Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 24, 2016

Contact:   Debbie Bulger, California Native Plant Society (831) 457-1036
Gary Patton, Attorney at Law, (831) 332-8546
Jonathan Evans, Center for Biological Diversity (510) 844-7118

Deal Protects Santa Cruz Coastal Habitat, Accommodates Solar-powered Home

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.— A legal agreement between conservation groups and solar power entrepreneurs will protect more than 41 acres of coastal wildlife habitat in Santa Cruz as part of a deal to accommodate a new solar-powered home. The agreement passed a final hurdle last week at the California Coastal Commission.

San Francisco popcorn flower
San Francisco popcorn flower photo by Dylan Neubauer. Photos are available for media use.

The settlement agreement protects rare coastal prairies and imperiled wildlife while clearing the path for a new coastal home. The groups reached the deal after review under the California Environmental Quality Act revealed that the 50-acre property next to a greenbelt preserve is habitat for several threatened and endangered species

“These sweeping coastal terraces are home to a rich array of biological treasures that will now be protected for the next generation,” said Debbie Bulger, conservation chair of the California Native Plant Society, Santa Cruz chapter.

The agreement permanently conserves roughly 85 percent of the property as wildlife habitat — protecting wetlands, streams, woodlands, and coastal prairie. Importantly, the deal also creates a habitat management plan funded by the landowners to help restore imperiled coastal prairie, which is home to the endangered San Francisco popcorn flower and Ohlone tiger beetle. Popcorn flower and tiger beetle populations have struggled because of threats from nonnative grasses and development in coastal bluffs throughout California.

“The California Environmental Quality Act brought together everyone involved to make sure that environmental protection was a basic part of the proposed project,” said Gary Patton, attorney at law representing the California Native Plant Society in the deal.

“This agreement will provide important protections for some of California’s most imperiled coastal species because the California Environmental Quality Act helped shine light on ways to improve the project to avoid threats to our environment,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The new residence will be set upon coastal terraces adjacent to the Moore Creek Preserve and will not affect coastal views. The house will include a three-bedroom single‐family residence, a guest house, workshop, swimming pool and pool house. The development will be solar powered and totally off the grid.

“Being in the renewable energy sector and having dedicated our lives to a better and cleaner planet, restoring the grasslands and protecting habitat matches our vision for an environmentally sound future,” said Sara Kissing, vice president at the renewable energy start up Powerstation 247, who will be building the home along with Uwe Corbach, a solar power entrepreneur and investor.  “Our entire development will be off the grid, day and night, to help protect what makes California so special—the amazing open spaces, grasslands, wildlife, ocean and greener way of living.” 

The property is dominated by coastal prairie, an endangered grassland type, threatened by development along California’s coast. Two branches of Moore Creek flow through the site and are home to the southwestern pond turtle and threatened California red-legged frog. The habitat is also home to various other wildlife species including white-tailed kites, northern harriers, burrowing owls, horned larks, warblers, pallid bats, and badgers. The private habitat preserve is adjacent to the 246-acre Moore Creek Preserve. The agreement became final on May 19, 2016 when no appeals were filed at the California Coastal Commission of the project’s earlier approval by the Planning Commission of the city of Santa Cruz.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The California Native Plant Society is non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of California native flora.

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