California Coastal Commission Waffles

Unfortunately, we have learned that the California Coastal Commission process is cooked in favor of developers. (See article here) Any developer can resubmit a project every six months until a mix of Commissioners is sitting who can be convinced to approve it. All it takes is buckets of money, political influence and patience.

This is why development projects have been approved in Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas in the past. The Coastal Commission does not prevent development in sensitive coastal habitat, it regulates such development.

That being said, we do not roll over and accept this. We will communicate our objections to this special consideration for the City, which has already received one extension on the project from the Commissioners. How far does the Coastal Commission have to bend over backwards for the City of Santa Cruz?

When the City resubmits its application, we will be there, personally, no matter where the hearing takes place, to register our disapproval and lobby for a true Master Plan that does not violate the California Coastal Act and does not diminish critical habitat for the Santa Cruz tarplant, the Tidwater Goby and Steelhead Trout, and all other species that call Arana Gulch Home.

No Compromise!


Friends of Arana Gulch Reacts to Commission Staff Report

Friends of Arana Gulch Reacts to California Coastal Commission Staff Report

On October 14, the California Coastal Commission meets to consider the application by the City of Santa Cruz for approval of the Arana Gulch Master Plan, which contains the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle-Pedestrian Connection project, a 8 foot wide, paved, Class 1 bike route to be built through critical habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant.

Although the Conditions of Approval by Coastal Commission staff are quite strict and mean it may be years before the City can build its transportation project through Arana Gulch greenbelt, we are once again appalled that staff has recommended approval of a project that violates Sec. 30240 of the Coastal Act.

It is unfortunate that years ago the City deliberately insisted on incorporating its Broadway-Brommer project into an otherwise well-conceived Master Plan. In stubbornly ignoring Coastal Commission staff’s January 2000 recommendation, that it do the Master Plan first and then return with a specific project, the City thumbed its nose at staff and basically declared a show down with the Coastal Commission, daring it to vote against a Master Plan for a greenbelt. The City deliberately confused the issue and the hearing in March is proof positive, with all discussion about Broadway-Brommer and little about the basic goals of managing a remnant of California’s unique coastal terrace prairie.

Worse, the City has consistently lied to the CC by saying that Broadway-Brommer funding was needed to recover the endangered tarplant. All documentation proves otherwise, that tarplant recovery and management is, in no way, tied to Broadway-Brommer. But who listens to facts these days?

Paving the Broadway-Brommer bicycle route through an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) is so 1980s. How much pavement are we going to rationalize for recreation for humans at the expense of the living soil? This is the U.N. Year of Biodiversity and some still act as though we can go on forever ignoring the folly of more pavement and less natural habitat.

Could the City have designed real interpretive trails in Arana Gulch, enhanced for visitors of all capabilities? Yes, if it had wanted to do so. Instead the City re-branded its transportation project, which must pass through Arana Gulch, as an interpretive trail and pasted on some signage, like dressing it up for Halloween. No matter how the City disguises the wide, paved, bicycle commuter route, to this day it derives its funding from the County Regional Transportation Commission and will be built by the Public Works Department. Transportation. Public Works.

We can only hope that at this month’s hearing the Coastal Commissioners enforce the law of the land and vote to deny approval of a transportation plan through an ESHA and suggest that the City return to it with a Master Plan that it can easily approve, under the law.

If you live in California, this directly affects your coast, your Coastal Commission and your Coastal Act. Go to the Friends of Arana Gulch website, HERE, for contact information on how you can comment on this important Coastal Commission decision.

Get some Goats!

This article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel Pasatiempo launches Operation Landscape Goat to help with restoration work details how the smart folks at the Pasatiempo Golf Club are employing goats to help remove out of control invasive species at the edges of the golf course.

There’s a lesson here for Santa Cruz City Fathers and Mothers – no need to deploy an industrial scale cattle operation to remove invasive grasses from the Arana Gulch greenbelt, grasses that are retarding the livelihood of the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant. Just import a herd of goats and their canine protectors. No need for fences and fence posts strung across critical habitat. All the goats need is a portable solar powered electric fence to keep them corralled and attentive to their gustatory duties.

Here’s a lesson for both the City of Santa Cruz and the California Coastal Commission: Less impact to fragile coastal habitats, and the goats provide fertilizer to boot.

Besides, they’re kinda cute!

It’s the Law, Don

In a misinformed editorial in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Don Miller, Sentinel Editor, completely missed the point of the recent California Coastal Commission decision regarding the City of Santa Cruz’s application to build a paved bicycle route through critical habitat for an endangered species, the Santa Cruz tarplant, Holocarpha macradenia.

The editorial is incorrect in several respects. The City of Santa Cruz did not argue that “paving two trails” in Arana Gulch “would be the greater good, publicly and environmentally.” Rather, the City proposed a transportation project in an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area, which is not allowed under the California Coastal Act.

It doesn’t matter that the City worked on the flawed plan for over 15 years. It doesn’t matter that the inadequate alternatives proposed in the Arana Gulch Draft Master Plan Environmental Impact Report were defended in court. It doesn’t matter that a recently proposed alternative route is not considered “safe and accessible” by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission. The Broadway-Brommer bicycle route with paved trails and two bridges across critical habitat for the tarplant, is simply illegal under state law.

What matters is that the City has for years failed to manage Arana Gulch, resulting in eroding paths, illegal campers and endangered species. This is no excuse for the California Coastal Commission to bail them out by approving an illegal project.

The City of Santa Cruz should do the right thing, finally: manage Arana Gulch for the tarplant and all other species, and look elsewhere for their transportation project.

Coastal Commission votes unanimously to continue decision on Arana Gulch Master Plan!

In a stunning upset for the City of Santa Cruz, the California Coastal Commission voted tonight to continue the decision on the application by the City for approval of their paved bicycle routes through the Arana Gulch greenbelt.

Commissioner Mark Stone made the motion, saying, “We would like to give this project another shot and look to see if there is any alternative that satisfies the Commission.”

Stone and a majority of other Commissioners indicated they would vote against the project as proposed because they believed it was clearly a transportation project made to look like a conservation plan.

The Commissioners directed the City to consider alternatives to the Broadway Brommer transportation project through the Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area that would significantly impact the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant.

Look for details and developments at the Friends of Arana Gulch website.

How to Help Save Arana Gulch

Plan to attend the March 10, 2010 California Coastal Commission meeting in the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 5th Floor, 701 Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. Check the Hearing Agenda for specifics on time of the Hearing and other events.

Testimony at the hearing should include the following critical points:

  1. The proposed Broadway-Brommer Bike project (now called an “interpretive trail”) will cause “significant and unavoidable impact” to habitat of the endangered and threatened Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia).
  2. The B-B Bike project (“interpretive trail”) will violate an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area (ESHA) as defined in the CA Coastal Act (Policy 30240). The City of Santa Cruz has failed to demonstrate that this proposed project is “resource-dependent,” as specified by the Act.
  3. The City of Santa Cruz has never substantiated its claim that money for management of tarplant habitat will come from construction funding for the Broadway-Brommer Bike project. The City has not identified any dedicated funding mechanism to mitigate “significant and unavoidable” damage to Santa Cruz tarplant habitat.
  4. Urge that the CCC only approve the Arana Gulch Master Plan contingent on the removal of the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle Path Connection project (as found in six Public Use objectives on page 30 of the Draft Master Plan, as well as portions of Sec. 3.4).
  5. Finally, ask that the CCC instruct the City to consider alternatives outside of Arana Gulch for any proposed east-west bicycle transportation project.

If you cannot attend the hearing, please send your letter covering the above critical points, BY MARCH 1, 2010, to:

Dan Carl, District Director
California Coastal Commission
725 Front Street, Suite 300
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Please share this information with others and encourage them to write letters and attend the hearing. All City, County and State residents can participate to Save Arana Gulch!

Friends of Arana Gulch web site: