September/October 2002 issue
Red Tape and Red Tags:
Improving the Planning and Permit Process

Alvin James,
County Planning Dept. Director

Wednesday, September 11, 2002, 7:30 p.m.
Multi-Purpose Room, Bonny Doon School 

Remodeling the Planning Dept.
Red Tags and Red Tape
"Adoption of the original Bonny Doon General Plan in 1960 represented a 
landmark in the history of Santa Cruz County planning. The original plan was 
the culmination of five years of effort by the Bonny Doon people to plan for 
the future of their area. Their main objective was simple: to preserve the 
rural nature of their beautiful Bonny Doon. The plan they adopted was the 
first in Santa Cruz County."
-from the Bonny Doon General Plan Citizen’s Committee Report, 1974
"Over the years, the RBDA has been concerned with the development and implementation of the Bonny Doon General Plan..."
- The Highlander, April 1978, Pat Pfremmer, editor 

Today the foresight of the 40 Bonny Dooners who contributed to that effort has paid off: new subdivisions have been avoided and construction of new homes has proceeded at a reasonable pace. But with population growth, pressure has increased to make room for more people. Demand for student housing has made many second units out of garages, out-buildings and trailers. One consequence is that red tags have been written for unpermitted conversions, but the county has also made it easier to build second units, and included affordability requirements. But measures such as the Second Unit ordinance include requirements that limit occupancy and cap rents so landowners have limited incentive to build new units. The red tag process and other Planning Dept. procedures have been criticized by the County Civil Grand Jury and planning staff has drafted some reform measures which were presented to the Board of Supervisors on March 12 of this year. 

Who You Gonna Call??

When proposals such as metering of new wells come along, there are howls from residents who see it as an infringement on their property rights. The county’s attempt to pass a road grading ordinance was hotly debated for months before dying at the August 20 supes’ meeting.  But when your neighbor starts building her horse barn closer to your house than hers, or you really hate that ugly new fence your neighbor put up and it looks a little too high, what should you do? 

Talk to them about it, of course, but when that doesn’t solve the problem, some people turn to the county and file a complaint with the Code Enforcement division of the Planning Dept. The rules allow that complainant to remain anonymous, and the County is required to investigate. What will happen?  In the past such complaints have led to a quagmire of investigation that smothers the recipient, and ties up Planning staff time dealing with neighbors’ disputes, which in turn delays attention to serious violations that have health and safety implications or off-site impacts. 

The rules are changing. Staff suggested that the complainant who was using the County to harass his neighbor over a minor infraction would no longer remain anonymous and would instead be urged to enter into a mediation process before the complaint would be accepted. The Supervisors did not go along with the idea. They did however, approve the development of a non-enforcement policy for any structure that has existed prior to 1980.  That may not help where there is a "use" violation, and sorting out these historic uses can be a difficult problem, as at the much-loved train facilities and picnic grounds at Swanton Pacific Ranch, which was papered with red tags earlier this year. The Board of Supervisors will visit the red tag issue again at their Sept. 17 meeting. 

Affordable Housing Needed

The county is expected to enforce building codes, but the county’s efforts to clean up the illegal second units are being considered in the context of expanding the supply of affordable housing. Students and middle-to-low income residents clamor for housing and rental income is vital for many homeowners who add a rental unit to supplement fixed incomes or underfunded retirements.  The State is pressuring the County to provide more housing, and legitimizing these units would help to satisfy state requirements. But with State mandated growth comes the need to consider the massive infrastructure costs for roads, services and water. Into the thick of these difficult problems in 1997 came Planning director Alvin James, our featured speaker at the Sept. 11 RBDA meeting. 

A year ago James presented the supes with his Fiscal Year 2001-2002 Work Program. Topping the list of new projects was the development of a timetable for updating the 1994 General Plan/Local Coastal Plan. When that process begins it will be a new opportunity for area residents to examine the guidelines that have kept Bonny Doon rural and natural.

"We owe it to the generations that follow us, to preserve for them the beauty 
with which we were privileged to live"
-from the Bonny Doon General Plan Citizen’s Committee Report-1974

Leave the Heat at Home

Many of us have experienced frustration in  our dealings with the Planning Dept., which is why the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly in recent years called on the department to improve its building permit process. And though it has a long way to go, it has improved.

At the Sept. 11 RBDA meeting, Planning Dept. Director Alvin James will discuss more contemplated  improvements.

This is an opportunity for us to learn firsthand about what James and supervisors have in mind, and ask questions about the upcoming General Plan review and other policy matters. It is not an occasion to air personal grievances or anguished tales of our own building permit application experiences.

Commercial Stable Headed for Permit Hearing

A public hearing is finally expected in October on the permits applied for by Vigne Farms, a 50-horse facility on 79 acres just south of the Bonny Doon Vineyards tasting room.

The commercial stable has been in limited operation since it was red-tagged 2 years ago. Judge Robert Yonts allowed the boarding of up to 25 horses until Vigne gets its permits.

The stable’s owner, Amie Van Dine, has now supplied the Planning Department’s staff with all the information needed to process her application for Coastal, Commercial Development and Grading permits.  Van Dine leases the land from the Soper-Wheeler company, which uses it for timber production.

New Rules for Board Elections

The new RBDA Bylaws passed in May change the way members vote and are elected to the RBDA Executive Board.

The election still takes place in January at the Annual Meeting, but nominations are made at the November meeting. No further nominations are permitted at the January meeting.

Nominees must be members in good standing as of November 1. The new bylaws state that "Membership shall become effective thirty (30) days after the Association receives a complete application and dues." This means that the Membership Coordinator must receive the member’s application and dues by October 2 in order for the member to be eligible to run for the board.  If your membership has lapsed you have a grace period of thirty (30) days to reinstate the membership. So if your membership expires on September 1 you have until October 1 for the Membership Coordinator to receive your dues if you want to run for the Executive Board.

The new bylaws allow absentee ballots, which previously were not permitted.  Members can get an absentee ballot by sending the Membership Coordinator a signed request and by December 15.

Second Unit Suit Falters Again

The suit to overturn the provisions of the county’s "second unit" ordinance has been rejected again, this time by a panel of state Appeals Court judges.  By a 2 to 1 vote in late July, the judges of the 6th District in San Jose kicked out the suit on the grounds that it wasn’t filed within the required 90 days of the ordinance’s passage.

The three Santa Cruz property owners filing the suit, who are largely doing their own legal work, claim the ordinance violates various state laws by controlling rents and requiring that the units be occupied only by close family members or people who qualify for "affordable housing." Without the restrictions, there would be little justification for allowing second units on properties zoned for single family dwellings. The ordinance’s purpose is to ease the local housing crunch for families of moderate means, and at the same time legalize (i.e., collect property taxes on) the many illegal homes scattered around the county.

Agenda for the RBDA General Meeting
September 11, 2002

1. Approval of Minutes of May 10, 2002 General Meeting
2. RBDA Treasurer and Membership Coordinator reports
3. Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt report
4. Introduction of new North Coast Deputy Sheriff, Marty Eryavec
5. Featured Speaker: Alvin James, director, Santa Cruz County Planning Dept.

Summary of minutes of RBDA Executive Board Meeting
August 6, 2002

1. Minutes of Executive Board Meeting of June 14, 2002 revised and adopted.  Unanimous.
2. Approved offering $200 to help defray the costs for a joint Davenport/RBDA representative to attend a training session put on by the federal government to teach "gateway communities" (communities adjacent to parks and tourist attractions; in our case, the Coast Dairies & Land parcel) how to anticipate and deal with potential problems. Unanimous.

RMC Plant Expansion - Cast in Concrete?

Responding to requests from concerned residents of Davenport, Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt has gotten the Board of Supervisors to review the County Zoning Administrator’s approval of RMC Pacific Materials’ request to increase production at its cement plant by about 12% every year.  Usually, RMC, which owns and operates the Davenport factory (and shale and limestone quarries in Bonny Doon) usually seeks permission each year to increase output for that year alone by about 5%. This time, the company asked not only to increase production for years to come, but for a much larger increase.

The unusual request took the plant’s neighbors by surprise, and left them little time to gather information and present their own concerns.  With every production increase, the cumulative impact of more cement trucks and trains grows. According to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), this is supposed to be considered, so that a developer doesn’t divide a large project into many small ones in order to minimize the total impact on neighborhoods, resources and the environment.

The limestone quarry on which the cement plant depends is known to be rapidly depleting, and RMC’s application to expand it was held up earlier this year pending an environmental impact report (EIR) on its effects, especially in regard to the City of Santa Cruz’s Liddell Springs water supply. The EIR could take years to complete. 

So why did RMC ask for such a large ongoing production expansion? We’d like to know. Hopefully, the reasons will become clear when the supervisors review the application. The hearing date has not yet been announced, but should be at one of the supervisors’ September meetings.

New Deputy for Bonny Doon

In late August, Deputy Marty Eryavec succeeded Deputy Stefan Fish as the new law enforcement officer for the North Coast community.  Deputy Fish, who has a new assignment as a training officer, did a terrific job of getting to know Bonny Doon and Davenport and responding to our concerns. He will be missed.

Budget constraints have kept the Sheriff’s Department from assigning an officer full-time to the North Coast except in the summer, when the larger number of incidents along the beaches justify it.
Deputy Eryavec will work a patrol beat (probably in the San Lorenzo Valley, where he lives) through the winter. However, like Deputy Fish, he intends to keep up his communication with Bonny Doon and the North Coast by attending meetings, fielding concerns from the community, and responding to emergencies here.

Deputy Fish will introduce Deputy Eryavec to the community at the Sept. 11 RBDA meeting.

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
102 Sunlit Lane • Bonny Doon, CA 95060

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.

RBDA Executive Board
Chair: Ted Benhari  426-5053    | email here |
Vice Chair: Marilyn Hummel 426-3352    | email here |
Recording Secretary: Don Coyne 429-5755    | email here |
Corresponding Secretary: Miriam Beames 423-6275    | email here |
Highlander Editor: Marty Demare 457-1190    | email here |
Membership: Ben Harmon 459-7752    | email here |
Treasurer:  Chris Gordon  469-4498    | email here |
Contact the RBDA Board in one email

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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