History • Partnership Interests • Building Types & Rights • Guests • Owners' Association • Taxes & Financing • Utilities • Who Owns Property • Cattle Co-OpSchoolsFireSurfPublic Access

Hollister Ranch History & Information


The Hollister Ranch is a 14,400 acre area of land located south of Point Conception, at the northernmost edge of the area known as "Southern California." The Ranch is a cattle ranch that is sparsely developed with homes on large, agriculturally zoned, 100 acre parcels. The Ranch contains approximately 8.5 miles of Pacific Ocean shoreline, an area characterized as empty points and coves, rolling hillsides, and beach bluffs.

"The Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association seeks to develop and maintain Hollister Ranch in a manner that ensures the full enjoyment of the historical traditions and natural advantages of the area for all who acquire property therein and yet encourages diverse individual expression within the environment. The Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association believes that this fundamental concept can serve the interests of those who become such owners by fostering a beneficial land use that retains the unique beauty of the land and creates an atmosphere enriching the spirit of its participants." - CC&Rs, 1971

History & Region

The Ranch was part of the 1794 Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio Spanish land grant to José Francisco Ortega. This was the only land grant under Spanish rule in Santa Barbara County, California. The grant encompassed much of the Gaviota Coast.

In 1869, William Hollister and his family acquired the Ranch property, and began using it for cattle ranching. It has been a working cattle ranch ever since. On average, approximately 500,000 pounds of beef are shipped annually from the Ranch.

In 1971, the Ranch was subdivided into 136 separate, approximately 100 acre parcels, and some common areas. 133 of the parcels are now privately owned. The other 3 lots are commonly owned by the Hollister Ranch Owners' Association and used for administrative, cattle ranching, and other common purposes.

The land located to the immediate west of the Ranch is privately owned and includes the Dangermond Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy. The Gaviota State Park, with its Wind Cave trail and Gaviota State Peak trail borders the HR's east. The Santa Ynez mountains lie along the northern boundary of the Ranch over which lies the magnificent and historic Rancho San Julian. The Pacific Ocean lies along the Ranch's southern boundary.

How do Partnership Interests & Building Rights work at the Hollister Ranch?

The most common ownership arrangement for an individual parcel is three owners/families deeded to the property, each with a 1/3rd interest and rights to build one of the three allowable structures—the “principal residence”, “guest house”, or “employee residence”.

A partnership (or co-ownership) agreement determines who can develop the various building rights and other responsibilities on the parcel. This arrangement reduces acquisition, construction, and maintenance costs, and the interest can later be sold to a new owner. These undivided interests can be purchased for much less than an entire parcel, with all owners having the same use of the Ranch common areas and beaches. Partnership interests may be available with an existing home, or as vacant land with or without permits and other approvals. A parcel’s 100+ acres of land cannot be legally divided, but each family has exclusive use of their individual home(s) and developed property site(s). The building rights can be transferred between that same parcel’s partners. The County of Santa Barbara imposes certain restrictions for each type of structure built at Hollister Ranch, including maximum square footage or occupancy limits.

Please call to discuss these unique restrictions...

How do Hollister Ranch Owners & their Guests Access the Ranch?

Access through the East-end and only gatehouse is apportioned by ownership interest.

Each parcel may designate for access up to twelve family members, defined as the deeded owners’ lineal descendants. For example, if you own a 1/3rd interest, then four family members—can be registered as "designated owners" and enter through the Hollister Ranch gatehouse at any time. These could be your spouse, parents, grandparents, children or grandchildren.

All others entering the Ranch, are considered guests of the parcel owner and may be on the Hollister Ranch only when the owner is present (e.g., guests may not rent the owner’s home).

A maximum of twelve guests per parcel (not per owner) are allowed on the Ranch at any one time. So, up to 24 people per parcel (12 owners + 12 guests) may access the HR on a given day. An extended guest list, if filed with and approved by HR management allows each parcel more guests for special occasions.

A paved two-lane road winds through the Ranch from east to west, located approximately a quarter mile to a half mile inland from the shore--unpaved and paved roads branch off to the south and north from the main Ranch road at various points. Railroad tracks controlled and used by the Union Pacific Railroad lie between the main Ranch road and the beach.

What are the unique allowable Hollister Ranch Structures? And how are parcels Improved?

A full time development coordinator is on staff with the HROA to answer questions and help complete required forms.

Each 100 acre Ranch parcel has a maximum building envelope of only two acres, which allows for construction of one house and a few accessory structures. Fences are generally allowed on the Ranch parcels only around the small, two-acre building area.

A few things to consider (subject to modification under HROA rules):

• Hollister Ranch Agricultural zoning status allows employee dwellings and barns, in addition to the main house and guest houses.

• Barns, storage buildings, and fencing may be built for use with agricultural projects. Some agricultural projects on Hollister Ranch include: equestrian breeding/training/boarding, brood mare, macadamia nut trees, avocado and lemon orchards, Protea and Leptospermum flower operation, oak tree regeneration, native grass seed harvesting, and apiaries.

• To make improvements on a Ranch parcel, you must first review the Hollister Ranch Design Committee requirements. A complete development guideline package is available from Hollister Ranch Office.

• The next step is to design a master plan for the parcel. Most parcels currently have a master plan on file. The HROA Design Committee meets the first Saturday of every month to review master plans and detailed architectural and landscape projects.

• Many contractors, builders, and architects live full-time on the Ranch, have extensive experience with developing HR parcels, and have produced some truly remarkable buildings, including LEED certified buildings. All parcel development plans are on file at the Ranch office.

Hollister Ranch Owners' Association (HROA), Board of Directors, Committees, & Activities

The HROA's mission is to maintain Hollister Ranch in a manner that protects the traditions and beauty of the area for owners. As part of its mission, the HROA and its Board of Directors monitor and enforce covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R's) and other Ranch rules that govern and limit the ownership and use of land within the Ranch.

The HROA monthly maintenance dues are [CALL US]. Special Assessments are voted on at the annual HROA meeting. These fees pay for the services of the 24-hour security system, a full time maintenance crew, ranch manager, bookkeeping, and outside consultants. The fees also cover the maintenance of common areas, ranch roads, the beach cabanas, limited insurance, some legal fees and other vital services.

What are the county property taxes?

The Hollister Ranch is in the Agricultural Preserve Zoning status (Ag-320). Most undeveloped, vacant, 100 acre parcels are taxed at a relatively low rate based on an agricultural usage formula (not sale price or market value). However, structural improvements are taxed at approximately 1% of the construction costs by the Santa Barbara County Assessor.

How are utilities at the Hollister Ranch handled? What fire protections are in place?

Water: Each parcel has its own water well. Some parcels are also on a canyon water system, and others share with neighboring parcels if more convenient for the particular building site.

Electricity: Electricity is provided via the main road power poles and is currently available up most of the canyons. Back parcels (farthest from ocean) often use solar electricity or propane powered generators. Electrical and phone line extensions must be buried underground.

Gas: Propane gas delivery is available to all parcels.

Septic: Septic tanks with leach fields or dry wells are used for sewage disposal on each parcel.

Trash: Trash and recycling dumpsters are located on Hollister Ranch in two convenient hidden locations just off the main road for owner household use.

Internet: The first several canyons have broadband DSL available and most others have a satellite option, including HughesNet and StarLink. Inexpensive, but slow dial-up/modem options are widely available through online sites. Presently, there is one informal broadband Wi-Fi “hotspot” in a common area.

Fire: In 2010, owners established an excellent private fire company on the Hollister Ranch: Hollister Ranch Fire Company. A relatively new Santa Barbara County fire station is located less than a mile from the Highway 101 turnoff at Gaviota. More about HR fire protection.

Who owns property in Hollister Ranch?

There are several hundred owners of Hollister Ranch parcels. Some are original owners who purchased parcels in the 1970s when parcels were a few hundred thousand dollars. Over the last 50 years, since the HR was subdivided in 1971, homes have been built on 80% of the 133 privately owned Hollister Ranch parcels.

People are drawn to the Hollister Ranch land and community for a wide variety of reasons and often cite the landscape, effective rules regarding preservation, water sports (surf), privacy, and the desire for a traditional California lifestyle. The Hollister Ranch is approximately 2 hours from downtown Los Angeles.

Is Hollister Ranch related to Hollister Co., the California lifestyle clothing brand?

Hollister Co., often advertised as Hollister with clothing designs usually styled "Hollister - California", is a retail surf lifestyle brand owned by Abercrombie & Fitch founded in 2000. The company created a fictional history surrounding its founder coming to California. According to this history, John Hollister, Sr. emigrated from New York City to the Dutch East Indies, and established the company bearing his name upon returning to the United States and settling in California in 1922. The brand's logo is a flying seagull. The Hollister Ranch is 25 miles west of Santa Barbara, in Gaviota, California - "gaviota" is the Spanish word for seagull.

In fact, Hollister, California is a city in Central California without a coastline and known for cattle ranches and was founded by the family that purchased the Hollister Ranch.

Can you camp at Hollister Ranch?

Overnight camping near the beach or other common areas is prohibited. Very short-term camping at parcels may be available but is governed by an individual parcel's partnership agreement.

Beachside camping is available outside the HR 2 miles east of the gatehouse at Gaviota State Park Beach & Campground.

Is Hollister Ranch open to public?

No. Please see this page regarding the convenient Public Access topic.

Can the public surf at Hollister Ranch?

People can and sometimes do use boats to access the state-owned “wet beach” along the Ranch’s southern boundary. The Ranch does not attempt to stop this activity. Please see this page regarding the convenient Public Access topic.

In California, the State owns the coastline's tidelands, sometimes known as the “wet beach,” lying seaward of the mean high water line, and thus the public has always had access to the wet beach on the Gaviota Coast, which includes Hollister Ranch's tidelands. The eastern boundary of the Ranch is adjacent to Gaviota State Beach, which is itself adjacent to Highway 101 and open to the public.