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GHAD Jihad

Things are heating up atop Capitola's Depot Hill, and we're not talking about the lover's lane. No, we're referring to a battle that apparently is raging between some members of the Depot Hill Geologic Hazards Abatement District, a.k.a. the Depot Hill GHAD.

According to GHAD president and realtor Bob Tomaselli, this special district was formed in 1997, at the request of the majority of the 18 property owners atop the bluffs, to fund and build a sea wall at the base of the cliffs--but dissenting homeowner Denise Ryan is now accusing GHAD of creating "unnecessary division in what was once a lovely community of families."

For his part, Tomaselli claims that if the Depot Hill GHAD doesn't take steps now, "our 100-year-old Grand Avenue walkway, which has grand views and has been used as a lovers' lane for years, will disappear. The district is putting up money to protect not only its homes, but also a public resource."

Ryan strongly disagrees.

Noting that at 1,250 feet long and 24 feet high (only 21 feet would be visible above the sand, proponents claim), Ryan says the plan would be "the largest proposed sea wall in the state." Ryan claims the sea wall "would restrict a public resource" by sealing off what she describes as "a national treasure, a tremendous trove of 3- to 5 million-year-old fossilized remains of whales and other marine mammals, which is known to paleontologists worldwide and studied and enjoyed by thousands of scientists, beach-goers and students each year."

Ryan also says the Coastal Act only permits sea walls when existing structures are in danger from erosion--a situation she says has yet to be reached by Depot Hill's cliff-top homes--and that sea walls have been banned in six states because they encroach on beaches, change their profiles, lose sand supply and cause erosion on adjacent beaches.

But Tomaselli points out that the cliffs are "receding and dangerous, which is why Capitola City posted warning signs on the promenade. But unfortunately, some teachers bring students here to examine fossils."

"The vast majority opposed to the sea wall are local paleontologists and surfers, but almost all the fossils have been lost to erosion," claims Tomaselli. "A sea wall would have no impact on the surf break, and more people use Grand Avenue walkway than the beach below."

He admits that the California Coastal Commission "does not like sea walls per se, but we want them to look at all the issues here."

Ryan has an even bigger issue with GHAD--the ongoing cost of the organization itself. She says it has cost "close to $250,000 for studies and repeat studies to tell us the coast is eroding (duh), and we have individually contributed about $15,000, with no end in sight."

Ryan says that even if the California Coastal Commission were to deny a sea wall permit, "the special district can continue with more studies. Special districts are a bit scary that way."

Ryan believes a simpler and far less expensive solution than a sea wall would be to encourage Depot Hill residents "to replace their lawns and thirsty garden vegetation with drought-resistant native plants."

Meanwhile, GHAD's land-use consultant Steve Graves says the group "is trying to engage in a long-range planning process, instead of the California Coastal Commission's parcel-by-parcel approach," and that the proposed wall "would stop the majority of erosion from wave action below, and the cliff above would recede at a slower rate, thereby protecting the heavily used public access trail atop the cliff."

As for the fossils below, Graves claims that "those that remain will be preserved by the wall, so that some time after you and I are long gone, they will still be there, rather than being eroded and removed under dangerous conditions by gathering paleontologists."

The sea wall goes before the Capitola Planning Commission on Thursday, Aug. 5, at 7pm at the Capitola City Council Chambers, 420 Capitola Ave.

Three for One

Speaking of GHADs, there's another such district potentially forming in the Pajaro Dunes, according to Santa Cruz County elections manager Gail Pellerin, who urges y'all to come on down to her office before Friday, if you want to file candidacy papers for any of the school or special districts or City Council seats up for election this November. Other local offices up for election include county Boards of Education and community college boards; unified, high school and elementary school boards; Fire Protection District boards; Water District boards; the Santa Cruz Port District; Recreation Districts; and the Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District.

The deadline for filing is 5pm, Friday, Aug. 6, but if you play your cards right and file before noon, you can also caravan to Lockheed Martin in Bonny Doon, where the Santa Cruz Civilian Weapons Inspection Team is planning another "inspection," with Aug. 6 also being the anniversary of Hiroshima Day. Call 831.469.9101 for caravan details. Call 831.454.2060 for election details; visit them online at www.votescount.com or head for 701 Ocean St., Room 210, Santa Cruz.

Rack of Choice

News that a heavy-set man launched a pair of Metro Santa Cruz newspaper racks through the windows of Borders and the Sentinel, in that order, at about 9:30pm, July 21, breaking panes of glass before taking off on a mountain bike, got Nüz calling both businesses to offer condolences, especially given that a similar attack occurred July 11.

"We don't blame you. If you put a gun in a person's hand, it's the person who fires the shot that's guilty," Borders manager Mike Jackson told Nüz, noting his store captured the incidents on security cameras and that the culprit was the "same guy each time."

Over at the Sentinel, editor Tom Honig said, "I just don't understand this kind of malicious mischief. Innocent people can get hurt; it's just stupid. The only people working in the front of the building at that time were janitors--the people who can least afford to get hurt."

We heartily agree. As for why a person would hurl a Metro rack through anyone's window, Borders' Jackson proffered, "It was a just handy projectile."

Gosh, and there was silly ol' Nüz thinking it was because Metro is of course the county's No. 1 rack of choice ...

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 August 4-11, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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