January/February 2016 issue
Opening San Vicente Redwoods and Coast Dairies
Bryan Largay, Santa Cruz Land Trust
Sky Murphy, BLM
Wednesday, January 13, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade
|Opening San Vicente Redwoods and Coast Dairies
The public has been waiting for 18 years, sometimes not so patiently, for opportunities to hike, bike and ride horses on Coast Dairies, and, for a much shorter time, on San Vicente Redwoods.
To answer our questions about plans for those lands, we will have two speakers, at our Jan. 13 Annual Meeting: Bryan Largay, Conservation Director of the Santa Cruz County Land Trust, who is in charge of the public access plan for the 8,500–acre San Vicente property; and Sky Murphy, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Bureau of Land Management’s Hollister Field Office, which manages the 5,800-acre Coast Dairies.
The first public trail (current plans call for controlled access once or twice a month)and parking lot on Coast Dairies is under construction in the property’s southwest corner. People are concerned there has been insufficient study of the terrain it transverses. That area and the rest of Coast Dairies underwent an environmental study in 2001 not intended to be particularly detailed, and it wasn’t.
Meanwhile, plans about how to open San Vicente Redwoods have been undergoing changes, and Bryan will present the latest thinking about trails, timing and access.
Public use of both these properties will impact traffic, parking, fire safety and law enforcement in Bonny Doon, so we look forward to getting our questions answered and, just as importantly, letting the agencies which control these two huge preserved properties know our concerns about overuse and other issues.
North Coast Rail Trail to Roll Out
At a cost of $2 million a mile, the 5-mile rail trail from Wilder Ranch State Park to a parking lot near Panther and Yellow Bank beaches will provide bikers and hikers with a path from Santa Cruz’s western boundary to Coast Dairies, near where BLM is building the first public trail, with a parking lot on the pasture north of and above Laguna Road.
The project, which should be done in 2018, will make it a lot safer for people to access the North Coast beaches and Coast Dairies, though people will have to cross Hwy. 1.
Funding will come from a $5 million federal grant, $950,000 from the state’s Coastal Conservancy Agency, and much of the rest - $3 million - from the Land Trust of Santa Cruz, which is conducting a fundraising drive. More here.
Other sections of the planned 32-mile rail trail along the County’s coast are either under construction or planned to be soon, including one in Watsonville and Santa Cruz. Although some portions will run along city streets, such as West Cliff Drive, the North Coast section will largely follow the rail line. There will be an 8-foot wide paved path alongside the tracks, which one day may carry a regular train, and 18 miles of paved and unpaved spur trails.
The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission, which owns the rail line, is planning to put a half-cent sales tax measure on the 2016 ballot to fund the rail trail, highway improvements, other road, bike and pedestrian improvement projects and public transit. The tax would be collected for 30 years. After losing a ballot measure to fund Hwy. 1 widening in 2004, the RTC is hoping that this time there will be enough support for each of the projects that the measure will get the required 2/3 vote.
Coast Dairies: Will Supervisors Live Up to Their Word?
Earlier this year the Board of Supervisors voted to support the designation of the 5,800-acre Coast Dairies property as a National Monument, if certain conditions were included in the Congressional Act or Presidential Proclamation creating the monument. Several of those conditions are not in the Congressional bills introduced earlier this year by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Cong. Anna Eshoo. Those bills are stalled in committee and are practically assured of being buried by the Republican majority.
However, the language in the bills is typically followed in any Presidential Proclamation creating national monuments under the National Antiquities Act.
If the Supervisors (and the Santa Cruz City Council, which passed a similar measure) don’t have their conditions met, the RBDA Board thinks they are duty- and honor-bound to withdraw their support of monument status.
Specifically, the bills do not meet the following conditions:
• That a management plan, specific to that property, be finalized within three years of the monument designation; and public access limited until the Bureau of Land Management, which owns Coast Dairies, completes the plan, and secures long-term funding to assure adequate management.The Wilderness Society earlier this year issued a report on how underfunded are National Conservation Lands, which includes national monuments. Congressional Republicans have blocked increases in funding to keep up with inflation over the last few years. All those protected lands share a budget of only $66 million, which comes to only a bit more than $2 per acre! So much for the Coast Dairies monument campaign’s claim that national monument status will bring more money and protection for Coast Dairies! We have pointed out many times, and the campaign has admitted, that the property is already completely protected from development, and that the only benefit of monument status, and to them, the meaning of additional protection, is “more money.”
In a related development, on Dec. 12 the Supervisors voted to go forward with creating a plan, funded by Sempervirens Fund, to recommend new uses for the shuttered Davenport cement plant, in concert with the plant’s owner, Cemex. Presumably this would include using part of it as a gateway to Coast Dairies and Sempervirens’ 8,500-acre San Vicente Redwoods property, whose southwestern border abuts Coast Dairies just a couple of hundred yards from Cement Plant Road.
Interim Commercial Cannabis Law Passed
With passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) in the fall, the State set up a system to try to gain control of the growing industry in California, estimated to have over $3 billion in sales. It gave local governments until March 31 to write their own rules controlling commercial cultivation, manufacture and sale if they don’t want to defer to the State rules.
We submitted to the County detailed recommendations for regulation to reduce the environmental, safety and quality of life impact of commercial grows in rural communities like Bonny Doon.
On Dec. 15 the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for final passage of Ordinance 7.128, an interim regulation to meet the deadline and meant to be modified in the coming months, which adds to and modifies the current ordinance, 7.126. Although written by the County Counsel’s office, much of it came out of and was approved by the Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (C4), whose mandate has now been extended through June and given a goal of March 31 to recommend changes and additions to 7.128.
The new ordinance keeps several parts of 7.126 in place, like the ban on commercial cultivation on properties zoned Rural Residential and on properties under 5 acres zoned Rural Agricultural. It sets up a licensing system for smaller grows. It doesn’t deal with distribution and sales, or larger farms. Supervisor Ryan Coonerty called it “a small step forward in regulating,” and noted its shortcomings in protecting neighborhoods and medical pot users. He said medical marijuana cultivation, production and sales have to be treated and regulated like every other legal industry so that the general public, youth, patients, neighborhoods and the environment are protected.
A disturbing aspect of the new ordinance is that it continues to provide special protections for District 2, despite several supervisors telling RBDA Board members that they believe regulations should be uniform across the county.
As the C4 continues meeting it will have to tackle harder issues like how to keep odors from becoming a nuisance to neighbors; defining a neighborhood; the differing interests of the many small growers vs. industrial scale farming; outdoor vs. indoor cultivation, which can contain odors and protects crops from rodents without the use of poison and uses less water, but is more energy intensive; whether more than one resident medical card holder will be allowed to grow on a particular parcel; and whether, where and how collective grows will be allowed.
There is a lot more to be said about this issue and we will continue following it in the Highlander and here on our website.
Castle House Suit Goes to Court
Should someone be allowed to use their private home in a residential neighborhood to host weddings and similar public assembly events for profit, despite the adverse impacts of traffic, noise, and associated annoyances? That’s the core issue that will be contested in Santa Cruz Superior Court on Jan. 28 [Editor’s Note: post-publication the date has been changed to Feb. 4.] by a group of neighbors, represented by land use attorney Bill Parkin, who want to overturn the granting of a permit to the Castle House at 4286 Bonny Doon Road.
The permit was approved by the Zoning Administrator, the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, under an absurd interpretation of the Home Occupation ordinance, and the Coastal Commission refused to assert any jurisdiction. However, the Supervisors voted to stop issuing such permits under the aegis of that ordinance.
The RBDA Board has continually pointed out the illogic and even illegality of the Castle House permit approval, which conflicts with the well-defined and established home occupancy code. While we didn’t keep the permit from being granted, our stance led to provisions in the sweeping changes in county land use regulations (now undergoing an environmental review process) that ban commercial events on residential properties in the Coastal Zone and on properties under 8 acres. And, as part of those proposed changes, the Home Occupation ordinance has been rewritten it so that it can never again be used to permit event venues in residences.
RBDA Board Election
At the January RBDA meeting members vote for new Executive Board officers. Three terms expire, and one appointment made by the board to an open seat has to be confirmed by the members.
Three nominations were made at the November RBDA meeting: David Rubin, who was appointed to the board last year to fill out an open term that expires in January; Betsy Firebaugh, who was elected last January for one year to fill an unexpired term; and Ryan Beauregard. In addition, the members must approve the appointment of Clay Peters, whom the board chose earlier this year to fill an empty seat.
In the intervening time, Ryan notified the board that while he was looking forward to serving the community, he realized that the growing success of his Beauregard Vineyards business requires a lot more attention and travel and that it would be difficult to find the time to devote to RBDA issues that he feels they deserve.
That means that there will be one open seat that will have to be filled by appointment by the board until the January 2017 annual meeting. With the many significant issues on the table—the opening to the public of Coast Dairies and San Vicente Redwoods, the burgeoning growth of the cannabis cultivation industry, the significant changes proposed in land use regulations—this coming year will be a pivotal one for Bonny Doon. If you care about our community and its future, talk to us about serving on the board. Call one of the board officers at the phone numbers or write to us at email@example.com.
Proposed Bylaws Changes
As we explained in the November Highlander and at the Nov. 11 RBDA meeting, incorporation of the RBDA requires us to add a few paragraphs to our Bylaws. While the language changed nothing about the way the RBDA and its Executive Board function, it is required by the State of California to be included in a corporation’s Bylaws. The additional language, in bold type, below, will be added if approved by the membership at the January Annual Meeting. (The current bylaws are here.)
RURAL BONNY DOON ASSOCIATION (A California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation)
ARTICLE I: NAME
A. The name of this corporation is RURAL BONNY DOON ASSOCIATION (“ARTICLE II: OBJECTIVE
B. The geographical area covered by this organization is the Bonny Doon Planning Area of Santa Cruz County as of December 19, 1994.In addition, this corporation is formed for the purposes of performing all things incidental to, or appropriate in, the achievement of the foregoing specific and primary purposes. However, the corporation shall not, except to an insubstantial degree, engage in any activities or exercise any powers that are not in furtherance of its primary purposes.
This corporation shall hold and may exercise all such powers as may be conferred upon a nonprofit corporation by the laws of the State of California and as may be necessary or expedient for the administration of the affairs and attainment of the purposes of the corporation. In no event shall the corporation engage in activities that are not permitted to be carried on by a corporation exempt under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The initial principal office of the corporation shall be located in the County of Santa Cruz, State of California. The Executive Board may from time to time change the location of the principal office from one location to another within said county.
Read the current bylaws here.
Davenport, January 2, 2016, awaiting the rains
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Ideas for RBDA Meeting Topics
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Coast Dairies, photo by Ted Benhari