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Paving the Way: An increase in the size of the parking lot at the Shrine of St. Joseph could hurt the area's monarch population, say environmental activists.


Fly Zone

Tension over the proposed expansion of the parking lot at the Shrine of St. Joseph, adjacent to Lighthouse Field, came to a bitter head at the Dec. 12 Santa Cruz City Council meeting. The expansion from 92 to 132 spaces is necessitated by the church's hope to double the number of pews to 400. City code requires one parking space for every 1.3 potential persons.

Environmentalists are concerned that enlarging the lot would negatively impact the sensitive Monarch butterfly habitat. Recently, due to adverse conditions at Natural Bridges, Lighthouse Field has become the critter's preferred site. A Xerces Society study entitled The Monarch Project warns that by the end of the century "California may be ... the sole North American steward of the monarch migration" and warns that "potential loss or degradation of any California site should therefore be taken seriously by local governments."

The church's hired butterfly expert, Elizabeth Bell, claims that Pelton Avenue is the northern buffer zone for butterfly habitat in the area. (Pelton Avenue is the southern border of the seven-acre parcel owned by the church and shared with Gateway School.) But other experts and area residents refute this, brandishing photos of a eucalyptus tree, heavy with monarchs, hanging over the church's parking lot.

"The city's decision is simple, either pave over sensitive habitat or don't. There is no question that they're there," says Mark Massara of the Sierra Club. "If the city approves this thing, the Sierra Club is going to immediately appeal it to the Coastal Commission."

"The city hasn't even followed their own procedures for assessing an ESHA [environmentally sensitive habitat area]," says Professor Travis Longcore, a butterfly expert at UCLA. "They need their own biologists to go out there and state the obvious because they'll be on shaky ground before the Coastal Commission."

Other complaints about the project are that it is segmented, violating California environmental law. At the meeting, Father Phil Massetti confessed his desire to build what he calls a social hall--others refer to it as a convention center. "It took us seven years to raise the money for the parking lot," he said. "You can imagine how long it will take us to get the money for the social hall." Deidre Hamilton, the church's land-use consultant, argues that the project is consistent with the city's general plan. "Neighborhoods should include gathering places," she quoted.

The council postponed its decision until Jan. 9.

Glassy, Come Home

Five counties in California are spraying their crops with the powerful pesticide Carbaryl, and Santa Cruz could be next. Vice President Al Gore declared a statewide emergency on June 23 after the glassy-winged sharpshooter showed up on crops in Southern California. The insect carries Pierce's Disease, which is harmful to vineyards.

On Nov. 21 County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Moeller submitted the first draft of a work plan for keeping the sharpshooter out of Santa Cruz County. But on Dec. 12, the Board of Supervisors heard comments from about two dozen Santa Cruz residents, many of whom claimed the plan might lead to unnecessary pesticide use.

Pesticides would not be the right way to deal with the sharpshooter, no matter how severe the problem, according to Kim Eabry of the Monterey Bay Toxics Action Coalition (TAC). Eabry told Nuz that there are several alternative solutions. "We want the work plan to emphasize preventative measures," she added.

Jeff Rosendale, owner of the Sierra Azul nursery in Watsonville, argued that limited spraying might be an important preventative measure if the sharpshooter problem becomes more severe. "Our goal is to have as little spraying as possible," he said. "If the sharpshooter does get into Santa Cruz County, a small amount of spraying could prevent a lot of spraying in the future."

Eabry, however, argues that the use of pesticides kills insects that would otherwise help curb the pest problem. "If you don't have this natural system of checks and balances, there is nothing to prevent pests from coming back."

In addition to throwing the ecosystem off-balance, the use of Carbaryl brings up several public health concerns. The pesticide is a human nerve toxin and a possible carcinogen.

According to Moeller, the plan calls for pesticide use as a last resort. "Most of our resources are devoted to pest exclusion," he said. "If you can keep the pest out, you don't have to deal with it." In the event of an infestation, pesticide use would be considered among other alternatives. The work plan says the Agricultural Commissioner will ultimately decide when to use pesticides.

The declaration of a statewide emergency called for an accelerated decision-making process. Sharpshooter prevention programs are exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, and they are not required to undergo environmental review. According to Eabry, the problem is no longer urgent: "There was initially incredible alarm over this, but nature is taking care of itself." Since the California Department of Food and Agricultures's first study on the pest four or five months ago, the sharpshooter has not spread to new areas. According to Moeller, it has not been found in Santa Cruz County.

The Board of Supervisors will decide on Jan. 9 whether to accept the Agricultural Commissioner's work plan.

St. Patty's Day

It was over a year ago when local entertainers stormed City Hall to protest Santa Cruz's entertainment ordinance. Pricey entertainment permits were forcing several smaller restaurants and cafes to discontinue live musical performances. But many a disgruntled local performer can still testify that enforcement of section 5.44 of the municipal code, which states that "any person conducting entertainment in the City of Santa Cruz must first obtain approval of an Entertainment Permit from the Chief of Police," has not slackened.

The ordinance was made famous by the enforcement efforts of Lt. Patricia Sapone. She explained her zealousness to Metro Santa Cruz in June 1999: "You have to look at the potential for harm, like the tragic nightclub fires throughout history. There are concerns about safety, as well as garbage and graffiti."

Such dedication has not gone unrecognized. One of new Mayor Tim Fitzmaurice's recent proclamations designated Dec. 6 Patricia Sapone Day. No party horns allowed.

The Jury Room, on Ocean Street, is the most recent target of Sapone's crackdown. The bar had to cancel all acts for December when Sapone busted them for hosting live music. "We thought we were OK because there were only 77 people in the audience, and we didn't charge a cover fee," says the Jury Room's Jason Douglas. "It was just for fun."

Not in Santa Cruz.

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From the December 20-27, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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