Change in Master Plan from Greenbelt to "Park"The General Plan of the City of Santa Cruz specifies that a Master Plan will be done for the Arana Gulch Greenbelt property in advance of any project. Presently, the City is proposing a Arana Gulch PARK Master Plan, a change in the scope of the Master Plan that was initiated by the City without public input.
A "greenbelt" is an area set aside from development to preserve its natural character. A "park" is an area developed specifically for human use. The Arana Gulch area was acquired by the City specifically as a Greenbelt under Measure O, passed by residents in 1979,which designated five (5) parcels for public acquisition and retention as open space. Arana Gulch has always been referred to as a Greenbelt in City documents. This change from "Greenbelt" to "Park" is a unilateral decision by Parks and Recreation staff that violates the intent and purpose of the origianl acquisition of this land.
Environmental ImpactsThe single build alternative in the proposed Arana Gulch Park Master Plan EIR violates the City's own Riparian Setback Ordinance, which requires 100' setbacks from riparian habitat.
The proposed Creek View Trail outlet from Arana Gulch (Figure 1, based on a 1993 aerial photograph) cuts across the Santa Cruz Harbor Dry Storage area, a secure, locked facility that is asphalt paved and surrounded by an eight foot chain link fence. When the dry storage yard was rebuilt in 2001, the Coastal Commission permit specified that no development be allowed in the 100' setback from the Arana Creek riparian habitat. The north fence of the dry storage yard delineates this 100' set back (Figure 2, cross-hatched area). The paved bike road proposed to enter through the Harbor Dry Storage Yard cannot be built in the 100' setback from the Arana Creek riparian habitat north of the Dry Storage Yard fence.
The proposed 300' bridge through Hagemann Gulch would also violate the City's own 100' setback requirement from riparian habitat, and would require the remove of many heritage trees, protected by City Ordinance.
The proposed route lies within the Coastal Commission's Zone of Influence. This agency has repeatedly expressed their opposition to previously proposed projects on this land in writing (Broadway-Brommer Bicycle/Pedestrian Path Connection EIR), citing the non-compliance with the City's General Plan, the absence of alternatives, and violation of the City's Riparian Setback ordinance (Background on the Broadway-Brommer Project).
The bikeroad project violates Measure O, passed by residents in 1979,which designated five (5) parcels for public acquisition and retention as open space. Four parcels have been acquired and all others have been accorded "due process," with a full Master Plan process being done in advance of any proposed project being sited on them.
The State of California's Fish and Game Department has, for some years, listed the Santa Cruz Tarplant as endangered. Recently the federal government's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has listed the tarplant as threatened. The proposed bikeroad would bisect the habitat of this plant into three sections separated by impervious road surfaces and trampled by human and animal foot traffic. The Santa Cruz tarplant grows nowhere else outside this county and Arana Gulch is the most significant tarplant habitat in public hands. Increased traffic will negatively impact tarplant management and recovery efforts, for which the City receives monies from the California Department of Fish and Game.
Arana Creek, which flows along the eastern side of the property, has been listed as a known steelhead trout stream, another species listed as endangered by the federal government's National Marine Fisheries Service. This stream formerly also contained other listed endangered species, the tidewater goby and the coho salmon, though harbor construction and development have made the stream unsuitable for them now. Federal law requires "Section 7 consultations" with U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel for each listed threatened and endangered species. While four qualifying species would be negatively affected by the proposed project, only 1 consultation has taken place to date. Students at Harbor High School, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Natural Resource Conservation District, the Coastal Watershed Council and the Arana Gulch Watershed Alliance have worked steadily to improve conditions in Arana Creek for steelhead.
The potential benefits have been exaggerated. The City's consultant's own figures show a potential time-saving of approximately one minute (based on the previous direct D2 alignment) over existing alternatives. The Regional Air Quality Control Board's opinion confirms that of the consultant that the project would result inno discernible air quality improvement. The number of potential "commuter" bicycle users has never been established, and estimations of potential new bicycle commuters as a result othe project are impossible to verify. "Recreational" bicyclists have several existing alternatives.
Keep Arana Gulch a Greenbelt!
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