Friends of Arana Gulch History

January 14, 2015

Bike Project Cuts Greenbelt into Thirds

    The most egregious example of local bureaucratic cock-ups came to a head on November 15, 2013, with the ceremonial groundbreaking for the deservedly delayed and much opposed $6 million Broadway-Brommer Bike Road.

    Long opposed by real environmentalists, the Broadway-Brommer project has suffered a spotty history over the last twenty years. Originally conceived as a street for cars connecting Broadway in the City to Brommer Street in Live Oak, the project was axed by Santa Cruz City officials in response to environmental opposition. Later, as a paved bike road, the project was again laid to rest by a subsequent City Council.

    Nevertheless, City Public Works staff, reluctant to lose out on one-and-a-half million dollars of "free" federal money, revived the moribund project. Over the years, the B-B morphed from a car road, to a Class One Bicycle Commuter route with an enormous bridge spanning Arana Creek, to a curving, up and down bike road with bridges over Hagemann Creek and Arana Creek. Finally, donning funny nose and glasses, B-B was disguised as a "multi-use interpretive trail," as the overwhelmingly dominant component of the yet to be implemented Arana Gulch Master Plan.

    The B-B project follows the historical government tradition of "destroying the village to save it." Since all of Arana Gulch is declared Critical Habitat for the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant, Public Works staff struggled to find some way to justify building a paved road through the fragile species' only home. City officials had to find some way to make the project "resource dependent" to satisfy California Coastal Commission regulations for development in Sensitive Habitat Areas, such as Arana Gulch.

    Thus was born the "interpretive trail." No, it's not a different route. Yes, it still paves over critical habitat of an endangered species. But now the project has interpretive signs that will describe what was lost when this Natural Area was drawn and quartered, north to south and east to west, by an 8 foot wide asphalt paved road with two feet of graded shoulder on either side, where nothing will grow.

    The Boondoggle took it's first wee steps this week, kicked into a mockery of life with the traditional celebratory groundbreaking. Scores of brightly bedecked bicyclists joined toothy City Fathers... and one Mother, in the bright noon sun. A massive diesel backhoe supplied the necessary technology, mysteriously idling for no apparent reason, adding it's diesel fumes to the rapidly accumulating hot air.

    To "Balance" this display of bureaucratic excess, Friends of Arana Gulch, a stalwart group of caring environmentalists who have consistently opposed the Broadway-Brommer project lo these many years, arrived in funereal black to mourn the demise of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt. Bearing signs saying, "Good-bye to the Greenbelt," "Shame," "Less trees, less grass, less wildflowers, less wildlife," "Is Broadway-Brommer really needed?" and "Save it, don't pave it," the Friends stood in silent vigil for the animals, plants and insects who have no say in the future of their home in Arana Gulch.

    The assembled officials donned unfamiliar hardhats, grabbed golden-painted shovels, and, after instructions on which end to point at the ground, posed for the obligatory photographs. They scraped meager scratches into the hard packed earth, gratefully returned the shovels to those who know how to use them, and decanted into the crowd for obsequious self-congratulations.

    Thus the fate of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt was signed, sealed and delivered. No longer a Natural Area, now an incipient Park for human recreation, and a paved shortcut for bicyclists in a hurry, Arana Gulch passes into history along with its sensitive species, unique habitat, its quiet, its open space, its true value.

    Arana Gulch is now just another anonymous feature in the urban development that has inundated the landscape from Moore Creek to Valencia Creek, from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

    So long Arana Gulch! It was good to have known you.

    Michael A. Lewis

    Dear Friends ~

    We have always had Margaret Mead's simple message for activists on our web site. It seems that it is always less than 10% of the population who care, with the other 90% divided into those who don't care whatsoever, those who care but only if they get something from it, and those who care but assume humans must progress so oh well.

    On November 15, Friends of Arana Gulch came to mourn the death of a greenbelt and not let the destructors have their day unmarred in celebration. We were successful in this at least. We threw mournful water on their party. We were tolerated, as the politicos made their speeches and shoveled their dirt. Our message was clear to the gathered crowd, 10 times greater than our numbers. Of course.

    We will continue to monitor and photo-document the destruction of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt. And we will always speak clearly and strongly whenever the topic of Broadway Brommer arises, just as we would defend any innocent who was murdered -- we'll not let the place lose friends.

    Someday, perhaps a hundred or more years from now, the gophers will have encroached upon the pavement, spilling upended soil over the scar. The seed of many grasses will have found root in cracks and will begin the slow process of breaking apart the life-snuffing pavement. Raptors will look down and see a slow return as Arana Gulch arises, phoenix-like, to be home once again to life.

    Jean Brocklebank

Tarplant Season 2016

We found tarplant in Area A!
June 24, 2016

    We found the tarplant in the same area where we have located tarplant consistently for 14 years (except for 2015). We call it our favorite place. First I saw the familiar Pennyroyal (always in association with our favorite place). Then we spied our first tarplant.

    It is healthy as can be and appears to have sprouted several branches after being munched, perhaps by one of Tommy's cows.

    And then ... we saw two more tarplant individuals. Wow, three! We spent some time in this area counting and photo-documenting. We found a total of ... drum roll please ...

    ... twenty six individual plants. All plants - even the smallest one - appear healthy. All within an area of approximately 10' in diameter.

Area A tarplant 2016 Area A tarplant 2016
Area A tarplant 2016 Area A tarplant 2016

Tarplant Season 2015

    Although cattle grazing was begun this year, there were no tarplant found in Arana Gulch in 2015.

Tarplant Season 2014

    A third year of drought, coupled with a lack of any consistent, meaningful management of tarplant habitat by the City for the past 15 years (which spent its energy, time and money on building a bike short cut through the greenbelt) has resulted in the lowest inventory of Holocarpha macradenia since records began. Friends of Arana Gulch found three individuals on July 10 (one very tiny indeed), and the City's botanist found a fourth, so tiny as to be almost imperceptible. Of the four plants, two were desiccated and gone by August.

Click HERE to see how they looked on July 10th.

Click HERE to see how they looked on September 5th (note that we had mulched around their bases to try to preserve any moisture in the soil).

Click HERE to see the only surviving tarplant on September 27 (with its 51 flowers).

Follow the Destructive Project

From November 2013 through December 2014

Click HERE to follow the latest destruction of the Arana Gulch Greenbelt.

"Costs rise on Santa Cruz greenbelt path project"

Click HERE for the Santa Cruz Sentinel article on the Hagemann bridge cost overrun.
Click HERE to see the Brommer Street curbing that had to be replaced.
Click HERE to see the retaining wall hazard that will require fixing.

Click HERE to see pictures that holler "More cost overruns to come!" due to original project design flaws.

Click HERE to see the paved routes in the context of the destruction to create them (as of 11/23/14).

UPDATE: Click HERE to see the continuing destruction of tarplant habitat even after the paving is completed (as of 12/22/14).

This is what was promised.
This is what was built.      Click HERE to see the full story.

Jean tarplant
Read "A Tarplant Tale" in the Good Times!

Tarplant Inventory June 30, 2013

Tarplant bloomed early this year. We discovered only 16 plants in the southern portion of the grassland, reporting them immediately to the City Parks Department, along with these pictures. On July 16, we attended the Adaptive Management Working Group's field trip and learned that two more tarplant had been located, further south.

We also found some Madia sativa but none of the other coastal tarweed, Deinandra coryumbosa, which bloomed so well in 2012 after the City allowed the entire grassland to be mowed. There was no mowing done in the fall of 2012, nor in the spring of 2013. The tarplant was left on its own, while the City instead focused on its plans to build the Broadway-Brommer paved bike road.

Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Holocarpha macradenia
Madea Sativa
Madia sativa
Madia sativa
Madia sativa

April 24, 2013 - Santa Cruz City Council approves plans for Arana Gulch Master Plan paved bicycle routes and fencing for grazing.

April 23, 2013 - First meeting of the Arana Gulch Adaptive Management Working Group (AMWG). FOAG was instrumental in forcing City Parks and Recreation Department to open all AMWG meetings to the public.

April 19, 2013 - Santa Cruz City submits Habitat Management Plan and engineered blueprints to the California Coastal Commission for comment and eventual approval.


July 23 and 27, 2012. We inventoried for the endangered Holocarpha macradenia, finding 15 plants, which we reported to the City's Parks and Recreation Dept. We flagged the area to protect it from trampling and disturbance by visitors and their off-leash dogs. We also found two other coastal prairie grassland natives (Madia sativa and Deinandra corymbosa) that help identify Arana Gulch as important habitat for such species.
To see pictures of the species in their Arana Gulch setting, go HERE.

Holocarpha Macradenia  Tarplant Area A Sign

December 8, 2011 - The California Coastal Commission voted 10 - 1 to approve the Arana Gulch Master Plan, including the paved Broadway-Brommer Bicycle-Pedestrian project, expanded with a paved route from Agnes Street entrance, and extensive fencing for cattle grazing.

December 8, 2011

Alas, the Coastal Commission vote was against us: 10 - 1. The one bright spot on the Commission was Esther Sanchez. To be fair, Danya Bocho was close to being with us, but when she asked two pertinent questions, she received misleading...well, lies, as answers from the Commission staff.

Now listen up! This is not over. The bicyclists and the City bureaucrats won nothing tonite. They won nothing because 1) the Conditions of Approval will never be met and I suspect they will never get their development permit (yes, we are eternally optimistic); and 2) we have other avenues to walk...

To everyone, from everyone who came to San Francisco, do not give up hope. We have come too far to give up, have we not? Tomorrow is another day. Go to Arana Gulch and get its glad tidings and reaffirm your care for this special place. Your affirmation is powerful, for you and for her (Arana Gulch).

As ever,
Jean & Michael
on behalf of all Friends of Arana Gulch

FLASH! Our Restoration Strategies Implemented (10/13-14/2011)

October 2011 - Santa Cruz City Parks and Recreation Department implements FOAG recommendations for tarplant management in Arana Gulch, based on our study of Watsonville Wetlands Watch tarplant management at Tarplant Hill in Watsonville.

August 25, 2011 - FOAG submits "New Restoration Strategies for Holocarpha macradenia in light of 2011 Field Studies" to Parks & Recreation resource managers. Read HERE.

Click here for pictures.


On July 27, 2011, Friends of Arana Gulch members found thirteen tarplant individuals
growing near another coastal prairie tarweedy species, Madia sativa (over 100 individuals).
We notified the City of our discovery. They added our finds to their own later tarplant inventory,
with the final count more than forty plants.

tarhand  madia_sativa

Suggestion to the City for Collaboration (11/29/10)
Read it here

October 16, 2010 - Blueprint for a Resolution to the Arana Gulch Controversy Read it here

Commissioner Mark Stone has placed on item on the agenda for the November Coastal Commission meeting in Santa Monica, asking for a waiver of the rule that prevents a developer (the City) from resubmitting an application for six months after a project is denied by the Commission. This means that the City could resubmit the same application and be on the agenda as early as the December meeting (San Francisco). FOAG questions the waiver. Click here to read.

October 14, 2010 - COASTAL COMMISSION REJECTS CITY'S ARANA GUCLH MASTER PLAN APPLICATION - The Coastal Commission saw through the myths and addressed the facts. The City is now free to concentrate on crafting a Master Plan that follows the direction of the City's own General Plan to protect the sensitive species of Arana Gulch and manage for the restoration of tarplant habitat.

October 7, 2010 - Nina Hyatt paints before it disappears, standing in the path of the proposed paved bike route.

One more reason for the Coastal Commission
to deny approval of Broadway-Brommer
, (10/3/2010)
Click here to read.

Friends of Arana Gulch Assists with Restoration Volunteer Labor (August, 2010)
Read it here.


On April 11, 2010 FOAG sent the Santa Cruz City Council a letter explaining two funding myths that Jean Brocklebank researched and clarified that provide a clear path for the City to begin tarplant recovery and management in Arana Gulch. Click here to read the letter.


In response to the California Coastal Commission's direction to Staff and the City to look at alternatives to the transportation project in the ESHA in the Arana Gulch Master Plan, Friends of Arana Gulch presented a "Restoration Alternative with Interpretive Trails" to the Parks and Recreation Department in a meeting on April 7, 2010. Click here to see the FOAG Alternative.
Click here to see the proposed interpretive trails (in yellow).

March 11, 2010 - COASTAL COMMISSION VOTES UNANIMOUSLY TO CONTINUE DECISION ON ARANA GULCH MASTER PLAN! Commissioner Mark Stone made the motion, saying, "We would like to give this project another shot and look to see if there is any alternative that satisfies the commission." Stone and a majority of other commissioners indicated they would vote against the project as proposed because they believed it was clearly a transportation project made to look like a conservation plan.

December 15, 2009 - The City of Santa Cruz submitted an application for a development permit for the Broadway-Brommer Bicycle-Pedestrian Path Connection to the California Coastal Commission (CCC). The CCC has until January 15, 2010 to reply to the City as to the adequacy of its permit application.

August 26, 2009 - 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rules for the City. Read the Sentinel article here.

California Native Plant Society and Friends of Arana Gulch offer our gratitude to Parkin and Wittwer for their efforts in court on behalf of Arana Gulch.

June 25, 2009 - Our lawyer presented oral arguments today in the 6th Appellate Court of California. A decision will be forthcoming within 90 days.

May, 2008: The Friends of Arana Gulch fund appeal reached its goal. The lawsuit appeal filed in November of 2007 continues.

January 8, 2008: The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and Friends of Arana Gulch (FOAG) filed their appeal of the Superior Court's November 2007 decision on their lawsuit against the City of Santa Cruz challenging the Arana Gulch Greenbelt Master Plan and Environmental Impact Report (EIR). At issue is the lack of alternatives in the EIR for development of a bicycle connection between the east and west sides of Santa Cruz. The City's EIR failed to consider alternative bike routes that do not cross habitat of a genetically significant population of Santa Cruz tarplant.

November 9, 2007: The judge issued a decision in support of the City of Santa Cruz. California Native Plant Society and Friends of Arana Gulch are awaiting receipt of the final judgement before deciding on any further course of action.

September 7, 2007: The judge did not issue a decision on September 7th. Instead he will study the case and issue his decision by October 7th. And he scheduled a Case Management Conference for November 2nd. This is a chance for attorneys to verbally raise any issues after the written tentative judgment. The judge will then subsequently issue a final judgment.

August, 2007: 2007 Tarplant Found!!

2007 Tarplant
(click here for pictures)

June 13, 2007: The Arana Gulch Court hearing date has been postponed from June 14 to September 7, 2007 at  8:30 AM., due to heavy Court case load.
June 5, 2007: Arana Reply Brief submitted from California Native Plant Society and Friends of Arana Gulch. Click here to download a .pdf copy of the brief. This file is less than 1 MB, so it will download fairly quickly.

April 23, 2007: The Court hearing date has been postponed from May 10th to June 14th at 8:30 AM.

March 1, 2007: California Native Plant Society and Friends of Arana Gulch submit Petitioner's Opening Brief (click to download 1.5 MB .pdf file) in Superior Court of California for the County of Santa Cruz. The hearing has been postponed until May 10 at 8:30 am, due to extra time granted to the City of Santa Cruz to prepare the Administrative record.

July 11, 2006: City Council Approves Master Plan and Certifies FEIR.

Friends of Arana Gulch is supporting a law suit by the California Native Plant Society against the city over violations of the Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area and Critical Habitat designations for Arana Gulch.


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Last updated 8/20/16