Monday, October 11, 2010

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.