Judge’s ruling signals a sea change in beach access battle
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — In a major victory for coastal advocates, a Santa Barbara judge refused to approve a controversial deal that would have allowed access to Hollister Ranch’s coastline only to landowners, their guests, visitors with guides, and those who could boat or paddle in from two miles away.
The settlement agreement, struck between the ranch and coastal officials behind closed doors, sparked public outrage last year after The Times published the terms of the deal. The outcry became a flashpoint in the mounting pressure on state officials to ensure that California’s beaches are open to everyone — not just to those fortunate enough to own oceanfront property.
Hundreds of people have since lambasted the deal, calling on officials to fight harder against the ranch to open some of California’s most coveted beaches and surf breaks — still behind private gates after decades of legal battles and stalemates.
The backlash culminated in a coalition of advocates challenging the deal in a court intervention — stepping in, they said, to speak up for the public where the state had faltered.
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