from a past time or culture” (Merriam-Webster).
These beautiful palms were planted in the early 20th century. They have been through fires and survived and thrived, most recently the 1990 Painted Cave Fire — they still have the burn marks. Apparently, the county hasn’t seen fit to discuss these palms with the Historic Landmarks Advisory Commission (HLAC), which might disagree with the county’s take.
The above items are just the tip of the iceberg.
In “Alignment B,” the lesser evil, there’s a swale the county wants to turn into a confined river, increasing its width to 6 feet from 1-2 feet and increasing its depth to 2 feet. For the almost mile-long trail, it intends to use “pervious asphalt” — it’s still asphalt, which leeches hydrocarbons into the ground unless other mitigations are used, which, apparently, they are not, since there is nothing in the Negative Declaration to indicate otherwise.
Which brings us to the use of Roundup on the Preserve. The county planted thousands of native plants and grasses on the Preserve — called the Native Grassland Restoration Project — as mitigation for another development. If either plan is implemented, the county would be removing what it was required to plant.
The county used Roundup to kill unwanted weeds in the Preserve and intends to continue doing so if the trail is approved. Now that’s environmentalism.
The county’s Negative Declaration is full of many other examples of high-handedness, arrogance and dismissiveness not only toward The Land Trust of Santa Barbara and the La Cumbre Mutual Water Company (which owns the Preserve), but to many of the public speakers who had the courage to speak out against this project.
The Board of Supervisors meets today to vote on this Negative Declaration. They need to vote no. If they don’t, lawsuits will surely follow.