Agreement with developer gives 90-day deadline
Last week, the developer of the San Marcos Foothill Preserve, Chadmar Group, agreed to pause construction to give activists time to fundraise.
To purchase the land from the developer, the Foothills Forever campaign needs to raise $20 million by June 2.
The agreement includes benchmarks the activists must meet. The first step is to raise $4 million by March 23.
“There’s an immediate need for an angel to step up and help secure the property,” Marc Chytilo, the attorney for Save San Marcos Foothills, told the News-Press on Thursday. “We accepted a very challenging task and because the development is fully entitled and the developer was ready to go, the 90-day timeline was needed.”
On March 8, Mr. Chytilo dismissed the lawsuits he filed against Santa Barbara County and the Board of Supervisors.
“(Supervisor) Gregg Hart stepped up and was part of our presentation and played a pivotal role in keeping this project moving forward,” Mr. Chytilo said.
Mr. Hart, 2nd District supervisor, asked the developer to listen to the activists.
“He didn’t have to (pause construction), and I think that really speaks volumes to his character,” Supervisor Hart said.
Chadmar Group plans to build eight multi-million-dollar homes with large lots on the 101-acre plot of land, but protesters halted construction when they gathered at the site Feb. 25.
“The west mesa is the most significant portion of the property, in my opinion,” Mr. Chytilo said. “It has extremely valuable open space features including the rock formations that give the property its significance.”
Activists are hoping to raise the funds to keep the land available for the public to enjoy. It adjoins 200 acres of county-owned land the Chadmar Group donated in 2005.
Mr. Chytilo has seen lands — such as the Carpinteria Bluffs, Ellwood Bluffs/Coronado Butterfly Preserve and Veronica Meadows — preserved by public support.
“Saving these lands is just a continuation of what the Santa Barbara community has done for decades,” he said.
The Santa Barbara Foundation is collecting donations for the campaign, which has raised just over $1.5 million so far.
Supervisor Hart plans to help fundraise and said he will “put 100% of (his) effort into this.”
He previously couldn’t talk about the campaign while lawsuits were filed against the Board of Supervisors but has voiced his support since the lawsuit was dropped.
He received “hundreds of emails” from preservation advocates over the past few weeks.
“I’m just delighted that the property owner and the community have come together,” he said.
Community members have been upset about the project for nearly 20 years.
The developers thought the conflict was over when they donated a majority of the land, John Davies, spokesperson for the Chadmar Group, told the News-Press in an earlier interview.
The San Marcos Foothills Coalition wanted to preserve the entirety of the land years ago but disbanded after the Board of Supervisors permitted the development. Mr. Chytilo was also the attorney for the coalition.
“Frankly, I had given up on the foothills because of the entitlements, and the group disbanded. I was sad about that and sad about not having a way to save this property,” he said.
When a new group of activists formed Save San Marcos Foothills, they asked Mr. Chytilo to join the effort.
“There’s considerable structure and a number of people working on it right now,” he said. “This campaign is just getting started.”
To see the Chadmar Group’s plans, go to sanmarcospreserve.com.
To follow the preservation campaign, visit foothillsforever.org.