Not So Friendly Skies – SLV Residents Move to Stop Proposed Jet Flightpath

By Mary Andersen

A new flight path has Happy Valley and Los Gatos/Saratoga residents angry and eager to move it to the San Lorenzo Valley. Some claim that, since their homes are worth more than ours, the path should be shifted out of their neighborhoods and onto ours.


Photo by Sean McLean

We already have a flight path. It’s called BIGSUR, or BSR, and it routes over downtown Santa Cruz, Pasatiempo, west Scotts Valley, north through SLV to the Summit Skyline area, to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). This path is still in use today and supports older aircraft not equipped with satellite navigation.

In March 2015 the FAA, as part of their Next Generation Air Transportation program (NextGen), implemented a new path, called SERFR, which travels from the coast at Capitola, over Happy Valley and Los Gatos summit towards SFO. This path was designed to accommodate a wide range of aircraft with satellite navigation capabilities. SERFR is low, loud, and concentrated. The FAA says they can fix that.

Neighborhoods under SERFR lodged thousands of complaints. With the assistance of Congressman Sam Farr they organized Save Our Skies Santa Cruz and were later joined by Quiet Skies NorCal. They created a proposal for a new flight path, called DAVYJ, over the City of Santa Cruz, SLV, and communities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Keep in mind, this new path would be in addition to the BSR flight path we already have. The proposal was endorsed by Farr and 1st District Supervisor John Leopold.

Community groups from the coast to the airport rejected the Quiet Skies NorCal proposal noting that it eliminated noise for those under SERFR by increasing noise and airplane traffic for communities under the proposed new DAVYJ flight path. In addition, DAVYJ was offered up as the only solution, when in fact other proposals submitted by groups closer to the airport were ignored.

In March, Supervisor Leopold wrote that the proposal constituted a “regional solution” that had been “worked on by all community groups throughout the area.” Congressman Farr stated in his newsletter that he hand-delivered the Quiet Skies NorCal proposal to Michael Huerta, Administrator of the FAA, assuring him that it was “the ideal solution.” Both assertions were false – residents under the proposed DAVYJ flight path in Santa Cruz and SLV were neither informed nor invited to provide input.

In April, Congressional Representatives Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, and Sam Farr appointed 12 elected officials (+12 alternates) to a Select Committee on SFO Arrivals. Their charter has been to analyze items labeled “feasible” by the FAA, accept community input, and report to Congress with a set of recommendations.

When the FAA released their study in May, Santa Clara and San Mateo County community groups were frustrated to see that their recommendations were not included. Only suggestions from Quiet Skies NorCal were addressed including the flight path shift to SLV. And the FAA made clear that, while feasible, DAVYJ would be similar to SERFR in its noise impact to SLV. It would be lower, louder, and more concentrated than any flight path we had experienced in the past.

The Select Committee asked why DAVYJ was the only option presented. The FAA said that DAVYJ was the only option offered by Congress. To their credit, the Select Committee is open to other options.

As you might expect, the issue is a political football. In Santa Cruz County SERFR lies primarily in Congressman Farr’s and Supervisor Leopold’s districts. Both SERFR and the proposed DAVYJ are in Supervisor Bruce McPherson’s and Congresswoman Eshoo’s districts. Low flying DAVYJ vectored planes would severely impact Supervisor Ryan Coonerty’s district and the path itself would impact the City of Santa Cruz.

The irony is that the FAA is a $16.4 billion organization with thousands of credentialed aviation experts. Yet, laypeople hoping to remove a flight path from over their homes were allowed to design a new flight path over other communities. That new flight path, DAVYJ, over SLV and Santa Cruz, is currently being vetted by elected officials with limited aviation knowledge, who will then submit recommendations to congressional representatives with even less aviation knowledge, who were misled into believing it was a regional solution when it is not.




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Additional contributors: George Wylie, Nancy Gerdt, Glenn Lyons, Roz Alley, Alastair Fyfe, Jacqui Rice, Beth Carlisle, Terry Hollenbeck, Thomas Andersen, Colleen Miller, Clifford Stow, Jennifer Parks

A Measure of Sweet Mountain Music ~ Sugar by the Pound


By Julie Horner

A tidy vase of dried hydrangeas and autumn leaves on a rustic wooden table greeted me as I let myself in the gate. I sank into a chair on the wide porch, for all the world transported in the Indian summer heat of early October to some place in the nation’s South. The grateful shade under a sweeping California oak reminded me that I hadn’t strayed too far from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

This old home is where banjo player and vocalist for Sugar by the Pound, Alison Steele, has sunk her roots to raise her babies, grow her own food, and nurture the love of making music. The other members of this all-girl band, Erin Valdivia (vocals, guitar), Cristy Aloysi (vocals, mandolin), and Sarah Farrell Mackassey (vocals, stand-up bass) live within walking distance of this quiet street of rustic bungalows tucked off the mountain town bustle of State Routes 9 and 236. So close to each other, in fact, that locals have reported seeing the girls walking their instruments across the highway on their way to practice!

Sharing a passion for family, food, and sense of community, the four friends started making music together just for fun at home. Before too long they found themselves playing out locally as a new force, dialing in their sweet sound together while rediscovering at the same time a sense of their own place as individuals. Each is already an artist in her own right: Alison, a fashion designer; Erin, executive baker and co-owner of Toast and Prost, which pairs craft brews with artisanal bread for local tastings; Cristy, artist and owner of Viscosity Glass; and Sarah, Yoga instructor, artist and owner of lille æske art house collective.

Now the girls are performing full throttle, breaking the all-male bluegrass old time-y mold with beauty, talent, and style. Alison explained that their music is not strictly bluegrass but is a blend of their experiences and interpretations built upon the foundations of old time, country blues, and American roots music. Inspired by the music of Appalachia, Sugar by the Pound sings folk songs in perfectly blended four-part harmony and plays melodies with simple traditional chord progressions using only acoustic instruments. Originally from California, New York, Indiana, and Virginia, the girls compose their own material and cover some of the most richly nostalgic traditional music ever written, bringing East and West Coast together for a uniquely warm, clear sound. And their contagious energy has audiences dancing and singing along.

Alison told me, “I have to say Georgie Buck is one of my favorites. I learned it after listening to Elizabeth Cotten’s version (she wrote the classic Freight Train Blues). She played clawhammer banjo and guitar. I like the part that says, ‘Georgie Buck is dead, last words he said, never let a woman have her way, boys, never let a woman have her way!’ We get a lot of hootin’ and hollering on that one for obvious reasons. It’s a powerful song with all of us singing strong harmonies and it really gets us and the crowd going. It’s fast, too, so it gets me stompin’ on my flatfootin’ board and smilin’. It’s one of the first songs we ever performed together, so it feels like home.”

An unknown composer once wrote: “Whiskey by the gallon, sugar by the pound, a great big bowl to put it in, and a spoon to stir it round…I wish I had a needle and thread, as fine as I could sew, I would sew all the girls to my coat-tail, and down the mountain I’d go!”

One little taste of Sugar by the Pound and it’s easy to picture this extended family toe-tapping the planks of that wide welcoming porch on a late summer evening in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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(c) Julie Horner 2014

Julie Horner is a Boulder Creek based Irish-American folk musician and writer.

Tina Saso Photography – Community, Captured


By Julie Horner

What caught my eye was the recent iconic photograph of local American roots musicians, Sugar by the Pound. It was a Marilyn Monroe moment. The photographer had captured the very essence of femininity and strength and sheer porcelain beauty in a series of relaxed looking shots; in-the-moment expression and sense of playful movement, the honesty of cotton fabric against smooth skin and the function of well worn instruments.

The photographer is Tina Saso, a San Lorenzo Valley native who now calls Boulder Creek home. That series of photographs was taken just moments after Sugar by the Pound had wrapped up their set at the Boulder Creek Harvest Festival. They’d ducked into a friend’s yard to shake off the heat of the day and the high of being “on” in front of hundreds of folks enjoying the lingering warmth of a long, hot summer in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can see in those photographs Tina’s ability as a genuine people-person to put her subjects at ease, feeling themselves and having fun so that personalities shine through.

It’s a natural impulse for Tina to photograph family and friends. Drawn by everyday people, mamas and babies, the rustic and the well-lit, she becomes the story teller and a recorder of moments in time. She told me that she especially enjoys photographing her subjects on-location outdoors, incorporating the environment whenever she can. Wilder Ranch, Henry Cowell State Park, and Boulder Creek’s Camp Joy Gardens are favorite locations, providing color- and texture-rich backdrops for her subjects.

Tina enjoys a deep connection with Camp Joy, having spent many days of youth with Leifin and Towhee Nelson on the acreage. Now their children run wild in that wondrous landscape, and Tina can be found chasing the kids around, adding her personal perspective to capturing what they do among the orchard trees and arbors.

“I have always been a social person and love working with people of all ages.” According to Tina, her enthusiasm for photography is complementary to that love. She is passionate about lighting and composition and facilitating the perfect environment for feeling joy, to reach that moment together at a shoot “when magic is happening.”

While her favorite experiences involve photographing individuals in a natural setting, she also has a keen eye for large compositions involving company staff and is in high demand as an event and corporate photographer. Her expertise includes evocative wedding portraiture and exquisitely pristine landscape and nature photography. Capturing life as she sees it: From the glow of the mother-to-be to the delicate form of the newborn asleep; children innocently at play to teens and adults at ease in the everyday.

Several times a year Tina hosts professional photo sessions by appointment at Camp Joy Garden. I can think of no finer place to create family memories through portraiture, to bookmark a place in time for loved ones framed by the beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains.


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Sugar by the Pound by Tina Saso Photography, Boulder Creek CA.

(c) 2014 Julia Horner

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.