At Hollister Ranch, homeowners enjoy private beaches — and hefty tax breaks, too

Mounting public outrage has fueled new efforts by state officials to open a coveted stretch of California coastline in Santa Barbara County.

For those lucky enough to live at the exclusive Central Coast property known as Hollister Ranch, the benefits are many.

For starters, that stretch of the Gaviota coast — 30 miles from Santa Barbara — is so beautiful, the postcards would look Photoshopped. And residents have eight miles of dreamy beaches and fantastic surf breaks mostly to themselves after years of doing everything in their power — lawyers, lobbyists, gates and guards — to keep the public out.

But there’s another bonus to life on the ranch, and you might not have heard about this one.

The owners — including celebrities and wealthy business moguls — get huge property tax breaks, too, and they’ve been getting them for decades for living on what’s designated as an agricultural preserve.

Collectively, the breaks added up to about $2 million this year, according to a Times analysis.

I teamed with my colleague Ben Welsh, our data editor, to scour Santa Barbara County tax records and find out exactly how much of a savings Hollister residents are enjoying.

On average, property owners get property tax bills that are half of what they’d pay without the special benefits. Nice for them, but the county misses out on revenue that would be available for basic services.

Oscar-winning film director James Cameron enjoyed a $28,000 property tax break last year. CVS heiress Sidne Long got a $22,000 break. Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard saw a $13,000 savings, and singer Jackson Browne got a $3,000 break. Read full article.