Fighting for space in Santa Barbara's coastal zone

For over a decade the commercial fishing community has had its eye on one of the last pieces of undeveloped land near the harbor, a city owned property at 125 S. Calle Cesar Chavez. This land would make for an ideal boat yard and gear storage area, to prepare for the inevitable loss of the current boat yard managed by CFSB at 31 Garden St, the Wright Family property, which will surely one day be developed into a Funk zone hipster destination.

The property is 2.4 acres, made up of 4 parcels, and big enough to think creatively about additional components that could enhance the infrastructure, culture and identity of Santa Barbara’s maritime community, like a boat repair shop and welder (long since pushed out into the far reaches of Goleta), and potential revenue generators like a recreational boat and gear livery.

Uni diver Jeff Maassen has been a leading force in visioning a maritime-themed community development project for this site, nicknamed the 'Fisherman's Village'  -  a working marine collective of entrepreneurs, artisans, maritime educators, boaters, fishers and other ocean enthusiasts to be a hub for a diverse and thriving ocean economy in Santa Barbara.

Concept by Jonathan Gonzalez, 2010

Concept by Jonathan Gonzalez, 2010

Add in educational displays on fishing history, event space for seafood cooking classes and a market and cafe, and this site could be Santa Barbara’s own unique take on Seattle’s Pike Place market, drawing in both locals and tourists for an authentic and interactive maritime experience.

Prior to the State’s victory in the RDA divestment ruling of 2012 that caused the current sale of this property, Santa Barbara city officials expressed serious support for leasing the site for the Fisherman's Village, in an arrangement similar to the MOXI museum project.  No other land near the waterfront is available or feasible for this community project.

Now, more than 5 years later, the City has appraised 125 S. Calle Cesar Chavez at $5 million and announced a sealed-bid auction that closes June 7th.

Given the impending sale, we are looking at all options for promoting some form of ocean-dependent use of this property into the future (see our proposal).

Our hope is to find potential partners or investors interested in taking on this property and helping us to solidify a plan for developing some version of mixed-use that includes the Fisherman's Village concept, or at the least, some boat yard space.  We hear the City may buy it (from themselves!) for future Water Resource needs (e.g., a 'potable-reuse' water recycling facility), and to preserve some space for community development, e.g., expansion of Casa Esperanza and our maritime use proposal.

One strategy is to request a delay in the bid deadline to buy more time, but we are unclear how to go about that.  I will be trying to get meetings with all of our city council members about this over the next week...

UPDATE 5.16: We have gotten great interest and support from every one of our City Council members and the Mayor. The City is moving forward with pursuing a bid focused on using the site for water storage and future water recycling facility. However, they indicated that they will discuss how to include mechanisms to help the fishing community with their space needs at this site also. If the City buys this property and if there is any square footage left over after the Water Resources Department's needs are met, I am optimistic the fishing community will be given a chance to make use of it. Either way, I am optimistic the City will partner with us to strategize diverse options for developing maritime infrastructure in the Coastal Zone. Big thanks to Jeff Maassen, John Colgate, Ken Oplinger and Chris Voss for their time and effort on this issue!

If you have any leads, ideas or ways to help out, please contact me!!! (

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