SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A coalition of community groups is opposing an
expansion project by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. At issue is a
nearly seven-acre annexation on which the Chumash plan to build a cultural
center to include a museum and park.
The coalition includes the Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens, Women's
Environmental Watch, and two organizations called the Preservation of Los
Olivos and Santa Ynez.
The coalition filed a letter with the BIA asking them to deny the
annexation, marking the latest chapter of opposition to Chumash projects.
Problems arose last year over a proposed 745-acre purchase from noted
developer and former television actor Fess Parker for a luxury housing and
golf course development.
At the moment, that deal is on the back burner and Parker and the tribe
have yet to complete a sale.
Problems arose with the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors when some
of its members vocally opposed any expansion project.
When the tribe later tried to get a liquor license transferred to them for
use in their restaurant, rock musician David Crosby - whose noted battles
with substance abuse have made headlines - showed up at a meeting to oppose
The tribe's fortunes seemed to change when new county supervisors were
elected last November, and the tribe claims that a verbal agreement was
made between the tribe and the supervisors allowing the tribe to annex the
6.9-acre plot of land for the development.
Massie Ritsch, who works for a Los Angeles public relations firm called the
Sugarman Group which is representing the Santa Ynez Valley Concerned
Citizens, said that it is not the museum and cultural center that is
leading to their opposition.
"We're worried more about a cumulative effect," said Ritsch.
In this case, the cumulative effect means the way agreements are done
between the tribe and the county. Ritsch said that his group drafted an
"eight-page intergovernmental agreement" modeled on other agreements signed
by other counties and tribes that the coalition hopes to use as a template
for future agreements. He said that the coalition wanted to make sure that
such an agreement was on the table, meeting county standards, before other
deals such as the one with Fess Parker, were proposed.
Ritsch contends that when a written agreement surfaces between Santa
Barbara County and the tribe, and if it is acceptable to his group, they
will pull their opposition letter from the BIA.
"[The letter] was a way to keep everyone at the table and keep them
talking," said Ritsch.
Chumash tribal member Frances Snyder, who handles the tribes' public
relations, said the tribe's problem with the coalition's action is that it
is not a governmental entity. She contends that the agreement only has to
be with Santa Barbara County and not with any coalition group members, and
that an agreement with the coalition is unnecessary because of the tribe's
"They oppose everything that we do. First it was gaming that they didn't
like, then it was liquor licenses and now it is unchecked development.
After a while, it just gets old," said Snyder.
For now the matter rests with the BIA, and Chumash will have a tribal vote
on the agreement with the county.