May/June 2012 issue

Terroir of Bonny Doon
Ryan Beauregard
Beauregard Vineyards Winemaker, Coowner

Wednesday May 9, 2012  7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road

Bonny Doon: a Grape Place for Wine

The 38,000 acre Ben Lomond Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) located in our part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has a long, but intermittent, history of viticulture. First planted in the 1860s, the area became prominent before the century’s end, led by William Coope’s Ben Lomond Wine Company. His death caused a long dormancy, but the area was resurrected in the 1970s, inspired by the world class Pinot Noir made by McHenry Vineyard and Felton Empire. Today, this appellation doesn’t get the label recognition it deserves. In spite of reports of persistent deer and bird damage to vineyards as well as having been hit hard by Pierce’s disease, the quality of fruit sourced from its vineyards still commands respect.

Beauregard Vineyards currently is leading the charge with 60 acres under vine and producing the only wines currently carrying the “Ben Lomond Mountain” appellation designation. The 4 by 16 mile viticultural area reaches elevations up to 2,600 feet, and sits above the fog, soaking in summer sunshine. The elevation and ocean proximity ensure a cool climate, and grapes ripen over an extended growing season.

Starting with 13 acres bought in 1949, the wine business has captured the attention of the Beauregard family for 4 generations. After decades of growing mountain grown grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, the Beauregards decided to break into the wine business directly. The original 13 acres of vines are still intact today and comprise the Beauregard Ranch Vineyard, planted with mostly Pinot Noir. From Amos to Bud, Jim and Ryan, the family has expanded its activities in the industry to the point of moving their tasting room to the old Lost Weekend bar location on Pine Flat.

Jim Beauregard was responsible for establishing the Ben Lomond Mountain Appellation, with the idea that the wines of this region have their very own distinct qualities that set them apart from the rest of the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation. The uniquely cool climate in Bonny Doon lends itself to wines that have complete flavor development and evolution, vineyards with rich soils and diversified microclimates and an overall feeling of rustic land-focused viticulture.

Ryan Beauregard will speak to the RBDA membership about his vineyard operations as well as the special conditions Bonny Doon provides which allow Beauregard Vineyards to carry on in a very competitive and occasionally somewhat undifferentiated wine market.

UCSC Expansion Plans Dammed

In a dramatic turnaround at its March 7 meeting, LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission, inserted conditions into its earlier approval of the extension of water service to UCSC’s North Campus that could delay development there for years.

At the urging of LAFCO Commissioner (and County Supervisor) John Leopold, the commissioners by a vote of 4 to 3 voted to prevent the Santa Cruz Water Dept. from delivering water to the North Campus until the City completes a Habitat Conservation Plan agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the State Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG), and receives a “take permit” for endangered Coho salmon and steelhead. Violations of that permit can result in costly fines and lawsuits. This agreement will severely limit the amount of water that can be diverted from the San Lorenzo River and North Coast streams in order to preserve habitat for these fish. The waterways are the main sources of the City’s water supply, and the agreement could curtail it by as much as 20 or 25%.

The reasoning behind this is that until the agreement is completed, the amount of surplus water the City has to supply UCSC’s growth is very uncertain, and doesn’t meet LAFCO’s policy that any new development must meet the criteria of having “an adequate, reliable and sustainable” water source.

The City has been negotiating (some say stalling) an agreement with NMFS and DFG for over 10 years, claiming that adequate studies of the fishes’ needs haven’t been completed. At the March 7 hearing, City Water Director Bill Kocher stated that he thinks an agreement can be reached within 2 years.

In addition to the new condition regarding the Habitat Conservation Plan, the commissioners also put some teeth into another condition they approved at their Dec. 7 meeting, that all additional water—UCSC wants upward of 100 million gallons a year (mgy)—be offset by water conservation by the Water Dept.’s other 92,000 customers. If the conservation doesn’t materialize, the Water Dept. will have to limit UCSC’s water to the amount it used in the prior year. Further, the commissioners cut by 30 million gallons the amount of water that would be used as a baseline for the campus, from 206 million gallons a year to 176 million.
This triggered a possible legal problem, because the City is bound by a Comprehensive Settlement Agreement (CSA) that settled numerous lawsuits, to use the 206 mgy as the baseline for how much extra UCSC would have to pay for the increased amount of water it uses.

The LAFCO commissioners voted to postpone final approval of the stiffer conditions until its legal counsel can explain what the ramifications are of the increased baseline figure. This is expected to take place at the June 6 LAFCO meeting.

Besides the above, the commissioners also voted to require UCSC to prepare a report on the feasibility of using new or existing wells on campus to provide water for irrigating athletic fields, the Farm, and landscaping.

At the March 7 meeting, it was heartwarming and encouraging to see poignant and well researched testimony in opposition to campus expansion given by more than 40 UCSC students and graduates under the auspices of the Long Range Resistance, who pledged to keep battling to preserve the natural environment of the North Campus on scientific, educational and spiritual grounds.
So, what are the implications for North Campus expansion from the new conditions, assuming they are ratified at the June 6 meeting? Under the CSA, UCSC doesn’t have to build the additional housing on campus it agreed to until and unless it gets the additional water it needs. Depending on how much water the City loses under the Habitat Conservation Plan agreement, this water might have to come from an expanded version of the proposed desalination plant.

However, there are large obstacles to the plant’s construction, including a rejection by City voters and environmental issues. UCSC could try to get the State legislature to make it exempt from LAFCO’s oversight, or it could reinstate a lawsuit that claimed it was already exempt. Or it could just try to live with the reduced water supply.In any case, UCSC doesn’t have the money now and in the foreseeable future to begin North Campus development, although it is trying to get around the State’s dire economic straits by soliciting private funding. Whether the stricter new LAFCO conditions simply delay the development of the pristine North Campus in Bonny Doon, or curtail it, remains to be seen.

If the commissioners follow through on June 6 it will represent a justification of the RBDA’s and CLUE’s (the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion) insistence that UCSC apply to LAFCO for extension of City water service to the North Campus be included in the CSA. Under State law, UCSC is exempt from local land use regulations, and as a State level agency LAFCO was seen as the only opportunity for the local community to command some legal control over what would (if it’s all built!) be the largest development—3 million square feet of new buildings—in the history of Santa Cruz County.

Big Step Forward for Coast Dairies

After 14 years of study, planning, wrangling, worrying, hoping, dreaming and legal action, the coast now seems much clearer for the transfer of 5,750 gorgeous acres of coastal bluffs and forests to BLM, the federal Bureau of Land Management. On April 12, the California Coastal Commission gave its blessing to the transfer.

Rising above Highway 1 from Laguna Creek 7.5 miles north to Scott Creek, the land includes farms, coastal prairie and redwood, Douglas fir, madrone and oak forests. Its acquisition in 1998 from a real estate speculator by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), largely using Packard Foundation money, raised hopes that not only would this precious hunk of gorgeous North Coast scenery be preserved forever, but that the public would be able to explore and enjoy it on foot, horse and bicycle.

The portion of the property oceanside of Highway 1 was given to State Parks several years ago, and the beaches opened to surfers, swimmers, sun worshipers and shell collectors. But concerns about use restrictions, BLM’s management (Would control be wielded from Washington? Would    natural gas extraction and mining be permitted?) repeatedly delayed transfer of the inland portion. In the first few years, after analyzing its resources, TPL gathered an advisory committee of individuals and interest groups to advise on its management plan. Perhaps fed up with the wrangling among the diverse interests, or out of fear that the process would careen out of its control, TPL abruptly disbanded the advisory group after a couple of years.

Since then TPL has almost desperately sought to turn the land over to BLM: managing the vast property was costing it (reportedly) over a million dollars a year. Nonetheless, citizens were concerned about many issues: What would happen to the farmers who leased their plots? Will Davenport’s water rights be ensured? Could the fields that border the town be limited to organic farming methods? Are restrictions on offroad vehicles, timber harvesting and mining strong enough to be enforced? People, including the RBDA, kept putting up roadblocks to the transfer to BLM, which had to clear everything with its own bureaucracy in Washington.

In large part credit for ensuring that the proper restrictions are now in place goes to Bonny Doon attorney Jonathan Wittwer and
his associates at Wittwer & Parkin, Bill Parkin and Gary Patton, who selflessly and indefatigably kept the pressure on to require TPL to get a Coastal Development Permit and clad the restrictions in iron before transferring it to BLM, which now must write and have the Coastal Commission approve its management plan. In the end it was Wittwer who crafted a strong legal argument to the commission staff that persuaded it to include his language in the transfer deal approval to shield it from destructive uses and assure that protection of Davenport’s water was on the radar.

Bordering on the north and east with the 8,500 acres of CEMEX timberlands, which was recently acquired by a syndicate of land preservation organizations, Coast Dairies fills the gaps, or nearly so, to cement together a vast stretch of unspoiled northern Santa Cruz County, including Wilder Ranch, the Cal Poly lands in Swanton, Henry Cowell State Park, and the upper UCSC campus. A few issues regarding the subdivision remain, but the door now looks wide open to eternal protection and public enjoyment of what is truly a world class nature preserve.

Open Space Easements: Trading Tax Breaks for Land Preservation

Two statutes help keep areas like Bonny Doon rural and natural by offering landowners greatly reduced taxes in return for keeping their properties largely undeveloped. The vehicle for this is the Open Space Easement (OSE), regulated by County Code 13.10.46113.10.463 and State Code 5107051097. Under these codes a landowner may still be allowed to build a house and a limited number of accessory structures, like a barn and/or workshop, if it is so stated in the Open Space Easement for that particular property.

The buildings must conform to County regulations, including County Code section 13.10.325, which imposes tighter restrictions on houses over 7,000 sq.ft.

Each OSE agreement between the County and a landowner is unique to a single parcel, although they tend to follow the same general outline. These agreements run for 10 years from the date of signing and are automatically renewed each year thereafter for another 10 years. If a landowner wishes to end the agreement, he/she has to give notice to the County. Because of the 10year rolling renewal, the agreement (and tax benefits) will end 10 years from the date of notice. There are currently at least 29 active OSEs in Bonny Doon and approximately 170 in the whole County.

In order to approve a landowner request for an OSE, the County must decide that preservation of the land is in the County's interest and that the land is worth the expense of public funds (i.e., the loss of taxes). As per California Code 51080, the land must meet one of three conditions. In its natural (i.e., existing) state:

1. It must have scenic value to the public, or be valuable as a watershed or as a wildlife preserve;

2. It will add to the amenities of living in neighboring urbanized areas or will help preserve the rural character of the area in which the land is located; and

3. The public interest will otherwise be served in a manner recited in the County resolution accepting the OSE application.

In order to preserve the natural and scenic character of the land, no development is allowed unless explicitly designated in the OSE and unless the building of such structures will not affect the open space purposes for which the OSE was granted (CA code 51075d).

The County may not issue a permit that violates the OSE or CA Code (5107051097) and has a compulsory obligation to get an injunction stopping any development should it occur. The public has the right to obtain an injunction should the County fail to do so.
In an interesting case now under review by the Planning Dept., a Bonny Doon landowner whose parcel is bound by an OSE has applied to build a house that is over 9,000 sq. ft., plus 8 accessory buildings. The applicant is arguing that certain very narrow interpretations of habitable floor area really make the house under the 7,000 sq. ft. threshold of the Large Dwelling Permit statute. On Jan. 23 the Planning Dept. clarified language in that statute referring to “habitable area,” so that it is now clear that the proposed house is subject to that statute.

The Jan. 23 policy memo stated that “the key focus of the regulation is to review how the home is designed and sited from the vantage point of views to the property and the...proposed structure from the roads and neighboring properties.” The County may require changes in the building plan such as resiting any structures, house redesign, adding privacy screens, reducing floor area, or other measures designed to preserve neighboring property privacy. County Code 13.10.325d provides 11 specific criteria that a large house must meet to obtain a building permit.

Another very interesting development provoked by the application for the huge house is that the County for many years has ignored a part of the OSE statute that requires an Open Space Committee review building applications on properties subject to OSEs. No such committee exists, and hasn’t for a long time. In the interest of fair and public review of proposals to develop on properties held in OSEs, the RBDA Board has asked Supervisor Neal Coonerty to look into the matter. In turn he has requested County Counsel Rahn Garcia to advise him on what exactly an Open Space Committee’s role is, how it should be appointed and by whom, as well as when, if ever, such a committee existed.

CEMEX Redwoods Land Update

The good news for all of us eager to legally explore our newest local treasure, the now preserved 8,500 acre CEMEX Redwoods land, the scientific survey and natural resource inventory is underway, and, according to our sources at Sempervirens and Santa Cruz Land Trust, so far there have been no surprises or complicating findings. The goal is to have this fast tracked as much as possible. This careful work is the foundation for longterm preservation, riparian protection, and natural wildlife corridor habitat connections.

After the survey is completed, hopefully in early summer, the legal contracts for Conservation Easements can be established. The easement will be held by the Land Trust and Save the Redwoods League and the fee title by Sempervirens and POST, the Peninsula Open Space Trust. Pending these formal agreements the owners will be seeking state funding.

There is active discussion about what to name this property. Don’t expect CEMEX to be part of it.

Many of the same restrictive easements the Coastal Commission approved for Coast Dairies (see story on page 2) are being planned for this property. Basically there will be no development, no motorized access, and only careful sustainable agriculture, grazing, and timbering allowed, if any. There are already discussions underway about linking the 15,000 acres of North Coast watershed of Coast Dairies and the CEMEX land to coordinate public access.

All of the partners welcome public comment. Terry Corwin, Executive Director of the Santa Cruz Land Trust, and Reed Holdermann, Executive Director of Sempervirens, gave a very upbeat and informative report at our March 14 RBDA General Meeting. The next formal public update and time for comment will be on Wednesday, May 2, 68 PM at the Pacific Elementary School in Davenport, which may have already happened when you read this.

Reminder: Bike Race in Bonny Doon May 14

On Monday, May 14, worldclass bicycle riders will again pit themselves against the steep roads of Bonny Doon as they race from San Francisco to Soquel in the second stage of the Amgen Tour of California.

From Highway 1 the riders will power up Bonny Doon Road, turn left on Empire Grade and race up to Jamison Creek Road. The Bonny Doon section will only take about an hour and traffic will be halted in a rolling manner in front of and behind the riders. The uphill sections in Bonny Doon offer many good opportunities to watch, and spectators will likely be lining the roads in certain areas. For more information on the tour and how it might affect your travel, go to

Going Outside? 1st Check this Site

The weather on any day in Bonny Doon, at least from October through April, our so-called wet season, can vary from summerlike sunshine to torrential rain, or even snow. Want to know how to plan or dress, or keep up with what’s been happening? Of course you do, since our gardens, activities and conversations are so dependent on it. The best place to do this? Try A “labor of love” by Barry Blanchard for more than 10 years, the website is a datalover’s dream of info ranging from current temperature, wind direction and rainfall graphs (his equipment is at about 1740 ft., at the intersection of Martin Rd. and Ice Cream Grade), links to forecasts, and monthly and annual summaries. And a lot more. There is even a chart showing California earthquakes in the past week. Check it out before you venture out.

Actions of the RBDA Board     April 4, 2012:
1. Authorize the purchase of copies of the CEMEX Redwoods property deeds for $165. Passed unanimously.
2. Form an exploratory committee to study the feasibility of forming a nonprofit tax deductible contribution corporation to support the natural environment and community welfare of Bonny Doon, and to recommend any changes needed in the RBDA Bylaws to improve communications and decrease expenses. Passed unanimously.

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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 
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