November/December 2011 issue

Mountain Lions:

Where They Live, Where They Roam

Yiwei Wang & Veronica Yovovich

UCSC Santa Cruz Puma Project

Bonny Doon Eco Reserve Update

Conrad Jones

Wildlife Biologist, California Dept. of Fish & Game

November 9, 2011 RBDA Meeting, 7:30 p.m.

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

Santa Cruz Puma Project: Where Do Lions Live?

Nearly three years ago, UCSC Professor Chris Wilmers came to tell us about the Santa Cruz Puma Project he was beginning in our mountains. While the project is nowhere near complete, we now know that there are roughly twice as many lions as Wilmers had originally estimated. Through the project’s work with smart satellite radio collars, we are beginning to get an understanding of how they live and move about the landscape.

This November we are fortunate to have Yiwei Wang and Veronica Yovovich, two fascinating members of the project, to give a presentation on the history and ecology of our charismatic carnivorous neighbors. Drawing on their direct personal experience, they will teach us about how mountain lions behave and how we should behave around them to continue in harmony.

The project’s website,, has some fine photos and videos that preview some of what Wang and Yovovich will present and a very cool Puma Tracker that allows you to see dynamic information on puma movement on a Google Earth background of the region.



The City of Santa Cruz (City) and UCSC are taking some of the last steps in gaining permission to develop the north (or upper) campus. There are a couple of lawsuits pending (see the July/August Highlander) but currently at stake are the water rights needed for the new development.

LAFCO, an oversight agency that must review any changes in local agency boundaries, will be reviewing two proposed changes to water and sewer service. The first (Application #928 from the City) will allow the City to extend its “Sphere of Influence” boundary for water to cover the proposed North UCSC campus development. The second (Application #929 from UCSC) will authorize UCSC to receive water and sewer services even though it is outside the City’s current service boundary. The LAFCO hearing will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, at the Board of Supervisors Chambers, 5th Floor, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. A LAFCO staff report will be available on Nov. 15 which should outline recommendations to the board about how to respond to the applications. This document will make clearer what direction LAFCO is likely to take and what sort of arguments might be useful to help create a better outcome for Bonny Doon.

In 2008, a Comprehensive Settlement Agreement (CSA) for two suits concerning UCSC growth and development was reached among the City, UCSC and environmental groups after years of contentious discourse about the wisdom of such growth, the irreparable effects of development and who should pay for the necessary infrastructure (roads, housing, water).

The CSA deal insured the City would facilitate UCSC’s LAFCO application for a water transfer from the City, thus allowing the UCSC expansion and development to proceed. In return, UCSC agreed to a LAFCO review of the water service extension, to limit enrollment, to build more student housing, to conserve water and to help pay for water and roads. This was seen as a “win” by the City because UCSC, as a state agency, is exempt from local regulation and the agreement gained some concessions from UCSC.

However, the deal included provisions that allowed UCSC to ignore a LAFCO denial and released it from several other obligations if LAFCO imposed restrictive limits. Also lurking in the background is an agreement from the 1960s that gives UCSC all the water it needs–although it may have a questionable legal basis.

So the threat is that if the City does not voluntarily surrender its water, UCSC might just try to take it through legal action anyway. Prior to the CSA deal, both the City and UCSC were battling each other over the planned UCSC growth and the negative effects on the City. A number of lawsuits were active and hundreds of thousands of dollars had been spent by both sides. So the primary issue at stake is the planned UCSC growth, although currently, the leverage to stop the growth, and an issue in its own right, is water service.

Subsequent to the CSA and compelled by the City’s complacent attitude about squandering its scarce water resources, longtime land use and resource analyst and lawyer Gary Patton and other experienced environmentalists banded together as the Community Water Coalition (CWC) to stop the water giveaway. The group’s Facebook page contains short posts giving the latest news about the water issue. CWC has filed a lawsuit to block the UCSC application for water service (#929) on the grounds that the City must be the applicant, not UCSC. CWC also claims that the EIR for the SOI expansion (#928) is invalid because it violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A hearing on CWC’s appeal of the local Superior Court’s rejection of this lawsuit is scheduled to be heard on Nov. 8.

A map of the planned development, the current sphere of influence (SOI) limit and two proposed alternative new SOI limits are shown on the Final EIR, page 3-25–see the “Changes to DEIR” section of the City’s EIR web site at

Several salient features of the new SOI limit and of the development plan are:

• The inclusion of an unnecessary section of campus reserve land in the most northern part of the proposed SOI. Presumably this is to allow UCSC to “give up” something for compromise or it signals their intention to develop this area at a later date.

• A new fairly straight (aka, fast) major road through the development area linking the east and west campus.

• A major access road linking the new development road to Empire Grade near Waldorf School. This will be a third entrance to UCSC and there is no reason to think that it won’t be heavily used when the West entrance gets backed up during busy times of day.

• Employee housing, student housing, sports facilities and academic buildings. LAFCO’s comments to the City’s EIR for the SOI expansion state that LAFCO prefers the alternative 2 Modified SOI in the map to the more extensive proposed boundary and that LAFCO would prefer an annexation rather than an SOI expansion (the final EIR was modified to include an annexation option).

Some of the effects of the development on the Bonny Doon area are:

• Increased pressure on housing here, especially rental housing, due to the new planned entrance being closer to Bonny Doon and to many more students. The current dorm style sub-monster homes near the Felton-Empire/Empire Grade intersection may be the first of many.

     Urban housing density and urban services in otherwise rural Bonny Doon planning area the thin end of the wedge.

     Reduced access to Santa Cruz because of increased traffic on the Cave Gulch corridor.

• Pressure on local water resources, including North Coast streams and potentially groundwater resources due to limited City water resources.

The City is considering a desalination plant because of the water shortfall, however, approval for that plant is far from certain. Any over-commitment of water is very shortsighted and irresponsible to current water customers. Gerald Weber, a geologist with UCSC, suggests that UCSC pump water from the vast underground Karst system that underlies UCSC and much of Bonny Doon. He claims there are 3,000 acre-feet under UCSC alone. It is unclear how much the mining of this water would affect the wells of Bonny Doon residents.

Some of the effects on the City of Santa Cruz are:

     Extreme pressure on very limited water resources–the city will not have enough water in many years. The desalination plant fate is unclear and uptake from streams is limited by the need to protect in-stream fish resources. The current estimate is that the City will have to give up 300 to 800 million gallons a year, depending on stream flows from rainfall.

    Increased traffic.

    Increased housing pressure due to students not housed on campus.

    Damage to ecosystem services to the city from Bonny Doon–erosion, biodiversity loss, habitat loss.

Regardless of the outcome of the Dec. 7 LAFCO hearing, the growth issue is far from resolved. CWC may seek redress from the court system if the LAFCO approval goes through and UCSC could simply proceed with the development as planned while ignoring its impact on the City if the application is denied.

It is important to show up in force at the meeting, partly to show UCSC the level of opposition is great and partly to show the City that they made a mistake.


Take Action!

There are a number of actions individuals and groups can take if you would like to oppose the expansion and water giveaway, ranging from simple to involved:

    Come to the LAFCO hearing Dec. 7.

    Speak up at the LAFCO hearing. Read the staff report on Nov. 15 and address any relevant issues.

    Meet with LAFCO commissioners and ask them what their thinking is on both applications and particularly, what type of testimony or information they would find most helpful in making their decision. Information on the LAFCO commissioners and the LAFCO process can be found on the LAFCO website at For commissioners, look at the “Contact us” section for their names. Most of them are also public servants and can be contacted through their respective agencies. For procedures, look at the “Policy and Rules” section then the “Spheres of Influence Policies and Guidelines” paragraph as well as the “Extraterritorial Service”paragraph. This is a more advanced prospect but will give you insight on how they will proceed with the hearing and what issues they need to consider. Warning: this is dry reading.

    Write letters to the Valley Press, the City on the Hill, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San Jose Mercury News.

    Contact a reporter at any of the above newspapers and ask them to write about the story, especially from a rural Bonny Doon perspective.

    Review the comment section of the “Sphere of Influence Amendment– Final EIR,” available at the city website at aspx?page=1379. This will give you details on many of the issues that the expansion brings up. Many of these issues were not resolved and can be addressed at the LAFCO hearing. In particular, the variability in rainfall and meaninglessness of a “normal” water year as brought up by RBDA chairman Joe Christy. Also the biodiversity issues that were subsumed under a proposed City Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).

    Organize an event on the UCSC campus to get students more aware of the issues.


A Hole Story, Unfinished

Bridges, buildings, dams and aqueducts are the legacy of limestone from Bonny Doon quarries, but a vast hole was left behind and a year and a half after the Cemex limestone quarry’s closure and nothing has been done to stabilize or revegetate the area.

During the long process of seeking approval for quarry expansion Cemex’s Rob Walker characterized their active operations as “scraping the bowl.” Now we learn that scraping the bowl has left slopes at the quarry’s rim that are too steep. These slopes must be stabilized or laid back to meet safety guidelines, but the edge is so close to the existing quarry boundary lines that Cemex-owned property adjacent to the quarry may have to be used to provide the necessary “layback” distance and setbacks.

Approvals for changes in the Reclamation Plan will be a long time coming and involve an Environmental Review and a public hearing before the Planning Commission. Although county staff, tasked with enforcing the County Mining Code and the State’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, continues to be very lenient with Cemex, at least some reclamation and restoration activity is taking place at the shale quarry below Redwood Meadows Ranch. A major stream mitigation project required of Cemex, dating from their 1997 permit review, has yet to be implemented.

The reclamation process must also be viewed in the context of the other slow moving process that involves the land surrounding the quarries: the transfer of ownership of the Coast Dairies property. Somehow, someday, the recreational access envisioned by the Trust for Public Land will have to be implemented by the Bureau of Land Management in a manner that provides public safety around the abandoned quarries.


The Multiple Uses of Bonny Doon Roads

We all love the rural, natural setting and peaceful life of Bonny Doon. That is the nature of being a “Dooner,” and preserving that quality is the mission of your RBDA. The public roads throughout Bonny Doon connect us to each other, work and access town to see friends, pick up groceries, get some gas, and in general have a life outside of our local paradise setting. Many of us use these same roads for biking and walking. It is no surprise that come the weekend we are widely sharing our roads with tourists, groups of bicyclists, and weekend motorcycle enthusiasts. So how do we all share these roads safely while honoring our quiet rural natural setting?

Part of enjoying this beauty is staying alive and healthy. There is no way in or out of Bonny Doon without passing through a dangerous corridor. How about the “S” curves with no visibility at the bottom of Bonny Doon Road, followed by Hwy. 1 into town with the CHP patrols? What about lower Empire Grade into UCSC? And the morning’s Silicon Valley commute down Felton Empire Road into Felton. Ours are all narrow two-lane roads. We are fortunate to have the centerline rumble strips on the main connecting roads. The County does its best (in these tight financial times) to keep up with the ever present potholes and slides. Many of us know these roads so well; we zip right along and know when we can shave a curve. But what about all of our visitors, business and service vehicles that do the same? No easy answers, but it is each of our responsibility to drive responsibly, defensively, and safely. (Watch those blind curves!)

Recently I had a beautiful Indian Summer bike ride up Bonny Doon Road, Empire Grade to Lockheed, and back through Ice Cream Grade. Ridership picked up dramatically after Lance Armstrong rode through on the Tour de California. Most of the drivers that passed me yesterday were good at sharing the road with reasonable speed and clearance–but not all. Some cars were topping 60 mph and some motorcycles were faster still. Were these drivers locals who know the roads very well, weekend road adventurers, or drivers just not intent on really sharing the road? Who knows? Most of the local bicycle accidents are downhill speed related, an inherent risk to cycling, and auto/bike collisions. We really need to maintain a safe riding/driving environment so that the auto/bike accidents that have become common with fatalities and severe injury along Hwy. 1 do not spread up the mountain.

The issue of walking and jogging is another interesting matter. Walking is a healthful activity that is tied to physical and mental health as well as longevity. I have met more wonderful people walking along Bonny Doon Road than any other way in the 5 years I have lived here. The people match the natural beauty. Everyone takes the time to visit. Once again, many cars slow down and give wide clearance, but not all. Jumping off the road into the ditches and poison oak is sometimes necessary. The traffic is usually so light that the road works well, but it would be an interesting conversation to try to find acceptable ways to create walking easements through some of the less densely populated areas. Could there be open space forested trails for neighborhood watch/walking enthusiasts? This would potentially connect us more to nature and to each other. Could there be legal and financial incentives to create more walking corridors similar to the rural trails in Europe? We certainly hope that will be part of the final resolution of the Cemex Land and Coast Dairies.

Are there other ways to decrease traffic, save gas, save money, meet neighbors? More ride-sharing into town? Community Supported Agriculture central deliveries to the school parking lot?

Just ideas. We all love it right at home, but use the roads for so many essential activities. What do you think? Please let us know; our contact info is below.

Ecological Reserve Happenings

As Mother Nature continues her fascinating successional recovery work after the Martin Fire, the humans have also been busy this year in the Ecological Reserve. Contractors are redoing the Reggiardo Creek crossing, correctly this time. Ben Lomond Camp (BLC) crews and local volunteers are clearing and maintaining the shaded fuel breaks that enabled firefighters to battle the Martin Fire. CDF master sawyers have felled hazard trees killed by the Western Pine Beetle. BLC crews have restored and re-marked the trails, and uprooted acres of invasive, fire-prone, nonnative broom. At our November meeting Department of Fish & Game Wildlife Biologist Conrad Jones, who took over management of the Reserve this year (see the MayJune Highlander for an interview), will give a short presentation on what has been done and what is coming next, answer questions, and gather local input.

RBDA Board Nominations

Nominations for the RBDA Executive Board will take place at the November RBDA meeting. The terms of three board officers expire in January, those of board members Pat Morrison, Joe Christy and Lad Wallace. The election is held at the January Annual Meeting.

The Executive Board appointed Pat Morrison to chair a committee to nominate candidates. Nominations can also be made at the Nov. 9 meeting. To serve on the Executive Board you must have been an RBDA member in good standing as of Nov. 1. Since membership becomes effective 30 days after an application is submitted and dues are paid, anyone wishing to run for the board must be a member or have submitted an application by Oct. 1.

If you are committed to the RBDA mission of keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural, please call a current board member or email the board via our web site,


What Do YOU Think?

The RBDA Board is soliciting articles of between 300 and 1,000 words from our membership for future issues of The Highlander. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge in our members, and we are certain that there are those of you who would be willing to share your thoughts.

Authors of articles chosen for publication may choose to have their authorship noted or may remain anonymous. The Board will review submittals and choose according to its editorial needs and constraints. We will make every effort to include your submittals, but must use our discretion in whether or not to publish them. We will attempt to include them in the next issue when possible. Articles should be submitted to the Board by clicking here and following the links.

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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.
We encourage you to participate. 

 Send mail correspondence to the Highlander Editor at the above address, 
or by email, below.

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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.

Please support the RBDA!

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Dues mostly go for printing and mailing The Highlander,
your voice for keeping Bonny Doon rural and natural.

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