County Commissioner John Leopold and a staff of public works officials cleared up some of the misinformation about the East Cliff Drive construction project that has residents up in arms at a packed meeting Monday at the Simpkins Family Swim Center.
But he couldn't give them the one answer most seemed to want: that the project would go away.
The plans for tidying up the funky pathway to the eastside waves have been underway for a decade and there have been many meetings about them, however many took no notice until August 1, when bulldozers moved in.
Then there were false claims that Leopold cleared up, such as the one about paving over the open space known as the "Dirt Farm" and turning it into a parking lot.
Yes, there will be five new parking spaces along the road there, but no, the dirt will stay open. In fact, it turns out, according to a spokesman for surf pioneer Jack O'Neill, who owns the open space, that O'Neill is trying to donate the invaluable land to the county for gardens and landscape.
Part of that deal is that O'Neill's front yard, which now houses a cactus collection, will become parking spaces. That is a requirement of the Coastal Commission, which is trying to ensure that all people –not just those who live at Pleasure Point – have access to the ocean.
The road improvements were part of a tradeoff for the retaining walls and staircases the commission allowed earlier.
Some other falsehoods that were corrected:
#The tiki tribute to surfer Jay Moriarity will be preserved.
#The palm tree will likely be forced to go, because the Coastal Commission favors local plants.
#The roadway will be slimmed, while the area for bikers and walkers will be bigger.
#There will be filtered storm drains that will be regularly maintained by the county. The water won't run directly into the ocean.
#The project is scheduled to take nine months, and more if it rains.
#Fences will be 42 inches high, not blocking the pathways of surfers who can easily scale them. The fences by benches will be made of wood planks that can be seen through.
#The porta potty will be replaced by an actual bathroom.
The project seemed to represent a turf war, much the same way as surfers battle over the right to the waves.
About 100 people faced Leopold and asked questions and many complained that they hadn't had much information about the project in advance. Plans were only posted on the Web last week.
There were those who wanted the picturesque coastal road between 32nd and 41st avenues closed to anyone but locals and resented the fact that a state commission of people who know little about the area and don't live on the coast were making decisions about it. The local commission member, Mark Stone, lives in Scotts Valley.
"We can do that to the surf too," suggested one man.
The debate was typical of all coastal areas around the state. Providing access for all residents – even dreaded Central Valley tourists – conflicts with how the locals think their area should be run.
The lengthy history came up in the conversation.
For example, many said the biggest problems stemmed from the fact that the one-way road runs west to east, against the direction of the ocean, so surfers must slow down or face backwards to judge the waves.
Many didn't know why that was, or why it couldn't be changed until one man in the audience recalled that fire crews could turn left into homes along the strip, but didn't have the space to make a sharp right turn forcing the street to be a wrong way one way.
Leopold responded to complaints from residents whose streets are now filled with traffic because of the detour by saying he would ask the California Highway Patrol to beef up patrols there.
In a different vein, he suggested that if people wanted to build their own rural benches or tributes on the land on the beach side of the walls, there was likely not enough county staff to prevent it.
Many residents complained that the county didn't do enough to let them know what the project would be like while changes could still be made. Traditional notices by mail weren't enough, some said.
"We are talking about people who surf," said resident Gabrielle Coppel. "They don't look for community meetings."
Leopold said he would have signs posted explaining the construction on the Pleasure Point construction bulletin board.
"I'm hoping once it gets built you'll go, 'It's not my plan, but it's a plan I can live with,'" said Leopold.