by Matthew Pinsker
University of California, Santa Cruz
Daniel Matthew Silvernail Architect Intern
Greenbelts within Santa Cruz, California are endangered and this may be due to a lack of support from state legislation. Greenbelts alias urban growth boundaries are local government sanctioned demarcations that control urban sprawl by respectively maintaining a fixed juxtaposition between rural and urban areas.
California legislation requires what are known as spheres of influence, defined as planning boundaries or city limit lines that regulate the jurisdiction of governmental agency services, but do not manage urban growth.
Potential positive outcomes of growth regulation include efficient use of public facilities, promotion of long-term strategic thinking, and protection of open space. Santa Cruz greenbelts may be endangered as a result of current California requirements, allowing cities to manage urban sprawl upon evaluation of their needs through long-term urban planning strategies.
Local California governments appear to manage greenbelts in accordance with rules governing spheres of influence, as required by legislation. In the article “Growth Management Policy in California Communities” by Elisabeth R. Gerber and Justin H. Phillips they explain varying processes and contexts for altering California greenbelts. “…boundaries adopted by city councils tend to only require the approval of the council, country board, a Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), or another outside governmental agency to be altered…none of the UGBs [urban growth boundaries] that originated from a successful citizen initiative have been significantly changed” (6).
Gerber and Phillips discuss the positive outcomes of increasing citizen interest in local greenbelts, producing a decrease in the likelihood of greenbelt endangerment, allowing internal efficiency and forethought to flourish. The potential for greenbelt enforcement seems to rely on public activism and awareness of California legislative processes, which would likely reinforce stringent urban growth boundaries. Materialization of this state ordinance is apparent within Santa Cruz, California where local greenbelt management is municipally planned through long-term development.
Santa Cruz has delineated its boundaries through acquiring greenbelt properties over time and managing them within the legal framework of California. The “City of Santa Cruz 2030 General Plan” discusses the city’s greenbelt acquisition and implementation process, “At the time , the City already owned several key properties in the greenbelt, and by the end of 1998, had purchased all of the Greenbelt properties with the exception of one…The preservation and use of each Greenbelt property and open area is guided by a City-prepared long term Park Master Plan…” (121).
The city of Santa Cruz Planning and Community Development Department explicates the history of local greenbelt acquisition with long-term plans set aside for preservation and future development where appropriate.
This process of long-term planning does not require growth management but upholds expansion with the city’s best interests in mind. The delineating function of greenbelts within Santa Cruz appears to recognize that cities are prone to sudden change and it is the task of the local government to strategically plan for fluctuations in community needs.
Greenbelts within the city of Santa Cruz are currently threatened under California legislation, which does not require direct management of urban growth. A proposed incipient stage to maintaining current greenbelts is to encourage citizen activism and awareness in the form of resolute initiatives to ultimately encourage definitive boundaries and internal development.
Through valid property accumulation the city’s management of greenbelts limits such initiatives, rather California legislation appears to advocate long-term development from an autonomous perspective. Santa Cruz greenbelts are indeed endangered but urban growth management can be employed in various fashions, universal sanctions for the sake of immutable city limits or appropriate adjustments according to population and resource projections.
The implementation of greenbelts is presented as contingent upon guiding state ordinances that lay the framework for how and under what circumstances cities should respond to preservation and development.
List of Santa Cruz Greenbelts:
Arroyo Seco Canyon
Henry Cowell State Park
Jessie Street Marsh
Moore Creek Preserve
Wilder Ranch State Park
To learn more about the city of Santa Cruz, a helpful resource is the City of Santa Cruz Official Government Website. Santa Cruz Park Locations, the Zoning District Map, the General Plan Land Use Map, and much more are located at City of Santa Cruz: Area Maps.
Gerber, Elisabeth R. and Justin H. Phillips. “Growth Management Policy in California Communities.” Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy: University of Michigan 1.2 (2004): 1-7. Web. 3 March 2014.