No July Meeting,
but there is a Highlander! Enjoy a happy and safe summer!
Next meeting will be on
Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade
Update on Proposed Commercial Medical
County Board of Supervisors and staff continue to develop local rules for
commercial medical cannabis production. Meanwhile, an initiative to legalize
recreational marijuana use in California has qualified for the November ballot.
May 10 the Supervisors directed staff to develop regulations, and on June 14
they reviewed those preliminary recommendations and gave staff additional
specific guidance. The proposed regulations are posted on the County web site,
at http://santacruzcountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?ID=2212 Click on “Agenda
Packet” for the June 14, 2016 meeting.
RBDA Board has been tracking this issue closely and has been concerned that
commercial cannabis production has the potential to profoundly impact Bonny
Doon and Santa Cruz County. We are pleased that the Supervisors rejected many
of the pro-industry recommendations proposed by the Cannabis Choices
Cultivation Committee (C4) appointed by the Supervisors to advise them. The
most recent proposals offer greater restrictions on where cannabis can be grown
commercially and reduce the density of cultivation area as a percentage of lot
provisions of the proposed regulations are:
commercial cultivation within 600 feet of schools or parks. Staff also recommended
setbacks of 600 feet from perennial streams and neighboring habitable
structures, but these setbacks were reduced to 100 and 200 feet by a vote of
the Supervisors at the June 14 meeting.
Geographic restrictions With
the exception of properties zoned Commercial Agricultural (CA) and Agricultural
(A), no license may be issued to cultivate commercial cannabis in the Coastal
Zone plus one mile. In Supervisorial District 2 (Aptos, La Selva Beach, Rio Del
Mar), commercial cannabis can only be grown indoors, and only on parcels larger
than 5 acres.
cannabis cultivation is not allowed in neighborhoods zoned residential, but is
allowed on RA properties larger than 5 acres that meet the geographic
conditions listed above. Cannabis shall not be grown commercially within
residences and shall not be visible from any public right-of-way. Renters need
written consent of the property owner to grow commercially. Generators can only
be used for emergency back-up power. Cannabis cultivation sites require
appropriate water storage or access to water for firefighting purposes, as
well as appropriate emergency road access for firefighting purposes. The
proposed regulations require that “impacts on sensitive species and habitat are
proposed regulations include section “7.128.150. No duty to enforce”, which
states “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as imposing on the Licensing
Official or the County of Santa Cruz any duty to issue a Notice of Violation,
nor to abate any unlawful cannabis business activity or cultivation, nor to
take any other action with regard to any unlawful cannabis business”. County
Counsel says this has become standard language to limit County liability if
sued, but we are concerned that it could lead to lax enforcement.
Other Issues Environmental
review will be required before the new regulations can be implemented. Growers
are required to comply with all applicable requirements of County, State, and
Federal laws and regulations, including environmental and water regulations
related to storm water management and fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, and
rodenticide storage and use at the cultivation site, and growers must have an
adequate security plan approved by the Licensing Official, which is intended to
protect crops from unauthorized diversion to the black market. A cultivation
license can be revoked for possession, storage, or use of any firearm on the
parcel where cultivation takes place, or for failing to contain contaminated
RBDA Recommendations The
RBDA Board has been actively advocating for regulations that protect
neighborhoods and the environment in Bonny Doon and throughout the County. The
detailed recommendations we provided to the Board of Supervisors and C4 are
posted here on the RBDA web site. Unlike the recommendations
proposed by C4, the new regulations developed by County staff address many of
the concerns we raised, such as restricting commercial production in the
Coastal Zone. The RBDA Board is concerned that the proposed regulations fall
short in the following aspects:
number of known cultivation sites in Santa Cruz County almost doubled from 2014
to 2015, demonstrating that the County has been unable to enforce existing cannabis
regulations. Legalization of commercial cultivation will likely lead to more
cultivation sites, with increasing demands on code compliance staff; increasing
demands for agricultural inspectors for water use, pesticides, and runoff; and
increasing demands on law enforcement. Recent meetings with Sheriff Jim Hart
have encouraged the growers to register when that process begins this fall; the
Sheriff indicated that would establish a baseline of legitimate medical growers
so that when someone calls to express concern about a grow, his office will
know if it is legitimate (registered) or not. Investigation of complaints from
that point will aim at verifying whether a registered commercial grow is
operating within the established guidelines. Sheriff Hart stressed that in the
meantime, the existing 99-plant rule will be enforced, and deputies will remove
any plants above that number.
Planning staff recommended that new taxes should be presented to the voters,
and that they should: “Not be set at a rate that would result in tax evasion
and black market cannabis sales.” This seems backward. Bonny Doon residents
have expressed emphatic support for rigorous enforcement of new and existing
laws for commercial cannabis cultivation. The County should conduct a detailed
economic analysis (with input from code compliance and law enforcement
authorities) to determine in advance how much it will cost to protect
neighborhoods and the environment from violators. New license fees and taxes
should be calculated to provide adequate funds for all enforcement.
legal cultivation should be coupled with shutting down illegal operations. Licensing of cultivation should not begin until funds and staffing for rigorous
enforcement are in place. If funding requires voter approval for taxes and/or
fees, commercial cannabis licensing should be contingent on that approval.
Without a guarantee of rigorous enforcement supported by adequate funding and
staffing, the County regulations would seem to conflict with section 19303 of
the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act:
“19303. Protection of the public
shall be the highest priority for the bureau in
exercising its licensing, regulatory, and disciplinary functions under
chapter. Whenever the protection of the public is inconsistent with other
interests sought to be promoted, the protection of the public shall be paramount.”
believe that failure to provide rigorous enforcement violates Section 19303
regardless of what the County regulation states regarding “No duty to enforce”.
Commercial cultivation on RA properties
zoned properties should be primarily for dwellings; we don’t want to see a
situation where people are buying RA parcels primarily to grow pot as a
Environmental review The
new regulations require that “impacts on sensitive species and habitat be
minimized.” We believe that one way to accomplish this is to exclude commercial
cultivation from areas mapped as priorities for conservation by The Nature
Conservancy and Sempervirens Fund.
What Dooners Can Do
the proposed regulations.
your supervisor's office and ask for what you want and/or what the RBDA Board
recommends: rigorous enforcement; exclusion of production of all cannabis or
commercial quantities of cannabis on RA parcels; exclusion of regions with high
environmental value from commercial cannabis production.
Recreational Pot Use on State Ballot
In November California voters will once again decide whether to
end the ban on adult recreational cannabis consumption. The Marijuana
Legalization Initiative Statute was backed by former Facebook president and
Napster founder Sean Parker and billionaire George Soros, and is supported by
everyone from the state Democratic Party and NAACP to the California Medical
If passed, the initiative will raise an estimated billion
dollars through a 15% sales tax and a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for
flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, except for qualifying medical marijuana
sales and cultivation. State agencies will handle licensing and regulating, but
it allows local regulation and taxation. Corporate or large-scale marijuana
businesses will have to wait for five years to apply for licenses to deter the
“unreasonable restraints on competition by creation or maintenance of unlawful
monopoly power.” The initiative also addresses the rights of employers, driving
under the influence, and allowed marijuana business locations, and sets up
packaging, labeling, advertising and marketing standards and restrictions for
marijuana products, prohibits marketing and advertising marijuana to minors,
and authorizes re-sentencing and destruction of records for prior marijuana
The State estimates that the initiative will save State and
local governments about $100 million annually in enforcement, court, and
incarceration costs, and bring in State and local tax revenues of perhaps as
much as $1 billion annually. Most of this money would be required to be spent
for specific purposes such as substance use disorder education, prevention, and
Sempervirens Fund Steps Up Its
Misleading National Monument
There are only a few months left in Obama’s presidency, and he
still hasn’t proclaimed Coast Dairies a national monument. Lack of action
must be making Sempervirens Fund anxious, because it is now running a big
advertising campaign urging locals to write the President.
Like so much of the campaign Sempervirens has waged in this
misguided effort, the recent ads have continued to mislead the public about the
benefits of monument designation. While in nearly all cases national monument
status is used to protect an environmentally significant property threatened by
development, in this case Sempervirens is pushing, for reasons of its own
(garnering more donations, perhaps?), to change the status of a property
already completely protected from development and mineral extraction by deed
restrictions and a Coastal Development permit.
It saddens us to see an organization that has done so many
important things over the past 100 years, beginning with saving the magnificent
trees of Big Basin, behaving in an ethically questionable way. From the
campaign‘s start, when Sempervirens claimed monument status was needed to save
a redwood forest (the property has few redwoods, none of them “old growth), it
has fudged the truth in order to gain support. Even now it greatly overstates
local support (which is based largely on Sempervirens own misrepresentations
and manipulative polling).
Since monument status will bring very little in guaranteed
additional funding (only about $70,000 a year) but is certain to result in
greatly increased visitorship (100,000 to 400,000 a year), we think that
converting these protected federal lands to a national monument will have much
greater negative impact on the animals and plants that live there, on local
traffic and on Davenport, which a poll showed is heavily against monument
We urge you to write to President Obama and ask him not to
declare Coast Dairies a national monument. It is highly protected as it is,
will soon open for visitation in any case, and doesn’t need the worldwide
publicity such status inevitably generates.
But if he does proclaim Coast Dairies a national monument, tell
him the Proclamation must contain the specific conditions required by the Board
of Supervisors to reduce impacts on local rescue, fire and police services.
Words Must Mean What They Say
Discretion may be, in Shakespeare’s Falstaff words (Henry IV,
Part 1), “the better part of valor.” But when it comes to whether to issue a
building or use permit, discretion is certainly not better than words with
That admonishment to the County by Judge Paul Burdick in the
Castle House ruling in February was a victory for everyone seeking to
understand what is, and what is not, allowed under the County’s zoning and land
use regulations. (In June the Board of Supervisors, without comment, rescinded
the permit for the residents of the Castle House, on Bonny Doon Road, to rent
it out for weddings.)
The County Planning Dept. had issued the permit after making a
“discretionary” decision that the planned wedding events were a logical
extension of an allowed home occupation (flower arranging). That decision led
to many thousands of dollars spent by the County, the Castle House applicants
and their opponents through government and court hearings over a couple of
Decisions based on “discretion,” rather than the actual wording
of statutes, leads to these kinds of unnecessary and expensive battles. And,
alarmingly, the Planning Dept. wants to be granted even more “discretion” to
The Board of Supervisors has recognized that the current permit
application process is inefficient, time consuming, expensive and harmful to
the overall economic development of our County. We agree. The Board also
strives to provide us with better government at reduced costs while still
protecting our quality of life and the environment. But the Planning Dept.’s
solutions are: “Give us more discretion”; “Relax current zoning restrictions so
we can approve more applications”; and “Get rid of public notification
requirements to streamline the process.”
This misguided solution will exacerbate the problems the Board
has identified and will move us further away from the Board’s goals of better
government, reduced cost, and protecting our quality of life.
More discretion means more uncertainty, and ends up with
controversy and more reviews as well as more cost. It increases the possibility
that good projects are rejected and bad ones approved based on the whim of the
assigned planner. Discretion can never be completely removed; however the
Planning Dept. should strive to minimize its use, and allow for lots of public
notice and oversight.
A better solution is to make more of the zoning codes and
regulations easy to understand and as black and white as possible. This
eliminates the need for discretion. It makes it faster and easier for average
citizens to “know before they go” to the Planning Dept. without the need to
hire land use consultants and attorneys. It would make it possible for the
County to create web-based apps that would allow people to get permits over the
web. Good documentation is key to reducing time, cost and project risk.
Relaxing regulations goes against protecting our quality of
Finally, and most importantly, the problems identified by the
Board of Supervisors can only be solved by having the Planning Dept. planners
and its Code Enforcement division work more closely together. That will also
free up Planning Dept. staff to work on more important problems like water,
housing and traffic.
Drive Extra Cautiously July 30
Our roads will be busy Saturday, July 30, as Bonny Doon is
crisscrossed by bicyclists meeting the annual Santa Cruz Mountain Challenge.
Most riders are expected to be here between about 10 am and 7 pm. In addition,
art lovers will be visiting local studios participating in the Doonart Tour.
(That event also takes place the next day, Sunday, July 31.) Let’s be extra
alert so everyone stays safe.
Santa Cruz Biotechnology Loses
Another ugly chapter for Santa Cruz Biotechnology, one of the
world’s biggest suppliers of human antibodies for research ended last month
when the US Dept. of Agriculture forced it to give up its animal dealer
license, close its research lab, and pay a $3.5 million penalty (a record!) for
violating the federal Animal Welfare Act.
The company, owned by John and Brenda Stephenson, was cited for
mistreating goats and other animals from which it induced and cultivated human
antibodies used in cancer and other diseases research. The huge goat herd was
originally kept at the company’s 200-acre property on Back Ranch Road. In 2000
the Coastal Commission forced it to remove the goats because it allowed fecal
matter to drain into the Coast Road neighborhood. The Stephensons still own
In 2000, the herd was moved to a remote location in San Luis
Obispo County. Numerous complaints about animal mistreatment and neglect from
former employees surfaced and were investigated by the USDA. Santa Cruz Biotech
is now headquartered in Dallas and has closed its Santa Cruz lab on the west
side, leaving over 100 employees jobless. Hopefully they will also change the
3-Day Party Drives Dooners
The sound track for hundreds of partiers on private property
adjacent to the Gray Whale portion of Wilder Ranch State Park was anything but
music to the ears of Bonny Dooners June 10-12. Numerous complaints from Dooners
kept awake through the night were posted on the Slice Facebook page.
The party, it turns out, was a commercial “Rave” staged by a
local Santa Cruzan with the acquiescence of the property owner. Ticket holders
entered the property via the Woodcutters Trail gate on Smith Grade.
Dooners complaining to State Parks were frustrated when they
were told that the event was on private property, not parkland, and the
Sheriff’s office said the event was on parkland and not in their jurisdiction.
Such an event requires a commercial permit, which would entail
various safety and sanitation requirements and must quiet down by 10 p.m. to
conform with the County Noise Ordinance. In followup communications, Supervisor
Ryan Coonerty’s aide Rachel Dann said the event is being investigated by the Planning
Dept.’s Code Compliance division, the Sheriff and CalFire, and that it is
likely that a Red Tag will be issued which will put the property owner on
notice that severe sanctions and fines will ensue if he allows another such
event on his property.
RBDA Board Needs Two More Volunteers
The demands of a job that requires extensive foreign travel
forced Recording Secretary Betsy Firebaugh to resign recently. This is a big
loss for the Board, because she was full of ideas and enthusiasm. It also means
that we now have two openings on the Board. Our biggest need is for someone
with writing and editorial skills to serve as Highlander Editor.
The RBDA has served for almost 60 years to keep Bonny Doon from
development that would significantly impact our neighborhoods, environment
and rural lifestyle, as well as working on general community issues like road
maintenance, law enforcement, fire safety and mail and communication services.
Our newsletter, The Highlander, is the only publication that focuses
solely and in-depth on issues important to Dooners.
Contact us by email at email@example.com learn about
serving on the Board. The RBDA has been central to preserving the environment
and rural nature of Bonny Doon for almost 60 years, and we need a full Board to
continue to do our best work.
Heidi E. Hart, President, CEO
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