The Board has taken a number of actions to expand the County's efforts to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans and in our community. As a leader in this effort, the County was one of the first to ban single-use plastic bags, straws, plastic takeout containers and Styrofoam. Our actions have helped define the state and national strategy to reduce plastic pollution in our environment.
In August, the Board voted unanimously to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on County property and to work toward the installation of hydration stations at our facilities. We took the first step to encourage the use of reusable cups by directing our staff to work with other jurisdictions in the county to assign a new fee for single use cups. Berkeley took such an action, assigning 25 cents per cup. Watsonville followed but set theirs at 10 cents. We want consistent fees throughout the county, and we expect to have that considered at a Board meeting before the end of the year. The Board was also interested in removing the amount of micro-plastic pieces in our waterways and oceans and directed staff to start a public education campaign about the use of filters in clothes washers that can capture 90% of the waste. We are seeing these small pieces show up everywhere, and it is estimated that we may be eating up to a credit card worth of plastic each day due to how pervasive these pieces are in our environment.
Lastly, we are investigating whether we need to require all eye doctors to recycle contact lens waste, both from the lenses and the packaging. You can read the full item that was presented to the Board here. In October, the Board will consider additional action to be taken.
Addressing Sea Level Rise
On a continuing basis, we are seeing the impacts of climate change and sea level rise occurring on a local, state, national and global level at a much faster pace than expected. As a result, the California Coastal Commission revised their guidance about sea level rise to include the most recent sea level rise projections and to help characterize the future of development on our coastline and its impact on coastal access. Their new guidance calls for managed retreat along the coastline. You can read their guidance here. Now our county has to revise our Local Coastal Plan (our land use and development guiding document) with this Coastal Commission guidance and these sea level rise projections in mind.
At the beginning of October, the Board will be reviewing significant proposed changes to our coastal land use plans that will affect everyone in the county. Currently, County Planning staff is proposing that we continue to allow property owners to maintain their seawalls within most of the Urban Services Area and ban their installation outside that area. Within the First District, armoring would not be allowed near Schwan and Moran Lakes or near Corcoran Lagoon. Any new maintenance or construction in the allowable areas would need to be offset by sand mitigation fees, intended to mitigate the sand loss resulting from the covering of natural cliffs and bluffs and their concurrent erosion. These fees would be a major new cost for coastal property owners but seek to balance the needs of protecting our coast, protecting people's property and acknowledging the inevitable rise of the ocean. You can read the new items from the Planning Commission meeting by clicking
here. Santa Cruz County will be one of the first communities to adopt a revised Local Coastal Plan that takes into account the new sea level rise guidelines. Clearly, there is a lot at stake. I encourage you to read up on this important issue and stay informed as we work to prepare our community.
Making Our Voices Heard
I wrote an opinion piece in the Santa Cruz Sentinel last month that I hope you saw. It not only explains the status of efforts to address jet noise in our county, but also illustrates why the public process we went through is a real win for democracy as we were finally able to get the FAA to listen to the concerns of local communities. The FAA is currently working on the design of a new route that will return us to the relatively quiet skies we experienced pre-2015,
when no one talked about jet noise in our county. You can read the opinion piece here.