September/October 2013 issue

Opening CEMEX Redwoods to the Public: the Process
Bryan Largay, Conservation Director, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County

Open Forum: Your Vision for Bonny Doon in 2023?

Wednesday, September 11,
2013, 7:30 p.m.
Bonny Doon School Multipurpose Room
Ice Cream Grade and Pine Flat Road

Planning for Public Access to “CEMEX Redwoods”

At the Sept. 11 RBDA meeting, Bryan Largay, Conservation Director for the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County will launch the public engagement process for planning recreational and educational access to the CEMEX Redwoods property. He will describe how the Land Trust will be gathering public input, and what the Land Trust and its conservation partners in the 8,532-acre property will do with information.
Bryan says that he expects it will take about 2 years to formulate the plan and obtain any easements needed to open to the public parts of the property, which stretches from Highway One to Empire Grade.

Bryan will talk about the many opportunities provided by the property, and how the planning process will strive to develop a plan that provides access while protecting natural resources but at the same time is financially sound. Timber harvesting on part of the property, which has been logged many times by its various owners through the years, will continue. We are assured by Sempervirens that it will be done in an environmentally sound manner. Big Creek Lumber has done the logging for many years and is expected to continue. The protection of the CEMEX Redwoods property (a name which we are very happy to say will definitely change) is a large scale and complex project. The four Conservation Partners involved with the project, and their areas of responsibility are as follows:

•    The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is the lead on the Public Access Plan.
•    Save the Redwoods League is the lead on the Conservation Plan.
•    The Peninsula Open Space Trust is the lead on the Management Plan.
•    The Sempervirens Fund is the lead on the Timber Harvest Plan. In addition:
•    The Peninsula Open Space Trust and Sempervirens Fund own the property.
•    The Save the Redwoods League will hold the Conservation Easement.
•    The Land Trust will lead implementation of public access.

Every Home a Castle...or a Nuisance?

The area around the intersections of Pine Flat and Bonny Doon roads may become pretty busy on dry season weekends if all the property owners who are seeking or may seek event permits receive them.

Beauregard Vineyards’ (10 Pine Flat Rd.) application for various events and new uses has been much discussed in meetings and in these pages. Some of the events held there have been in violation of the property’s use permit, obtained by its former owner, Bonny Doon Vineyards. It was only after neighbors pressured the County into issuing a red tag that the Beauregards sought a new, expanded permit.

Teresa Sabankaya, owner of the locally famed “castle” house at 4286 Bonny Doon Rd., about 1/5 of a mile from Beauregard Vineyards, has applied to rent out her property for outdoor weddings of up to 100 guests 12 times a year between May and October, and unlimited smaller functions with up to 10 guests at a time.

Following what seems to be a Bonny Doon tradition of asking forgiveness rather than permission, Sabankaya, too, has had more than a dozen unpermitted weddings there already. Again, after complaints from neighbors, the County issued a red tag, so Sabankaya applied for a permit. Recognizing that canceling the remaining 5 weddings scheduled through October would be a hardship for the betrothed couples and their guests who have made plans far in advance, the Planning Dept. is allowing the events to take place, but is considering putting limits on the hours and amplified music.

A bit down the road from the winery is Redwood Meadows Ranch. In 1998, RMR’s developer, Bill Cunningham, applied for a permit to hold events for up to 250 people on his 20-acre agricultural reserve parcel on the ranch. He planned to plant grapes and start a winery. The scale of the proposal, in particular the large events, was opposed by his RMR neighbors and the RBDA. Eventually Cunningham received permission to hold winery-related events for no more than 49 people at a time. Nothing was ever built or planted, the permit lapsed, and the agricultural parcel has been for sale for several years. It is possible that Cunningham or a new owner could try to re-open the permit, or apply for even larger events.

Finally, just a few feet from the entrance to RMR, is the former Vigné Farms, now Bonny Doon Equestrian Park, near the intersection of Bonny Doon Rd. and Smith Grade, which is under a long-term lease to Jim Beauregard. On that site in recent years there have been large events like riding competitions and the Bonny Doon Art & Wine Festival. Except for this summer’s A&W festival, none of the events has been permitted.

Your RBDA Board is highly concerned about the impacts of so many possible events, especially on weekends, in such a concentrated area, especially events that involve alcohol. We feel that, certainly cumulatively, they provide the potential for a lot more traffic and noise, could jeopardize public safety and are not in keeping with the residential, rural nature of Bonny Doon.

After much discussion, we have formulated a position that we are opposed to any permits for any site that is not already specifically licensed to host commercial events, and marketed to people who aren’t residents of Bonny Doon. While we appreciate that property in Bonny Doon is expensive and it is not unreasonable for someone to want or need to exploit the economic value of their house and land, sometimes that effort unfairly reduces the livability and property values of their neighbors, creates increased traffic on Bonny Doon’s narrow, curvy roads, and deteriorates the quality of life in our quiet mountain community.

For those reasons we are opposed to the Castle House application, which is now undergoing Planning Dept. review. Wanda Williams, Planning Dept. Assistant Director, told us that they will carefully look at a number of issues, including traffic, safety, parking, noise, waste disposal, and American Disabilities Act compliance, and the cumulative impacts in relation to the other venues within a mile.

The application must be approved at a Zoning Administrator public hearing, and also get a Coastal Permit. The ZA can decide to approve the application in full, or limit its scope and apply certain conditions to it, like prohibiting amplified music. The ZA’s decision can be appealed to the Planning Commission and the Coastal Commission.

Santa Cruz Water Sources Drying Up as Desalination Plan Withers

With the Santa Cruz Mayor and City Manager issuing a statement on Aug. 20 calling for postponement of the pursuit of desalinated water, prospects for increasing the City’s water supply look grim.

Bad news for City water customers (and those of the Soquel Creek Water District, the City’s partner in desal) is good news for Bonny Dooners opposed to UCSC’s massive development plan for its North Campus. Approval of the City and UCSC’s applications to extend the City water district to the Local Agency Formation Commission to include the North Campus has been held up by the rejection of the Environmental Impact Report for the project by the State 6th District Court of Appeals. During the year or so it took the suit over the EIR to wind its way through the legal system, LAFCO commissioners were debating the effects on the City’s water supply, and how to ensure that there would be enough water for all the City’s customers.

As the LAFCO commissioners wrangled over what conditions to impose on possible approval, the City’s (and undoubtedly, the university’s) hope was that the proposed desalination plant would be approved. But opponents of the plant garnered enough signatures to place a measure on the ballot, approved by a 72% majority, to require that the desal plant’s construction would have to be approved by the voters. When the draft EIR was published this summer, it caused such an outpouring of objections that the plant’s backers were stunned, despite the crushing vote against desal last November. Perhaps the desal plant’s proponents are worried about their re-election prospects?

It is also perhaps not coincidental that longtime City Water Director Bill Kocher announced in early August that he would retire in September. He undoubtedly has been frustrated by his failure to enlarge the City’s water supply, despite numerous efforts over 27 years.

In fact, the City is now facing a shrinking, rather than growing, water supply, as it must agree to take as much as 800 million gallons a year less (about 25% of its annual supply) from the San Lorenzo River and North Coast streams in order to help restore Coho salmon and steelhead habitat, which is required by the federal Endangered Species Act.

Referring to the supply cutback, Kocher told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “I don’t think we’ve done a good job describing what’s to come. We were so focused on the solution that we didn’t get people to understand the gravity of the problem.”

In fact, Kocher and the City have used delaying tactics for years to forestall the cuts they knew were coming, and even disingenuously downplayed the impact. No wonder that people couldn’t “understand the gravity of the problem.”

The pique of the National Marine Fisheries Service negotiators at this double-dealing game was evident in the comments submitted in response to the draft EIR for the desal plant, “Unfortunately the Alternatives Analysis does not appear to thoroughly evaluate alternatives recommended by National Marine Fisheries Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife through more than 10 years of technical assistance provided to the City.”

With the desal plant almost certainly shelved for now, and the 25% supply cutback a virtual certainty, the LAFCO commissioners will be hard put to justify approving 100 to 150 million gallons a year for UCSC’s North Campus expansion.

Ironically, Mayor Hilary Bryant and City Manager Martin Bernal said in their Aug. 20 statement that they will ask the City Council to support a “community involvement plan” to get water customers’ ideas for how to conserve water and cut usage. It was a citizen group, Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, that vigorously opposed the very expensive and energy intensive desal plan and proposed several ways that water conservation could be accomplished. Perhaps the City should simply ask Desal Alternatives to spearhead the “community involvement plan,” since they have been working on just that for more than 2 years.

Despite the City government leaders backing off from pursuit of the desal plant, apparently they still want to complete the final EIR, at a cost projected to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is an example of the “sunk cost fallacy,” the well-studied syndrome where people who have already spent money on something irrationally continue to throw good money after bad. The City and the Soquel water district have already poured $15 million into the desal effort. Time for some new leadership at City Hall?

Horrible Idea, Resurrected

In an ominous note for Bonny Dooners, well regarded (at least until now) local geologist Gerald Weber concluded 7 pages of comments on the desal plant draft EIR with the statement, “How can the dEIR be accepted as adequate when there is essentially no detailed study and assessment of the ground water potential along the north coast?” Back in the mid-90s City Water Director Bill Kocher advocated a plan, based on Weber’s own studies, to drill test wells near the bottom of Back Ranch Rd. to augment the city water supply. Bonny Dooners who feared their water would be sucked off by massive City wells hired Weber to help oppose the plan, because he had subsequently decided that his original studies were flawed. In fact, his detailed testimony at a City Water Commission hearing was the principal reason the plan was dropped. Now, it appears he is trying to resurrect it. The project was killed in March 1997, but our words in the January 1997 Highlander “...this Freddy Krueger of a project won’t stay dead” may come back to haunt us. Who should be believed, the Gerry Weber of 1996, 1997, or 2013? Scary.

Beauregard Vineyards Expansion Application Still Incomplete

The Santa Cruz County Planning Dept. has granted Beauregard Vineyards a 60- day extension, to Oct. 21, to supply the information it has requested in order to begin processing and reviewing its permit expansion application.

The Beauregards are asking to increase the quantity of wine to be produced, change the use of some of the property from commercial to residential use, and expand the number and size of commercial events allowed on the property. The application was submitted on May 22.
The RBDA Board has discussed the matter extensively over the past few months. Discussion has revolved around neighborhood impacts, commercialization precedents, environmental protection, and adherence to the letter of the law. We acknowledge the community-building aspects residents have enjoyed by attending various events. From experience the Board has learned to wait and see what an application to the County actually contains; otherwise the Board ends up only relying on the applicant’s representations as well as “Dooner Rumor” rather than the specifics the County will act on.

It is appropriate to say that there are significant concerns that, if addressed in the completed application in an unsatisfactory or inadequate manner, would lead the Board to take a clear and public negative position regarding the application. The Board made its displeasure with plans to rent out the winery for weddings and similar events known to the Beauregards, and those plans were subsequently dropped from their application. It is hardly uncommon for Bonny Dooners to operate under the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” clause when it comes to application for permits, whether for commercial operations or for residential construction projects. Due to budget restrictions Santa Cruz County is not in a position to actively enforce its own zoning and permitting rules. To be clear, for many Dooners this impatient or indifferent approach to regulation has resulted in residents being forced to “play cop” if unhappy with their neighbors’ actions. It is dishonest to distinguish between the Beauregards’ illicit commercial operations and the unauthorized cutting of timber or grading of one’s own property, or any of the myriad ways in which many Bonny Doon residents break the rules.

Public safety, protection of our watersheds and overall environment, and support of the overall good of the Bonny Doon community and our rural lifestyle are the fundamental concerns of the RBDA Board and our membership. Reasonable and judicious interpretation of those concerns and how the actions of our residents may impact those concerns is a real and sometimes complex challenge for not only the Board, but the entire community.

Photo by Ted Benhari                             

Rail Trail Grant Application Derailed

The Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission’s application for a grant to help fund the northern portion of the “Rail Trail,” from Davenport to the Santa Cruz Wharf, has been turned down.

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and the federal Bureau of Land Management partnered with the Santa Cruz Regional Transportation Commission to seek a $21 million grant from Federal Lands Access Program to build out the trail, officially designed the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail Network/rail trail. The 15-mile northern portion of the trail was selected because the ownership of the various properties the trail will pass through is relatively concentrated in the hands of conservation groups, government entities and other large landowners, and portions of the trail, like the paved path from Santa Cruz to Wilder Ranch, are already in place.

The applicants had been hopeful that the grant proposal would be successful because it would provide access to the California Coastal National Monument and would, according to the grant application, “provide active transportation, recreation and eco-tourism – all goals that the grant program emphasizes.” The proposal, like the trail, had the active support of Congressman Sam Farr. In addition, the Land Trust had agreed to contribute $2.8 million in matching funds to the project.

“The good news is that they did not program, on the short list, all the funds available so we have another shot next year or the following, depending on when they decide to accept applications,” says Cory Caletti, Senior Transportation Planner at the Regional Transportation Commission.

RBDA Board Actions  - August 8, 2013

•     Write a letter to the Planning Dept. opposing the granting of a permit to Teresa Sabankaya to rent her property at 4286 Bonny Doon Road for weddings and other private events. Unanimously approved.

•    Coordinate with Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve Docent Coordinator Val Haley on an article and letter to the Santa Cruz Sentinel on the “Moon Rocks” trespassers’ trial and the Sentinel’s coverage. Unanimously approved.

•    Appoint Marty Demare liaison to the Davenport/North Coast Association to help pressure the County to resolve the ownership of Davenport water rights. Unanimously approved.

Shark's Tooth Beach - photo by Ted Benhari

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California Oaks - photo by Ted Benhari

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The Highlander
The Rural Bonny Doon Association Newsletter
Box 551 • Felton, CA 95018

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