January/February 2017 issue

Land and Sea Sanctuaries

Lisa Uttal, marine biologist
Bryan Largay, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room,
Pine Flat Road & Ice Cream Grade

Land and Sea Sanctuaries

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is the largest marine protected area adjacent to the continental United States. And it’s right down the hill from Bonny Doon! But how much do you really know about it?

Even if your answer is “a lot,” you will probably learn something new at the Jan. 11 RBDA meeting, when marine biologist (and Bonny Doon resident) Lisa Uttal will tell us about “Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—the largest Marine Protected Area in North America—Threatened and Thriving.” Lisa will talk about the Sanctuary’s role in ocean conservation and research, and tell us why we are so lucky to live on this particular section of coastal California.

Lisa Uttal has more than 25 years of marine education and research background in the Monterey Bay, developing and designing programs that use science as the basis of learning experiences. She received a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and holds a Master of Science from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, where she conducted deep-sea research on gelatinous mid-water organisms at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Lisa's ability to liaison between scientific research and informal/formal education enables her to involve and educate the public in marine and coastal resource issues through science-based stewardship.
For the last 10 years Lisa was the Project Manager for the exhibit and facility design, development and construction of the Sanctuary Exploration Center at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.

Lisa’s talk will be preceded by a short update from the Santa Cruz Land Trust’s Conservation Director Bryan Largay on public trail development at San Vicente Redwoods, the 8,500-acre property, formerly owned by CEMEX, that runs from Empire Grade near Crest Ranch south toward Davenport.

Since 2013, with input from the public and its conservation partners in San Vicente Redwoods (Sempervirens Fund, Peninsula Open Space Trust and Save the Redwoods League), the Land Trust has been developing a public access plan under Bryan Largay’s leadership.

Bryan last updated us on the plan a year ago. The first draft of the plan was developed following input from more than 2,500 people at over 100 meetings and interviews, and it was shared with the community in the fall of 2014. It’s available at the Land Trust’s website, landtrustsantacruz.org.

We received generally supportive feedback from the community on the draft plan,” says Bryan, “and we have been working since to develop the management approach for public access to protect the resources on the property. Our approach has three elements: expert design of trails and facilities to encourage desirable behavior; robust engagement with visitors to promote a stewardship ethic; and an effective monitoring and enforcement capability.

In early December the Board of Supervisors approved a plan for the conservation partners to provide rangers at San Vicente.

“The rangers are a key element of the plan because we are trying to provide up to 38 miles of trails through a vast forest—and we want to make sure everyone using these trails stays on the trails and does not go off building their own or straying into areas we’ve set aside for wildlife,” Land Trust Executive Director Stephen Slade wrote recently. “The partners will pay the rangers, at least for three years, while we monitor the impact of nature lovers (and adventure lovers) on nature. Last week’s decision was a first step—directing County Parks to return with a fully fleshed out proposal in February.

Bryan will give a brief and general update about where the planning process stands, answer questions and receive your input.


Cement Plant Reuse Update

At a meeting in Davenport on Dec. 15, Supervisor Ryan Coonerty and County Environmental Health Dept. staff gave local residents a preliminary look at the cleanup plans for the shuttered CEMEX cement plant in Davenport.

Consultants now have identified the areas where various types of contaminants will need to be removed or remediated. Additional investigation will lead to a cleanup work plan for each area. A separate regulatory framework applies to the huge pile of cement kiln dust: the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District is supposed to monitor the windblown dust that may escape and the Regional Water Quality Control Board watches for pollution in storm water that runs off the pile. The pile is supposed to be kept covered but the covering (tires weighing down tarps) has not been maintained so there is cause for concern over pollutants escaping.

A key question is whether the properties will be cleaned up to a high “residential” standard that assumes daily long-term exposure to remaining contaminants, which would be consistent with the current Mountain Residential zoning. However, the expectation is that the property will be rezoned for some sort of commercial use, most likely visitor services, that would require a less stringent cleanup based on an assumption of only short exposure for visitors.

Cleanup for the whole cement plant site will likely take many years to complete, but the land across Hwy. 1 on the coastal bluff, the location of the old hospital, is a separate parcel with simpler contamination issues. Its proximity to the rail line and proposed trail suggests that we might see it cleaned up and repurposed long before the rest of the plant is ready for a new use.

On Nov. 10 an overflow crowd of more than 100 people attended a meeting at Cal Poly Ranch in Swanton to hear about the process for reusing the cement plant site, and to voice their preferences.

The meeting was run by RRM Design Group, which the Board of Supervisors hired to help guide the restoration and reuse plan. RRM was given 18 months to create the plan, whose primary focus is to create a public entrance to the adjacent Cotoni Coast Dairies federal land and San Vicente Redwoods. However, no plan can be approved and executed without the consent of CEMEX, which still owns the property.

Sempervirens Fund, one of San Vicente Redwoods’ owners, is a major partner with the county on this project. Reuse plan financing comes from a mix of public and private funds: the Coastal Conservancy (a state agency), the Moore Foundation and the Resources Legacy Fund.

CEMEX or a new owner must adhere to County zoning regulations. When the plant closed, zoning reverted to Mountain Residential, which would allow perhaps nine homes to be built there. Changing that zoning would require altering the County's Master Plan, but the current Local Coastal Plan zoning designates the site as Visitor Serving. CEMEX or a new owner will have to tear down as many as 20 buildings, and clean the property of kiln dust and other pollutants.


RBDA Board Election at January 11 Meeting

The January meeting is the RBDA’s official Annual Meeting, when we elect Board officers. Nominations were made at the November meeting. There are 3 seats up for election this time, those of Tom Hearn, Andy Davidson and Jennifer Joslin.

Marty Demare is retiring from the Board after more than 15 years of service. He says he hopes to make way for the new generation of Bonny Doon residents who care about habitat conservation and the responsible use of the land they live on. He reflected: “ Proactive engagement when proposals arise like the biomedical goat operation or the construction of a mansion at the foot of Sand Hill Bluff, has taught me that becoming informed about issues and working with State and County government can bring real change to the place you live. At a time when sweeping changes are coming to our area with a rail trail and the opening of the Coast Dairies and San Vicente properties, I encourage other Dooners to join the Board and help preserve Bonny Doon's rural quality of life.”

Tom Hearn

My wife and I have owned property here in Bonny Doon for 20 years, and I remain in awe of the natural beauty and serenity of our community to this day. I’ve been on the RBDA Board for 10 of those years and have seen a number of issues arise that have challenged the rural nature of our community, as well as some challenges that remain. I believe the RBDA has done a remarkable job in maintaining the values and quality of life that make our community so unique, and I would like to serve on the Board for another term.

Andy Davidson

I have been a Board member for the last 3 years and am the current Board Chair. 
I am long-time 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 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 Cub Master, Summer Camp Director, and Parent Committee member for 12 years. I coached soccer and was active in Little League. I recently left a position as Data Scientist and Software Architect in Apple’s Applied Machine Learning Dept. to focus on other research interests. I am an avid surfer and mountain biker.

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.

Jennifer Joslin

I have been a Bonny Doon resident for 30 years, having moved here with my husband in 1988. We chose Bonny Doon because of the lack of development and the amazing natural beauty of the area. I am a strong environmental advocate, and for many years ran the Marine Mammal Center’s membership and direct mail fundraising activities.

I am also a returning RBDA Board member: I served on the Board in the mid-90s. I have a background in marketing and advertising as well as membership development. I am deeply appreciative of the unique environment and community of Bonny Doon and am excited to be involved with finding solutions to the many issues facing Bonny Doon today.


Cannabis Cultivation Licensing Underway

Santa Cruz County is proceeding with plans for commercial medical cannabis cultivation and licensing of growers. Since our detailed summary of regulations in the July/August Highlander, several local and Statewide actions have occurred.

On Nov. 8, California voters approved Prop. 64, to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana (AUMA). It will allow adults to possess small amounts of marijuana and pot products for personal non-medical use, if local jurisdictions approve. On Dec. 13, the Board of Supervisors voted to extend a moratorium on non-medical cannabis regulations until Nov. 14, 2017 (as permitted under AUMA). The moratorium will allow the County to develop personal non-medical cannabis regulations first, and then develop rules for commercial recreational cannabis.

In September, the County chose Dan Peterson as our County’s Cannabis Licensing Manager. He is currently working on recommendations regarding regulation of cannabis cultivation for personal use. According to Dan, 951 people have registered for commercial medical cultivation permits, but a total of only 300-400 permits will likely be issued for commercial cultivation of medical and non-medical cannabis. Thus there is significant potential for abuse by people using personal grows for commercial purposes. Dan has formed a committee to gather input on this issue from various perspectives. Julia Gaudinski, a past Bonny Doon school board president, who has been fighting to ensure that neighborhoods and the environment are not impacted by marijuana cultivation, is on this committee.

Dan will also be hosting two public meetings to review State cannabis regulations and get public input on the personal cultivation of non-medical cannabis for Santa Cruz County. The meetings will be on Jan. 12 and Feb. 9 at the Board of Supervisors chambers from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

On Dec. 13, the Supervisors also approved a contract for $392,773 with Amec Foster Wheeler Environment and Infrastructure, Inc., to prepare an Environmental Impact Report for proposed regulations regarding cultivation of medical cannabis and associated land use.

The County has previously documented impacts of cannabis cultivation on fire hazards, the environment and neighborhoods. They were described in the RBDA report posted elsewhere on this website—click here

We are thankful that the regulations for commercial growing exclude much of Bonny Doon. Within the Coastal Zone plus 1 mile growing is restricted to properties zoned Agriculture or Commercial Agriculture; only a handful of properties meet these requirements. Growing is also permitted on properties zoned Residential Agriculture if they are farther inland and larger than 5 acres.


Our Sky Could Get Louder

The near-constant intrusion of loud jets descending to land at San Francisco Airport (SFO), that has so angered residents of mid-County, could become our headache instead. However, it is still far from clear whether the flight path will be moved back to near its old location, over Santa Cruz, the San Lorenzo Valley and Bonny Doon, and whether that move will actually have a serious impact on the relative quiet we cherish. The situation is complicated, controversial, and the subject of a lot of speculation and misinformation.

Here is what we do know: On Nov. 17 the Select Committee for South Bay Arrivals, which has been studying the situation, voted 8 to 4 to return the flight path of planes arriving at SFO from the south to the “legacy BSR flight path,” which will provide relief to the communities of Soquel, Happy Valley and the Summit from the noisy SERFR flight path which the FAA enacted on March 5, 2015. The Quiet Skies Nor Cal lobby convinced the Select Committee that this change was the best resolution for the community at large. SLV, Santa Cruz and Bonny Doon residents, who will be under the new (and former) flight path, were unconvinced.

What the Federal Aviation Administration will implement is uncertain. It seems likely that it will take measures to protect the peace and quiet of whatever area the aircraft will be flying over. The Select Committee had a split decision in favor of the change in ground track, but it unanimously voted to recommend a return to flight altitudes at least as high as (and preferably higher) than the historic BSR flight procedure along its entire route. It also voted to recommend that the FAA implement other changes that would either restore the noise generated along the flight track to its former relatively quite level or less, along with other recommendations to reduce the negative noise impacts and yet comply with the new “Nextgen” regulations. The committee recommended that the new flight path be reviewed with the public within three months of its implementation. We will have to wait to see what the outcome actually will be, but it seems likely that the FAA has learned a lesson of how not to roll out changes in flight paths that negatively effect a portion of the population.

A founder of Quiet Skies Nor Cal told us that it was totally outrageous to have a low and noisy flight path moved over one’s head, with no warning and no real consideration of the consequences. We totally agree. But we are concerned that the FAA will move the path and change the height of approaches and rules about “air braking,” which has a very large influence on the perceived loudness of the sound, before they have a clear, data-driven idea of what the noise impact will be.

Our source indicated that in private conversations with the FAA he was assured that they would fix the issue, and that the return to the BSR track, along with the other recommendations, would indeed yield an acceptable result. He said the FAA doesn't want to incur any more negative publicity and is motivated to get it right this time.

Before the Nov. 17 Select Committee vote our Board of Supervisors was in unanimous agreement that any flight path changes should not just move the noise impact to a different subset of County residents. But our Supervisors on the committee split their votes. We hope that they can resume acting as a united force, and we fully support Supervisor Ryan Coonerty’s efforts to achieve that.


Joining or Renewing Your RBDA Membership Now Easier

In the recent mailed Highlander you should have found a postage-paid envelope that you can use to send in your dues. Just fill it out, put in your check, and pop it in the mailbox.

This year we are encouraging our members to provide an email address so we can continue to build a database to use in very time-sensitive and critical situations, and strictly for RBDA related issues and business. We promise that we will never share your email address with a third party without your permission.

Joining the RBDA isn’t just good for us, it’s good for you. The more members we have the more accurately we can represent you, and the more seriously public officials will consider our position on issues!

The RBDA is your community organization and your voice at the County Building for the many issues that affect us directly here in the Doon. Our volunteer Board members spend many hours working on the community’s behalf. From understanding new laws regarding marijuana cultivation, land use issues and visitation on Coast Dairies, San Vicente Redwoods and other conserved land, the RBDA is involved and active in all the issues that impact us here on Battle Mountain.

To keep as many Dooners informed as possible about important topics we mail The Highlander to everyone who lives here, RBDA member or not, because a key part of our job is to educate and inform. Some people think they are RBDA members because they get the Highlander, but you may not be. Contact Tom Hearn (
423-2483) if you aren’t sure. Or just send in your dues! If you are already current, we’ll apply them to next year. Memberships run Feb. 1-Jan. 31, and you can only vote for officers at the January meeting if you’ve joined before December.

Thank you in advance for your support! Almost all dues and donations go to publishing and printing The Highlander and rent/insurance at the school for our public meetings, which educate and give you a chance to comment on current issues affecting Bonny Doon.

The RBDA is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, so donations are not tax deductible. We have that designation because it allows us to legally lobby for laws and regulations that are important to Bonny Doon.


No More Large Trucks on Felton Empire

Thanks to the efforts of determined Bonny Dooners and the Board of Supervisors large trucks will no longer be allowed on Felton Empire Road. Until now signs have warned that the road is unsuitable for semis, but that didn’t stop a few foolhardy drivers every year from trapping their rigs on one of the very tight turns on that heavily used thoroughfare, closing it for hours until it could be removed.

The ban once again shows that citizen action is vital and necessary to solve problems, and we cheer those who made it happen, and Sup. Ryan Coonerty, for persuading his fellow Supervisors to go along.


Coast Dairies Will Never Be Sold

Contrary to the recent false claims from the backers of the campaign to name Coast Dairies a national monument, the federal government will never be able to sell the BLM-managed property. Although it’s true that if it’s not a monument that the federal government legally would be able to sell the 5,800-acre property north of Santa Cruz, two factors prevent it from being attractive to any possible developer.

One: very strict and permanent deed restrictions, echoed in a Coastal Development Permit, require the land to be used only for activities that promote outdoor recreation and environmental preservation.

Two: the federal government doesn’t own the water rights. They were kept by the Trust for Public Land when it transferred the deed to BLM. What developer would pay millions for a property so encumbered? Shame on the campaign for these scare tactics.


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

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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

Support the RBDA
- Renew Your Membership
: all 1-year memberships expire on January 31st.

Your continued support enables the RBDA Board to work on issues critical to Bonny Doon, to hold meetings to educate and get feedback regarding those issues, and to publish The Highlander newsletter.

Some people may not understand that receiving The Highlander in the mail doesn’t mean you are a current RBDA member. To reach the whole community we mail The Highlander to all mailboxes in Bonny Doon.

So unless you joined for multiple years, all 1-year RBDA memberships will expire on Jan. 31, 2016. To continue to support the RBDA, we need you to renew now for the 2016 year. Details are here.

Dues and donations go mainly to printing and mailing The Highlander, and rent and insurance for the public meetings at the school.

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.

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.

Please support the RBDA!

Annual dues are used primarily for printing and mailing The Highlander,
your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.

Click here for details!

Those who make additional contributions qualify as:

CONTRIBUTORS ($ 25+ dues)
SUSTAINERS ($50+ dues), or
PATRONS ($ 100+ dues)

Coast Dairies, photo by Ted Benhari 

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