|New Fire Clearance Code May Affect You
Effective January 1, 2005, the minimum brush clearance around your house, barn, or other structures has increased from 30 to 100 feet. Your insurance company can now require you to maintain a firebreak even greater than 100 feet.
This is the result of Senate Bill 1369 that Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law in September 2004. The bill amended Public Resources Code (PRC) 4291 and Government Code (GC) 51182.
At the Sept. 14 RBDA meeting, an official of the California Dept. of Forestry will explain the new regulations, and answer your questions. In summary, if you own, lease, control, or maintain any kind of structure in a mountainous area, or land covered by forest, brush, grass, or other flammable materials, you must now create a 100-foot firebreak by removing and clearing away any combustible growth‹which excludes ornamental landscaping plants if they are not likely to provide a rapid fire transmission from native growth to the building. You do not have to remove all the trees around your house if you reduce the ³ladder² fuels, i.e. brush and low-growing branches that allow flames to reach the upper canopy. Fines for non-compliance range from $100 to $500.
More on PRC 4291 is available at fire.ca.gov/php/education_publiccode4291.php. This includes a link to the full text of PRC 4291, which contains a number of more detailed regulations about overhanging tree limbs, cover screen size for chimneys, permissible height of grass, and maintenance of your roof.
Has your mail service improved? John Holden, who used to have all three Bonny Doon contract routes, is now down to one‹route number 63, which covers roads in the Pine Flat and Smith Grade areas. Reports are that with just one route to cover, his service has improved somewhat. Those of us on contract route 62, which covers Empire Grade and all side roads from Felton-Empire up to Lockheed, are now regularly getting our mail by mid-afternoon thanks to new contractor Brian Taylor, a retired USPS worker. Marilyn Correa, who has held contracts for Bonny Doon routes in the past, now has contract route 61, which covers lower Empire Grade up to Felton-Empire. Direct any questions or concerns to Delivery Supervisors Theresa Ruiz or Jae An, or Post Master Don Cattivera at the Santa Cruz Main Post Office, 426-8184.
Mosquito Abatement Program Comes to Bonny Doon
Results from the mail-in ballot on the North County Mosquito and Disease Control Measure were certified by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors at a public hearing on August 2. The results showed a "weighted support" of over 70% of property owners for the proposed $12 annual assessment for mosquito abatement. (Ballots were weighted according to the amount of assessment each resident would pay; where a resident with multiple properties or a business would be assessed more than $12, their ballot was weighted accordingly.) It’s estimated that the new assessment will generate about $710,000 for the 2005-2006 fiscal year.
South County residents approved a similar ballot last year. The Santa Cruz Mosquito and Vector Control (SCMVC), a County Service Area administered by the Agricultural Commissioner, will now serve the entire county. (A vector is any insect or animal that can carry disease agents.) Funds from the assessment will be used to control mosquitoes, give advice about rodent and stinging insect control, and combat new and existing diseases, such as West Nile virus, Encephalitis, Malaria, Dog Heartworm, and Lyme disease.
We spoke with SCMVC Manager Paul Binding to find out what measures might be used in Bonny Doon. Will we need to take cover indoors from planes or trucks doing general spraying as just recently happened in Sacramento? For now, the good news is no. This type of "fogging," used to kill adult mosquitoes, can only be done if a public health emergency is declared and the County Board of Supervisors approves the spraying. In South County there has been some use of helicopters to apply larvicide into lakes and sloughs, but Bonny Doon does not have any body of water large enough to warrant this method.
Do expect to have SCMVC staff actively Mosquitoes investigating and mapping potential breeding grounds in the area, dip-sampling ponds and ditches and setting overnight traps to measure ambient levels of mosquitoes. Binding said that staff may knock on your door and ask to search your property for mosquito breeding sources, leaving a card and information pamphlet if you’re not home. Staff will return routinely to check known breeding grounds.
Breeding grounds can be anything—a pond, a septic field, a small container of standing water, rain gutters, even rain water in tree cavities. There are 15 different species of mosquitoes in Santa Cruz, each taking advantage of a different type of breeding ground.
Mosquito breeding festivities are year-round. Springtime brings flood-water breeders. Summertime features stagnant water breeders, the ones most likely to spread diseases like West Nile and viral encephalitis. Treehole mosquito species, the most common cause of Dog Heartworm and the most common species in Bonny Doon, breed spring through fall in cavities and voids of trees (hardwoods and redwood stumps are their favorites) and in house gutters. Treeholes are the most challenging to control‹you need to find the actual tree hole. SCMVC will fill the hole for you with a polymer that expands to absorb water, then collapses back to granule form and remains there to work again next year (similar to what you can buy from a nursery as a soil amendment). Check with a tree specialist before using any other type of filler (e.g., sand, concrete, or construction foam). These may damage the tree by trapping moisture in the cavity.
SCMVC will notify you of any problems they find on your property, then work with you to locate and eliminate breeding sources. They prefer to work in cooperation with property owners on this, but they are authorized under the California Health and Safety Code to abate chronic nuisance breeding. You can contact SCMVC directly at 454-2590 to request help with high mosquito activity in your area. Most importantly, we are asked to report any dead birds so that the State can test for West Nile; call 1-877-WNV-BIRD. (See http://www.westnile.ca.gov/ for the latest statistics on prevalence of West Nile in California: to date, 370 people infected with 8 deaths, 277 horses infected with 120 deaths, and over 1,700 infected dead birds.)
The web site agdept.com/mvc.html provides additional information specific to the SCMVC program in Santa Cruz, including the types of "integrated mosquito management" techniques that might be used. Binding describes all of these as relatively non-toxic, non-persistent, and low impact on the food chain. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis is based on dead bacteria that rupture the larvae when ingested, bacillus sphaericus on a common soil bacteria (a "Google" search on these names will get you EPA sheets and other data). Another option is methoprene, a synthetically-made juvenile insect hormone that keeps mosquitoes from reaching the adult (biting) stage. Mosquito fish, which eat the larvae, are available for anyone with a standing body of water, such as an unmaintained swimming pool, spa, horse trough, ornamental pond, or fountain.
What are CSAs and Who’s Running the Show?
Some questions have arisen in our meetings about County Service Areas
(CSAs), what they do, and who can collect money for their services. Here’s
a quick summary, but infinite detail is available at
The following information was given to us by Nancy Hoffman, an Administrative Analyst in the Dept. of Public Works; she should be able to answer anything not cleared up by the DPW website.
A CSA is a private group of people which forms a contract with the Public Works Dept. of the County, which in turn is ultimately responsible to our County Supervisors. A CSA can be formed by a group of County residents who want to further some particular regional goal, such as maintaining a road not regularly under County jurisdiction, or funding a library, etc. The group goes through some organizational formalities spelled out on the website, but basically is autonomous about electing its own officers and voting on how much it wants to spend on the project.
The most common CSAs in Bonny Doon are for roads, such as the well-functioning Sunlit Lane CSA. The formation of a road CSA requires over 50% of all the homeowners on the road to approve it, decisions after that are majority rule at the local meetings. It behooves you to attend the meetings and know what’s going on in your own CSA. There are large differences in the rates and methods with which various CSAs have decided to tax themselves. Some groups vote to allow the County to automatically tie the CSA assessment to the consumer price index, which allows the County to raise the rate accordingly without another vote. Some CSAs tax themselves informally and collect a local kitty from which to do small jobs. The only way that your property tax bill can be increased for a CSA assessment is if the local group of neighbors votes for it at its road meeting.
If the County is collecting taxes, it keeps track of the funds and holds them until the CSA local leader advises them to release funds. The procedure for that increases in formality depending on how much is to be spent. For roads, if the request is less than $4,000, the County writes a purchase order and residents on the road find someone to repair it. For larger amounts, the County requires an informal (for $4,000 to $10,000) or formal (over $10,000) bidding process.
The only major thing that a road group gives up is the right to close the road to the public; in return, the CSA gets someone to do all the paperwork for a nominal fee.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is required by State law to perform a review of all municipal-type services in the County, including CSAs, once every five years. The draft of its most recent review was released on July 1 for public review and raised some concerns among local CSAs. Among the information included in the review are levels of funding and deferred maintenance on each CSA, observations about the increasing cost of having the County provide centralized services for community CSAs, proposals for how to manage cost, and an acknowledgment of all the benefits keeping this centralized provides.
See www.santacruzlafco.org/CSR.html for full text of their review to assess if there are implications for your CSA.
City Water Dept: Fish Don’t Need Water
There may be no one alive who remembers Bonny Doon’s Liddell, Laguna, and Majors creeks as they were before being dammed and their flow piped into Santa Cruz. The construction of the dams dates to an era when resource exploitation ignored the environmental considerations that we now understand to be of vital importance to us and all living things.
In the years since that era, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) were enacted to create a regulatory framework for preservation and restoration of resources critical to species survival. Agencies responsible for implementing the requirements of the ESA and CEQA include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the state Department of Fish and Game (DFG). These agencies have been pressing the City of Santa Cruz for years, urging it to conduct its diversion practices so that enough water would remain in the streams to preserve habitat for the fish and other riparian life.
The City deferred taking such action while it was in the process of preparing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) as required by the ESA. That process has dragged on for years, but now as it nears its end agency consultation has turned to confrontation. Instead of making plans that would accommodate the water needs of fish and wildlife, Water Dept. Director Bill Kocher wrote to NMFS to ask that the streams NOT be designated as Critical Habitat for endangered species. In June the City Council authorized up to $200,000 for a San Francisco legal firm to negotiate the HCP requirements.
There have been signs of viable coho salmon spawning activity recently in the City’s water supply streams. Local residents spotted dead, spawned out, salmonids in Laguna Creek this past winter and NMFS researchers found Coho salmon young in the stream this spring. Yet, as the City advances its planning process for the rehabilitation of the pipelines, it is ignoring modern habitat protection and plans to continue to divert ALL the water from its spring and diversion sites. This is particularly disappointing in the context of the City’s recently completed Integrated Water Plan, which calls for construction of a desalination plant. When needed, desalinated water could replace water currently taken from our streams, giving them a chance to recover and become a place for wildlife to flourish again.
The final EIR is currently scheduled to be reviewed by the City Water Commission at their October 10 meeting (7pm, City Council Chambers). If you wish to comment at this meeting, be sure to check ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/wt/wc/wc.html before the meeting to see if the review is still scheduled.
Prolonging Landfill Life
There have been two important victories in reducing solid waste and prolonging the life of current landfills. First, Santa Cruz County will soon begin mandated recycling of 22 materials. Most are currently accepted in the curbside program, but others such as mattresses, gypsum board, concrete, asphalt, tile, porcelain, and appliances are now accepted at County landfills. Starting in January 2006, haulers will place notice tags on containers with appreciable amounts of recyclable materials in January 2007, they will begin refusing to collect these containers and gate staff at the landfills will turn back self-haul loads with recyclables mixed in.
The second and most recent victory is County Board of Supervisors’ approval of Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt’s proposal to have the Planning Director evaluate the Green Building Program proposed by the Ecology Action Center and report back to the Board within three months on how to best proceed with developing such a program for the County. It’s estimated that building construction and operations account for over 40% of the world’s total energy consumption (Worldwatch Institute). The Green Building Program aims to reduce resource consumption and consider total life cycle of materials used in construction, ultimately keeping significant construction waste out of landfills.
To help lobby for these and other alternatives to a new landfill, contact Citizens for Waste Alternatives (Karin Grobe, KGrobe@pacbell.net, or Jane Cavanaugh, 469-3751).
Lockheed Martin has finally acceded to a request by CCALM (Community Concerned About Lockheed Martin) for a meeting at their Empire Grade facility to talk about environmental concerns and other issues. CCALM has invited representatives of the RBDA and the Bonny Doon Fire Team to attend the Sept. 14 meeting to discuss the transportation, storage and disposal of hazardous or polluting substances, and other pertinent subjects. A report on the Lockheed meeting will be made at the RBDA public meeting that same night.
Winery Site for Sale
The Redwood Meadows Winery site, off Bonny Doon Road just south of the intersection with Pine Flat, is up for sale. In 2000, the County Planning Commission approved a permit for a winery, tasting room, and small events at this site. The owners, Bill and Robin Cunningham, originally had plans that included leasing it out for events of up to 250 people. Opposed by neighbors and the RBDA, the plans for events were scaled back both in number and size by the Planning Commission, which set a maximum of 50 guests no more than twice a month. Five years later, with no development of vineyards, winery, or tasting room done on the property, the 47-acre site is up for sale for close to $4 million.
RMC Timber Harvest
RMC is planning to submit a Timber Harvest Plan to CDF (California Department of Fire) for 580 acres in the San Vicente Creek watershed, to be harvested over a period of two years. The public comment period will begin once the plan has been accepted for filing by CDF.
Sept. 14, 2005 - RBDA Meeting Agenda
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