European settlers arrived by the boatful, California came under Spanish rule.
King Carlos of Spain granted much of Santa Barbara, including the foothills, to
the Mission in 1786. The foothills remained relatively untouched as the friars
considered the land too barren for cultivation.
1831, nine years after Mexico gained independence from Spain, the missions were
secularized. The governor granted many large tracts of land on the Santa Barbara
coast as royal ranchos to his favorite subjects.
1848, the United States seized California. In 1852, the U.S. Land Commission reviewed
over 800 cases of land claims. Richard Den submitted Case No. 621, supported by
a sketch map, to claim 17,748 acres in the foothills. The claim was rejected.
The foothills were declared by the U.S. government to be "Public Land", open to
homesteading or purchase.
From 1856 to 1913 there were many
associated with foothill ownership and property boundaries were often unclear.
The St. Vincent sisters purchased 620 acres on either side of Foothill Road and
named it Cieneguitas Ranch. During the severe drought of the 1860s, much of their
orchards, as well as sheep and cattle herds, were decimated.
Between 1910 and 1925 it is reported that the Flying A Studio
used the local foothills as western movie set locations.
Wright purchased 800 acres, a parcel which included the current San Marcos Foothills,
in 1913. His holdings extended from Hwy. 154 on the west to Barger Canyon on the
east. Portions of his land would later become La Colina Park and the Trinity Baptist
Church properties. Wright built and renovated houses and farm structures and kept
a herd of cattle. In 1923, fire would char much of the foothills.
1934, the Wright property was foreclosed and its ownership passed to Harold Chase,
Peter Cooper and W. Dickerson. Part of the land was leased to Antony Cavali to
operate a dairy. The lower portion of the property was leased to Charles del Pozzo,
who subleased it to the Loredo family to grow tomatoes, beans and melons.
Prevedello bought the 800-acre property from Harold Chase and his partners in
1942 and named it La Paloma Ranch. A dairy operated on the southern portion of
the property and there milk products were processed from other dairies he owned:
Live Oaks in Montecito and Riviera located near the La Cumbre Plaza site. In 1953,
Prevedello sold the eastern portion of the property to Horace Pierce, who later
would develop it for homes on Antone, Debra, and La Vista Roads. In 1956 the dairy
was sold to A.E. Pruner and later it was sold to Rocky Hills, Inc. who leased
it to Jack Piper.
In 1962 Eli Luria developed the homes of
La Colina Park.
In 1971 Prevedello deeded some land on the
western portion of the property to the State of California to widen Hwy. 154.
Via Gaitero and Salvar Roads were built by Caltrans. In 1973, the Goleta water
moratorium stopped further development in the foothills. The Piper Dairy closed.
Piper continued living on the dairy to raise rabbits. Wild peacock, deer, bobcats,
and coyotes were frequently spotted in the hills.
II: Recent Development Attempts -
Morgan Ranch Project
Cieneguitas Creek Project
Christian School Project
Bridle Ridge Project
Prevedello sold a portion of his foothill property holdings to the Trinity Baptist
Church and the remaining 377-acres, now known as the San Marcos Foothills, was
sold to Arthur Morgan. In 1980, Morgan proposed the Royal Gate Development. The
Royal Gate EIR was reviewed for the 385-unit retirement complex, plus a 112-unit
senior rental project, in addition to a 62-lot subdivision. The County Planning
Commission 4 to 1 denied the project. In 1981, the 377-acre property was downzoned
from 1-E-1 to PRD-75 in the County General Plan due to Class I impacts that were
In 1990, the Morgan
Ranch Project, a venture between Arthur Morgan and Specialty Restaurants Corporation,
was conceived. This was to have included 175 luxury homes, a golf course, and
other facilities on the 377-acre property combined with the nearly 3,000-acre
Atelian property to the north and east. The golf course was to have been on the
San Marcos Foothills, which was the lower portion of the site. The project was
On June 28, 1990 the Painted Cave
Fire scorched the western portion of the foothills and homes on Meadowlark Lane
In 1993, Specialty
Restaurants Corporation foreclosed on Arthur Morgan and took over sole ownership
of the 377-acre property. In 1994 Landtec, Inc. proposed the Cieneguitas Creek
Project of 75 homes but the project was subsequently withdrawn.
1995, the Christian School Project for 900 students was submitted on the former
34-acre dairy, adjacent to the San Marcos Foothills. The Planning Commission 4
to 0 rejected the project.
the Bridle Ridge Project of 75 homes with equestrian facilities was proposed by
a joint venture between local developers Investec and Michael McCormack, from
Hawaii. On February 24, 1999 the Planning Commission Hearing for the Bridle Ridge
development project was held and the project was denied 5 to o. Five Class I impacts
were identified (biology, land use, aesthetics, schools, loss of agriculture)
as were 18 policy inconsistencies.
From the ashes of the Bridle
Ridge development resistance, the San Marcos Foothills Coalition was conceived
by a group of citizens whose collective realization of the true value of the land
impelled them to action. The goal of the Coalition would be to protect and preserve
this precious foothill open space.
Part III: The San Marcos
Proposed Option to Purchase
Developer Jeff Bermant
Earth Day Art
Lecture with SB Land Trust
A Plan for Preservation...
San Marcos Foothills Coalition was born on March 28, 1999. The group was formed
as a response to the ongoing threat of development of this ecologically valuable
site. By April 22, 1999, several prominent local organizations signed on in support
of our mission. These include: the Environmental Defense Center, the Surfrider
Foundation, Santa Barbara Chapter, the La Colina Homeowners Association, the Urban
Creeks Council, The OAK Group, the UCSB Environmental Affairs Board, SB Womens
Political Committee, Citizens Planning Association, SB League of Women Voters,
Citizens for the Goleta Valley, California Native Plant Society, Small Wilderness
Areas Preserve, and Santa Barbara Audubon Society. These groups have remained
true to this effort and for that we are most grateful.