By Cary English, Daily Nexus, November 5, 1974
Las Positas Road winds through rolling brown hills until it stops just short of the ocean. You can’t see the water from here, though, a large tree-shrouded hill is in the way. The Wilcox property.
Developer Harold B. Toso has been trying to get a zoning change for the hill so he can build a 220-unit hotel on it. Santa Barbara residents will have the opportunity today [11/05/1974] to decide if they’d rather keep it as it is.
If Proposition A passes, the city will be empowered to purchase the property from the Wilcox heirs “for open space purposes.” The property is adjacent to Hendry’s (Arroyo Burro) Beach.
Wilcox is “the last large undeveloped oceanfront parcel that’s left in the city,” says David Liquornik, representing the local Small Wilderness Area Preserve (SWAP). “If we don’t buy it now, it’s gone.”
The county board of supervisors voted unanimously July 23 to “encourage the city [of Santa Barbara] to purchase the Wilcox property.” The park and recreation divisions of the City Community Services Dept. consider Wilcox a top priority.
Toso’s attorney, Gerald Parent, says his client believes “if the people want it as a park, it should be a park.” But he notes that the plans for the hotel include walkways along the bluff that are open to the public, and the hotel would not be very conspicuous from the road.
Opponents of the measure argue the city has too many parks as it is, mostly undeveloped. And some believe the city has higher priorities for its money.
“I personally can’t see how a city can have too many parks,” says Liquornik. Much of the passive park space, he says, isn’t meant to be developed.
The cost of the property is undetermined. The estimate is about $1.1 to $1.3 million. Councilman Gus Chavalas has argued the final price could run into several millions. The assessed evaluation for tax purposes is $400,000, notes Liquornik, but Parent says “the city would have to acquire it at the same price a private entity would buy it for.”
Councilman Nyle Utterback has proposed that the city buy it with $1 million from its $4 million oil spill settlement, supplementing it with money from other sources.
But even passage of the proposition won’t keep development out of the Las Positas area. The 210-acre “Jesuit property” across Cliff Drive from Wilcox is being considered for a 140-unit development. Another housing project may be proposed for the nearby Campanil Hills area. Civilization is slowly creeping into Las Positas.