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County Commissioner John Leopold Takes on Angry Pleasure Point Crowd

Leopold said there was no way to stop the $3.1 million East Cliff Drive project, but some changes could be made.

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.

See plans here.

 And here.

And here.

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.

Janna Smith Lang August 09, 2011 at 01:41 PM
As a long term (since 1972) resident of the East Cliff/Pleasure Point area I'm excited and thrilled with the proposed new pathway at Pleasure Point. It will provide an expanded and more scenic area for walkers, joggers, bikers, dog walkers and more as well as being more protected from cars. Keep up the good work!
M Taylor August 09, 2011 at 02:56 PM
We all left the meeting with more info on the project- but it is criminal that this meeting happened AFTER construction began & people were legitimately angry due to lack of information. Leopold & the RDA had not had a meeting in ~ a year, no notes / plans from prior meetings were published online, plans were just posted last week, the RDA website has been 1 year out of date until then. They need to be held to a higher standard with informing the public. What they are calling misinformation is actually true on many levels. While they leaving the Tiki, they will move it to a nonprominent place in the Park, and it will not watching out for our surfers like it is now. The Dirt Farm has 5 bulldozers & a whole lot less dirt...Glad it is only 5 spaces, but why so much destruction then? They ARE going ahead with the 42inch fence and putting in benches that won't allow visibility or easy access over the fence. They are moving the picnic tables at PP Park away from the surf & burying them in the park. Many crowd members raised simple suggestions that would make the plan more palatable, i.e leaving the Tiki where it is, using natural materials when possible, changing bench locations & height. Gradually, the tone of Leopold / RDA changed from a hard stance (we're not changing anything), to more open (we'll look into it). We'll see if they look into it,I HOPE SO. We were not informed well of this project & it should not be too late to offer & apply valuable local insight.
Brad Kava (Editor) August 09, 2011 at 03:37 PM
please keep us posted here. Also: If you have good photos of the drive the way it was before the work started, I'd love to post them for a before and after. Send me your best at brad.kava@patch.com and we can put together a community photo page.
EEEgggg August 09, 2011 at 08:09 PM
This is the kind of thing that is frustrating so many people in this state. California claims it is flat broke and thus needs to tax everything, fire teachers, cut programs, but somehow has no problem spending millions of dollars on a few blocks of concrete that apparently nobody wants anyway. If it isn’t broke, why are we spending so much money at this time, given the economic crisis this state and country is in, to fix it? And it is not just surfers that object to this project. Pleasure point is a residential neighborhood. It is not the same as west cliff drive, which you can get to without driving 100 miles an hour through someone's neighborhood without any concern for the residents. Perhaps changing the direction of traffic to go down 41st to access East Cliff Drive would help alleviate some of this problem. I thought one of the best points made at the meeting was that Leopold was supposed to be representing and fighting for his constituents, not against them. Yet, although there were a lot of suggestions last night of possible ways to harmonize the project to the neighborhood, it appears there are likely no changes that are actually going to occur.
sun set October 23, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Why wont Leopold move the 5 spots out of our open space and ocean view? All he has to do is ask the Coastal Staff for a change. Sup Stone can help with the Commission. Put the 5 spots across the street. That is all the People of Pleasure Point are asking. Why wont he help.?
Tester October 28, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Leopold sounds like an asshole. Why do we need parking 5 spaces that will now have cars crossing the walking and bike path?

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