StCemex Land Purchase
Reed Holderman, Executive Director, Sempervirens Fund
Terry Corwin, Executive Director, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
Tour of California in Bonny Doon
Maura Noel, Santa Cruz Coordinator
Wednesday March 14, 2012 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road
As noted in the last Highlander and Jan. 25 RBDA Annual meeting, there is universal support and enthusiasm for the December 2011 purchase of the Cemex properties by five conservation organizations, Sempervirens Fund, Save the Redwoods League, Peninsula Open Space Trust, the Nature Conservancy and the Santa Cruz County Land Trust, with financial support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
This purchase was in concert with these organizations’ shared vision of their Living Landscape Initiative, which calls for preservation and sustainable management of contiguous wild and natural areas with significant natural beauty, watersheds and biodiversity throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains and adjoining areas.
The heavily forested 8,532 acre Cemex property is the largest landholding in Santa Cruz County in private ownership. It stretches from near the ocean to the ridge traced by Empire Grade. There are four distinct watersheds supporting both Davenport and Santa Cruz City water systems and providing critical habitat for both steelhead trout and Coho salmon. In spite of the years of quarry work and timber harvesting there remain pockets of old growth redwood and Douglas fir.
At our March 14 meeting, Reed Holderman, Executive Director of Sempervirens Fund, will be the featured speaker. He will update us on all aspects of the sale, ownership, ongoing active scientific survey work, long-term use possibilities, and opportunities for public comment and involvement. Reed will be joined by Terry Corwin, Land Trust executive director, who will focus on the relationship of the Cemex property to the Living Landscape Initiative.
As this property represents over one quarter of the land area of Bonny Doon and what happens there will have a big impact on our community, upcoming issues of the Highlander will feature timely and accurate updates. Given the rapid development of this property sale, there are many questions. Your Board has been in discussion with leadership of the various organizations to provide the following answers:
Who actually owns the Cemex property?
The deed owners are jointly Sempervirens and POST (Peninsula Open Space Trust). The $30 million purchase was funded by the land conservation organizations listed above as well as the Resources Legacy Fund, and the Moore, and Packard foundations.
Is there public access now?
The answer is a definite “NO.” A rapid scientific assessment and survey of the land and resources is under way to provide a foundation for long-term management. There is a commitment to complete this as rapidly as possible.
What about the Conservation Easement?
plan in the very near term is for the Santa Cruz Land
Trust and Save the Redwoods to jointly purchase a
detailed conservation easement that will direct the
long-term management and use of the land. This will
include biodiversity and sensitive habitat protection,
watershed protection, public access and sustainable
What is happening on the land right now?
Big Creek Lumber has been contracted to maintain the existing roads and monitor access and conditions of the property. There is no timbering of any kind being done presently. No one lives on it.
The same organization and professionals that have done scientific assessment of the Coast Dairies property have been contracted to analyze the biologic, watershed and geologic resources of the land. The intent is for this to be fast-tracked in order to guide the structuring of the long-term easements and aid transition to the time when public access will be allowed.
What is the long-term use plan?
This is not complete but
there have been a few decisions. There will be public
access. The Cemex property is physically connected to
over 27,000 acres of protected land (Coast Dairies,
state parklands, Bonny Doon Eco Reserve, protected
watershed,etc.). The intention is to take advantage of
this contiguous natural habitat for both wildlife and
recreation in appropriate sustainable ways. There will
be some sensitive habitat areas protected.
There will be some carefully monitored sustainable logging guided by the conservation easement. This is a new trend of land conservation that seeks ongoing income for maintenance, support for the County tax base, and additional land conservation purchases.
Will this become a state park?
This is very unlikely in the current economic climate. Management by land conservation organizations can still provide public access and trail maintenance, easement oversight and conservation.
What about public involvement?
Come to Reed Holderman’s presentation at the March 14 RBDA General meeting at Bonny Doon School.
There is a tentative plan for a public forum in Davenport on May 2.
You can contact the landowners or easement purchasers directly. All have local offices and contact information on the web.
Additional public fundraising for this property is ongoing.
What role will the RBDA have in this process?
Your Board is in active communication with the current owners (Sempervirens and POST), easement purchasers (Santa Cruz Land Trust and Save the Redwoods), and the property managers (Big Creek Lumber). We will provide updates as this process unfolds via the Highlander and our general meetings.
Do you have
additional ideas about how Bonny Doon residents can
play a constructive role? Let us know.
Water for UCSC Expansion: Something’s Fishy
In early February, responding to a request from LAFCO Executive Officer Pat McCormick for guidance regarding the status of the City’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), the federal and state agencies charged with administering the Endangered Species Acts as they concern fish, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the California Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) both wrote to LAFCO, putting the matter in stark terms.
As we reported in the May 2011 Highlander (bonnydoon.got.net/05-11_hlndr.html), the HCP addresses the habitats of several federally listed endangered species, most notably the steelhead and coho salmon which spawn in Laguna, Majors, and Liddell creeks and the San Lorenzo River, all of which flow off of Ben Lomond Mountain (Bonny Doon).
According to Jonathan Ambrose of NMFS, in his 22 years working with endangered species, the situation for coho south of the Golden Gate is the worst he has ever seen, and the rigorous work the City has done developing its draft salmonid Conservation Strategy indicates that the impact of City Water diversions is worse than was previously assumed.
To put this in some context, the San Lorenzo was once the second most heavily fished river in California. City Water diversions on the San Lorenzo are impacting the steelhead’s survival there at this very moment. On the North Coast, the only thing saving the coho from local extinction is the vigorous breeding and genetic preservation efforts of the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project on Big Creek.
The streams provide the majority of the City’s drinking water. The City based its Conservation Strategy on three tiers of stream flow: Tier 1 maintains the current flows. Tier 2 aims to improve the stream habitat on the North Coast within the constraints of the current system. Tier 3 restores both river and stream habitat to 80% of optimum, but is impossible in the current water regime.
In their letters NOAA and DFG told LAFCO that they do not accept the tier system as an appropriate measure to comply with the Federal Endangered Species Act, and do not view it as sufficient to prevent further degradation of salmonid habitat. The science is incomplete, legally preventing the agencies from saying anything in this technical assistance phase about what the eventual requirements for the HCP will be. But they make it clear that Tier 3 flows in all years are an absolute minimum. This means that even if the proposed desalination plant is built the City, by its own projections, probably won’t be able to meet the projected growth in water demand by 2020, and certainly by 2030. Among other measures, NOAA recommends that there be no City water diversions from Laguna Creek in dry or critically dry water years.
In response the City says that NOAA and DFG don’t understand another LAFCO condition requiring any future increases in water demand on the entire UCSC campus be offset by new water conservation within the entire city water service area, which will result in no net increase in demand across the whole water system. The City goes on to claim that UCSC will use so little water in the dry season or during drought-imposed restrictions that the fish needn’t worry. The City also claims not to understand the agencies’ rejection of its strategy which reduces, without eliminating, the City’s violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The bottom line: NOAA’s and DFG’s letters show the agencies are committed to bringing back the coho and steelhead, and the City says it is working hard to further that effort. For the City Water Dept. the news is not good: current water supplies are insufficient to meet current demand and protect listed salmonids. The political dilemmas facing LAFCO and the City are how to implement UCSC water neutrality and how to address the inevitable decrease in water diversions from North Coast streams and the San Lorenzo River.
upcoming summer is sure to see vigorous debate on
water in Santa Cruz County.
On March 7 (County Building, 701 Ocean St., 5th floor, 9:30 a.m.) LAFCO will finalize their actions on UCSC water service.
It should be an interesting meeting;
it will be our chance to see how LAFCO and the City
flesh out the UCSC water neutrality policy.
Water Related Developments:
• The City Water Department is preparing a formal rebuttal to some technical legal aspects of the NOAA and DFG letters, but sees the letters as good news for fish in North Coast streams.
• Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to require City voter approval of any action to approve, permit or fund a desalination plant. Mayor Don Lane has proposed that the City Council adopt an ordinance requiring voter approval to build the plant after an EIR and permitting are in place.
City Water Conservation Director Toby Goddard
points out that : “Examination of the historic record
shows there have been only four times in the last 100
years in which there was less rainfall in Santa Cruz
through February than this year. Most of you remember
1990 and perhaps even 1976. The other two years were
1913 and 1924, which was, notably, the year the City
added the San Lorenzo River to the water system. The
weather report is not encouraging.”
They’re coming! Monster homes in Bonny Doon! We’re close to UCSC, surrounded by natural areas with hiking and biking trails, and yet still close enough to Silicon Valley to attract commuting. This combination is attractive to people who have money to burn. So far the monster homes (or “Large Dwellings” in County Code) come in two varieties: boarding houses/dormitories built by landlords for UCSC students, and opulent estates.
The County has more stringent rules for large houses, but clever developers are figuring out how to avoid that designation by building just under the limits for any number of rules. The result is a development that looks and feels like a monster house, but technically may not be.
The purpose of the Large Dwelling ordinance is to “preserve the neighborhood character in which the proposed structure(s) will be located,” according to the latest policy interpretation. A Large Dwelling is defined as having 7,000 sq. ft. of floor area or more (County Code section 13.11.040(c)). An ambiguity lies in the definition of “floor area.” The Planning Dept. issued a policy interpretation on Sept. 21, 2011 that based the 7,000 sq. ft. trigger point on the calculated “Habitable Floor Area.” They then revised the interpretation on Jan. 20 and added a “Floor Area” calculation as well. The final decision on whether a dwelling is “large” depends on the greater of the two calculations.
The difference between the two calculations lies mainly in the inclusion or exclusion of attic, basement and mezzanine space. The “Floor area” calculation is clear: basements and mezzanines count, attics don’t. The “Habitable Floor Area” calculation excludes mezzanine space, but allows a loophole for the attic and basement. To simplify it, they don’t count if the ceiling is under 7’ 6”, allowing a 7’5” fully finished basement or attic to not count as habitable space. Because attics don’t count in one definition and mezzanines don’t count in the other, and because of the tricky calculation in one method, it is unclear whether a particular calculation will always be the greater area.
Accessory or open structures are not included in the calculation, so potentially the total built area could be quite large and still not fall under the Large Dwelling review (see below for example and review details).
The dormitory-style monster house is exemplified by two houses near the corner of Ice Cream and Empire Grades (Maverick Court and Twilight Lane). These were built as single family owner-occupied homes, but the square footage was just under the 7,000 sq. ft. limit. There are up to 15 unrelated people living in them, dorm style. The owner initially occupied an outbuilding, thus lessening his taxes by claiming a homestead exemption. They resemble unkempt frat houses more than a family home. They are not in character with their neighborhood and could have been rejected or modified under the “Large Dwelling” rules.
An example of the “estate” style large house is planned off Smith Grade, where a Silicon Valley executive wants to build an almost 9,000 sq. ft. mansion, with a finished basement of more than 2,000 sq. ft. Basement and attic library ceilings will be just under 7’ 6”, thus not triggering a Large Dwelling review. There are about 7,000 sq. ft. of outbuildings, seven cisterns, a swimming pool and miscellaneous other features. It requires the excavation and grading of close to 3,700 cubic yards.
Under the Jan. 20 interpretation the house size appears to trigger a review because the basement and main house total more than 7,000 sq. ft. Regardless, it is clearly a very large development and out of character with its neighborhood. The building permit is under review.
Large Dwelling Design Guidelines
A Large Dwelling as defined above triggers a Design Review (County Code Ch. 13.11), which is more rigorous (13.10.325). The guidelines provide some protections for neighbors and help the owner blend the new house in with the existing environment. Permit approval will be made as the result of comments and input at a public hearing, with rights of appeal.
The guidelines require the house be compatible with the neighborhood in size and height or be adequately screened and not affect neighbors’ privacy, public viewshed, or solar access. Changes in the natural topography must be minimized, natural ridgeline silhouettes remain unbroken, the building sited on lower areas where possible, and architectural features adopted so the house is less intrusive.
Rural Vs. Urban Or Suburban Large House
There remain unresolved issues with the permitting process for large houses. In Bonny Doon we are in some ways unique: houses can be very far apart and we are still mostly rural. Yet this area is becoming more attractive to wealthy people because of the large parcels available and the proximity to open space. An attraction for landlord/developers is the ongoing expansion of UCSC. These influences threaten to radically change the rural character of Bonny Doon.
project’s whole constructed complex and overall impact
level need to be compared with other developments in
the neighborhood. There should be a sense that the
whole project fits the spirit of the law, not just the
letter. The RBDA Board is working with the County to
help develop Large Dwelling rules that are more
appropriate to rural areas than the current ones,
which appear more appropriate for urban/suburban areas
of the County.
Bike Race Returns to Bonny Doon
The bicycle world’s elite racers will once again experience the joys and agonies of riding Bonny Doon’s roads when the Amgen Tour of California goes through Santa Cruz County on May 14.
Wheeling their way down from San Francisco via Highway 1, the riders will grind up Bonny Doon Road, then turn left and head up Empire Grade to Jamison Creek Road, where they will negotiate the steep tight turns onto Highway 236 in Boulder Creek. From there it’s another nasty climb up Bear Creek Road, then a race along Summit Road to Old San Jose Road for another high speed descent into Soquel and onto the finish line at Cabrillo College. All told the second stage of the Tour is 117 miles of gorgeous scenery, lung-bursting ascents and heart-stopping descents.
Noel, who is leading the local organizing efforts,
will be at the March 14 RBDA meeting to answer your
questions about the Tour, the best places to watch and
its likely effects on traffic for the hour or so it
will pass through Bonny Doon.
Arboretum Founder Ray Collett Dies
Ray Collett, who more than anyone was responsible for the invaluable resource that is the UCSC Arboretum, died on Feb. 22. A Bonny Dooner for decades, Ray died under hospice care at the Arboretum home of present director Brett Hall, one of his students and a close friend.
Ray was chosen by UCSC Chancellor Dean McHenry to turn a portion of the Great Meadow into a world-renowned botanical garden and seed bank, a dynamic living laboratory of Mediterranean climate plants.
In 1998 Ray resigned as Arboretum director to protest UCSC’s plan to take part of it for the Ranchview Terrace housing development, which also destroyed habitat of the Red-legged frog, an endangered species. He fiercely opposed the development but UCSC engineered a takeover of the Arboretum board and had its way. As a sop to Ray, he was named director emeritus.
Then-UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood said at the time, "The Arboretum encompasses the wonderful collection that it does because of Ray Collett's foresight, skill, and hard work. Dr. Collett deserves our admiration and thanks for his many years of profound dedication.”
teaching a full load of classes in Natural Sciences
and other disciplines, Ray gathered plants from
California, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and South
Africa. He was frequently honored by horticultural
societies and has a plant named after him, Ray’s
Tangerine Correa. In his retirement years Ray was a
vocal critic of UCSC’s planned expansion on the North
Campus and development in other environmentally
At our January meeting, incumbent RBDA Board members Joe Christy and Lad Wallace were re-elected by unanimous consent, but despite numerous entreaties, we were unable to find a candidate to stand for departing Board Vice Chair Pat Morrison's seat.
Shortly afterward, former RBDA chairman and Highlander Editor Ted Benhari volunteered to fill in, and he was appointed to the empty board seat and reinstalled as Highlander Editor. Ted brings 14 years of experience on the Board and even longer producing the Highlander.
According to RBDA Bylaws, the Board can appoint someone to an empty seat only until the next Annual Meeting (next January 9), when it will have to be filled by membership vote.
RBDA officers for the coming year are Joe Christy, Chair; Lad Wallace,Vice Chair; Ted Benhari, Highlander Editor; Tom Hearn, Treasurer; Jacob Pollock, Membership Coordinator; Marty Demare, Corresponding Secretary; and Salem Magarian, Recording Secretary.
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.
Click here for details!
Those who make additional contributions qualify as:
CONTRIBUTORS ($ 25+ dues)
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PATRONS ($ 100+ dues)
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