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[whitespace] Cave Art Shocking Actual Photo!: Thou hast angered the cave goddess! Now, feel my wrath! Rar!


Losing My Religion

Few people know that Nüz has a thing for rock legends--not of the Elvis persuasion, though we love the King, too. No, what we're talking about here are the sandstone noses, nipples and bellies that jut out of cliffs and hillsides along the coast.

Our local favorite is a cave goddess, whose ripely pregnant belly protrudes from the wall of the sea cave on Cowell Beach and swells as she births a fresh batch of surfers.

All this fecund deity ever demanded was a caress from the waves at high tide, a scattering of shells at her feet, and the 1996 Metro Santa Cruz Best Rock Spirit Goldie.

So, Nüz was mortified to learn that said goddess has been entombed in concrete as part of repairs to said cave's roof, which collapsed April 23, apparently in the wake of the Hollister-epicentered earthquake .

According to the city's chief building official Dick Stubendorff, the collapse was so severe it threatened the safety of people who frequent the cave, not to mention two extremely expensive motel units perched atop the bluff.

Both units, which belong to the Seaside Company-owned Sea & Sand Inn, feature a hot tub, patio and ocean view, and usually rent for $359 a night--except now Stubendorff has red-tagged them. And they will remain evacuated until repairs are done, work Stubendorff estimates will be finished June 24, a mere two months after the collapse, but potentially thousands of dollars in lost motel income later.

"The collapse is a reminder we live in earthquake and coastal country. Natural Bridges has already collapsed and we once had two Seal Rocks," said Stubendorff, noting that the indentation at Lighthouse Point could be next to go, since a sea cave lies under the area close to the Lighthouse.

Meanwhile, the emergency coastal permit that the California Coastal Commission issued the Seaside Company so they could undertake repairs to the Cowell Beach sea cave stipulates cabling the cave walls to the bedrock and filling said cave with 500 cubic yards of concrete.

In other words, our cave goddess is buried behind a sea wall--a situation that doesn't make for good coastal feng shui.

Indeed, geologist Mark Johnsson, who serves as the CCC's technical adviser and hates the proliferation of sea walls, says he would have liked more time to analyze the sea cave at Cowell Beach.

"But with million of dollars at stake and under the current Coastal Act, sea walls are permitted, when they are necessary to protect existing structures in danger of erosion and when they are designed to eliminate and mitigate the impacts to the local sand supply," Johnsson says, noting that the main problem with sea walls is that the sea level is continuing to rise.

"In nature, when the sea level rises, the cliffs erode and move landwards, so beaches stay the same width. But if you put in a wall, you can expect a beach size reduction within decades to 100 years."

To offset this problem, the CCC's emergency permit stipulates "removal of beach sand and sandstone from the interior of the cave to the upper edge of the beach, adjacent to existing riprap."

Seaside Company public pelations manager John Robinson says Granite Construction, which has been contracted to undertake repairs, will also create an exterior face on the concrete infill to match the texture and color of the adjacent cliff, and they'll include nesting holes for birds in the facade.

"It will cost a small fortune to repair--about half a million, plus loss of revenue from the bungalows above the cave until the project is completed, but you can't compare lost revenue to loss of life, " said Robinson, noting that there are "some perfect female-looking forms in the cliff faces at Swift Street."

OK, but before we go incurring goddess wrath by switching our allegiances that fast, can someone sculpt us a belly on the infill, as a pregnant reminder of what lies beneath the facade?

Nothing Political Is Correct

Accessory dwelling units sound like the boyfriends your friend is stringing along, so she can sleep at their places. Shortened to ADUs, they sound more like rather unpleasant contraceptive devices. But apparently ADUs are the politically correct term for "granny units," illegal housing add-ons that provide the last pockets of affordable housing.

Advocates argue that ADUs are a solution to urban sprawl and the housing crunch--if only $10,000 in permits and a Byzantine list of regulations didn't discourage homeowners from legalizing them and building new ones. They also argue that the city's estimated 1,000 illegal units are allowing much needed tax revenue to slip through the cracks.

"For years the planning process has been so expensive and prohibitive and time consuming and convoluted that people don't bother going through the system or trying," says City Councilmember Mark Primack, who hopes to revise the ordinance, along with fellow Councilmembers Scott Kennedy and Ed Porter.

"We want to make it possible and attractive to legalize units and build new ones because this is the best hope for affordable housing," Primack says.

The proposal includes halving fees, not requiring an additional parking space and not notifying neighbors of ADU construction. In other words, the ADU-building process would be like adding a bedroom to a single family home.

"If you look at the older neighborhoods in Santa Cruz, most of the houses have ADUs, including the Victorians," says affordable housing advocate Paul Wagner. "This ordinance will restore the traditional density that we had here for a couple of hundred years."

But as the city negotiates with the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union to create an easy-loan program for homeowners who wish to build ADUs, critics says ADUs create traffic and parking nightmares and convert single family neighborhoods into noisy and crowded places.

Santa Cruz resident and attorney Barney Elders says every ADU that is built affects the quality of life and property values of all surrounding neighbors.

"Why give rights to one property owner and take them away from three to five others?" says Elders. He urges citizens to attend the June 25 City Council meeting at which ADUs are scheduled to be discussed.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the June 19-26, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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