May/June 2016 issue
Restoring the Coastal Prairie
Brett Hall, UCSC Arboretum Director
METRO Bus Cuts
Cayla Hill, METRO Planner
Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade
May 2016 Highlander Text
Final as printed
Bringing Back the Coastal Prairie
Many of us have enjoyed hiking along the
bluffs and coastal hills of Santa Cruz’s North Coast – Wilder Ranch, Coast
Dairies, etc. Years of preservation efforts have resulted in our having some of
the most robust coastal prairie habitat remaining in California.
unique ecosystem known as the California coastal prairie is shrinking, under
attack on several fronts: development, invasive weeds, and the natural process
of turning into forest and shrub land.
prairie has depended for survival on its allies, wild fires and animal grazing,
but for many years now human interference has largely prevented their
assistance, and so many of the animals and plants that require that habitat are
rare, threatened or endangered.
The UCSC Arboretum is
helping restore and preserve coastal habitat by propagating coastal prairie
plants, and has devoted 50 acres of its remarkable Empire Grade site to nurture
and display them. It also serves as a research and teaching facility where
students and practitioners are trained to understand the unique ecology and phenology
(the study of cyclic and seasonal
natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life)
of coastal prairies, identify species, collect and propagate seeds
and nurture plants.
Brett Hall, the Arboretum director, will be
at the May 11 RBDA meeting (7:30 p.m., Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat and Ice Cream Grade) to talk about coastal prairie and the
Arboretum’s efforts to preserve and restore it. He will also bring some
examples of coastal prairie and maritime chaparral, and explain their uses,
many of which were developed by the Amah Mutsun band of Ohlones, several of
whose surviving members work with the Arboretum on its restoration program.
This is a great opportunity to learn about
and better appreciate the unique and beautiful environment of our Central Coast.
Faced with large, growing deficits, the Santa Cruz METRO is
considering transit service cuts that could seriously affect Bonny Dooners,
from kids to going to school in Santa Cruz to people who can’t drive.
At the RBDA meeting on May 11 Cayla Hill of METRO’s Planning
Dept. will discuss the pending cuts in METRO service and what it will mean for
Principal Stephanie Siddens of Bonny Doon School told us that in
the last five years 56 students graduated, and most are now attending Mission
Hill Middle School and Santa Cruz High School. She said they anticipate
graduating 118 in the next five years. All of these students are potential
users of the METRO line in Bonny Doon for transportation to school. The bus
route also takes college students to and from UCSC, and is used by community
members who don’t have other means of transportation, or who would prefer to
not use their vehicle.
Service reductions to the current bus system will be considered
by the METRO Board of Directors at their May meeting, with a final decision to
be made at their June meeting. They meet on the 4th Friday of
the month. The decisions are complicated by federal laws that require that
service cuts not disproportionately impact
low-income and minority populations and take into account impacts to the system’s
paratransit service for any fixed-route reductions. Thus even heavily used
routes like those in town that bring UCSC students to and from school—they make
up half of METRO’s ridership—may have to be reduced.
Information about the proposed cuts is at scmetroforward.com. If you can’t attend the RBDA meeting, you can contact Ms. Hill to ask questions or voice your concerns about the cuts, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 420-2581 ext. 1313.
On April 19 the Board of Supervisors heard the public’s
concerns and opinions for and against the Cannabis Cultivation Choices
Committee (C4) proposal for commercial growing of medical marijuana in Santa
Cruz County. The Supervisors then voted unanimously to accept the C4 report and
turn it over to County staff and committees for analysis, which will be
presented to the Supervisors in time for consideration at their May 10 meeting.
It is not expected that an ordinance will be voted on at that time.
All this is taking place against a background of the State’s
new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA), which sets up a state
licensing system for cultivators, distributors and dispensaries, and regulates
physicians who authorize personal medical use. In addition, a measure to
legalize recreational marijuana use is getting close to gathering enough
signatures to be on the State ballot in November.
The C4 committee was formed by the Supervisors on June 18, 2015
in order to formulate policy recommendations that reflected the goals of the Supervisors:
1) protect the neighborhoods, 2) protect the environment, and 3) ensure that
there is an adequate supply of medical cannabis for those who have a doctor’s
During the months of deliberations that the committee members
worked on this issue, the RBDA set up a special meeting with them here in Bonny
Doon on November 12. Most of the C4 and several community leaders attended this
meeting. They and the RBDA Board presented specific concerns about commercial
cultivation, which included potential negative effects on the environment, the
local aquifers, and our community values. The presentation seemed to have been
appreciated by the C4 committee at that point in time.
Third District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty’s appointee to the C4, Bonny
Dooner Eric Hoffman, was the only rural resident on the committee, and as such
had a very difficult job trying to convince the rest of the C4 that rural
residents, while supporting medical marijuana, were very concerned about having
the plant cultivated on a commercial basis in residential neighborhoods.
The RBDA Board would like to publicly acknowledge its
appreciation of Eric’s tireless efforts as he tried to bring some rational
perspective to the C4 committee’s deliberations.
Eric was initially able to get majority support for limiting
grows to five acres or more on Residential Agricultural (RA) property, and prohibiting
grows on Rural Residential (RR) parcels. During the last two meetings of the
C4, in late March and mid-April, these restrictions, as well as several other
important safeguards, were rejected by the committee. The end result was a very
fractured, confusing and contradictory final report by the C4 that was
presented to the Board of Supervisors on April 19. The majority of the C4,
which was dominated by people involved in commercial cultivation and sale of
medical marijuana, supported recommendations that were much weaker than what is
in the current ordinance (County Code 7.128). A minority of the committee,
mostly those without industry ties, supported several strongly worded recommendations
advocating much stricter regulations regarding licensing, grow sizes and zoning
where commercial cultivation would be allowed.
After hearing public input at the April 19 meeting, Supervisors
Coonerty and John Leopold put forth a proposal that would:
• Ban commercial cultivation in the Coastal Zone plus one mile except on Agricultural (A) and Commercial Agricultural (CA) parcels with certain conditions
• Ban commercial cultivation on parcels zoned RR and on those zoned RA (Residential Agricultural), SU (Special Use) and TP (Timber Production) that are less than five acres
• Limit grow areas to 1.25% of the parcel size on parcels 5 to 10 acres and require public notice of intent to cultivate
• Limit grows on parcels larger than 10 acres to a maximum canopy of 1.25% but no larger than 10,000 sq. ft. (about a quarter acre), and require public notice
• Ban indoor commercial cultivation in a primary residence
• Allow cultivation for personal use by a licensee of a 10- by 10-foot plot countywide.
• Except in the CA
zone, cultivators would be required to live on-site in a permitted dwelling.
[In a letter to the Supervisors the RBDA Board emphasized that this is a
crucial condition for cultivation, and the point was emphasized by Joe Christy,
head of the Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council, at the April 19 meeting.]
The proposal had several other elements regarding cultivation
on A and CA parcels and commercial grows in warehouses in industrial zones.
Supervisors Coonerty and Leopold said they made their proposal
as a starting point for discussion and it was briefly talked about by the Board.
Supervisor Greg Caput of Watsonville/Corralitos said he was opposed to an
ordinance that would push the bulk of commercial cannabis cultivation into his
district, which has the majority of A and CA parcels in the County, and against
selling Santa Cruz-grown pot outside the County, which could reduce the
incentive for widespread cultivation, reducing the impact on neighborhoods. Supervisor
Zach Friend of District 2 (Aptos/Rio Del Mar/La Selva) said he wants uniform
rules for the entire County, although currently his District has special rules
banning outdoor cultivation for personal and small commercial grows (which must
be on parcels bigger than five acres). He said that the cultivation ban in the Coastal
Zone plus one mile would essentially cover almost all of Bonny Doon [The
RBDA Board loves the idea.] and thus push more cultivation into his district. San
Lorenzo/Scotts Valley Supervisor Bruce McPherson declined to publicly comment about the
It’s clear that the Supervisors recognize that the formulation of
policy regarding the commercial cultivation of cannabis is one of the most
important land use decisions that the County has faced in many years. Whatever
ordinance they finally pass will require an Environmental Impact Report because
of its far-reaching impacts.
To have a voice in whatever the terms of the eventual ordinance will look like it is crucial to contact Supervisor Coonerty and the other Supervisors and try to attend the May 10 Supervisors meeting. Demand that whatever rules are implemented the first consideration must be protection of neighborhoods and the environment, as called for in MMRSA, the State’s new law regarding medical marijuana. And of course, there must be a robust system of enforcement so the rules are respected.
What the RBDA
Board Has Done
The RBDA Board is not opposed to medical marijuana or growing
it for one’s own personal use. However we see commercial cannabis cultivation as
one of the biggest threats our County has faced in many years. It threatens
both our neighborhoods and our environment. The RBDA board has been working
fervently to protect our community from its negative impacts. We have met with County
Supervisors, repeatedly submitted comments to them and to their Cannabis
Cultivation Choices Committee (C4), we attended C4 meetings, made formal
presentations to most of the C4 at a special evening meeting, coordinated our
efforts with other concerned citizens and government agencies, and developed a
15-page report of recommendations (more info here). We have reached out
for support for our recommendations from environmental organizations and
scientists. World-renowned ecologist Mary Power of UC Berkeley wrote a letter
to the Supervisors stating that the RBDA recommendations “would be a very
useful model for other groups seeking to protect people and watersheds against
a surge in marijuana cultivation that may follow legalization.”
Despite all the hard work by the RBDA board and other concerned people, C4, dominated by people with commercial cannabis interests, recommended little environmental protection. The RBDA board agrees with the local Sierra Club’s written comment on C4’s report that, “Although the word ‘environment’ is frequently added to the list of issues that need attention, the draft Report has little content that addresses such issues.”
San Vicente Redwoods Trail Plans Update
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is getting closer to
completing its plans for hiking, biking and equestrian trails at the 8,500-acre
San Vicente Redwoods property between western Bonny Doon and Davenport.
The Land Trust’s drive to raise $7 million for trail building
got a big boost recently from a $500,000 gift from Santa Cruz Bicycles, maker
of some of the world’s most well regarded mountain bikes. That gift was matched
by another $500,000 gift to the campaign. While the Land Trust will use most of
the money to develop a 38-mile trail network on SVR, some of it will also go to
develop five miles of trails at the Watsonville Slough Farm and three miles of
trails at Glenwood Open Space Preserve in Scotts Valley.
Land Trust Conservation Director Bryan Largay, who is heading
up the SVR trail planning, expects plans to be complete later this year and the
trails to open in a couple of years.
“Access is a simple concept, but it’s complicated and expensive
in practice,” Largay says. “It costs a lot to build environmentally sensitive
trails.” The Bonny Doon Fire Safe Council put in many hours to build a shaded
fuel break along Warrenella Road, most of which transects SVR, to increase fire
A map of the latest trail plan is on the Land Trust’s website, www.landtrustsantacruz.org. Eventually the trail system will run from Empire Grade to Cement Plant Road and to the Davenport Bluffs and the future Rail Trail. This will take it through Coast Dairies and is dependent on the Bureau of Land Management approving and opening that section. Part of the overall grand scheme is to access the trails from the former CEMEX cement plant, which Sempervirens Fund is working on with the County.
Seeks To Abandon Phone Lines
Living in a rural area shouldn't leave some residents in an
information backwater, but if AT&T gets its way, it will abandon its old
copper wirelines as it sees fit. Profits
from its copper wireline phone and DSL Internet service have declined as people
move to wireless or alternatives become available, typically Voice over
Internet Protocol (VoIP) through bundled broadband services packages like
On Feb.18, AB 2395, a bill supported by AT&T, was
introduced by Silicon Valley Assemblymember Evan Low and was advanced by the
Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. The bill would provide a mechanism
for AT&T and other legacy carriers to relinquish their decades-old
obligations that guarantee basic two-way telephone service via a landline. The
bill promises consumers that there will first be a determination that an
alternative telecom service such as VoIP or wireless is in place and that 911
connectivity will be maintained. But those services primarily rely on fiber- or
broadband-based networks that may not be available because they are too costly
to deploy, and Comcast and cell service need electricity, which sometimes is
knocked out by storm or fire. In contrast, we know from experience that landline
phone service is often still usable when the power is out. There are only weak
protections from abandonment in the bill, little guarantee of affordability and
service quality, and the process will be regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which is not famous for consumer
Fees collected by
telecommunications carriers from end-users fund the California Advanced
Services Fund (CASF), which supports the deployment of broadband, (see your
phone bill). Existing law requires the CPUC “to develop, implement, and
administer the CASF to encourage deployment of high-quality advanced
communications services to all Californians that will promote economic growth,
job creation, and the substantial social benefits of advanced information and
communications technologies.” In
February Assemblymember Mark Stone of Santa Cruz introduced Assembly Bill 1758,
which would have modified and expanded the funding for the CASF and raised the
minimum broadband standards it supports. Subsidies specified in the bill would
have helped independent broadband service providers make the infrastructure
investments needed to compete with AT&T or Comcast. Stone withdrew it in
April when it became apparent that industry-friendly members of the Assembly Utilities
and Commerce Committee would kill the proposal after vociferous opposition from
Our State has a long
history of enacting laws facilitating communications infrastructure. To encourage the deployment of telegraph lines, shortly after its admittance to the Union in 1850 California
enacted a statute allowing companies to "construct lines of
telegraph" along any public road. Telegraph companies were thereby vested
with a statewide franchise. California amended its telegraph law in 1905 to
extend the protections of the Statewide telegraph franchise to telephone
corporations, laws now found in the California Public Utilities Code at section
7901. At the time no one minded that a
monopoly was being created; the services would be regulated.
Now, legislators, prodded by
AT&T, still favor anti-competitive legislation at a time when we need
competing service providers to drive service quality up and prices down, and
counteract monopoly business models like the one Comcast currently has on
broadband service in Bonny Doon. 7901 was
used to support the fiber optic cable along Highway 1, installed by a private
contractor to serve as “backhaul” for Verizon microcell antennas. Despite utilizing
the public utility right of way privileges under 7901, local internet service
provider Cruzio told us the cable's owner would not give them access to it to
serve coastal residents, as an alternative to the slow and trouble-prone
AT&T DSL service, which AT&T will no longer offer. If you have it now
and drop it you probably won't get it back.
The big AT&T fiber optic cables
that follow Empire Grade could provide broadband access to more Dooners, offering
residents a competitive alternative to Comcast, but lacking regulatory leverage
or subsidies we may never see access to fiber optic connections that will take
us into the future, which in many ways is already here.
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Ideas for RBDA Meeting Topics
We are always open to suggestions for interesting programs and speakers at our bimonthly (except July) RBDA public meetings.
What are you interested in? Local flora and fauna, gardening, environmental and political issues, Bonny Doon history or geology, public safety?
What were some of your favorite speakers or presentations at past RBDA meetings?
Were there any that you would like us to repeat?
Please email us with your ideas and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bonny Doon Planning District
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Grade to the ocean and from San Vicente Creek to the
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Coast Dairies, photo by Ted Benhari