Hollister Ranch is 14,400 acres (58 km2) of fallow and fertile fields, mountains and valleys along the Pacific coast of California between Gaviota State Park and Point Conception. It was the site of some of the oldest known human settlements in the new world, the last "native" population of which was the Chumash. The Spanish Portolà expedition, first European land explorers of California, traveled along its coast in 1769. It became part of the extensive Spanish land grant known as Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio, operated by the family of José Francisco Ortega from 1794.
The land was purchased by William Welles Hollister after the Civil War as part of a large acquisition, the center of which was at Glen Annie, Tecolotito canyon. It continues to be privately owned, and is one of the last remaining undeveloped coastal areas in California. There have been conflicts over public access to coastal parts of the ranch for nearly 40 years. Beaches along the Ranch remain technically open to the public per California state law, but access is difficult because the ranch itself is protected private property.
Cattle ranching history
A cattle ranch since the days of the Ortegas, Hollister Ranch is the fourth largest cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County having shipped over 1,500,000 pounds (680,000 kg) of beef in the summer of 2005. As a result of the Hollister Ranch Owners' Association CC&Rs, Santa Barbara County zoning and California's Agricultural Preserve Program, when fully built out, over 98% of the property will continue to be devoted to well managed and sensitive cattle grazing. Other benefits to Hollister Ranch owners as a result of the cattle operation include a reduced fuel load in the event of range fire and the tax benefits that result from adherence to the restrictions imposed by the Uniform Rules of the Agricultural Preserve. Relative to the land prices for parcels in Hollister Ranch, however, the cattle ranching is probably uneconomic, and may continue largely for the sake of fuel load management for fire protection, Agricultural Preserve tax consequences and aesthetic considerations.
The Hollister family, previous owners of the property, allowed some recreational use of the area. In the late 1950s, they granted a pass to the regional Sportsman Hunting Club, which later split into several smaller clubs, including the Santa Barbara Surf Club. During over a decade of regular use, the Santa Barbara Surf Club discovered and named many surfing spots off the coast of 8 miles (13 km) of beach, such as Razor Blades, Drake's, Little Drake's, Utah, Rights and Lefts, St. Augustine, Lefts and Rights, and on the adjacent Bixby Ranch land, Cojo Point, Perko's Point, and Government Point.
Today recreational use of the beach and surrounding area is restricted to both the owners of the Hollister and Bixby Ranches, and the public, who access the area by foot along the beach and by boat in the offshore waters. California law allows public access to all land below the mean high tide line, and many surfers, divers, and fisherman access the State waters by boating or walking in from Gaviota State Park on the East and Jalama County Park on the West. The area is generally called “The Ranch” by surfers, divers, and fisherman.
Development and environmental concerns
Many associated with the present Hollister Ranch see themselves as responsible stewards of the land, ardently claiming to have worked out a successful formula balancing ecological preservation with residential development which functions within both a working commercial agricultural operation and a healthy natural habitat with a wide range of flora and fauna. But non-owners argue that the owners' formula precludes the public access through and over private property to beaches, mandated by California state law, and that the Hollister Ranch Association beaches remain open to heavy vehicular traffic from registered beach going vehicles. In addition, non-owners argue that the working cattle operation that has shipped as much as 1,000,000 pounds of beef in a good, rainy year is subsidized by the owners and exists primarily for tax-front purposes. Regardless of the fact that cattle have continuously grazed at Hollister Ranch since the 1860s, some environmentalists note the potential impact such an operation could have on native flora and fauna. Thus, a sharp difference of opinion exists between Ranch owners, who point to the pristine nature of the Ranch after 45 years as an owners' association and non-owners, some of whom view Ranch policies as exclusivist and disingenuous.
In 2004, the National Park Service abandoned a proposal to designate parts of the Gaviota coastline, including the seashore in front of Hollister Ranch, as National Seashore. Local landowners, especially those in Hollister Ranch, mounted a lobbying campaign to oppose the study. In addition to others in Santa Barbara County who, after learning of the proposed designation, hired advocates to oppose the National Seashore, the Hollister Ranch Owners' Association assessed its members to hire a former congressman to lobby against the National Seashore proposal.
Previous projects proposed since the 1970s have included oil development, a nuclear power plant and high-density housing.
For over twenty years Santa Barbara area grade school children have been encouraged to participate (at no cost to the schools) in the Hollister Ranch Conservancy's "Tidepool Classroom" that preserves intertidal life forms not found elsewhere along the coast.
Hollister Ranch owners are currently[when?] restricted in terms of development. The owners insisted that they were good stewards of their land and neither wanted nor needed Washington's help to ward off development.
- Weikel, Dan. "Hollister Ranch owners are fighting the state again over public's right to use the beach". latimes.com. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
- Heller, Greg (November 2000). "The Ranch-History". Surfing-A-to-Z: The Largest Surfing Encyclopedia. www.surfline.com. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- Herold, Ann; Harder, Dan (May 13, 2007). "The legendary Bixby Ranch in Santa Barbara County has a new owner. What's to become of . . . THE LAST PERFECT PLACE?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
- Stewart, Ethan (April 27, 2011). "Bixby Cleared of Wrong doing". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- "The Great Divide". Surfer. July 22, 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
- Weiss, Kenneth R. (March 10, 2004). "Status as National Seashore Rejected for Gaviota Coast". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
- XIA, ROSANNA (May 22, 2018). "Soon you can visit this pristine California beach — if you're a nearby landowner, on a guided tour or willing to paddle 2 miles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 May 2018.