The Lompico Watershed Conservancy has donated seven unusable land parcels in the Lompico area to the County of Santa Cruz as the 15-year-old group prepares to dissolve as a nonprofit organization.
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors accepted the donation of the parcels with a 5-0 vote as part of its routine consent agenda Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Lompico resident Kevin Collins and a small group of neighbors formed the conservancy in 1997 as a land trust to protect the headwaters of Lompico Creek.
The conservancy defeated an application for a logging permit on the property in 2001, and a second logging-permit review ended in 2006, when the Sempervirens Fund purchased the forestland the group was working to protect, according to the group’s website.
The Los Altos-based Sempervirens Fund purchases and protects forest land in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“We accomplished what we set out to do originally,” said Collins, chairman of the conservancy board.
With its central goals accomplished, Collins said, it was becoming difficult for the group to raise money and manage the seven small parcels it had received from various donors in the hills of Lompico.
The parcels, which range from 4,500 to 12,000 square feet, are each part of a subdivision named Happyland that was created by Santa Cruz County in 1911, Collins said.
According to county records created in 1980, Happyland had 3,453 parcels.
In a process known as “paper subdivision,” the county created property lines by essentially laying a grid over a map, according to Travis Cary, the chief real property agent for Santa Cruz County.
“Paper subdivisions were made without regard to topography,” Cary said. “It’s not an uncommon thing, but it’s problematic because it’s unbuildable.”
The majority of the Happyland properties are on steep hillsides with no access to roads. Nevertheless, Collins said some developers in the 1960s cut dirt roads into the hills using bulldozers without any surveying. The ensuing winter rains washed out the roads, causing massive erosion.
“(The roads) blew out catastrophically and filled Lompico Creek with sand,” Collins said.
As a result, Santa Cruz County passed grading ordinances in the 1970s to prevent such environmental problems.
In 1982, the county board of supervisors passed a resolution to acquire lots in substandard subdivisions, such as Happyland, and merge them together.
With the addition of seven parcels from the conservancy, the county owns 253 of the 3,453 Happyland parcels.
The remaining parcels — the large majority undeveloped — are owned by individual property owners or the City of Santa Cruz, which also has some water rights to Loch Lomond Reservoir.
Cary said the county is simply holding the Happyland properties until it figures out a better management plan, as most of the land is in the local watershed.
Countywide in 1980, there were 14,600 paper-subdivision properties, most of them in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
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