July/August 2010 issue

Have a Great—and Fire Safe—Summer!
Next RBDA General Meeting
Wednesday September 8, 2010

Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade & Pine Flat Road

Final EIR on Expanded UCSC Water Due Soon

The final version of the Environmental Impact Report on expansion of City water and sewer services to UCSC’s Upper (or North) Campus should be released later this month, and will come to the Santa Cruz City Council for certification on July 27.

The City is acting as the lead agency preparing the EIR and sharing the cost with the University. The EIR was necessitated by the City’s and UCSC’s applications to LAFCO, the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission, for permission to expand water and sewer services. If granted, UCSC can begin developing the lower half of this natural area, which lies outside City limits and the present boundaries of its service districts. It lies, in fact, in Bonny Doon, east of the Cave Gulch neighborhood.

Ever since the plan to expand onto the Upper Campus was announced in 2005, as part of UCSC’s 2005-2020 Long Range Development Plan, the RBDA Board has been fighting to prevent or limit what would be the densest and largest development ever in Bonny Doon.

In August 2008 an agreement among UCSC, the City and the County, the RBDA and CLUE, the Coalition for Limiting University Expansion, settled several lawsuits and countersuits. Under the settlement, UCSC agreed to seek LAFCO approval for the Upper Campus development, though it reserved the right to reinstate its suit claiming that it isn’t subject to LAFCO’s jurisdiction, contrary to the opinion of LAFCO Executive Director Pat McCormick and several City and County officials.

The Draft EIR for the water and sewer service extension was issued in January, and attracted a slew of critical comments regarding conflicts with the City’s and the County’s General Plans defining the urban/rural boundary; and the impacts on flora and fauna (including some species fighting for survival), on the City’s limited water resources, on its Cave Gulch neighbors and on Empire Grade traffic, and possible contributions to global warming.

More recently, a new citizens’ group, the Community Water Coalition, filed a suit claiming that State LAFCO law requires that the agency that provides the water and sewer services, i.e., the City, must be the one to apply to LAFCO for extension of those services, rather than the recipient, the University. A first hearing on this suit is scheduled for July 7, soon after this Highlander went to press.

Prior to the City Council’s July 27 public hearing on the EIR certification, the text of the EIR will be released. The legal requirement is a minimum of 10 days for the public, applicable agencies and people who criticized the Draft EIR to review the changes. That is hardly adequate time for a document so lengthy and complicated, and with such far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on people and the environment. Additionally, many people with detailed knowledge and keen interest in the EIR may be on summer vacation. It would be a much more open and better process if the City Council hearing were to take place in mid- or late September. Unless, of course, the City Council hopes to limit public review as much as possible.

Once the EIR is certified, the LAFCO commissioners will be able to schedule their own public meeting to approve or deny the service expansion, pending any legal challenges to the Final EIR’s compliance with California Environmental Quality Act  (CEQA) requirements.

Cemex Abandons the Bonny Doon Quarry

On April Fool’s Day, Cemex told the County that they would idle the Bonny Doon limestone quarry and manage it with an Interim Management Plan until they choose to resume quarrying. With no production for more than a year, however, the quarry is legally considered abandoned. In May, Cemex officially notified the County that they were withdrawing their application to expand the quarry and instead were finally going to close it. The closure announcement brings to an end 103 years of cement manufacture with Bonny Doon shale and limestone.

Cemex had invested huge sums on planning and studies in support of their proposed quarry expansion, but according to the County Mining Code, abandonment means Cemex must begin the reclamation process. This involves stabilizing unsafe areas within the quarry, modifying the settlement ponds and revegetation of the entire area. A Reclamation Plan has been in place since 1996 and has applied to areas where operations had been completed. However, a 2008 Permit Review by the Planning Commission identified various problems needing to be remedied. New work is required to address slope stability and levee breaching issues and would take place within riparian resource areas and on steep slopes.

The work could have a potentially significant effect on the environment, so, in a letter dated June 22, County staff informed Cemex that they must submit an application to make a Major Amendment to the Reclamation Plan within 90 days. The amendments will be subject to Environmental Review, leading to a public hearing before the Planning Commission.

The new work required under the Amendment triggers an update to the cost estimates that were used to determine the amount of financial assurance held by the County. It is possible to estimate additional costs generated by the Amendment in terms of grading quantities, slope stabilization and revegetation costs, so the assurance will be revised upward, reviewed on an annual basis and adjusted to account for new lands disturbed by reclamation, and reclamation accomplished in accordance with the approved Reclamation Plan.

The legal abandonment of the limestone quarry closes a century-long chapter of Bonny Doon history. The quarry opened in 1969, replacing the San Vicente Canyon limestone quarry. The new quarry required Lone Star, the cement plant’s owner at the time. to relocate Bonny Doon Road south of Smith Grade to its present route.

Cemex stopped mining the San Vicente shale quarry, west of Bonny Doon Road and south of Redwood Meadows Ranch, a few years ago, and is supposed to be revegetating it, pending an agreement with the County.

Granite Construction’s Felton Quarry, which produces rock, gravel, sand and asphalt, is still active east of Empire Grade, and is the only mining operation left in Bonny Doon. Abandoned quarries dot the landscape here, like the San Vicente quarry, the asphalt mine in the Moore Ranch Road area (which led to the construction of what was reputedly the nation’s first asphalt road, now overgrown, down which the asphalt was brought to the coast), and others.

Neal Coonerty Shares Goals For His New Term

Supervisor Neal Coonerty handily won reelection on June 8. We asked him what his goals are for his second 4-year term. Here is what he told us:

The UCSC application at LAFCO is an important issue for Bonny Doon; my comment letter to the Draft EIR outlined a number of concerns regarding expansion in the North Campus that hopefully will be addressed in the Final EIR.

Improved Bonny Doon cell phone service: I've met with Planning Director Kathy Previsich about this and, with my office's active involvement on this issue, Verizon Wireless is moving forward with a plan to attempt to provide better service in BD.

Additional road improvements and Sheriff's services: Empire Grade has had road improvements at several locations, as has Ice Cream Grade and Bonny Doon Road, and I will continue to advocate for more road improvements in BD as well as improved responsiveness with the Sheriff's Department.

• A general goal is to see improved County services in a better budget climate. I was able to successfully advocate to reduce the impact on community programs, Green Schools programs, and child protective services in the 2010-11 County budget

• Because of my advocacy, significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the County have been undertaken (plastic bag ordinance, green building regulations, solar energy program) and I look forward to seeing these programs though. The Planning Department is working toward expanding the green building program, and the County is moving forward on the solar energy financing district (albeit slowly).

Expansion of public safety programs including alternatives to incarceration, development of a new acute psychiatric care facility and improved heath and mental health services.

A more responsive Planning Department that continues the County's strong commitment to environmental protection. My office is currently setting up a meeting (that was requested by the RBDA) with the new planning director.

Successful completion of negotiations with Cemex to assure the permanence of Davenport water and sewer services.

Resolution of the Trust for Public Lands transfer (with environmental protections in place) of the Coast Dairies Ranch property.

Walk Like an Ecologist

Is the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve open to the public? Where can we walk? These questions came up at a recent gathering of Dooners and, since there was uncertainty among those present, we think some clarification is appropriate.

The State Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the owner of the property, has published the map of the Reserve (below). It shows the closed areas, and gives rules for those entering the Reserve.

The areas on both sides of Martin Road between Ice Cream Grade and the first mailboxes (as you head toward the Fire Station) are closed at all times; they include the high rocks. The rest of the property is open from sunrise to sunset, and parking is available in the Reserve's lot (next to the Fire Station, indicated with a 'P' on the map), also from sunrise to sunset.

While there has been spectacular recovery of wildflowers since the Martin Fire in June 2008, much of the area remains fragile as the land is still suffering from the effects of burning and erosion. Walkers, in particular, should be aware that many trails are overgrown or covered with debris from the fire.  And burned trees' corpses stand waiting to topple in high winds.

So enjoy, appreciate, walk delicately, and be careful!

For those tempted to enter the closed areas, a note of caution: These places are off-limits to protect the vulnerable environment and its threatened plants and animals. For those concerned about that protection, DFG wardens patrol the Reserve, and CHP officers are responsible for parking enforcement along Martin Road and Ice Cream Grade. Sheriff's deputies back up both the DFG and CHP personnel. To help protect the Reserve from damage, you can report violations by calling DFG at 1 888 334-2258 (the CalTIP number) and Sheriff's Dispatch at 471-1121.

  • No motor vehicles or bicycles allowed
  • Stay on established trails
  • No firearms or other weapons allowed
  • Don't feed or disturb wildlife
  • Pets must be on leashes less than 10 ft. long at all times
  • No collecting plants, animals or rocks
  • Carry away all food wrappers or trash when you leave

New County Fees Chill Public Records Act Inquiries

In a step backward from transparency in government, the Board of Supervisors on June 22 voted to charge for staff time in preparing responses to Public Records Act (PRA) requests for information. The new policy goes into effect July 22.

The State law codifies that every California resident has the right to “access…information concerning the conduct of the people’s business.” Heretofore the County has charged up to 25¢ a page to copy records, but the new policy adds staff time, which can run up to $60 an hour or so, on top of the copying charges.

The first hour, or up to $25 in costs, is free. Nevertheless, PRA requests could now cost hundreds of dollars, which could make it prohibitive for the average citizen to exercise his/her rights under the PRA.

The State constitution forbids actions that would make it prohibitively expensive to obtain the records.

Exactly how the new policy will work is unclear. Will the requester be informed about, and agree to the charges before they are incurred?

While we understand that the PRA requests can be expensive for the county, and that it is trying to find ways to cut costs in a time of scarcity, we feel the public’s right to know how government works is far too important to limit to people who have deep pockets.

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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.
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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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your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.
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