In the News

Santa Cruz City Council punts on bike panel, OKs conservation study

By J.M. Brown
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 12/12/12

SANTA CRUZ -- The Santa Cruz City Council voted Tuesday to delay until the spring whether to bring back a bicycle-pedestrian panel as the city prepares to launch a climate action initiative and revamp its bicycle plan.

"It should be one of our highest priorities," Councilwoman Katherine Beiers said of reviving a subcommittee as recommended by the Public Works and Transportation Commission. The panel was cut in recent years due to budget cuts.

The Public Works director, Mark Dettle, didn't support the move, saying there aren't enough staff resources to facilitate the group. But the staff also has been at odds in the past with bicycling advocates over projects.

The council supported a compromise by Mayor Don Lane to have the commission host several meetings on bicycling and pedestrian access until city budget talks in June would determine whether to restore a half-time employee to staff a restored subcommittee.

Also Tuesday, the council finalized more flexibility for making improvements to historic buildings. The changes come as the city releases its third volume of potentially historic properties and seeks to encourage property owners to voluntarily join the list.

In order to attract more businesses and retain existing ones, the council also finalized reductions in a traffic fee charged to development projects. Nonresidential projects smaller than 1,000 gross square feet will be exempt, automatic yearly increases will be eliminated and the fee will be recalculated using trips during peak evening hours rather than daily trips.

The council also approved a number of water-related issues, including hiring a consultant to conduct a yearlong conservation plan aimed at guiding water-saving efforts for the next 10 years. The plan is expected before a potential vote on a proposed seawater desalination project in 2014.

The city has spent $5 million on conservation in the past decade, a period that saw customers cut use by 20-25 percent despite growth. Yet, increasing conservation is cited by desalination opponents as a key alternative to building the controversial facility for offsetting shortages in dry years.

"The debate in this community about water understates and disrespects the effort the city makes and has made in terms of water conservation," Lane said.

Also Tuesday, in its last meeting of the year, the council named a new multiuse trail in Pogonip, the city's largest park, for Emma McCrary. The longtime Swanton resident and Big Creek Lumber matriarch, who died last year, was widely known for using a trail machine and chain saw to blaze trails countywide.

"She never wanted to be honored; she wanted to get out and work on trails," widower Bud McCrary told the council.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown on Twitter at

© 2008-2013 scwd2 Desalination Program, All rights reserved.