My first year as Supervisor of the Fifth District has been busy, productive, and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s been a year of listening and learning, and a time of growing appreciation of the Fifth District. I’ve been privileged to participate in many events that weave our community together and have enjoyed time with both new and old friends.
I knew coming into office that the issues facing the Fifth District were diverse and interesting. During this past year, I have been especially thankful for the hundreds of residents who have devoted their time, energy, and talents to better our community. They have served on County commissions, chambers of commerce, business associations, Town Plan advocacy groups, civic and church groups, school boards, and youth organizations.
I would like to tell you about some of the accomplishments of the past year in the Fifth District.
Town Plan Meetings: More than 300 San Lorenzo Valley residents attended meetings to review and update the Town Plan for their community. The residents then organized themselves into more than a dozen advocacy groups which are working on issues that include replacing and updating street signs, lighting, tourism and marketing, road issues, public safety, and bike and pedestrian paths. We will see a number of improvements on Highway 9 and in the town centers next year as a result, including new bus shelters and improved crosswalks and access on Highway 9 in front of San Lorenzo Valley High School.
Brookdale Lodge: This historic gem was shuttered and has been falling into disrepair for the past year after being closed due to safety violations. Recently, the Bank of India foreclosed on the property and is now under contract with a prospective buyer, who hopes to restore the lodge to its former glory. My office and County staff have been working to transition the property and ensure that the lodge can reopen without permit delays.
Castle Rock State Park: The Sempervirens Fund has proposed to relocate the entrance to Castle Rock State Park, construct a new gateway to the park, and provide water, parking, and other amenities. The proposal will expand access to the park and greatly improve safety along Skyline Boulevard. Recently saved from closure, Castle Rock is undergoing a renaissance of public support and improvement. I have advocated for the project and am pleased to report that the County Agricultural Policy Advisory Commission gave initial approvals last week. The plans will go before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors next year.
Los Altos Gun and Rod Club: This has been a divisive issue in the Fifth District for several years. The gun club had applied to build a new clubhouse, which neighbors feared would increase noise from gunfire. Neighbors have also been concerned with environmental contamination from lead associated with shooting that has occurred on the property. The gun club recently announced that it is withdrawing its application for the clubhouse and will concentrate on the environmental issues.
Quail Hollow Park trees: When the Quail Hollow Ranch was built, the Lane family planted seven eucalyptus trees which in recent years were overgrown and cut. However, large, dead stumps were left in place, becoming an eyesore in an otherwise bucolic setting. Nathan Lewis of Lewis Tree Service cut the stumps and placed most of them along the parking lot.
Nelson Road: A massive debris flow during a storm in March 2011 closed Nelson Road in Scotts Valley. A temporary bypass through the community of Eclectia has allowed access to the properties beyond the closure while a new road alignment has been designed. That new alignment is scheduled to go to construction this coming summer and to be completed in October of 2014. The project has been well received by both Eclectia and the greater Nelson Road neighborhood.
Bridge improvements: After many years of requests, the Mount Hermon Bridge was painted and scoured. In addition, bridges in the San Lorenzo Valley were painted and rails were replaced. Work was done on a half dozen other bridges, including the East Zayante Road bridges at mile markers 5.5 and 6.3, the Lomond Street bridge at San Lorenzo River, Glen Arbor Road bridge at Love Creek bridge, Conference Drive at Zayante Creek, and Carol Drive at Lompico Creek.
Lompico-San Lorenzo Valley Water District consolidation: Early in my term I convened County staff to assist in discussions on the feasibility of consolidating the Lompico and San Lorenzo Valley Water Districts. Lompico Water District had been plagued by a failing infrastructure, high rates, and a shortage of water. Two options for a merger have been developed by the working group and were presented to the water district boards and customers in December. Next, both the Lompico and San Lorenzo Valley boards must approve resolutions to apply to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in order to merge. After conducting a protest hearing, Lompico must hold a bond election with 2/3 approval to move forward. I am extremely pleased that the basis for a viable solution has been developed and hope that a merger will be completed in 2014.
Local Roads: The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC), of which I am a member, has approved $1.2 million for road improvements next year in the Fifth District and a portion of Bonny Doon. The funds, which can only be used to maintain main thoroughfares, will be used to:
- Resurface a 2+ mile section of Bear Creek Road between mile 4.75 and mile 7;
- Resurface Mount Hermon Road from the intersection with Graham Hill Road in Felton to Locatelli Lane just outside the Scotts Valley city limits
- Reshape the intersection of Mount Hermon Road/Scotts Valley Drive and Whispering Pines, adding turn lanes. At my request, the RTC increased its allocation to pay for all but $46,000 of the $346,000 project.
In addition, $3.7 million has been allocated by the California Transportation Commission to construct a retaining wall, widen the shoulder, and install guardrails to reduce the severity of collisions on Highway 17 from north of Glenwood cutoff to south of Glenwood Drive. Construction is expected to begin next summer.
Fire District Revenue: After meeting with representatives from Scotts Valley and the four San Lorenzo Valley fire districts, I worked to see that fire districts in the county received an increased total allocation of nearly $140,000 from the Proposition 172 formula.
Rolling Woods Sewer: Plans have been approved to provide sewer service to replace failing septic systems in the Rolling Woods area off Graham Hill Road. Construction for this County Service Area 10 project should begin in 2014 for those who want to connect to the new sewer line.
Felton Covered Bridge: I have continued work to re-roof this damaged historic bridge and to trim trees whose branches might further damage the bridge. I look forward to moving forward on this project next year.
Ben Lomond Park: In its heyday, the Ben Lomond Dam was the social and recreational center of Ben Lomond. My office has submitted a grant application to design a “naturalizing” of the San Lorenzo River to restore access, without the dam.
Big Basin Bus Service: I am pleased to report that I successfully advocated for the restoration of weekend bus service to Big Basin State Park to allow visitors to experience our oldest state park without reliance on a car. METRO bus ridership increased almost 26 percent on morning rides for Big Basin Park. We hope to have an even bigger increase next year.
Community Choice Aggregation: My office is steering the effort to study whether it is appropriate for our region to purchase and generate our own power, which could have tremendous economic and environmental benefits. Last year at this time, no governmental agencies were on board to conduct a feasibility study. Currently, 19 governmental agencies in San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties are partnering to conduct a technical study which will analyze the economic and environmental benefits of buying and generating more renewable electricity and ultimately creating more green jobs in our community. Community Choice Aggregation has the potential to provide more significant environment benefits than any other initiative envisioned over the next several decades. It could allow the region to meet its 2020, 2050, and 2080 emission reduction goals in a relatively short timeframe and would be the first multi-county regional CCA partnership in California.
Economic Vitality: This summer, the Board approved a request from Supervisor Coonerty and me to direct the County Administrative Officer to refine the County’s revitalized approach to economic development. In the first quarter of 2014, the Board will be receiving a proposed Economic Vitality Program which will outline the County’s detailed approach to creating local jobs and otherwise stimulating our region’s economic recovery. This plan will build on the County’s successful efforts of the past year in regard to modernizing, clarifying, and streamlining regulations and the regulatory process within the Planning Department, all aimed at making the County a better place to do business. I am proud to report that more than 59 reforms have been implemented, with many more regulatory challenges to be substantially addressed during 2014.
In addition to providing personal assistance to many property owners, the County’s Economic Development Coordinator has also worked with dozens of commercial businesses to ensure seamless interface with the Planning Department. Retention of these local businesses is a key element to economic recovery. I encourage residents and businesses of the Fifth District to review the upcoming proposed Economic Vitality Program when it is released and provide your feedback and suggestions to me and to the other members of the Board.
I look forward to working on these and other issues in 2014. Please don’t hesitate to contact me at: email@example.com or at 454-2200. I look forward to continuing to represent you and work with you to improve our beautiful San Lorenzo Valley.