No midsummer meeting, but
here's a fresh Highlander
Next RBDA meeting:
Wednesday September 12, 2012 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road
Legal Snafus Delay LAFCO UCSC Decision
The crucial decision by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) on whether to allow the City of Santa Cruz to extend water service to UCSC’s North Campus won’t be voted on until at least Oct. 3, after some dramatic developments at the June 6 LAFCO hearing.
After hearing from UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal, Community Water Coalition (CWC) attorney Gary Patton, RBDA board members, City officials and dozens of university students and graduates, and accepting a petition from UCSC Professor Anna Tsing signed by over 2,700 UCSC students and faculty opposing North Campus development, the LAFCO commissioners debated the merits and implications of two competing resolutions. Then they formed two different committees to study the long-delayed matter further and postponed any decision until their October meeting.
This didn’t sit well with the chancellor, who threatened to withdraw UCSC’s application for the water service, without which development of the Bonny Doon portion of the campus would depend on the university drilling on-campus wells. UCSC doesn’t want to do this and has expressed strong doubts about its success. But withdrawing the application—and working around LAFCO approval through litigation or legislation—seems to us, as parties to the landmark Comprehensive Settlement Agreement which ended several lawsuits over UCSC growth, a violation of that pact.
Prior to the June 6 hearing both UCSC and the City tried to influence the LAFCO commissioners’ decision in letters threatening legal action if they imposed the conditions on the campus water service they narrowly approved on March 7.
Those conditions were written by commissioner John Leopold, the County Supervisor from Live Oak, whose residents receive City water. At the June 6 meeting Leopold bristled at the litigation threats, saying, “I think it is useful to engage in negotiations where we can meet our shared goals. It’s not useful to try and intimidate the commission with threats of legal action, or even withdrawing the application.”
After hearing the public testimony, almost all of which was opposed to extending already stretched City water supplies to the North Campus, commissioner Don Lane, the Mayor of Santa Cruz, introduced a resolution with a complicated new set of conditions, which he was at a loss to make understandable to either himself, the other commissioners, or the audience. We suspect that the City and university wrote the new conditions during the lunch break and handed them to Lane. “I find it interesting that 3 months after we voted on a new set of conditions that today is the first day in which the City and the university are coming up with alternatives,” said Leopold, who himself suggested modifications of the approved March 6 conditions in light of advice from LAFCO’s attorney Rahn Garcia.
The key condition in Leopold’s resolution addresses the fact that the National Marine Fisheries Service and the state Dept. of Fish & Game have told the City that “...it does not appear that current water supplies are sufficient to meet current demand and protect listed salmonids, let alone allow for increased demands resulting from expansion of the City’s service area.” In other words, the City is in jeopardy of losing up to a quarter of its water supply by having to maintain habitat in North Coast streams and the San Lorenzo River for the benefit of endangered and threatened Coho salmon and steelhead. The condition prevents any water going to the North Campus until the City negotiates a Habitat Conservation Plan with the government regulators, which would finally make clear just how much, if any, surplus water remains in the City’s supply in so-called normal rainfall years.
It is invigorating to us and others who for 7 years have resolutely opposed UCSC’s massive intrusion into Bonny Doon—3 million square feet of new buildings and destruction of over 240 acres of unique animal and plant habitat (see chart below)— to see the cause taken up by new allies on and off campus, and to see LAFCO stepping up to its responsibilities as unbiased public stewards.
Beauregard Vineyards Dinner Concerts Cancelled
In June Beauregard Vineyards was informed by the County Planning Dept. that its popular Thursday evening events are in violation of its use permit.
Complaints by neighbors disturbed by noise and traffic prompted the Planning Dept.’s letter. Rather than continue in defiance of the law, co-owner and winemaker Ryan Beauregard has decided to apply for an amendment to his operating permit to allow the events to continue.
The permit, granted in 1988 to the previous owner of the property, Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyards, doesn’t allow live music or anywhere near the amount of people, mostly Bonny Dooners, who have been attending the increasingly popular event. Randall had more grandiose plans for the property but was thwarted by neighbors’ opposition at the time.
Ryan, who has been a generous backer of community organizations here in Bonny Doon, is actively soliciting public support for an expansion of the permit.
He has told the RBDA Board that he is thinking of applying for up to 2 events with live music per week from May through September, with attendance limited to 100 people (the current permit limits the number of people at events to 49), and also to rent the facility out for up to 12 weddings a year. As is now the case, the food would be supplied by outside caterers. All events would conclude by 9 p.m., and there would be a limit on the decibel (noise) levels at the property line. “We can’t exist without these events,” Ryan said.
He told the Board that he recognizes that parking has become an increasing problem, with cars taking advantage of the wide shoulders to park up and down Pine Flat from the tasting room. The curved intersection of Bonny Doon and Pine Flat roads, with the nearby intersection with Martin Road, is one of the more heavily traveled and more dangerous in Bonny Doon, with drivers going at relatively high speeds. Ryan said he has 3 possible solutions in mind, all of which would involve off-site parking, and 2 of which would require shuttles.
As is often the case, this issue pits public and private interests against each other. What do you think? Should the right to quiet enjoyment of their properties by neighbors be paramount here? Or are these events an important part of our community’s social life and be allowed despite the imposition on the neighborhood? Is there a compromise that would work out for everyone? Let us know what you think at email@example.com.
Public Access to Coast Dairies? We’re Still Waiting
Owned for a century by the Coast Dairies & Land Company, the approximately 7,000 acres of what we call “Coast Dairies” surrounds Davenport and contains more than 7 miles of beaches, 6 watersheds, hundreds of acres of agricultural lands, redwood forests, and endangered species habitat. It was the third-largest privately held piece of the California coast. In 1998 it was bought by the Trust for Public Land (TPL). In August 2006 407 acres west of Highway 1 were transferred to State Parks and have been open to the public for the past 5 years.
The forested inland acres remained in the ownership of TPL, which leased various parcels for sustainable farming.
Now, following the California Coastal Commission’s recent approval of the transfer of the 6,600-acre inland portion of Coast Dairies, many of us are wondering when it will actually happen and where and when the public might finally gain access to the property.
Though eager, we will have to continue waiting for an answer to that question as some longstanding problems remain that TPL must handle before a transfer to public ownership (to the federal Bureau of Land Management, BLM) can be completed. In Davenport, CEMEX has encroached onto Coast Dairies land by dumping waste material from the cement plant.
TPL sought to solve that problem by transferring the spoiled land to CEMEX with a lot line adjustment and obtained County approval to do so, but failed to complete the transaction before CEMEX closed the plant. BLM does not want to accept ownership of property which may be polluted and thus require a cleanup process of unknown scale.
Another issue that has dogged TPL for years and remains unresolved is the process necessary for compliance with State law governing the changes to boundaries of the multiple parcels that are part of the Coast Dairies holdings. These laws were meant to regulate the subdivision of parcels of land to prevent overly dense parcel configurations that would enable inappropriate development.
In order to facilitate the transfer to BLM, TPL wanted to separate the agricultural parcels from the inland parcels in a way that did not comply with the requirements of State law. While leeway might seem desirable when a parcel of land is being transferred to a public agency, leniency would set a precedent that could be exploited in the future by private developers.
This matter was serious enough to be included as an issue in legal action brought in Superior Court and is now pending before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The RBDA Board voted to join in this legal action because the issue is not just a legal abstraction but rather a process that offers Bonny Dooners an opportunity to influence the future use of the land, much of which lies in the Bonny Doon Planning Area.
In support of the legal process the Board voted to donate $1,200 to the law firm of Wittwer, Parkin, which had handled the case pro bono, to help defray legal expenses. If you believe in the importance of this process we hope you will support the Board’s decision with a special donation to replenish our treasury.
Resource Survey of CEMEX Redwoods Under Way
The RBDA Board is in regular contact with all of the conservation/land stewardship organizations involved with the purchase from CEMEX of the 8,500 acres of Bonny Doon. We are committed to regular updates on the progress of this land use transition in The Highlander to keep the Bonny Doon public informed and involved.
During the last 2 months there has been a lot of work on the ground, public input at the May 6 standing room only meeting at the Pacific School in Davenport, and discussions with the owners of the adjoining Coast Dairies (see story above).
Here is what we know so far:
The scientific survey of the natural resources on the property should be done by the end of the summer. This information will allow for a careful, well crafted Conservation Easement which will be purchased by the Santa Cruz Land Trust and Save the Redwoods League from the Peninsula Open Space Trust and Sempervirens Fund. With these easements in place and open for public review the agencies can go to the State Wildlife Conservation Board and the State Coastal Conservancy for funding. Plans for the possibility of sustainable forestry are also ongoing.
At the Davenport meeting there was excellent public participation that is well documented on the website of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz There was broad consensus for multi-use trails; no motorized use; multiple entry points; new trails that highlight the natural wonders of the property and avoid following only the existing roads; no cattle grazing; restoration of native plants; attention to wildlife corridors; and fire protection. There was great congruity between public sentiment and the existing intentions of the landowners.
On the ground, in addition to the natural resource investigation, roads are under repair and stream crossings are being constructed or improved, fire hazard reduced, and invasive plants controlled. Many scientists are working on the property and we eagerly await their findings.
So what will the property be named? Definitely, you will not be seeing the CEMEX title in too many future Highlander updates. Read the aforementioned pdf at the Land Trust website for a long list of names that have been suggested so far, choose your favorite and let them know.
Some interesting suggestions included Bonny Doon Forest, San Vicente Creek Redwood Forest Preserve, Davenport Redwood Forest, and Costanoan Forest.
We hope that we will see the start of public access in 2013.
Cyclists Coming Through the Doon July 28
You’ll need to be a little extra cautious when driving on Saturday, July 28, as there may be a lot of bicyclists trying to complete the grueling Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge race. Roads affected will be Smith Grade, Empire Grade and Pine Flat north of Smith Grade, Martin Road, Ice Cream Grade and Felton-Empire. Based on the various routes for the 200 km., 100 miles and 100 km. rides, most of the cyclists should be in the Doon between 9:30 a.m. and noon, but the fastest may be here earlier and the slowest ones, of course, later.
Traffic may be further impacted by people checking out the Doonart studio tour, which takes place that Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Actions of the RBDA Board June 6, 2012:
1. Approve a contribution of $1,200 to the Wittwer, Parkin law firm to help reimburse its court costs in the lawsuit regarding Coast Dairies (see story above). Passed 5 to 2.
The Bonny Doon Planning District
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