Open House Meetings on ADU Regulations

Open House Meetings on ADU Regulations in Ben Lomond and Live Oak

The Santa Cruz County Housing Advisory Commission is hosting two public open houses to provide county residents with an opportunity to learn about recent changes to the regulations governing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)) in the
unincorporated county, hear the results of a recent public survey regarding ADUs, and learn about the County’s efforts to simplify getting permits and support applicants as they move through the process of design and financing ADUs.

The meetings will also provide an opportunity for discussion about the use of ADUs as a source of long-term rental housing in both the urban and the rural parts of the county, and an opportunity for participants to ask questions of staff
and provide focused feedback regarding ADUs.

The meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

April 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Ss. Peter and Paul
Orthodox Church, 9980 Hwy 9. Ben Lomond

April 26, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Simpkins Family Swim
Center Community Room, 979 17th Ave., Live Oak

Wee Kirk Church in Ben Lomond – Historic Designation

The National Register of Historic Places in the County of Santa Cruz may soon add another Santa Cruz County jewel – the Wee Kirk Church.

The Wee Kirk Presbyterian Church in Ben Lomond, California has been nominated by Lisa A. Robinson, a San Lorenzo Valley historian and director of the San Lorenzo Valley Museum.

The church is a tall building, with a steeply pitched gable room, bell tower and entrance portico. Community residents know it best by its bell – which children are welcomed to ring – and by the large redwood tree on its eastern side.

The church was built by the Ben Lomond Land and Lumber Company in 1891 and offered to any religious organization that would hold regular services. The Presbyterian Church organization purchased it for $900. It consists of two adjoined buildings. The first structure is the church built on the south west corner of Central Avenue and Main Street. The second is a hotel cottage which was moved to the site in 1923 from a nearby location.

In 1929, the church windows were replaced with memorial stained glass lights, and in 1949 church members decided to change the name of the church to the Wee Kirk of Ben Lomond, a name chosen because of the large number of people of Scottish descent in the area.

The building was sold in 1969, when the congregation merged with the Felton Presbyterian Church congregation. It was used as office space and storage until 2014, when it was purchased by Dr. Steven Leib and his wife, Vivian.

The Leibs have restored the building beautifully and with historical accuracy. The building is now used as Dr. Leib’s Country Doctor family medicine practice.

Dr. Steven Leib and his wife, Vivian, purchased the building in 2014, restored it using appropriate historical treatments and have used it as Dr. Leib’s Country Doctor Family Medical Practice.

Photo courtesy of the Press Banner

Update to Storm Damage on Local Roads

The most recent storms have pushed damages in the County to more than $30 million in damage to our local roads and infrastructure, causing some of the most significant challenges in recent memory. The Board of Supervisors declared a third emergency in as many months and has submitted requests to the state and federal government for funding. Many roads have sustained damage and have caused major impacts – including Valencia, Bear Creek, Glenwood, Zayante, Soquel-San Jose roads and Smith Grade.

Governor Brown approved the declaration for the January storm events and has requested assistance through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief Program, which could provide additional funding for the Federal Aid Routes (major arterials and collectors) in Santa Cruz County. Under the current funding approvals, this would mean that more funding would be available for roads deemed “federal aid routes” (usually major roads such as Valencia, Zayante, Soquel-San Jose, Bear Creek) than local roads. The state disaster funding provides coverage (usually up to 75 percent) for the cost of repairs. However, the Governor did not make these funds available for the December storm damage. We are working with our state and federal legislative delegations for funding for damages sustained in December as well.

Then, on Feb. 14, President Trump followed up with a major disaster declaration for the state, including Santa Cruz County, triggering the release of Federal funds to help communities recover for damage that occurred from January 3 to 12. The FEMA funding is available for public facilities and roads, including utilities, centers and others that provide essential governmental services.

I am very disappointed that the many private roads and private properties that have been damaged are not available for FEMA recovery funds under the President’s declaration. Our already fragile mountain roads have taken a beating, as they were used by commuters and commercial traffic as an alternative to Highway 17.  We will continue to work with our federal representatives to get assistance for private property.

I am keenly aware of the issues that the recent storm damage has caused throughout our County. They are real and very problematic. In some areas of our district we had days where people were completely cut off from their home as slides had eliminated access or flooding prevented all ability to travel sections of our district.  With the emergency declaration providing up to 75 percent of the funding needed for certain roads, this leaves a multi-million-dollar gap of funding for repairs (even just focusing on top priority repairs) associated with the recent storms. As many of you are aware, just by looking at the condition of our local roads in general, Public Works doesn’t have a few million dollars extra for road repairs. Because of this reality, the Board of Supervisors is looking at the possibility of borrowing to address high priority roads (like Valencia and Bear Creek) that were damaged. Options could include the best use of transportation impact fees, Measure D funds, and Surface Transportation Block Grant funds.

Taking out such a loan would most likely mean that other road work (such as planned capital improvements – road overlays, repairs etc.) that isn’t from storm damage might be delayed (in some cases significantly). However, we recognize that these storms have caused situations that must take priority over other road needs. If you have potholes that need attention, please use the Citizen Connect mobile app through the County or the Public Works page to report directly – http://www.dpw.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/ReportProblem.aspx – this helps us inventory them and work with Public Works and getting them filled.  We recognize this is a difficult and frustrating situation and thank you for working with us as we try to address these very pressing needs caused from the recent storms.

Private Well Owners to Meet

Some 1,100 private well owners in the Santa Margarita Groundwater Basin are being notified to let them know about a groundwater management process this is getting underway, including a public meeting on Feb. 22. The basin, which extends from Upper Branciforte Creek to Boulder Creek, is in a state of overdraft, resulting in lowered groundwater levels and reduced streamflow. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 requires that action be taken to eliminate overdraft by 2040. The solution will likely involve a combination of water efficiency, increased groundwater recharge and supplemental supply, with costs to users based on impact on the groundwater basin. To stay informed, please check the website at www.smgwa.org and attend the meeting on Feb. 22 from 7 to p.m. at the Scotts Valley Water District.

Americorps Team Returns

An amazing team of young people from across the country have been working on a series of habitat restoration projects in San Lorenzo Valley. The AmeriCorps team, under the skilled leadership of Linda Skeff of the San Lorenzo Valley Restoration Program, has worked at Highlands Park in Ben Lomond, pulling out the rubber around the playground which could be an environmental hazard to the nearby river. They’ve also been working on projects at Quail Hollow Ranch County Park and a riparian corridor restoration project in conjunction with the Felton Library and San Lorenzo Valley Water District. The community has pitched in, donating food for the team. We are fortunate to have had the team here for a second time. We thank them for their amazing progress.

PG&E Community Pipeline Safety Initiative and Impact on Environment

Image: Kevin Collins

Image: Kevin Collins

The County is working with PG&E and community advocates on an ambitious Community Pipeline Safety Initiative along the 60 miles of high-pressure gas transmission lines in Santa Cruz County. PG&E has proposed to remove hundreds of trees above its gas line along Graham Hill Road between Santa Cruz and Felton and in other areas of the County.

While I appreciate that PG&E must have the ability to maintain, inspect, and operate its system, and I support measures to ensure pipeline safety, I share a number of residents’ deep concerns about losing the trees. Concerns have been raised regarding the impacts on water, road stability, water, air, wildlife, and long-term health and safety.

Supervisor John Leopold and I asked that the project be put on hold while the County creates a framework agreement with PG&E that makes sure our local and state environmental regulations are met, and incorporates specific guidelines for tree removal with the intent to minimize the number of trees cut.

Cannabis Cultivation in Santa Cruz County

Image: Monterey Herald

Image: Monterey Herald

Registration for the County’s new cannabis cultivation program closed on November 6.  This registration process is voluntary; however, we anticipate that only the owners of registered cannabis cultivation sites will be eligible to apply for a local license when they become available. The goal is to allow existing growers to register, receive feedback from the County on the degree to which their cultivation site conforms to the proposed regulations, and allow the County to collect information for the evaluation of the environmental impacts associated with cultivation activities in Santa Cruz County including existing conditions, impacts and recommendations for appropriate regulation of cannabis cultivation. For more information visit: https://scccannabis.co.santa-cruz.ca.us. Read more about the cannabis cultivation issue in Santa Cruz County in this recent Santa Cruz Sentinel article.

SLV High School Welcomes Deputy Kris Koenig

Image: Mountain Bulletin

Image: Mountain Bulletin

New this year, Sheriff’s Deputy Kris Koenig has been assigned to San Lorenzo Valley High School as the school resource officer, a position that the Board of Supervisors approved in this year’s budget with the goal of promoting positive interactions between law enforcement and young people.  Deputy Koenig is a 1999 San Lorenzo Valley High School graduate who will be “returning” to school. Read more

SLV School Bus Service Fully Restored

San Lorenzo Valley transportation safety

Image: SLV SV Press Banner

I am very pleased to announce that bus service for schools arrivals and departures in San Lorenzo Valley has been fully restored. The five “school trip” routes, which allow students to use public transportation to the three-school campuses in Felton, were proposed to be eliminated along Highway 9.  All the routes have been fully restored, thanks to dedicated work of Christopher Schiermeyer, the school district Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, and Metro’s Barrow Emerson.

Walkway and Drainage Improvements near Boulder Creek Elementary School

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In Boulder Creek, construction is underway for a curb, gutter, sidewalk, retaining wall, and drainage improvements near Boulder Creek Elementary School. A 300-foot retaining wall four feet high is being built directly along the school frontage on Laurel Street between Lomond Street and Harmon Street.  In addition, a short walkway on the east side of Laurel Street at the intersection of Lomond Street is being built in order to provide a connection to an existing railroad tie and gravel staircase that was constructed by volunteers.  A walkway is also being constructed on Harmon Street from Laurel Street to Oak Street.  The improvements are funded with a grant from the Federal Safe Routes to School program.

A construction bid came in earlier this summer higher than expected, which meant the work was likely to be delayed another school year.  Public Works staff scrambled to fill the gap in funding so that the project could still get underway this summer, although that meant construction was not finished by the start of the school year, as planned. However, I am very pleased that this long awaited project is underway and very appreciative of the effort by Public Works.