Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 29th
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Supervisor John Leopold

John LeopoldSWhat have you heard from constituents of yours who—while not living in the City of Santa Cruz—are served by the city’s water department regarding the pause on plans for desalination and related water supply issues? What are you doing to make progress on the water supply problem for your district?

Many of the residents of the First District are interested in participating in the process for making long-term decisions about water use and supply in our area. Unfortunately, more than 30,000 First District residents served by the City of Santa Cruz Water District (one-third of all ratepayers) have little say in the choices that are being made.

Live Oak residents pay more for their water, have no elected representation in the management of the system, and are represented by only one appointed member of the Water Advisory Commission. My constituents were happy to see that there will also be one appointed member from outside the city on the new, 11-member Water Supply Advisory Committee. However, concerns remain that representation is disproportionate to the number of ratepayers outside the City of Santa Cruz. I have been working with Santa Cruz City Council members to ensure that whenever a vote is taken by city residents related to water supply options, the 30,000-plus ratepayers outside the city will also have the opportunity to weigh in.

The Soquel Creek Water District, which has been considering desalination in concert with the City of Santa Cruz, has done a good job of reaching out to residents in their service area to inform and engage them in a series of very difficult decisions surrounding their very limited water supply. I applaud the efforts of the District to be leaders in conservation requirements and appreciate their candid discussions about their water situation and their choices.

County staff is working with both districts to examine all the ways to work together to share our limited water supply. We must look past a singular solution and parallel track a number of creative ideas together to address our water supply challenges.

Particularly in light of proposed medical marijuana cultivation regulations currently being considered, how prepared is the county to face potential legalization of marijuana in California, such as has happened in Colorado and Washington?

In 1996, Santa Cruz County voters strongly expressed their interest in allowing the compassionate use of medical marijuana and passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, by 74 percent. The Board of Supervisors has been working to address the will of the voters by creating a clear set of regulations. After the California Supreme Court ruled that local governments can pass their own set of regulations, our Board began to work diligently to ensure access for patients who have doctor’s recommendation. After several public hearings and substantial public testimony, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance that establishes land-use regulations that define where dispensaries can be sited in commercial areas, and that also addresses business-operating guidelines.

This month we will hopefully adopt a reasonable set of rules to limit cultivation based on three key principles: protecting our neighborhoods, protecting the environment and ensuring access for those in need. Commercial grows will be moved out of residential neighborhoods and be sited more appropriately within agriculturally zoned areas. There are space limitations, required fencing, and a prohibition on sightlines in the public right of way. Patients will continue to be allowed to grow their own medicine at home and are now restricted to 100 square feet, regardless of how many patients live in a house.

At the request of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, our Board has also taken the first steps to recognize the importance of a third-party certification system for the cultivation of this plant. Based on the successful models in the organic and timber industries, we have conceptually adopted a set of goals for cultivation that protect the environment, adhere to our regulations, encourage good community relations, and promote worker and community safety.

With these ordinances addressing cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, Santa Cruz County will be well positioned to adapt our existing policies to any new laws if California voters decide to legalize marijuana like they have in Colorado and Washington. Until a proposition is passed addressing the recreational use of marijuana, we will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our medical marijuana regulations.

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