Issues for Bonny Doon in 2007
Neal Coonerty, 3rd District Supervisor
RBDA General Meeting
May 9, 2007, 7:30 PM
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School
ICE CREAM GRADE & PINE FLAT ROAD
|New County Supervisor Neal Coonerty
will be the main speaker at the Wednesday, May 9 RBDA General Meeting
to discuss local issues such as road repairs, fire protection, possible
changes in Timber Production Zone (TPZ) requirements, Cemex cement
plant air emissions and Bonny Doon limestone quarry expansion, UCSC
growth, and the pending transfer of property east of Hwy. 1 from the
Trust for Public Land to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Supervisor Coonerty will come ready to answer any questions you may have on these and other issues affecting Bonny Doon. This is a great opportunity to get to know your new supervisor, only our third supervisor in about 30 years.
LAFCO Studies Fire Protection Issues
On April 4, Santa Cruz LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) conducted a study session for its commissioners on fire service trends and countywide fire protection issues. The commission will hear a number of different petitions from County fire districts in the coming year, the Bonny Doon Fire District petition among them. Attendees at the meeting included all LAFCO commissioners, several County residents (including RBDA members and Bonny Doon Fire District proponents), local press, as well as interested County representatives from Monterey and San Mateo.
“Noteworthy was to have virtually all fire chiefs from the entire County present,” said Pat McCormick, LAFCO Executive Officer. The issues facing fire districts around the County and State are universal: budget deficits, increasing staffing expenses and/or dwindling volunteers, and the difficulties and rigors of training. McCormick asked three local fire chiefs to kick off the session with a joint presentation. “Among them they each had a different type of fire department represented in this County,” said McCormick. “Scotts Valley Chief Mike McMurry, who put the presentation together, represented the department that provides a virtually complete paid staff response 24 hours per day without assistance from others. Felton Fire Chief Ron Rickabaugh re p resented the department that has a paid chief and everyone else a volunteer. John Ferreira, Santa Cruz-San Mateo Unit Chief for California Dept of Forestry and Fire (CalFire, formerly CDF), represented CalFire, which is unique unto itself. They each talked and divided up the presentation. It was a great introduction to fire protection in the County—and showed that everyone is dealing with very similar issues to Bonny Doon.”
In particular, staffing is an issue everywhere in the state. Volunteers, who have to be trained to the same level as professional fire fighters, are getting harder to recruit, train, and retain. Simultaneously, paid staff costs are going up. Felton Chief Rickabaugh said, “Career firefighters make over $100,000 per year, volunteers get $8 per call.” Gov. Schwarzenegger recently approved pay increases for CalFire personnel, who make between $70,000 and $115,000 in wages and overtime. Good news for CalFire employees, bad news for counties like Santa Cruz who contract with CalFire for fire protection services and now face costs that exceed budgets.
The Bonny Doon Fire District proposal estimated total personnel costs, including benefits, for two full-time firefighters and one part-time fire chief, would be comparable to what Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek districts currently pay. McCormick will be releasing a full analysis of all budget numbers—those supplied in the Bonny Doon petition and the cumulative effect on County budget—in advance of the LAFCO hearing on the Bonny Doon petition. Residents throughout the County will also receive a questionnaire asking what services they deem essential and how much they would pay for them.
The study session included a discussion of various solutions—some more, some less successful—tried in other parts of the state for the universal issues of budget, staffing, and training. “What seemed clear,” said one Bonny Doon resident in attendance, “is that we really need to get creative in how we solve our fire protection issues in Bonny Doon.”
For the full agenda, presentation content, and detailed meeting minutes of this session, see the April 4 session links at santacruzlafco.org/pages/agendas.html.
UCSC Wins in Superior Court, Loses in the Court of Public Opinion
Demonstrating how little they care about how they are perceived by the community, despite numerous statements to the contrary, UCSC filed a suit last year to overturn Measures I & J, which were approved by more than 75% of City of Santa Cruz voters. The two measures are aimed at restricting and/or preventing the development of the upper campus and forcing UCSC to pay for the increased City services required by its planned growth under its new Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), which itself is under legal challenge by the City, the County, and the community group CLUE (Coalition for Limiting University Expansion).
Measure I required City officials to refuse to provide City services to accommodate UCSC’s growth unless UCSC pays the full cost of constructing and operating such services. It further directed City officials to take all legal actions “to avoid significant adverse effects of University growth, particularly on the housing market, traffic congestion, and water supply.” Measure J required a favorable vote by City residents before City sewer and water services could be extended to the upper campus, outside City limits.
While UCSC’s suit challenged the City Council’s decision to forego an Environmental Impact Report (a so-called Negative Declaration) on the measures before putting the measures on the ballot, Judge Robert Atack of Santa Cruz Superior Court on April 20 voided them on a technicality: the Santa Cruz City Council had only given the public and UCSC 12 days notice instead of the 20 required by the California State Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that it was going to issue the Negative Declaration. That issue wasn’t brought up by UCSC at the July 25 meeting when the City Council voted to approve the Negative Declaration. Instead, UCSC presented a lengthy, detailed argument about why an EIR was necessary, since preventing growth on the upper campus could mean increased growth on the lower campus. That in itself was ironic, since 1) UCSC’s own EIR for its expansion plan is being challenged in court by the City, County and CLUE over its gross inadequacy, and 2) UCSC would be asking the City to draw up and pay for an EIR for the university’s growth, which the City Council would rather not take place anyway.
Judge Atack’s decision means the City must pay for another election. The measures undoubtedly will pass overwhelmingly again, and UCSC will presumably then sue over the substantive issue of whether the EIR should be required. Wouldn’t it better if they had just ignored the technicality so that the central issue could have its day in court?
In the meantime, UCSC has begun negotiating with the City and the County Board of Supervisors over the LRDP EIR suit. “We will be making a fair-share [monetary] offer and then hope to put these issues behind us,” UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal said after the decision on Measures I & J. But judging from the hugely different amounts of money that it would take to mitigate UCSC’s growth that the two sides seem to be thinking about, the chancellor’s hope seems futile. Besides, CLUE is not ready to drop its suit in return for a monetary settlement: it wants a very meaningful reduction of the university’s impact on the quality of life and environment in Santa Cruz, a real change in the way the UC system decides where to allocate student growth, and a new LRDP EIR that will truly assess the cumulative impacts of UCSC growth.
Barring some negotiated settlement, the LRDP EIR lawsuits will likely be taken up in Superior Court sometime in June or July.
Changes Proposed for TPZ Zoning
The Santa Cruz County Planning Department is proposing to raise the minimum parcel size for Timber Production Zone (TPZ) zoning from the current five-acre minimum, the lowest for any county in the state, to 20 acres. Most local environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, as well as forest advocates and many rural property owners, are advocating a minimum size of 80 acres, which is the largest minimum parcel size allowed by the State. In actuality, the state law regulating TPZ rezoning refers to a single parcel or contiguous parcels in the same ownership. There is no limit on how large a parcel can be that’s zoned TPZ. Zoning land as TPZ gives property owners who intend to harvest the timber on their property a tax break until the timber is harvested. The ability to zone land as TPZ was created in 1976 through the state Forest Taxation Act, amended in 1982 as the Timberland Productivity Act (TPA). TPA was created to protect the timberlands of the State for long-term timber management by giving a tax break to timberland owners while reducing development and subdivision potential of parcels zoned for timber production.
In 1976 counties were required to zone to TPZ all lands assessed for timber as the highest use as well as all other lands deemed by the assessor to qualify. Property owners could petition to have their parcels excluded. In 1978, when Santa Cruz completed the required rezoning, 45 parcel owners had their lands excluded. The County rezoned all other lands they deemed met the qualifications set by the State. However, a separate state provision allows timberland owners to petition to have their lands zoned to TPZ.
There are significant implications beyond property tax relief for lands zoned TPZ. The wording of the law states that by zoning to TPZ you must “have a reasonable expectation of harvest” and counties can establish “compatible uses” which usually limit future development and subdivision potential of land zoned TPZ (these limits vary depending on size and location of the parcel). Land rezoned TPZ must remain as such for a minimum of 10 years and then requires a Board of Supervisors vote to take it out of TPZ.
In 2006, a State Supreme Court decision affirmed a County’s ability to use its zoning authority to determine where logging takes place. Santa Cruz County zoning ordinances prohibit logging in most zone districts other than TPZ. However, any landowner with the minimum parcel size can petition to rezone to TPZ and the County has little authority to stop this.
The timber industry is arguing vehemently against an increase in minimum parcel size, though the actual impact to the logging industry of raising the minimum to 80 acres may be relatively small in Santa Cruz County. According to the newly renamed California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire, formerly CDF) figures and research done by one of our board members, between 1996 and 2005 approximately 22,000 acres were approved for logging in Santa Cruz County. Of those, only 33 acres were on Timber Harvest Plans (THP) of five acres or less. Less than 10% of the acreage was for a THP of less than 40 acres. Close to 17,000 acres or 80% of THPs were for parcels greater than 80 acres.
65,000 acres, or roughly 25% of the County, is already zoned TPZ. Another 7,800 acres are in parcels of 80 acres or greater, making a minimum of 72,800 acres available for timber harvest. The actual figure is somewhat higher, since a landowner can petition to include any lands that are adjacent or contiguous (reasonably close to make it an economic unit) to be included in the same TPZ, regardless of size. The direct impact to Bonny Doon land is unknown.
Santa Cruz County did extensive research in 1977-78 after the passage of the TPA, which required counties to zone all qualifying lands as TPZ by 1978. The County created criteria for zoning, which included factors that addressed the economic and environmental viability of timber harvesting, such as type of timber, surrounding vegetation type, soil and topography (e.g., steep slopes, slides, riparian corridors), and access. Most people in local environmental groups think the County zoned all appropriate lands in 1978 and see resetting the minimum parcel size for landowner petitions to 80 acres as an affirmation of the County’s earlier work.
Planning Staff presented their recommendation and staff report at the Board of Supervisors meeting on April 24. The issue was continued to May 1 when the Board was unable to reach agreement on a minimum parcel size proposal. Once agreement is reached, the issue goes back to the County Planning Dept., which will conduct an environmental assessment, then forward findings to the Planning Commission. There will then be several opportunities for Bonny Doon residents to give their input. The Planning Commission will hold a hearing or series of hearings before making recommendations to the County Board of Supervisors. Expect the Board of Supervisors to conduct more hearings before making a final decision.
Water Still Flowing Despite Drought
After a winter of great sunshine and little rain, there is concern about how Santa Cruz City’s water needs will impact Bonny Doon watersheds. “We haven’t had a year that looks worse than this [for rainfall] since 1977,” says Bill Kocher, Santa Cruz City Water Director. “The good news is that there won’t be much impact on Bonny Doon watersheds this year. What makes it less severe than you’d think is that [so far] it’s just one year. Also, last year was unusually wet and we’re still riding on that high.”
In fact, Kocher calls last year “a water purveyor’s dream.” Heavy rains late in the season contributed to excellent water supplies in the Newell Creek watershed, from which the City takes 70% or more of its water supply. Over the past 63 years, the average annual rainfall in that watershed has been about 49 inches. Last year’s rainfall was 64 inches, with most received late in the season. As a result, stream flows today are much higher than expected after so little rain, and supplies in Loch Lomond are still good. North Coast watersheds, including Bonny Doon, provide only about 20% of the City’s water and in drought years, the City takes additional supplies from Newell Creek—not North Coast—watershed.
“We don’t consider ourselves to be in a water flow emergency this year,” says Kocher, “though if this continues into next year, then we will be.” The City is placing restrictions on outdoor watering starting Water Still Flowing Despite Drought May 1 as a conservation measure in case a second drought year happens.
Chris Berry, Water Resources Manager for the City of Santa Cruz, reports that they are monitoring water levels at multiple locations on Liddell, Majors, Laguna, and Reggiardo Creeks and monitoring water quality on the Laguna lagoon. They may do biological monitoring (e.g., for fish population density and diversity), though no plans have been finalized for this. “Flows in Laguna Creek are not terrible now,” says Berry, “but I am concerned about flow levels in August and September.” However, in addition to the benefit of last year’s high rainfall, Berry explains, “the City recently let more water out of Laguna dam then we have during past droughts. This will help to maintain higher flows for aquatic habitat than were present during previous drought years.”
Berry is also monitoring turbidity at Liddell Spring and Laguna Creek. “This is not usually an issue in summer,” says Berry, “but Cemex has repeatedly challenged our background turbidity data so the City is monitoring summer turbidity to get [baseline levels in the areas] as quarry blasting has repeatedly resulted in turbidity spikes in Liddell Spring. This impact is most noticeable during dry weather when turbidity baselines are generally very low in the relatively pristine watersheds of Bonny Doon.”
Fire Team Unpancake Breakfast Sunday, May 6
The Bonny Doon Fire Team’s annual Unpancake Breakfast takes place on May 6 from 8 am to 1 pm at the Martin Road Fire Station. This is a great way to support your Bonny Doon Fire and Rescue team, meet your neighbors, and eat a hearty breakfast. The Bonny Doon Fire District Committee members will also be on hand to discuss the proposal to create a new Fire District in Bonny Doon.
Do You Have A Piece Of RBDA Or Bonny Doon History?
This is the 50th year of the RBDA, and we are hoping to put together a celebration to mark its success in preserving the rural and natural qualities of this unique part of California.
Do you have stories to share about the RBDA’s history, or about life in Bonny Doon? If so, please contact RBDA Corresponding Secretary Yana Jacobs at 423-9193, or through the RBDA website. We are also looking for people to help put the celebration together. The board members are all very busy handling their duties as RBDA officers. For this to be a fun and meaningful event, we need help from the RBDA membership. We would like to make this a potluck with music, so we’ll need a crew to organize it, set up and clean up, people to tend a barbecue, some musicians, and of course some story tellers.
If you can help out, contact Yana (see below for contact info).
RBDA GENERAL MEETING AGENDA - MAY 9, 2007
1) Featured Program: State of the County, with 3rd District Supervisor Neal Coonerty
RBDA BOARD ACTIONS APRIL 4, 2007
1. Approved minutes of Jan. 24, 2007
Executive Board meeting, as amended
2. Accepted resignation of Vice Chairman Andre LaFleur.
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