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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Settlement of multiple lawsuits is major victory for Soquel Creek

For nearly a decade, there have been battles over development proposed adjacent to Soquel Creek in the City of Capitola. Continued development threatened to further degrade this invaluable steelhead and riparian habitat.

In 1995, the groups Save the Habitat and Working to Advance the Village Environment (WAVE) beat back a proposal by developers for a major box store development on Bay Avenue. Since then, public objection and litigation has stopped development. In 2004, the property owner returned with proposals for development.

Also, since 1996, the Rispin Mansion Property, which was owned by the City, has been proposed for a bed & breakfast and additional development. The project as originally conceived significantly intruded into Environmentally Sensitive Habitat for overwintering Monarch Butterflies. Save the Habitat has fought the proposal and the sale of City-owned property for private development. The Council approved the project in 2004.

By the latter half of 2004, Save the Habitat had filed four new lawsuits against the City of Capitola concerning creekside development, and another one was about to be filed. WAVE joined in the lawsuit on the new Bay Avenue project. Recently Save the Habitat, WAVE, the City, and the developers were able to settle these lawsuits.

In exchange for dropping the ever-growing numbers of lawsuits, the plaintiffs achieved a laundry list of protections for Soquel Creek and Monarch Butterfly habitat along the creek. Among some of the significant protections are:

  • Permanent Conservation Easements for riparian and Monarch habitat on both sides of Soquel Creek from Hwy. 1 to Rispin Mansion. These easements ensure significant setbacks from Soquel Creek for any new development.
  • Permanent Public Access Easement on the Rispin Mansion property.
  • Removal of exotic species and restoration of riparian habitat.
  • A contribution of $5000/year for salmonid monitoring for a period of seven years.
  • Stormwater and lighting standards for new development.
  • Additional protections for Monarch Butterflies.
  • Creation of the position of Environmental Officer within the City of Capitola. The officer will be responsible for enforcement, will formally report to the City Council every six months on the state of Soquel Creek, will coordinate pollution data, and be a point person for grant money to restore and enhance the creek.

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