January/February 2015 issue

The Abundance of Monterey Bay
Whales, Dolphins & More
Jodi Frediani

Photographer/Whale Researcher
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade

The Abundance of Monterey Bay, Creatures Grand and Small

Monterey Bay is a place of magnificent biodiversity. Hey, it’s a National Marine Sanctuary for good reason. For the past 2 years, the Bay’s magnificence has been emphasized by the lingering visits of humpback whales, killer whales and dolphins, attracted by hordes of the tiny organisms they feed on, krill and anchovies.

This awesome display of nature has been captured in images by Bonny Dooner Jodi Frediani, a photographer and whale researcher. On Jan. 14, Jodi will share both her photos and her expertise with us, in a presentation entitled, “Abundance in Monterey Bay: Anomaly, Anachronism or Wave of the Future? - a Photographer’s Point of View.”

Jodi’s camera has captured creatures from the rarely observed leopard shark to leatherback turtles, among other marine species, and her presentation will touch on the history of marine life in our Bay.

For the past 13 years Jodi also has been swimming with humpback whales on the Silver Bank, north of the Dominican Republic, where she is in charge of gathering fluke ID photos and collecting match-sightings data from the Bank’s humpback calving grounds.

Her sensational images have appeared in local, national and international publications. You can check out her photography at jodifrediani.com.

Jodi’s presentation will be a wonderful delight and an educational experience for the whole family, so by all means, bring your kids along.
Castle House Event Center Fight Continues

We were disappointed on Dec. 10 when the Planning Commission voted 3-2 to uphold the permit granted to the Sabankayas to rent their home at 4286 Bonny Doon Road, known as the Castle House, for commercial weddings.
Although the permit only allows 4 weddings a year for up to 50 people, ending at 7 p.m., we think that it sets a bad precedent that could open the door for people of many different professions to not only rent their homes in Residential neighborhoods (RR, RA) for weddings but for concerts, performances, or any commercial event. The Planning Dept. and the 3 commissioners who approved this permit ignored clear language in the Home Occupation Ordinance that should have ruled out this permit on several grounds, as was pointed out by our 3rd District Commissioner, Rachel Dann. That ordinance is meant to allow artists, artisans, teachers and other professionals to practice their business for small groups of customers or students.

Renting out one’s home for public events disturbs neighbors and impacts their quality of life, as attested by the almost 100 people who signed a petition opposing the Castle House permit. The neighbors of the Castle House, at great expense to themselves, have appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors. If it isn’t rejected there, an appeal to the Coastal Commission is possible.

The RBDA Board feels that staging commercial events in residential zones is a critical issue. Whether the Castle House permit is finally approved or rejected, we intend to lobby the Supervisors to make changes to the Home Occupation rules to make it very plain that turning your home into an event center is not a permitted use.

No Cannabis-ness As Usual

The importance of, and level of concern about, cannabis cultivation in Bonny Doon was emphasized Nov. 12 by the large crowd, more than 80 people, who attended the RBDA forum with top County officials and a representative of the medical marijuana dispensary business.

The Board of Supervisors has been scrambling to come up with rules that both minimize people’s concerns—about crime, environmental degradation, water use, property values and structural and forest fires—and the rights of medical marijuana patients to have access to their drugs. And in doing so the Supervisors must try not to run afoul of the conflicting State and federal laws regarding marijuana use and cultivation. The Supervisors passed an ordinance last year that was a good first try, and now they are trying to refine it. In November they asked the Planning Dept. to come up with recommendations for them to consider by January. The issue may come up as early as the first meeting of the new year, Jan. 13.

The RBDA Board has been studying this issue, too, and has some proposals that balance the rights of various stakeholders, make sense, and are practically workable. Among the things we are thinking of:
•    Legal, commercial marijuana grows not be allowed in Residential zones (RR and RA), but should be only permitted in Agricultural (A), Commercial Agricultural (CA), Commercial or Industrial zones.
•    Pot farming in agricultural zones must be on properties of more than 10 acres and have at least a 300-foot setback from neighboring houses.
•    Legal commercial cannabis farmers should be licensed and a system established so that neighbors can tell which farms are legal or illegal, but records should be kept in such a way that federal authorities can’t subpoena them to prosecute legal growers. A possible variation of this would be for dispensaries to identify to the County which farmers they have contracted to buy from.
•    Commercial marijuana farmers may only sell to Santa Cruz County dispensaries and their patients.
•    Legal grows larger than the 10- by 10-foot area permitted to a card-holding individual (i.e., a collective of card-holding individuals farming as a group) only be allowed in A, CA or Industrial or Commercial Zones.
•    Grows on residential properties (RR, RA) may be conducted only by card-holding, full-time residents of the property, and should be limited to at most two 10-by-10 plots, regardless of the number of legal cardholders in residence.
If you support these recommendations, or have some of your own, please communicate them to our new Supervisor, Ryan Coonerty, early in 2015.

Draft Cement Plant Reuse Plan Released

An analysis of various reuse options for the shuttered CEMEX Davenport plant site was released by the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 16 and is available for public comment until Feb. 13. Utilizing Community Development Block Grant Funds the Planning Dept. hired consultants to prepare the analysis and conduct a Town Hall meeting and community survey.

Use of the site as a cement factory dates back more than 100 years. CEMEX has provided only limited information about the buildings and facilities but the Polanco Redevelopment Act, AB 440, enacted in 2013, can require property owners to provide documentation about contamination of soils, groundwater, cement kiln dust piles and historically obsolete buildings and equipment.

The draft plan includes the input of the Town Hall meeting in Davenport and discusses the many challenges involved in reuse of the property. At least 4 years will be needed before a reuse option could proceed, assuming there is no major groundwater contamination to remediate. You can read the Reuse Plan by going to the  Board of Supervisors website (co.santa-cruz.ca.us/Government/BoardofSupervisors.aspx). Click on Meeting Agendas & Minutes, go to the Dec. 16 agenda, and click on item 47. Submit your comments to Barbara.Mason@santacruzcounty.us.

Coast Farms Protection Ensured

The agricultural parcels along Hwy. 1 still owned by the Trust for Public Land cannot be developed for other uses now that the Board of Supervisors accepted the Conservation Easements at their Dec. 9 meeting. However, TPL can still sell the parcels for trophy homes situated to farm the view.

TPL had resisted going to the Coastal Commission to obtain a Coastal Development Permit that would protect the agricultural status of the parcels, but relented under pressure brought by legal action by Save Our Agricultural Lands and some Davenport residents. The RBDA Board joined that legal action because we felt it was important to defend  the land use rules and processes that help retain the rural atmosphere of Bonny Doon and our agrarian coast.

Rather than fight in court, TPL went before the Coastal Commission in April 2012 and was granted the CDP, allowing them to reconfigure Coast Dairies' parcel lines so they could transfer the bulk of the land to the Bureau of Land Management. The conditions of approval for that permit required TPL to reinstate the original Agricultural Conservation Easement from 2008 and expand and apply easements to other reconfigured parcels that were created as part of the Coast Dairies/BLM transaction. Those parcels include some uphill grazing land and leaseholds that are home to Swanton Berry Farms and Fambrini's farm along Hwy. 1.

RBDA Board Elections

At the November RBDA meeting, 4 people were nominated to fill the 4 expiring terms on the Board, and a 5th, Jeff Alford, who was appointed to the board in 2014 to fill an open seat, will need to be ratified by the membership to fill the remaining year of that term. The nominees are:

Jeff Alford
I was active in the very successful campaign (Yes on Measure P) to ensure that a saltwater desalination plant can only be built if the City of Santa Cruz voters approve it. I’m a native Californian. I came to Santa Cruz with my wife in 1995 and lived in the city until we moved to Bonny Doon in 2012.  I’ve been an attorney since 1981, working at different times with a legal publishing company, with non-profit environmental and poverty law organizations, and as a sole practitioner. I’m a long-time member of the Sierra Club and several other environmental organizations. In my free time I am passionate about hiking, camping, swimming, gardening, and traveling abroad. I’m thrilled to be living in Bonny Doon, and I’m enthusiastic about working with the RBDA Board to protect our shared environmental values.

Andy Davidson
I am a software engineer at Apple and a 15-year resident of Bonny Doon. My wife is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz. She grew up on Branciforte Drive, an area that used to be very similar to today’s Bonny Doon. One main reason we moved to here was Bonny Doon’s rural nature and excellent school, which both of my children attended. I have been very active in several youth organizations, in particular the Boy Scouts, as Cubmaster, Summer Camp Director, and Parent Committee member for 12 years. Some change is inevitable. Bonny Doon is a diverse community. It’s important to listen to all voices to ensure that the Bonny Doon of the future is one we choose, while not losing what makes this place special.

Marty Demare
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 San Vicente Redwoods property. As we begin a new planning era with the Bureau of Land Management, I look forward to representing our members' interests in environmental protection and private property rights during the process of identifying appropriate uses of Coast Dairies. I hope my terms on the Board have demonstrated my commitment to representing the our members’ desire to keep the area “rural and natural.”

Betsy Firebaugh
I have lived in Bonny Doon for over 15 years, in Santa Cruz County since 1986, and grew up in Monterey during the 70s. Bonny Doon is a unique and special community because of the close connection we have with nature. I love the fact that on any given day the only noise you might hear is the wind through the trees or a hawk calling down the valley.
I have seen too many lovely small rural communities in this area become overrun with housing developments, tourist buses, conference centers, shopping centers and traffic. It happens slowly, and before you fully realize it. I have long admired the proactive work the RBDA has done to keep the community informed and advocate for the maintenance of our quality of life. We must continue to actively work on ensuring Bonny Doon stays rural, working within the community, with elected officials and taking action. I was honored to be considered to serve on the RBDA Board.

Tom Hearn
Serving on the Board for the last 7 years, first as treasurer, then as Highlander editor, and now as Board Chair has provided me an opportunity to better understand the diverse community we live in and the elements of change that potentially threaten the Bonny Doon we know and love. I want to continue on the Board to provide service to the community and to foster an environment that is inclusive of the broader community interests while preserving the rural and natural setting that makes this place so special to all of us.

That Time, Again!

This is the annual plea to all of our loyal supporters, and to those of you that support us “in principle,” that it’s time to renew your membership or to make a commitment that you may have considered, but just haven’t got around to as yet.
The organization is now on a solid financial footing thanks to the generous outpouring of community support, but the fact is that a large proportion of that support comes from a precious few members of the community who donate far above the baseline amount of the dues we request.

The RBDA annual budget is almost entirely committed to publishing 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 worth the dues we request, but, in addition, we also sponsor community meetings (for which we pay room rental and insurance) that offer a forum for issues of interest to the community at large; again, open to anyone.

The bottom line is that our recurring expenses are not fully sustained by the current membership base, and we need your support to keep us on an even keel.

The Board took note again at the last General Meeting that fewer than half of the folks who attended were dues paying members. 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 in any way possible. If you are a member, please send a donation or talk a neighbor into joining. If you aren’t a member, please consider joining. Twenty dollars isn’t a lot to pay to keep your corner of the world rural and natural.

Unless you joined for multiple years, all memberships expire on January 31, 2014. Please renew today!

RBDA to Restructure

The RBDA has been in existence for almost 60 years, and in 1988 formally became a tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(4) organization. We recently have found through research that there are some advantages to incorporation, as many similar organizations have done.

We have hired an attorney (who charges a very reasonable rate for non-profits) to help with this process. He suggested that we consider changing the tax-exempt status of the organization from a 501(c)(4) to a 501(c)(3), which would allow donors to take a tax deduction and also give board officers more protection. Reviewing the way the RBDA has always operated, the attorney advised us that our limited political lobbying activity would still be allowed.

The Board has started this process and we will keep you advised as we proceed. We expect it will require several months to complete.
Proposed RBDA Bylaws Change

An organization’s Bylaws are a dynamic affair and must adapt to meet the needs of changing conditions and technologies. The RBDA Board is recommending the following change to our Bylaws, which haven’t been updated since they were adopted in 2002.

The proposed change was read to the Membership at the Nov. 12 RBDA meeting, and is as follows [new language in Bold type, deleted language in Strikethrough]:

Article IV
E. The Membership Coordinator shall review applications for membership, maintain the membership roster, and exclusively control access to member contact information, with the following exceptions:

(1) Upon request by the officer designated by the Executive Board to serve on the Nominating Committee, the Membership Coordinator shall provide a current copy of the membership roster to that officer, who shall use it for purposes of determining the eligibility of a member who has been nominated to serve on the Executive Board or for purposes of recruiting members to nominate as candidates for the Executive Board;

(2) Upon request by the officer designated by the Executive Board as the administrator of the Association's Facebook group, the Membership Coordinator shall provide a current copy of the membership roster to that officer, who shall use it for purposes of determining whether a person applying for inclusion in that group is an Association member. Upon request by a member of the Association, the Membership Coordinator shall forward any important communication related to the objective relating to an objective or operation of the Association to the membership by e-mail, direct mail, and/or or notice in the Highlander newsletter. The Membership Coordinator shall pass his or her records on to his or her successor.

The change must be approved by the Membership at the Jan. 14, 2015 Annual Meeting.

Are you an RBDA Member?
Join the conversation, get news updates on the Facebook page exclusively for RBDA members: RBDA, Rural Bonny Doon Association

Support the RBDA by renewing your membership now: all 1-year memberships expire on January 31st.

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 board@rbda.us.


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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
Box 551 • Felton, CA 95018

Bonny Doon's voice in preserving our special quality of life, 
The Highlander is mailed free to Bonny Doon residents prior to the 
RBDA General Meetings, which are usually held on second Wednesdays of 
January, March, May, July, September and November.
We encourage you to participate. 

 Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above address, 
or by email, below.

Contact the RBDA Board in one email

The Bonny Doon Planning District
Bonny Doon Planning
                    District map

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.

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