State of the County 2013
Third District Supervisor Neal Coonerty
The Approval Process for Significant Projects, Road Repairs,
Fire Protection, Large House Rules Changes, and more!
RBDA Board Elections
Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade and Pine Flat Road
|Court Dams LAFCO’s UCSC Water Vote
Setting back about a year of public and behind-the-scenes meetings, posturings, lobbying and maneuvering, the California 6th District Court of Appeal on Nov. 27 decertified the Environmental Impact Report for UCSC’s and the City’s applications to extend water service to the North Campus.
The ruling came 8 days before LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission, was set to perhaps finally make a decision, which could have opened to development 240 acres of the pristine North Campus, along Cave Gulch in Bonny Doon. Or, perhaps once again, LAFCO would have punted the decision down the road, as they have done several times in the past year, as they debate how to limit the impact of the additional gallons on the City’s limited water supply. It not only is inadequate in dry years, it is predicted to be inadequate even in wet years by the year 2025, if not sooner, depending on how fast the City grows.
The Appeals Court overturned a 2011 ruling by Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Timothy Volkmann, who denied a petition by Habitat and Water Caretakers (HAWC), a local citizens’ group, to throw out the EIR. The 3-judge panel agreed with HAWC’s attorney, Stephan Volker, that the City, which both prepared and approved the EIR, didn’t follow the rules set out by the state’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While the judges rejected several of the arguments made by Volker (who also successfully represented CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, in its suit challenging the EIR for UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan), they found that “By failing to mention, discuss, or analyze any feasible alternatives, the draft EIR and the final EIR failed to satisfy the informational purpose of CEQA, which included providing LAFCO with relevant information” that the LAFCO commissioners need to make a decision whether to approve or reject the City of Santa Cruz/UCSC applications.
The judges wrote “We conclude that the City’s EIR misdescribed the project’s objectives, that this misdescription skewed its consideration of alternatives, and that the EIR was inadequate because it failed to consider any potentially feasible alternatives that would avoid or limit the significant environmental impact of the project on the city’s water supply.”
The City and University have asked the Appellate Court to reconsider its decision (highly unlikely) and may appeal it to the California Supreme Court. It is even more unlikely that the court will take up the case because the ruling merely follows established law. Unless the ruling is overturned, the EIR will have to be redone, which could take several months. New public hearings will have to be scheduled and the new EIR certified. Only then will LAFCO be able to resume its deliberations on the application. In the meantime, the capacity of the City Water Supply continues to be even more up in the air due to City voters overwhelmingly approving Measure P in November, which requires a public vote before a proposed desalination plant can be built. While the measure didn’t ask the question of whether the plant should be built, many of the 72% of the electorate who voted for it clearly have strong concerns about its viability and cost. In addition, talks are continuing between the City Water Dept. and government fisheries agencies who are demanding that more North Coast stream and San Lorenzo River water be set aside for Coho salmon and 3 habitat. It is now more than 7 years since UCSC first proposed building on the North Campus, including over 3 million square feet of dormitories, classrooms, laboratories and recreational facilities. This would be the largest development in Santa Cruz County history, and have large and varied impacts on Bonny Doon, including housing, traffic and noise.
Thanks to community opposition, and, more recently, campus opposition, plus the State’s economic woes, any building in the environmentally important North Campus woods still seems years away.
UCSC Water Tank “Graffiti” - Photo: Ted Bernhard
Beauregard Vineyards Proposal Review Must Be Thorough but Fair
At the best of times in the most amenable environments, the wine business is a challenge, which has been the undoing of many who have invested barrels of money into land, trellises, vines, production and bottling facilities and tasting rooms. Winery owners face all the challenges addressed by Brussels sprout or artichoke growers but then get to face production, cellaring, bottling challenges and weird state laws regarding the sale of their product. The cost of production facilities for small wineries is very high and the overhead associated with compliance with federal excise tax and interstate commerce laws, coupled with vagaries of weather, pests and foreign competition, make the business one which is astoundingly intricate and nuanced.
All of these factors challenge wineries throughout the country to find a way to make money. One of the most promising means of increasing profit, or just keeping the doors open, is through direct sales of wine rather than using a very expensive distribution stream. Wine clubs are a broadly used method of direct selling, and when combined with club events create a certain level of loyalty. Increasing the flow of customers through the tasting room and leveraging the facility as an entertainment venue. are common and necessary tools used to offset the very high costs of running a winery. In short, for many small wineries the size of Beauregard Vineyards, failure to obtain use permits for wine club events and expanded facility use can make them financially unsustainable.
Wine making in the Santa Cruz Mountains has a long history that predates much of the development in Bonny Doon, and enjoys the distinction of not being an extractive industry like the timber or cement industries.
Wineries, including their wine making and bottling operations, are considered agricultural operations by the State and the County. The mission of the RBDA is to keep our area rural and natural. One definition of “rural” is “of or pertaining to agriculture.” How people define natural and rural can be a function of what best satisfies the definer. We as a community seem to be content to maintain agriculture in our areas long as it does not impact us much or is not near our own homes.
Agricultural practices and land use are governed by federal, state and local laws, and zoning limitations. While we should not alter the definition of “agriculture” or “rural” we should clearly insist that the County rigorously review any expanded use permits requested by Beauregard Vineyards within the context of water quality control, noise pollution abatement, and, perhaps above all, public safety with regards to parking and fire codes. Community involvement in the permitting process is necessary and justified, but it is wrong to redefine terms such as “agriculture” and “rural” in a manner inconsistent with history or fair play.
Beyond that the RBDA Board cannot and will not take a position on the Beauregard proposal until formal application is made to the County. We urge all to keep an open mind and engage calmly in the ongoing community conversation.
More Public Input into Large House Proposals
Good news! Through hard work, diligence and much assistance from Rachel Dan of Supervisor Neal Coonerty’s office, the RBDA has helped Dooners have a stronger voice about proposed outsized homes.
At their Sept. 25 meeting the Board of Supervisors approved (4-1) a reduction in the square footage that triggers a public review of proposed developments under the Large Dwelling Ordinance (SCCC 13.10.325) from 7,000 to 5,000 square feet. This means that the public will have a chance to comment on the development of houses as large as 5,000 square feet or greater in writing and at a public hearing, and will have the right to appeal any decision all the way to the Board of Supervisors.
This issue has become important in recent years due to the proliferation of UCSC student housing moving into Bonny Doon at an accelerated rate as well as to the desire by wealthy individuals to create a retreat in a rural area surrounded by open space and public land. The issue came to a head because of two 7,000 square foot boarding house style developments near the CAL-FIRE station on Empire Grade and a proposed 9,000 square foot mansion at the headwaters of Baldwin and Majors creeks adjacent to Wilder/Gray Whale State Park.
The RBDA Board also proposed other changes in the Large Dwelling Ordinance that would remove ambiguity and close loopholes in the law (see Sept. 2012 Highlander). These changes have been referred to the Planning Dept. with a directive to review them and incorporate them “as appropriate” into the ongoing planning ordinances revision. The timeframe for this revision is in the 2-year range and your board will continue to be part of the process.
The change in the law does not prohibit monster houses, it merely allows the public to be part of the process, which we all should do to maintain our community.
Happy Trails to You
The grand vision of many people has been to create a trail that hikers, bikers, and, in places, equestrians, can traverse all around our beautiful Monterey Bay.
In Santa Cruz County, the trail will eventually run from Watsonville to the north county line. A good portion of it will follow the railroad right-of-way recently purchased by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC), the agency overseeing the route and construction, where needed, of the 32-mile long trail.
At a meeting in Davenport on Nov. 27 SCCRTC officials presented the plans for the Santa Cruz County portion of the trail, to be constructed in pieces over many years, at an estimated cost of $32 million. To date, the SCCRTC has raised about $6 million from various sources. For planning and construction, the agency has divided it into 3 “Reaches”: the Southern Section; the Mid-County Section; and the Northern Reach, which includes 5 segments: Waddell, Greyhound Rock, Coast Dairies/ Scott Creek, Davenport Landing, and Wilder Ranch to Davenport.
Some portions run along the rail line, some on roads with bike lanes, and some on dedicated paths separate from motor vehicle traffic, such as the already built path from Shaffer Road on the western edge of Santa Cruz to Wilder Ranch.
In December the SCCRTC polled the public on which segments should receive priority for funding. Some are much easier than others to complete. For example, the segments in the Northern Reach are fairly straightforward, already exist and/ or won’t require much engineering or negotiating with property owners. Much of it runs through state parkland. The benefits of the trail in this section are that it will give many people access to Coast Dairies and the upland property purchased from CEMEX. Both should open to public recreational use in the next several years.
For more information on the trail and its progress, visit sccrtc.org, and mouse over “Projects” to “Multi-Modal” and “Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail.”
RBDA Board for 2013
At the November RBDA meeting 5 people were nominated to fill the 5 slots open on the RBDA Executive Board. Nominated to 2-year terms were 3 of the 4 board officers whose terms expire in January, Jacob Pollock, Tom Hearn and Marty Demare. Nominated to the fourth position was Meggin Harmon, a Bonny Doon native whose family has long and ardently supported the RBDA. Ted Benhari was nominated to fill out the remaining one-year term of Pat Morrison, who had to resign at the end of last January. The Board appointed him in February to fill that seat until the Annual RBDA meeting this January. All the nominees will have to be approved by the membership at the upcoming meeting.
The Board thanks Salem Magarian for his service on the Board for the last 2 years. We’ll miss his innovative ideas, healthy optimism and infectious good humor.
Following are brief statements from the 5 nominees:
I have lived in Bonny Doon on and off since the 1980s and have enjoyed getting to know the landscape and the people. Most of my early years in Bonny Doon were spent exploring Rancho Refugio and the Smith Grade area. 6 years ago I moved up Laguna Creek to a plateau below the airport by Ice Cream Grade and have been exploring that area. I am a naturalist and ecologist by trade and education and can be found alternating my time between observing and enjoying our natural environment in the field and creating mathematical models of the ecology in order to help managers understand it and predict the results of their management efforts.
I also have spent the last 20 years as a consultant on policy, management and political issues surrounding resource use and the prevention of resource abuse. My basic take on most issues is that slowing down and trying to understand and make public the constraints of the system and the goals of the interested parties can usually allow most conflicts to come to a reasonable resolution. The devil is in the details.
Serving on the Board for the last 6 years, both as Highlander Editor and as Treasurer, has provided me insight into the diverse community we live in and the elements of change that potentially threaten the Bonny Doon we all know and love. I hope to continue to provide service to the community and to foster an environment that is both inclusive of the broader community interests while at the same time preserving the rural and natural setting that makes this place so special.
I am a Bonny Doon native who went to the local elementary school as a child. After graduating from Santa Clara University I was employed for 5 years at the consulting company Accenture. I then went to Johns Hopkins and obtained a Masters degree in International Relations with the anticipation of working for a non-governmental organization on the East Coast. I found time both as a student and employee to pursue my love of Europe, spending 5 accumulated years studying in France, Sweden, England, Germany and Italy. After my mother died during my first year of graduate school, I obtained my Masters degree and returned to Bonny Doon 5 years ago to be with my family, and have been actively volunteering in various local organizations. I am currently Secretary of the Ladies Club, on a committee to raise money for the Bonny Doon Elementary School, a Barista at Higher Grounds and I was formerly Treasurer of the Bonny Doon Community School Foundation.
Love it, hate it or ignore it, the RBDA is the home-grown organization that is most responsible for maintaining Bonny Doon as the unique, beautiful and largely unspoiled community we love, standing fast against repeated efforts at suburb-like development.
I’ve been proud to be on the RBDA Board for most of the last 14 years. Bonny Doon’s population has changed over the 38 years I have lived here, as younger families whose income often derives from professional jobs and enterprises have moved in. They sometimes have different perceptions of what they want our community to be, and we need to listen to that, even as we continue working to improve services like roads and mail, and of course honoring our mission of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.
I want to continue to help the RBDA Board with its longstanding service to the Bonny Doon area. I remain interested in the future of the Coast Dairies property and the legal issues associated with the transfer process which are important for securing the public’s voice in land use decisions. The sale of the CEMEX property also presents a dramatic and historic change for Bonny Doon and North Coast residents. As Bonny Doon becomes an enclave surrounded by public lands, I look forward to representing your interests during the process of identifying appropriate uses of the property. I hope my term on the Board demonstrates my commitment to representing the membership’s interest in keeping the area “rural and natural.”
Membership Renewal Reminder
It’s the time of the year to remind our loyal supporters, and to those of you that support us “in principle,” that it’s time to renew your membership.
The RBDA has a solid financial footing thanks to the generous outpouring of community support, but the fact remains that a large proportion of our support is coming from a precious few members of the community who donate far above the baseline amount of the dues we request. The recurring expenses of publishing The Highlander and sponsoring the community meetings (room rental and insurance) is not actually sustained by the current membership base, and we need your support to keep us on an even keel.
The RBDA annual budget is almost entirely committed to publishing and mailing The Highlander, which goes out to every resident in Bonny Doon whether they own or rent, pay dues or not. We believe this newsletter alone is worthy of the dues we request, but, in addition, we also sponsor community meetings that offer a forum for issues of interest to the community at large, and again, these are open to anyone interested in attending.
For over 50 years the RBDA has fought to keep Bonny Doon rural and natural. The Bonny Doon we all know and love today owes its existence in large part to the efforts over the years of a few dedicated volunteers who have worked to keep the community aware of pending development pressures that could affect the rural and natural beauty of our community in a negative way. So, if you like our meetings, if you like this newsletter, and most of all, if you like what the RBDA has done to maintain the environment and the community of Bonny Doon that you love, then please help out. Unless you joined for multiple years, all memberships expire on Jan. 31, 2013. Please renew today!
RBDA Board Actions — 12/12/12
Voted to send a letter of support for the Rail/Trail project, especially rapid development of the North Coast trails.
Ideas for RBDA Meeting Topics
always open to suggestions for interesting programs and
speakers at our bimonthly (except July) RBDA public
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.
California Oaks - photo by Ted Benhari
The Bonny Doon Planning District
If you live in or own property within this district,
roughly from Empire Grade to the ocean and from San
Vicente Creek to the City of Santa Cruz border, you are
eligible to be an RBDA member.
Please support the RBDA!
Dues payments count for a full year from date received.
Dues mostly go for printing and mailing The Highlander,
your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.
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Those who make additional contributions qualify as:
CONTRIBUTORS ($ 25+ dues)
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PATRONS ($ 100+ dues)
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