Questions & Answers: What Happens After We Buy the Bluffs?

How much will the Bluffs parkland cost to maintain?

The majority of the Bluffs property will remain as a natural, open space preserve dedicated to passive recreation (hiking, biking, etc.). The costs for upkeep of the Bluffs as passive open space will be a minimal $5,000 to $15,000. The largest cost will occur if a restroom becomes incorporated into the project. A restroom will cost approximately $5,000 to maintain. The second major cost is mowing the large grassland areas of the Bluffs prior to the fire season. We estimate that the mowing would cost the city $2000. Trash pick up at the Bluffs will be free, if the city continues its contract with Harrison.

One adult softball field occupies approximately 1.4 acres, depending upon league size. One adult soccer field occupies 1.6 acres. We can estimate the maintenance costs for the 6 ½ to 8 acres of playing fields we are allowing for the Bluffs by looking at similarly sized recreational park areas already managed by the city. The city presently spends around $800/month (= $9,600/year) on mowing, maintenance and landscape services for the 8.8 acres of ball fields at El Carro Park. Water costs are $18,000/year. Add $5,000 as a safety margin for occasional incidentals such as tree trimming services and the importation of grading materials, and the annual costs at El Carro total approximately $32,600. We estimate that 8 acres in active recreation and 44 acres in passive use would cost between $20,000 and $35,000 a year depending upon the nature of the recreation.

Maintenance costs:

Phase #1 (until the playing fields go in)
82 acres (passive/preserve)
$5,000 to $15,000

Phase #2
44 acres (passive/preserve) 8 acres (active recreation) 52 acre total
$5,000 to $10,000 $20,000 to $35,000* $30,000 to $50,000

[* In Phase #2, a restrooms would be constructed as part of the active recreational component]

Will the Bluffs need an endowment fund?

In an earlier application for CREF funds from Santa Barbara County we agreed to continue our fundraising efforts until enough money is raised to create an endowment for at least five years of maintenance and operation of the site. We are proceeding in our acquisition efforts on the premise that an endowment of $500,000 will be needed to maintain the property in its present natural state. We already have raised $150,000 of the endowment fund.

In September of 1998, the City Council of Carpinteria adopted a resolution conceptually supporting public ownership and management of the Carpinteria Bluffs with the intent “to preserve the property’s value as scenic, natural open space; to protect and enhance existing Bluff Habitats; to provide for the restoration and expansion of native plant communities; and to provide the community the opportunity for passive and active recreation.” The Council agreed that acceptance of public stewardship of this property would include the establishment of an on-going endowment fund.

We know Carpinteria citizens clearly value their open space and parkland; the Parks Maintenance Fund was recently put to the voters of Carpinteria and passed by a three-fourths majority to assess annually each residential unit $36 for parks. We also understand that the City has access to funding sources which are not available to Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs, and we are working with City staff to secure additional funds that might go towards the Bluffs endowment.

What about sports on the Bluffs?

6 ½ to 8 acres of playing fields will be allowed on the Bluffs and will be developed by the city once the land is transferred. Such active recreation incorporated into the park development plans eventually could generate some revenue to offset a portion of the costs or pay for additional park staff such recreational activity might require.

If necessary, a larger endowment fund could be created through additional fundraising.

Who pays for title insurance?

Currently, the insurance coverage falls under the policy held by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. When ownership of the Bluffs is transferred to the city, the city will assume responsibility. The city belongs to the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority involving a number of other cities who have pooled their insurance premiums. The premium the city pays is not tied to any maximum amount or acreage of parkland. Carpinteria recently added 7 acres of parkland to their inventory which did not affect their premiums. The addition of the Bluffs property to the city’s inventory of parkland would be covered in similar fashion under the city’s current insurance program.

No additional premium will be required, unless improvements are made. According to city staff, the recent $200,000 development of a restroom and facility for the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve caused an insurance premium increase of only $60. We can assume that any improvements proposed for the Carpinteria Bluffs will be modest in nature and have similarly insignificant impacts upon the city’s annual insurance premium.

Will major donors face any personal liability if the Bluffs property is acquired and deeded to the City of Carpinteria?

No. Donors to the Carpinteria Bluffs acquisition campaign do not become liable for any events or activities affecting the property. Upon the close of escrow, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County became the new landowners, pending the transfer of the property to the city. For this interim period, the Land Trust assumes the risks of ownership, which is an insurable risk and covered under insurance held by the Land Trust.

How can we guarantee that the Bluffs will remain in open space or parkland in perpetuity?

The Carpinteria Bluffs will be deed-restricted at the close of escrow to prevent it from being sold or developed in the future. Even if the city or other landowner were to go into bankruptcy, the property would remain subject to the deed restrictions. Future city councils or landowners could not unilaterally remove the deed restrictions.

What will be allowed on the Bluffs?

The Land Use Task Force of the Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs recognizes that different members of the community value different opportunities presented by the public acquisition of the Bluffs.

The concept guiding the following list is to create a conservation easement that allows for a balance of active and passive recreation uses. All uses should be sensitive to the Bluffs’ coastal environment. Passive uses would involve the enjoyment and appreciation of the present habitat values and also allow for the enhancement and restoration of native plant communities. The following is excerpted from our Local Coastal Plan:

Native Plant Communities: (
Natural ecological systems composed of native plant species serve many essential functions. They serve as wildlife habitats and provide nesting sites and feeding resources for many animals. Native plants, due to their adaptation to the local environment, use less water than most introduced species and contribute to the stabilization of soils on bluffs, hillsides and watersheds. In addition, native plants are an integral component of the landscape that makes the Santa Barbara County coastal Zone a visual resource of more than local importance. Native plant communities include, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, coastal bluff, closed pine cone forest, California native oak woodland (and individual trees), endangered and rare plant species as designated by the Native Plant Society, and other plants of special interest such as endemics. Oak trees need special attention as they are long-lived, relatively slow growing and are easily harmed by surrounding land uses.

Coastal Act Policies state in part:
30240. (a)
Environmentally sensitive habitat areas shall be protected against any significant disruption of habitat values, and only uses dependent on those resources shall be allowed within those areas.
(b) Development in areas adjacent to environmentally sensitive habitat areas and parks and recreation areas shall be sited and designed to prevent impacts which would significantly degrade those areas, and shall be compatible with the continuance of those habitat and recreation areas.

Some recreation activities may be incompatible with habitat areas, that is the reason why we propose that one or two areas or envelopes be designated as “active recreation area”. With the exception of the Coastal Plan required hiking-biking path that will run relatively near to the railroad tracks, active recreation uses (playing fields) would be limited to the area nearest Carpinteria Avenue.

Each active recreation area (being considered conceptually at this point) could accommodate one adult regulation soccer field and one regulation baseball field (or a number of smaller youth league fields), the final configuration will be determined by a qualified expert hired to advise on the best way to accommodate the fields with the least disruption to the local topography and least intrusion into the passive recreation areas. It is our intention that only such designated active recreation areas be authorized in perpetuity for the construction and use of playing fields for soccer, softball and other compatible sport activities.

The permitted use should not be so intense as to become inappropriate to the location. The present topography should be respected as much as possible. Parking is limited to the presently paved areas (as well as possible offsite parking in the “Cal-Trans” or “the Farmer parcel”, both located directly opposite the bluffs on Carpinteria Avenue). Support structures such as bathrooms and small storage structure would be allowed, but their location would be intensely scrutinized to avoid obstruction of views.

It should be noted that while we are presently dealing only with 52 acres of the bluffs, in the context of: What is to be permitted or disallowed in perpetuity? Some members of the Task Force identified the Brown/Serena parcel or even the Chevron parcel (both to the West) as a better place for locating playing fields, bathrooms and parking areas. If those areas become available, it will be up to the city to decide where it will be more appropriate to have construction and use of playing fields.

Third Draft of permitted and prohibited uses for the Bluffs

The Land Trust for Santa Barbara County will use the following list (after it is reviewed by the board of directors of the Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs) in order to write a Deed of Conservation Easement. Compilation of list is the result of months of Task force Meetings. Note. Extensive use was made of the easement prepared for La Cumbre Mutual Water Company. (There is a lot of associated language after each heading that, for the sake of brevity, will not be copied here. Please refer to original document to enhance your understanding.)

Permitted Uses:

  • Playing Fields (Soccer, Baseball, Softball etc. No hard surfaces.) *
  • Parking on present paved areas plus an additional strip of pavement of 10 feet or less on east of property if needed only.
  • Enhancement / restoration of local California native species
  • Bikes / horses on designated paths
  • Underground utilities
  • New paths created with approval only in active area native grasses preferred but if necessary/desired non-native grasses to be reviewed by designated botanist*
  • Interpretive Kiosk
  • Small bathroom /storage/concession building?
  • Public Access (for passive and active recreation, restoration, education, scientific study purposes and approved special events consistent with easement purposes)
  • Appropriate Signage.
  • Control of Animals and Plants.
  • Minor grading as required for permitted uses.

* = Only in area designated in map and by description as active recreation area.

Prohibited Uses:

  • Paving (except for Bailard turn around and existing paving on eastern edge of the Bluffs)
  • Paved paths / roads or parking areas. Permanent fencing, other than required by LCPA
  • Unauthorized plantings
  • Motorized vehicles except authorized
  • Night Lighting
  • Gas/oil/mineral exploration and/or drilling and mining
  • Open Fires/Fireworks/Firearms
  • Commercial or Industrial Uses. (including commercial signs or billboards)
  • Residential Uses
  • Retail Uses
  • Commercial Agricultural uses
  • Golf courses, putting greens and the like
  • Structures, except for those specifically permitted (i. e. bathrooms at playing fields and goals, goalposts, backstop at playing fields)
  • Subdivision of property
  • Construction of occupied buildings either temporary or permanent
  • Camping
  • Dumping or disposal of wastes, refuse or debris
  • Alteration of Topography (except minor grading as required for permitted uses)
  • Retaining Walls
  • Activities or uses that cause significant degradation of topsoil quality or erosion
  • Alteration or manipulation of watercourses /Creation of new water impoundments or watercourses for any purpose other than permitted uses of the Property.
  • Removal of present mature Trees
  • Other incompatible uses