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Sep 23rd
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Environment

News - Environment

From Military Service to Nature Conservationist

From Military Service to Nature Conservationist

State Conservation Corp initiates first veterans’ backcountry trail crew
Assimilating back into society after serving in the military is anything but an easy process. But thanks to a new partnership between a California agency and the Veterans Green Corp (VGC), there’s a new, nature-filled way for veterans to spend this transition period—and give our state parks some much-needed TLC while they’re at it.

This year, the California Conservation Corps' (CCC) Backcountry Trails Program, which is aimed at preserving California's wilderness areas by making them safer and more accessible to the public, partnered with VGC to establish the first ever veterans’ Backcountry Trail Crew. The crew is comprised of 15 men and women, including nine military veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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News - Environment

A Green Blueprint

A Green Blueprint

New 25-year conservation plan looks at the county’s ecological future
A long history of environmental protection in Santa Cruz County has helped spare much of its land from development. More than a century ago, Big Basin—the first state park in California—was founded in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saving a large number of old-growth redwoods from logging. Today, 27 percent of the county’s land is in parks, public land, or is otherwise protected through conservation easements.

Nevertheless, many in Santa Cruz see the natural environment as under threat. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, a local environmental nonprofit established in 1978, estimates that by 2035, the population in the Monterey Bay region will increase by 146,000, 35,000 of which will be in Santa Cruz County. More people means increased urban and rural development—more houses, more roads, and greater stress on already taxed natural resources. Add to this the unknowns of climate change, and Santa Cruz County could be facing a challenging future.

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News - Environment

Shuttering State Parks

Shuttering State Parks

Come September, Castle Rock, Twin Lakes, Portola Redwoods and Mission Park will be closed
The bad news Californians were expecting was finally released by California State Parks on Friday May 13, when they announced the list of 70 state parks scheduled for closure next fiscal year. The closures result from the $11 million cut to the Park Department’s operating budget, which was adopted by the legislature and signed by the governor in March. Regional state parks scheduled for closure in September include Castle Rock State Park, a favorite of rock climbers and hikers up on Skyline Drive, Twin Lakes State Beach, which means the state will no longer be providing lifeguards, Portola Redwoods, and Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.

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News - Environment

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

Santa Cruz looks at filling the last remaining hole left downtown by the Loma Prieta Earthquake
It’s been 22 years since one of the most destructive earthquakes in our nation’s history rocked the foundations of Santa Cruz. Nowhere, perhaps, was that devastation more acutely felt than downtown on Pacific Avenue, where the collapse of the historic Pacific Garden Mall killed three of the six people who lost their lives in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Though the 6.9 magnitude quake lasted only 10 to 15 seconds, the destruction it wreaked can still be seen today. Destruction is fast—it’s recovery that takes time. But despite the recent economic downturn in our country and state, the final touch to restoring the face of Pacific Avenue is starting to get under way.
“It’s been 20 years since the earthquake,” says Mayor Ryan Coonerty. “We’ve worked hard to rebuild and that’s the last piece left.”
The piece of land that Coonerty refers to is the lot at the north end of Pacific Avenue, at 1547-49 Pacific Ave. and 1110 Cedar St. The lot is mostly vacant, the last remnant of downtown vacancy that is a direct result of the Loma Prieta quake.
A centrally located spot, the lot has housed several companies, including Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, Kelly’s Bakery, Asian Rose, and Oswald’s. All of these companies relocated to other parts of the city, and all (with the exception of Asian Rose, which moved in with its sister establishment, Malabar) are still in operation.
Coonerty remembers when Bookshop, his family’s business, was located on the site, as well as when it was destroyed in the earthquake. Though the owners had insurance, the rebuild never happened and the bookstore moved to its current location close by on Pacific Avenue. Since then, the city has been trying to rebuild on the optimal piece of real estate but has faced several obstacles.
On Thursday, May 5 the Planning Commission recommended that the city
council adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration (meaning that they would agree that there is no apparent evidence to suggest a negative impact on the environment as a result of construction) and approve a Development Agreement based on findings to continue consideration of Design and Planned Development Permits for a building in that spot. While this may not seem like a huge step forward, it is a start, and in the downtown area of Santa Cruz that’s saying something.  The building, now in the beginning final stages of planning as a five-story residential/retail unit, was originally approved as a seven-story building with upscale senior residences upstairs and retail downstairs.

“As soon as we approved it [the first time] the housing market collapsed,” says Coonerty. “Now we’ve been through a couple iterations and are ready to move forward.”
In addition to the financial challenges facing construction downtown there are also aesthetic and structural guidelines that must be strictly adhered to. The Downtown Recovery Plan (DRP) that was adopted in 1991 to address the reconstruction of downtown states:
“As a result of the earthquake, much of downtown will be rebuilt in a single generation. This puts a particular burden on the Recovery Plan and its design guidelines to maintain the unique townscape character and to avoid the creation of monolithic ‘projects’ that destroy the human scale and pedestrian quality of the downtown.”
Part of these guidelines include an ordinance stating buildings may not exceeding five stories, or 50 feet high, as to not cast Pacific Avenue’s popular promenade in perpetual shade. The DRP also requires new buildings in the neighborhood to use architectural styles that “emphasize a human scale and warmth that provides a common vocabulary,” an ambiguously poetic bit of building code that could be interpreted in any number of ways by those opposed to a project.
It has been a long time coming, but the first (of many, admittedly) hoops have been jumped through and in a town with a very vocal and civically minded populace the new five-story project is uniquely unopposed. The building itself will be comprised of 66 to 70 condominium units above a total of 4,510 square feet of commercial retail space and a parking area with 66 spaces.
“They call this one the missing tooth in the smile of Downtown Santa Cruz,” says William Brooks, president and CEO of Brooks Properties who is representing owners of the lot, Park Pacific LLC, with Norman Schwartz. “I’m trying to fill that hole so we can finish up the last build that was a consequence of the earthquake.”
The building has changed since its first imagining, scaling down in height and reducing the number of units proposed to better fit a troubled city budget. The upside of this is that the units themselves will be more affordable than was originally thought.
“We redesigned the units so they’re a little smaller than the previous units, will make economic sense, and will service the rank and file type of folks,” says Brooks. “It will have a lower price point whereas the old building would have had a much higher price point.”
However, former city councilmember Mike Rotkin counters that making the new housing cheaper isn’t necessarily a benefit for downtown. “It no longer guarantees to bring lots of discretionary income to downtown,” as the high-end senior living would have, he writes to GT via email. “Almost all of the housing we have built downtown after the earthquake—and there was quite a bit—was for low-income residents who have little in the way of discretionary income.”
He does, however, agree that the changes to the project have made it less contentious. Part of the success of this proposal so far no doubt lies in the benignity of the space. Unlike the five-story parking garage once proposed for Cathcart and Cedar streets that would have displaced the beloved farmers’ market, this building faces no such obstacle. Also, by creating more housing downtown, the city is promoting a greener Santa Cruz by further centralizing the populace, if only by a small degree.
Also, while it’s been 22 years in the making, it would mean that Downtown Santa Cruz would finally mend the scars left by the ’89 quake.

News - Environment

Bus System Blues

Bus System Blues

Metro faces widespread changes to close budget gap
Rubi Cuevas rides Metro buses almost every day. She works the late shift at the Capitola McDonald’s, and, until last year, she took the 68N home every night just five minutes after finishing her shift. However, after Metro cut 10 percent of their service last year, Cuevas was forced to take another less convenient bus home.

“Sometimes I have to wait 40 minutes for a bus,” she says. And while she occasionally can leave work before her shift is over and catch an earlier bus, she often has to stay until the end of her shift, which means a long wait. “I don’t have a car because gas is expensive, but there are no buses either,” she says.

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News - Environment

From Trash to Fuel

From Trash to Fuel

New technology provides leap forward for local organization focused on ocean cleanup
The ocean is littered with plastic.

In the Pacific Ocean, it floats near the surface of the water and swirls around in a massive vortex of currents, creating a sort of polluted soup commonly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Because of the dynamic nature of the currents, the size and scope of the pollution has proved difficult to measure. Some say the garbage patch is approximately the size of Texas while others claim it covers an area larger than the continental United States. As hard as it is to measure the garbage patch, it is equally as challenging to fit it with a solution.

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News - Environment

The Secret Life of Plastic

The Secret Life of Plastic

One GT reporter tracks the journey of plastic bottles through the recycling system
Forty-one Earth Days after the recycling movement of 1970 birthed the three R’s—“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”—Good Times set out to trace the journey of a metaphorical bottle as it makes its way through the modern recycling process.

The pursuit of this symbolic plastic bottle uncovers the challenges and goals of the recycling system, and what role the City of Santa Cruz’s roughly 60,000 residents, and their 949 pounds of waster per person, per year (according to the 2010 Community Assessment Project Report), play in the process.

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News - Environment

Desal Deliberations

Desal Deliberations

With desalination on the horizon, the debate deepens
When it comes to the debate over desalination, there isn’t much of a middle ground.


While opponents to the plan for a 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant stand by the idea of increasing conservation and cutbacks and exploring other alternatives (like maximizing use of existing water sources), city and water department officials unfailingly revert back to their matter-of-fact claim that “conservation and curtailment simply isn’t enough,” and that desalination has proven to be the only feasible route to augment the water supply. Representatives from scwd2, the joint agency formed by the Santa Cruz Water Department and the Soquel Creek Water District to pursue the project, claim there are no significant marine impacts. Opponents say there are. Scwd2 says the resulting water won’t be any different than normal drinking water; critics agreee it will be safe, but point out inherent differences.

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News - Environment

When It Rains, It Pours

When It Rains, It Pours

How ready are you for a flood?
Marilee French’s family has owned a vacation home in Capitola for 67 years. During that time, the house never flooded. But the downpour of torrential rain on Saturday, March 26, caused a pipe in Noble Gulch Creek to burst and a flash flood sent French frantically arranging for the transportation of her immobile 92-year-old mother, Eleanor, away from a rapidly flooding house.

“My mom and I came down for a nice quiet weekend at the beach to get away from the snow and we end up in a flood,” French says with an ironic laugh, noting thankfully that, despite property damages, all turned out well in the greater scheme of things. “This isn’t New Orleans for crying out loud—and it’s not Haiti, and it’s not Japan—so we’re grateful in a lot of ways, but sad for those who have had losses.”

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News - Environment

Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?

Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?

New findings out of UCSC shed light on lead poisoning among condors

Almost all of the 100 free-flying condors in California have suffered from severe lead poisoning at least once. Treatment is expensive and stressful for the birds, as they must be removed from the wild and sent to zoos and veterinary hospitals. After re-release, many get sick again and find themselves back in captivity.

Now, researchers from UC Santa Cruz have confirmed that lead ammunition is the most plausible source of exposure, and demonstrated that lead causes chronic, long-term effects as well as acute poisonings. The findings were presented at the March 6 – 10 annual Society of Toxicology meeting in Washington D.C., and may help spark conversation about a more stringent lead bullet ban.

Myra Finkelstein and her colleagues from UCSC analyzed 70 blood samples taken from 49 condors. Using a technique called lead isotopic composition analysis, the researchers identified the chemical fingerprint of the lead found in condor blood. They compared this to the lead signatures of 71 different ammunition samples—most collected in the field.

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Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
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Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.