Monterey Bay Air Resources District and Valley Women’s Club 2nd Annual Art Contest on Air Quality

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An excited crowd of parents and children turned out at the San Lorenzo Valley School Board meeting on Wednesday, October 19th to hear the announcement of the winners of the Second Annual Art Contest sponsored by the Monterey Bay Air Resources District and Valley Women’s Club. The artwork of all the winners was on display along with their winning ribbons. The creativity and talent of the children was amazing!

The Art Contest provided San Lorenzo Valley children the chance to be “creative” while helping bring awareness to the San Lorenzo Valley air quality issues created largely by wood burning smoke from heating during the winter.

San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Laurie Bruton stated: “We are always happy to show off the talents of our students, particularly when it serves our community of San Lorenzo Valley”.  “All of our schools stress community services,” said Dr. Bruton. “Joining students’ artistic ability and their desire to improve conditions in the community is a perfect match for the art contest.”

The art contest is an idea that was born from citizen input which was solicited and organized by Supervisor Bruce McPherson to help solve the critical air quality issues our community faces.  “The air quality issue in San Lorenzo Valley can be addressed – and solved – by our local community. That solution will require an educational process and having our creative students show us how to do that through their artwork will be an important part of our success,” McPherson said.

The Valley Women’s Club Environmental Committee is also supporting the art contest. “We are excited to support this effort to help reduce dangerous air pollution levels in the SLV through this contest that also encourages creative expression of ideas” stated Chairperson Nancy Macy

School District Superintendent Dr. Laurie Bruton, Supervisor Bruce McPherson, and David Frisbey, Planning and Air Monitoring Manager for the Monterey Bay Air Resources District presented the awards to the students in front of the School Board.

The Grand Prize winner was Sarah Jane Murphy, 9th Grade at SLV High School.

The other prize winners were:

Grades 9-12: First: Lori Claes (9th Grade); Second: Mira Wichelmann (9th Grade)

Grades 7-8:; First: Griffin Hardisty (8th Grade)

Grades 4-6: First: Ashli Trageseb (6th Grade); Second: Simone Tanner (4th Grade); Third Ella Grace Still (5th Grade); Honorable Mention): Ari Robin (4th Grade)

Grades K-3: First: Avery Armstrong (3rd Grade); Second: Lila Robins, (K); Third: Shelly Thomas (1st Grade)

The winning artwork will be displayed in the near future at the County Building, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz.

The message of this wonderful artwork is a reminder to all residents that wood burning stoves contribute to serious health and air pollution issues in the San Lorenzo Valley.  This is especially severe on our upcoming winter days when the San Lorenzo Valley experiences low clouds and low winds creating an “inversion” that traps smoke in our air.  During these days residents are strongly encouraged to “spare the air” and avoid wood stoves and utilize other sources of clean heat.

Felton Covered Bridge Roof Restoration

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The Felton Covered Bridge has been beautifully restored with a new roof.

The next step is the celebration, which will take place on December 17 on the bridge at Felton Covered Bridge Park. Many thanks to those who contributed to the completion of the roof — the late Bill Burton of Ben Lomond, John MacDonald, Judy Anderson, Bill Holl, and Lud McCrary.

Thank you to Valoree Mills for the photo.

 

Kids Draw for Healthy Air

Art Contest

San Lorenzo Valley children are getting the chance to be creative while helping bring awareness to the San Lorenzo Valley air quality issues created largely by wood burning smoke heating during the winter.

The Valley Women’s Club, together with the Monterey Bay Air Resources District, is sponsoring their Second Annual “art contest” for all children in San Lorenzo Valley.

The San Lorenzo Valley School District is facilitating the contest (which may be used as part of a new “Green” curriculum) and has recently distributed flyers with the details of the contest to students at the elementary, middle and high school.

The smoke levels in SLV are a serious health issue that we all need to work together to address. SLV residents who have other means of heat are strongly encouraged to use those sources before using a wood stove. When “Spare the Air” alerts occur this winter, citizens can be notified by email.  Please sign-up to receive messages here: http://mbuapcd.org/programs-resources/planning/sanlorenzovalley/. When these days occur, air quality is expected to be especially unhealthful and wood burning stoves should only be used sparingly.  Residents are encouraged to use natural gas, propane, electric, or pellet stove heating options on “Spare the Air” days.

Winners of the art contest will be announced at the SLV School District Board Meeting on Wednesday, October 19, at 6:00 p.m. I encourage you to come see the submissions.

Wood Smoke Program Helps Clear Our Air

Wood Smoke ProgramI would like to thank Governor Jerry Brown and leaders in the California State Legislature for reaching agreement on protections from the impacts of climate change. The $900 million cap-and-trade revenue spending plan, which includes $5 million to expand California’s black carbon wood smoke programs, is an investment in our future.

The wood smoke program in particular will help residents of Santa Cruz County with improved air quality during winter months and represents a substantial additional investment in a program with proven effectiveness.

The black carbon wood smoke program helps improve air quality in the San Lorenzo Valley by subsidizing the replacement of residential wood stoves with cleaner-burning alternatives. For additional information about the San Lorenzo Valley Wood Stove Change-Out Program, see: http://mbard.org/programs-resources/planning/grants-incentives/wood-stovefireplace-grants

Brookdale Lodge Restoration Moves Forward

Brookdale LodgeI am pleased to announce that local hotelier Pravin Patel has been cleared to begin restoration of the hotel, lobby and retail spaces at the historic Brookdale Lodge.

Mr. Patel purchased the property in 2015, envisioning returning the Lodge to its former glory as a regional destination and source of community pride in the San Lorenzo Valley. He has been working closely with the Santa Cruz County Office for Economic Development to obtain permits necessary to reopen the hotel and several shops.

I know that people in the San Lorenzo Valley and far beyond have been eagerly looking forward to the re-opening of this beloved landmark. The County fully supports Mr. Patel’s endeavor, and I personally can’t wait to visit once the project is completed.

Work is currently underway to renovate 46 rooms separate from the main lodge, and a rear apartment section damaged in a 2009 fire has been removed. Mr. Patel foresees the return of a coffee shop, grocery store and other service-oriented business to the hotel, which had previously offered the few retail options available to Brookdale residents.

The famous Brook Room, with a creek running through the middle of several dining levels, remains intact and will be subject to a later phase of renovation, as will the former Grover Lumber Mill lodge building and the cabins located east of Highway 9.

Mr. Patel also hopes to reestablish the lodge as a destination for weddings, church groups, reunions and more. He is asking those with personal photos of the exterior or the interior to post them on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) with the hashtag #BrookdaleMemories.

Please Support Measure D

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Please Support Measure D

Our roads are a mess – and we desperately need funds to fix them. The per gallon gasoline tax has been flat for more than 20  years and is not adjusted for inflation. And, as vehicles are getting more efficient, which is a good thing, this means drivers pay less for road maintenance. As a result, gas tax revenue has decreased 50 percent in the last three years alone.

The Transportation Improvement Plan (Measure D) – which will be before Santa Cruz County voters on the November presidential ballot – provides an inclusive, balanced package of projects to improve, operate and maintain Santa Cruz County’s transportation network.

The ½ cent, 30-year sales tax measure includes transportation projects that support:

  • Providing safer routes to schools for local students;
  • Maintaining mobility and independence for seniors and those with disabilities;
  • Investing in bicycle and pedestrian pathways and bridges;
  • Repaving roadways, repair potholes, and improve safety on local streets;
  • Improving traffic flow on major roadways;
  • Investing in projects that reduce the pollution that causes global warming.

Please join me in supporting Measure D.

Safety, Pothole Repair, Traffic Relief, Transit Improvement Measure

Transit Tax MeasureA one-half cent sales tax to fund everything from filing potholes to Highway 1 transportation improvements will be on the November ballot.

The “Safety, Pothole Repair, Traffic Relief, Transit Improvement Measure” is proposed to pay for a desperately needed mix of projects across transportation modes and geographic areas of Santa Cruz County, including $10 million for Highway 9.

The final package of projects was approved last week by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) board. The RTC’s action follows extensive public input and review of a poll of likely voters showing that over 2/3 of likely voters support the transportation improvement measure. If approved by voters, the measure would allow us to reduce reliance on the ever dwindling levels of state and federal funding to operate, maintain and improve the local transportation system.

The ballot measure asks voters to approve a one-half cent sales tax for 30 years, with citizen oversight, independent audits, and financial accounting requirements. With the state’s ¼ cent sales tax expiring at the end of the year, the measure would effectively only increase sales taxes by ¼ cent. Later this month the County Board of Supervisors will take action to place the measure on the ballot.

Whether you live along the coast, in the mountains, in valleys or somewhere in between, the transit plans provides benefits to everyone in Santa Cruz County regardless of the transportation they use, their age or abilities.  I believe that the measure is equitable, addresses mobility for the masses and invests in projects that reduce pollution.

Summary of Key Benefits:

  • Safety for kids near schools: New funding for Safe Routes to Schools projects.
  • Local street repair: Improved neighborhoods and increased safety for cyclists and pedestrians by repairing potholes and repaving local streets and roads countywide.
  • Maintain transportation services for seniors, veterans and residents with disabilities.
  • New bridges for cyclists and pedestrians: Cyclist- and pedestrian-only bridges to be built over Highway 1 at Chanticleer St. and Mar Vista Dr.
  • Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail: Continued expansion of the Coastal Rail Trail spine of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail for cyclists and pedestrians along the rail corridor in Watsonville, Santa Cruz and Capitola, and connecting to Monterey County.
  • Investigation of future transit options in the rail corridor: Conduct a transparent public process to analyze options to meet future mobility needs; the plan does not include funding for any new commuter or visitor rail service.
  • Improvements to Highways 1, 9 and 17:
  •     Highway 1: Traffic relief for South County and Mid-County commuters, small businesses, transit buses and first responders through the addition of auxiliary lanes.
  •     Highway 17: Protection for motorists and wildlife by building a wildlife undercrossing at Laurel Curve and funding the Safe-on-17 Freeway Service Patrol.
  •     Highway 9: Safety improvements in the San Lorenzo Valley.

PG&E Tree Removal Project

SCSentinelPGEarticleThe following is a board letter from Supervisor John Leopold and myself regarding a PG&E tree removal project. The direction in the letter given to County Counsel and staff was approved unanimously.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has undertaken an ambitious Community Pipeline Safety Initiative to remove trees, vegetation and structures along its 6,750-mile high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline in California to improve emergency access and safety.

In Santa Cruz County, the company proposes to initially remove trees along 60 miles of high-pressure gas transmission lines. Hundreds of trees in the unincorporated road rights-of-ways (ROW) in the county are proposed to be removed, with the highest concentration along the Graham Hill Road corridor between Santa Cruz and Felton where about 300 trees have been deemed “unacceptable.”

An undisclosed number of trees on private property are also proposed to be removed. PG&E is negotiating and entering into separate agreements with private property owners.

PG&E is confident that their internal analyses are sufficient justification for the proposed work. The company plans to start work without any outside environmental impact assessments and/or environmental impact reports made available for public comment.

While we appreciate that PG&E must have the ability to maintain, inspect and operate its system, and support measures to ensure pipeline safety, a number of our local constituents, have deep concerns about the negative impacts of PG&E’s actions concerns that are shared by other Bay Area communities. Community member’s concerns go far beyond the aesthetics of losing trees. Concerns have been raised regarding the impacts on water, road stability, water, air, wildlife, and long-term health and safety.

They also have questioned the science PG&E has used in concluding the trees are a significant threat to the transmission lines and whether trees have ever inhibited access to transmission lines in any significant way during an emergency. Based on some research, tree roots perform a beneficial role along the transmission lines by stabilizing the pipeline especially in certain types of soils as well as along earthquake faults and surrounding areas.

We, as County Supervisors, have been asked for input regarding mitigations for the removed trees, either payment or replacement trees. However, a comprehensive assessment of all the trees on county property or within our ROW identified by PG&E to be removed has not taken place. Additionally, we would like the opportunity to review the analyses used by PG&E to identify trees for removal. Mitigation in the First and Fifth Districts alone, involves work in riparian corridors, a county park, and on federally protected Sandhill parkland habitat. We would like the opportunity to coordinate with all Districts to fully assess the impacts.

We propose that the project be put on hold here as well while the County creates a framework agreement with PG&E that makes sure our needs and our local and state environmental regulations are met.

The agreement should incorporate specific guidelines for potential removal and mitigations. We would also ask that all trees proposed for removal from the County right-of-way be reviewed by the County with the intent to minimize the number to those that present a clear and verified safety concern that cannot otherwise be mitigated.

It is therefore recommended that our Board direct the Public Works and Planning Department staff to draft guidelines for the review of trees in the county public right-of-way identified by PG&E for removal, and to direct County Counsel and the Department of Public Works to work with PG&E to draft an agreement with specific guidelines for the removal and mitigation of any trees in the public right-of-way.

Read the recent Santa Cruz Sentinel Article:

http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20160614/NEWS/160619856

Highway 9 – Our Main Street

California Highway 9 San Lorenzo Valley

In San Lorenzo Valley, we depend on Highway 9. It’s the backbone for people and goods moving through Felton, Ben Lomond, Brookdale and Boulder Creek. It connects us to Santa Cruz and the Bay Area, both for recreational tourism and commuters.

This winding mountain road is used by more than 21,000 vehicles a day, bulging with tourism and special event traffic during the summer.

This 10-mile stretch of Highway 9 serves as the primary public space for more than 17,000 residents and is the economic center of the San Lorenzo Valley, with more than 8,000 people employed. We have three METRO bus routes, with an average monthly ridership of about 40.000. There are also around 3,000 kindergarten through high school students that use the corridor.

Highway 9, in essence, is our “Main Street.” But, having a state highway as our main street leaves much to be desired. Our students and pedestrians walk and bicycle in the highway shoulders, in dirt, or though parking lots, and there is no safe and accessible path to most bus stops. The serpentine road has short radius curves, and narrow or no shoulders at many locations, insufficient left turn lanes and challenges with drainage. Businesses have challenges with parking and access.

During my first term as Supervisor, I concentrated efforts along Highway 9 to address immediate safety needs. We were successful in getting new streetlights, crosswalk improvements and better signage and lower speed limits through the towns.

In the coming years, I plan to work with you for long-term “complete streets improvements” by developing a master plan for Highway 9. I am very pleased to announce that we have received a $249,000 planning grant from Caltrans to complete a “San Lorenzo Valley Complete Street Corridor Transportation Plan.” The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission will work in partnership with Caltrans, the County of Santa Cruz and METRO, residents, business, school and others to prepare the plan.

This approach aligns with a very different approach from the Caltrans of yesteryear. In the past few years, Caltrans embraced a new mission and vision which includes flexibility in highway planning and design and emphasizes a comprehensive approach that balances community needs with a diverse range of travelers.

This corridor-specific plan will identify needs, and an analysis necessary to prioritize transportation projects that can be implemented in the short and mid-term. The plan will also be a stepping stone to secure funding for priority investments. I envision that we will identify intersection improvements, bicycle lanes, paths, more accessible pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks, as well as more flashing pedestrian beacons and access to bus stops. We also will be considering the “streetscape” including street furniture, light and plants. Our environmental and cultural assets will be an important part of the conversation, including the San Lorenzo River watershed, historic slogging sites and state and local parks.

The world of transportation is a “heavy lift” in terms of planning, process and funding. I expect that you will be asked to participate many times in many ways over the next two years of planning. I thank you in advance and hope you will remain engaged while we transform a state highway into our main street. The other part of the “heavy lift” is funding to implement the Highway 9 plan. This November there will be a Transportation Tax Measure on the ballot to fund local transportation projects. $10 million has been earmarked for the Highway 9 corridor. I hope that you will join me in supporting the ballot measure.

Here are updates on several transportation projects.

Boulder Creek Elementary School: Anderson Pacific will work this summer on concrete sidewalks, diagonal parking, a student drop-off/pick up zone and drainage improvements along Laurel Street adjacent to the school frontage between Harmon Street and Lomond Street.  Additional sidewalks on Harmon Street from Laurel Street to the secondary school access at the tennis courts are included in the project.  An asphalt walkway on the south side of Harmon Street from Laurel Street to Oak Street will also be constructed as well with connection via an accessible ramp and a standard yellow school crosswalk at the Laurel Street and Harmon Street intersection.  The sidewalk improvements adjacent to the school property will require cement concrete retaining walls about three feet high along Harmon Street, and from three feet to five feet high on Laurel Street.

Highway 9 Felton School Project: Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved the submittal of a grant application for $1.5 million of improvements on Highway 9 for the three-school campus in Felton. On the west side of Highway 9, a sidewalk is proposed from the bridge south of Fall Creek Drive to the intersection at San Lorenzo Valley High School. A sidewalk on the other side is proposed to be constructed from the existing transit stop to the crosswalk just north of the transit stop.

Lower Speeds on Highway 9: We have also received very good news from Caltrans on the results of the speed survey for Highway 9. As a result of the study, speed limits on Highway 9 are proposed to be lowered on four stretches between Santa Cruz and Boulder Creek.

  • At the Santa Cruz City limit, the 25 mile an hour zone will be extended for about a quarter of a mile where there is now a 35 mph area.
  • The speed limit will be lowered from 35 mph to 30 mph in from of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, a distance of about 4.5 miles.
  • Coming into Felton from the south, the speed limit will go from 35 to 25 mph.
  • The speed limit is also proposed to be lowered from 35 mph to 30 mph between Ben Lomond and Brookdale.

SFO Select Committee on South Bay Arrivals – Flight Paths Impacting Santa Cruz County

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In my last correspondence, I invited all of you to the upcoming public Select Committee meeting on May 25th, 6pm at the Civic Auditorium.  This is a reminder and I hope you can attend that meeting.

After over a year of working diligently with our Congressional representatives to mitigate the jet noise problem and advocate for public meetings, the May 25th  event will be the first public meeting that FAA officials have attended in Santa Cruz County. It is an opportunity to discuss the FAA’s recently released study of citizen-advocacy proposals to address the jet noise issue, which I am forwarding here for your advance review:

FAA Initiative to Address Noise Concerns of Santa Cruz/Santa Clara/San Mateo/San Francisco Counties Feasibility Study

Links to the documents: The study can be viewed here, along with the appendices and the executive summary.

Please join me and the Select Committee on May 25th, 6pm at the Civic Auditorium.