Pacific Coast Business Times Proudly serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties Fri, 29 May 2015 22:21:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Neverland Ranch hits market for $100 million Fri, 29 May 2015 21:56:59 +0000 Colony Capital, the Santa Monica-based firm headed by real estate mogul Tom Barrack, is trying to sell late pop star Michael Jackson’s notorious Neverland Ranch for $100 million.

The property got the green light to hit the market today and local brokers from Sotheby’s International and Hilton & Hyland are scrambling to launch a new website — — to market the property.

Suzanne Perkins, one of the Sotheby’s luxury market brokers, told the Business Times that the website, with pictures, should be online this afternoon. A virtual tour and video are also being put together for the property.

Located at 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road in Los Olivos, the property features a 12,500-square-foot, six-bedroom Normandy-style main house, a four-acre lake and waterfall and a pool. Additionally, there is a tennis court and four-bedroom guest house, plus numerous others structures, including a 5,500-square foot, 50-seat movie theater with a stage, several barns, animal shelter facilities, corrals and a maintenance shop. The amusement park rides are gone, but the train tracks still exist.

According to Business Times research, the property, which sits on nearly 2,600 acres, has a total assessed value of $30.3 million. The improvement value — the structures and other built features — of the property is about $6.9 million.

A number of reports about the property’s listing indicate that Colony has spent millions on renovating the ranch since it bought it in 2008.

Jackson paid $19.5 million for the ranch in 1988 and lived there more than 15 years. But in the run up to his untimely death in 2009, Jackson fell into financial trouble and defaulted on a $24.5 million loan backed by the ranch. Colony swooped in and bought the note for roughly $24 million and put the title into a joint venture it formed with the king of pop.

In February, the New York Post’s Page Six reported that there were at least three bids from private investors for the property, two of which were interested turning Neverland into a “Graceland-like attraction,” while the other wanted to develop a sexual assault rehab for children.

The Business Times was not able to verify these reports. Caroline Luz, a spokeswoman for Colony wouldn’t confirm or deny the previous offers and said the company isn’t willing to comment on listing.

Luz also declined to answer whether or not the Jackson estate is interested in trying to buy the property back.

Sotheby’s Perkins, who also represents the $125 million-priced Rancho San Carlos mega estate and was involved in the $110 million sale of Rancho El Cojo on Jalama Road, said she is absolutely convinced there are multiple buyers out there.

“It’s really about having the right person come along at the right time,” she said.

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Refugio oil spill claims can be submitted Saturday at Elks Lodge Fri, 29 May 2015 18:48:46 +0000 new oil spill flier

Plains All American Pipeline representatives will be at a community open house about the Refugio oil spill response from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Elks Lodge at 150 N. Kellogg Ave. in Santa Barbara.

The company is actively addressing claims as they are received, according to Patrick Hodgins, senior director of safety & security for Plains All American Pipeline, and will have trained claims processors at a booth at Saturday’s open house. Those who have questions for the company or who would like to submit a claim can call 866-753-3619.

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Investors can decide not to put money into companies that damage environment Fri, 29 May 2015 07:01:47 +0000 By Brad Stark and Kieran Osborne

The pipeline breakage near Refugio State Beach is not only devastating to our environment and harmful to life on the Central Coast, but it also brings attention to how the oil industry is supported with investment dollars.

The public relations battle with fossil fuels has been heating up for some time, and, depending on where you live, you often will have different viewpoints on the industry.

In the Gulf of Mexico, the tourist trade is still dealing with the aftereffects of the BP oil disaster. In the heartland, fracking is seen as a blessing by some, as tremendous wealth has been created and reliance on foreign fuels has been reduced. However, significant controversy surrounds the long-term impact on ground water due to the fracking fluids. The Keystone pipeline has been a political football for years, with two sides that could not be further apart in their beliefs. And whenever there is a spill, such as the one that occurred at Refugio State Beach, public disapproval generally falls along two main paths.

Consumers have been voting with their wallets by pursuing a “greener” lifestyle, for example, through solar energy or hybrid/electric cars. Beyond that, we are also seeing a push by investors who no longer want to support certain industries – fossil fuels being near the top of the list – and who want to support others.

More investors are inquiring about Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) strategies. Conscious of how business practices can influence the planet, they want to go beyond volunteering and protesting efforts. They are now focusing on their investment allocations to communicate in the language that businesses know best: money. SRI allows investors to actively avoid companies deemed to have substandard environmental management records, for example. It is a relief to many investors that they can align their world views – their values and beliefs – with their portfolios through the use of SRI.  Investors can also actively seek out companies that are setting a positive example and reward those companies by investing in their stock.

SRI encompasses three key pillars: environmental, social, and governance. Investors can screen companies on any one of these broad categories, as well as factors within them, such as pollution, energy efficiency, or water stress, to name just a few. Investors can screen out specific business involvement activities as well, from child labor to firearms and munitions sales.

In the old days, investors had less customization and less ability to carve out the industries or companies they did not want. Now, screening criteria are essentially limitless and come down to an individual investor’s preferences. No two screens are alike.

How is the screening done? Industry-standard “report cards” grade companies on each ESG category. One of these report cards (the MSCI Intangible Value Assessment (IVA) Methodology) shows that of the S&P 500 companies, nearly half score an overall environmental score of 5.0 or less on a scale of 0 to 10. Only 41 of the S&P 500 companies score 9.0 or better and just 20 companies receive a perfect grade of 10.0.

While this might not be too surprising to some, it highlights that most corporations still have a long way to go toward becoming more environmentally and socially conscious. Many investors believe that actively investing money in a more meaningful way may give companies the incentive to take these steps, and in turn, create positive societal impact.

In fact, SRI is no longer a niche corner of the investment universe. According to the US SIF Foundation’s 2014 Report on Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends in the United States, SRI has witnessed significant growth over recent years and now represents more than one out of every six dollars under professional management in the U.S. From 2012 to 2014, SRI grew over 76%, and by the end of 2013 over $6.5 trillion was invested according to SRI strategies.

At Mission Wealth, we’ve seen increased demand for screening within clients’ portfolios. They want to rest easy about their money, knowing that they are putting their money where their mouth is.

More and more investors want to send a direct message – in monetary terms – to corporations: make positive changes. The louder their voices, the greater the likelihood of change.

• Mission Wealth has donated to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network to help with the rescue effort for oiled wildlife. We encourage you to do the same! Brad Stark is co-founder & chief operating officer and Kieran Osborne is portfolio manager at Mission Wealth a financial advisory firm headquartered in Santa Barbara.

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Beach closures take toll on Santa Barbara County businesses Fri, 29 May 2015 07:01:46 +0000 Workers donned protective gear clean up the oil spill at Refugio campgrounds.

Workers donned protective gear to clean up the oil spill at Refugio State Beach.

The oil spill near Refugio State Beach dealt a financial blow to a handful of businesses with more revenue being lost every day.

Although the total impact on Santa Barbara’s $1 billion tourism industry is likely to be offset by increased hotel stays by cleanup crews, there was no sign of relief for those directly affected.

El Capitan and Refugio state beaches, two of the county’s most popular campsites, have been closed to the public since the May 19 spill occurred, and with no concrete timetable on when the beaches will reopen, some small businesses are left cleaning up the mess.

“We lost 25 people that were booked last weekend,” said Michael Cohen, owner of Santa Barbara Adventure Co., a travel outfitter featuring everything from costal kayaking to horseback riding.

Cohen said that’s not even including all the “walk-ins” who come in that haven’t made reservations. A rate that’s particularly high during holiday weekends dropped off this Memorial Day.

“We could’ve added another 20 people, at least,” Cohen said.

But Cohen said last week’s loss in revenue could be just the tip of the iceberg.

“This weekend’s loss isn’t the true cost, the true cost is how long the beaches will be closed,” Cohen said.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation and other organizations are scheduled to reassess both Refugio and El Capitan on June 4 to make a determination whether or not to reopen the state beaches.

El Capitan and Refugio beaches could remain closed for additional weeks, further impacting businesses like Santa Barbara Adventure Co.

“We take in 1,400 customers a year. Every week the beach is closed, they could take possibly 20 to 100 customers,” Cohen said. “We could lose up to 800 customers between now and October if the beaches were to remain closed.”

Time is of the essence for Cohen’s business. With more than 70 percent of Santa Barbara Adventure Co.’s customers being students on school field trips, having the state beaches open before the fall is vital.

Other businesses, such as 101 RV Rentals, are also feeling negative results from the spill. As the lone contract provider for RV rentals in Refugio and El Capitan campsites, the company returned a handful of refunds during the Memorial Day weekend, but it’s what the future holds that could end up more daunting.

“We did have to refund a couple people this week,” said company manager Melissa Owens. “But that’s just for this week, we’re anticipating more cancellations in the weeks to come.”

Although only two of the Central Coast’s state beaches are closed, they are two of the more popular beaches tourists and businesses rely heavily on.

“Those are our most popular beaches, so a good chunk of our business comes from there,” said Owens. “A lot of people go to El Capitan and Refugio beaches because of the nice bluff and tropical setting. It would be devastating for business if the beaches continue to stay closed for a long period of time.”

But not all Santa Barbara business owners are left singing the blues. Circle Bar B Guest Ranch & Stables was actually getting overbooked, said owner Kathy Brown.

“Basically, it didn’t affect us at all,” said Brown. “We had a very good weekend, very busy – and even had a wait list despite everything.”

In fact, it seems most of the hospitality industry felt little impact from the oil spill, despite national news coverage and declarations of emergency for Santa Barbara County and the Goleta.

Along with Circle Bar B, both the Bacara Resort and the Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort said they didn’t experience above-average cancellation rates.

Hotels will be taking full advantage of the influx of workers in the area directly involved in the clean-up.

Noreen Martin, CEO of San Luis Obispo County-based Martin Resorts, expects the impact of the spill to be balanced with recovery efforts.

“There will be probably be a short-term increase in visitation to Santa Barbara from professionals and volunteers who are working on the cleanup,” said Martin. “This probably zeros out any loss of business from leisure travelers.”

A majority of refunds went to would-be-campers with reservations to El Capitan and Refugio campgrounds. With roughly 225 individual campsites between the two parks, which typically run at full capacity, both state beaches are refunding approximately 200 people a week.

A lone bright spot of the ordeal was that campers were notified via ReserveAmerica – an online camping reservation service – almost immediately after the spill was reported. Campsite officials said there were very few campers that had to turnaround at the gate due to the campsite being closed.

Fortunately, the losses in camping fees won’t have much impact on the state. The financial sting smaller businesses receive from state beaches being closed will be much more damaging.

And although business owners like Cohen can stay in the black by offering plenty of services away from the spill site, he fears a national narrative is inaccurately being told which could further bring negative attention to Santa Barbara.

“It’s frustrating that the national media is projecting that all of Santa Barbara was affected, when in fact it was just a small, isolated area,” said Cohen. “As a small business, one thing I want to convey is Santa Barbara is open. That’s the message I’ve been trying to broadcast.”

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Cry grows to stop new oil production in Santa Barbara County Fri, 29 May 2015 07:01:39 +0000 A California Highway Patrol officer warns volunteers who showed up May 20 to clean up oil near Refugio State Beach from a 21,000-gallon pipeline spill to leave the area because it was too hazardous. Photo by Debra Giles

A California Highway Patrol officer warns volunteers who showed up May 20 to clean up oil near Refugio State Beach from a 21,000-gallon pipeline spill to leave the area because it was too hazardous.
Photo by Debra Giles

The Refugio oil spill cleanup will keep area beaches closed at least until June 4, the number of wildlife affected continues to grow, Canada de Alegria to Coal Oil Point fisheries are off limits and a geyser of negative national media attention has tarnished the region’s pristine reputation.

The spill, which was the result of a ruptured onshore pipeline owned by Texas-based operator Plains All American Pipeline and caused an estimated 2,400 barrels of crude oil to leak on land and into the Pacific Ocean off the Gaviota coast on May 19, is the latest environmental disaster to befall Santa Barbara County.

The fallout from the spill has set the stage for a resurgence of clashes between fossil fuel industry leadership and clean energy advocates. With the physical evidence from the spill and mounting facts shedding light on Plains All American’s history as one of the nation’s worst pipeline operators, clean energy supporters might have the artillery they need to launch a major attack on the region’s oil interests.

The total extent of the damage to the environment remains unclear and the estimated economic impact is also still unknown as clean up crews tackle contaminated areas. What is apparent, however, are the reactions of various environmental groups, state and local officials, and tourism industry advocates.
For many the message is clear: no more oil production.

Environmental Response

Activist Paul Relis, who helped start the grassroots environmental movement with the Community Environmental Council after the massive 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, is one of the biggest voices to decry major oil producers here and elsewhere.

“People have been asking me how the Refugio oil spill compares to the 1969 Santa Barbara spill. Really any spill of this magnitude is a tragedy, and the location on the Gaviota Coast could not be worse,” Relis said in statement. “But one major difference is that 45 years ago, we had no idea how to break our addiction to oil. Now we do. Now we have both the policy tools and the technology to make this transition. Those are two powerful drivers.”

Relis, who is board emeritus of the CEC and now works in the private sector, focusing on waste-derived bioenergy, is joined in his call for action against oil interests by the Environmental Defense Center and others.

“Unfortunately, with accidents and oil development, it is not a question of if, but of when. But to see this level of spill into such a sensitive and treasured environment is devastating to watch,” said EDC Executive Director Owen Bailey.

New projects held up

Coastal drilling applications from Venoco to drill off Ellwood at Platform Holly and Sunset-Exxon to drill from Vandenberg Air Force Base are new risks and the recent spill is a reminder “to make safer, cleaner and forward-looking decisions on energy production,” he said.

Dave Davis, current president and CEO of the CEC, called the spill a step backward but also a step forward in the fight to protect the coast.

In some ways, it appears those sentiments have reached those on the State Lands Commission. In light of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proclamation declaring a State of Emergency in Santa Barbara and to avoid any distraction from the efforts to address the recent oil spill response near Refugio Beach,  the commission staff postponed its May 26 public scoping meeting for the Venoco South Ellwood field project to June 24.

For its part, Plains has taken responsibility for the spill and issued a release stating the company considers itself a very competent, experienced operator.

“Just like airline companies and every individual that drives an automobile, we have a goal of zero incidents. That said, despite the best planning and execution efforts, incidents do occur,” the company said in a press release.

In its defense, Plains claims that its numerous reported violations are due to its massive company size. As one of the largest midstream oil companies, the number of reported spills Plains has are higher than many of the smaller companies, the company said, noting that 99 percent of the other reporting companies were not only smaller than Plains, but that most of the smaller companies had less than half the number of miles of pipeline that Plains does.

Still, possible criminal charges could result from the spill. State Attorney General Kamala Harris said her office is working closely with state and federal partners on an investigation of the company’s conduct to ensure responsible parties are held accountable. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley is also involved.

Legislation on the table

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who represents 40 percent of the California coastline and its $40 billion economy, is working with state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, on legislation that would close a loophole in the Coastal Sanctuary Act that currently allows the State Lands Commission to grant new leases for offshore oil and gas development.

Senate Bill 788 – The Coastal Protection Act – cites the possibility of new offshore oil leases in California and developers are already testing the political waters. The bill would forever ban any new oil drilling off of the California coast.

While the gears of legislative change turn at the state level, local businesses and other industry groups have responded to the spill with volunteers and donations. The EDC’s supporters have contributed more than $12,000 to support clean up efforts. Real estate software firm Yardi Systems has also offered to match every additional dollar the EDC raises up to an additional $25,000 for the Refugio response.

Media coverage

In relation to the media attention the spill has received, Visit Santa Barbara, the local travel and tourism organization, has been relatively quiet on the matter. But in a statement it said it is working closely with state partners, including Visit California, to communicate with international and targeted national travel trade media, reinforcing that Santa Barbara is open for business and largely unaffected outside of the immediate spill area.

Representatives from Plains All American did not respond to the Business Times’ requests for the number of financial and environmental claims made and their dollar amounts in relation to the spill so far.

“The full extent of the economic and environmental impacts of the current oil spill are not yet fully known, but it is imperative that improved environmental safeguards be quickly implemented, including tougher safety standards, additional investments in infrastructure, stricter local controls and increased inspections,” said Salud Carbajal, Santa Barbara County first district supervisor.
“On the Central Coast, it is important that we find the right balance for the future of our local economy and that we do not become overly reliant on any one sector. It is imperative that we continue to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and accelerate our transition to green energy alternatives.”

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Exterior work on new tower nearly done at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura Fri, 29 May 2015 07:01:38 +0000


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Field narrowed to 6 in UCSB’s New Venture Competition Fri, 29 May 2015 07:01:35 +0000


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