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Ed Silveira, Founder
Villa de Branciforte Preservation Society
Phone : 831-423-8367

Roof Tiles and Foundation Wall Dating Back to End of 18th Century Found During Construction Project

SANTA CRUZ, November 26, 2003 - The Perez adobe house was discovered today by construction workers in the historical Villa de Branciforte, known today as East Santa Cruz. Significant archaeological features such as adobe foundations, bricks, roof tiles and burial sites pertaining to the Spanish Colonial history in California are of historical significance both locally and statewide.

Construction was interrupted indefinitely today for archeologists to retrieve fragments of the adobe for further evaluation. Cornelio Perez was the oldest son of Margarita Rodriguez and Jose Maria Perez, the first Perez to settle in California in 1800. The Rodriguez family was one of the six founding settlers of Villa de Branciforte.

The Perez site is adjacent to a vacant land parcel subject to a proposed two-story 6-unit housing development in 2004. The wall foundations will be reburied beneath a concrete sidewalk and part of the asphalt roadway, but could possibly be threatened by trenching for public utilities, which will proceed as part of the proposed development.

About Villa de Branciforte

Founded in 1797, Villa de Branciforte is a unique occurrence in Spanish Colonial history. Unlike the Spanish missions, the Villa was secular, and unlike the other two original secular settlements, the pueblos of Los Angeles and San Jose, Branciforte was a "villa," the only villa to be created during the Spanish Colonial era in California.

Villa de Branciforte was a hybrid community populated by soldier-settlers and established to colonize and defend Alta California against Russia, England, and France. In 1802, the Villa de Branciforte settlers attempted to establish a civil government by electing an alcalde (or mayor), an election that was perhaps the first to be held in Alta California.


The Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 28, 2002
By Brian Seals, Sentinel Staff Writer

SANTA CRUZ - The 21 missions that shaped California's history, transportation routes and culture have fallen on hard times. The shrines to the settling of the Golden State for the most part are decaying, as are the wealth of artifacts within them. Father Junipero Serra would be distressed.

State Sen. Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz, is pushing for state money to preserve the Spanish missions, which collectively draw more than 5 million visitors each year. "The missions from San Diego to Sonoma are a critical element of our state's history," McPherson said. "We should do what we can to ensure their preservation."

That will be a big task. Not only are many of the mission falling apart, the myriad documents, artwork and artifacts that decorate them also need preserving. "There are documents Father Serra had in San Diego that are in file cabinets," said Richard Ameil, president of the California Missions Foundation, which is also pursing a private funding effort.

The Santa Cruz Mission, or what is left of it, is one of the less needy missions around the state. "The adobe itself is really well-restored," said Randy Widera, executive director of the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks.

Only a seven-room adobe completed in 1824 is left from the Santa Cruz Mission, which was built in 1791 along what is now School Street. A survey of each site's needs by the California Missions Foundation showed the local mission needs about $400,000 in refurbishing, but state parks curator for the Santa Cruz district Steve Radosevich said that number is probably high.

A $600,000 boost five years ago built new restrooms, a bookstore and patio, and built a wall around the adobe. Radosevich said any new money could be used for a landscaping and interpretive exhibit estimated at $200,000 or less. The plan would landscape the site with plants reminiscent of the original mission days, as well as create exhibits detailing the experience of Ohlone Native Americans who worked at the mission and lived in the rooms that still stand.

That plan would include recreating a small tribal village on the grounds. "Our focus is unique in that we attempt to interpret the experience of Native Americans," Radosevich said.

The chain of missions was begun in 1769 by Serra at the direction of King Charles II of Spain who wanted to settle what was then known as Alta California. The missions were to intended to be about a day's walk apart from one another.

Native American labor was crucial to the settlements, and the Spanish sought to convert, willingly or otherwise, the natives to Christianity. After Mexico won independence from Mexico it ended the mission system, and in 1834 privatized much of the property.

Today, two missions are owned by the state Department of Parks and Recreation - Mission Santa Cruz and Mission La Purisima Concepcion in Lompoc. The buildings had an indelible imprint on California, lending many cities their names. Moreover, El Camino Real - the transportation link of the missions - is generally the same thoroughfare, Highway 101, that traverses the state today.

While the mission is Santa Cruz met its demise in an earthquake in 1857, other missions still stand, but need some help to stay that way. Mission San Miguel Arcangel, for example, needs an estimated $10 million in repairs, according to the Foundation.

The Foundation estimates about $2.9 million is needed for work at Mission San Juan Bautista. Father Ed Fitz-Henry said money is needed to preserve papers, books, painting and other artifacts. "We don't have a museum-quality environment to preserve them," Fritz-Henry said.

He would also unearth and restore a buried wing of the mission and redo electrical wiring that dates to the 1930s. "These missions are landmarks that are not just national, but international," Fritz-Henry said.

Backers will look to the $2.6 billion in bond money passed under Proposition 40 in March. Some $267 million of that is earmarked for historic preservation. Originally, McPherson authored a bill that would have established a fund in the state treasury for the effort. Last week, that bill was rolled into a separate measure by state Sen. John Burton, D- San Francisco, that creates a commission to dole out the preservation funds included in Proposition 40, but lists the missions as a priority for that funding. That bill's next step is the Senate Appropriations Committee next month.

Meanwhile, the California Missions Foundation is continuing with a private effort to raise $50 million to restore and preserve. About $4 million has been raised, Ameil said. Not only does the foundation want to fix and preserve now, but also establish an endowment for future needs.


The Santa Cruz Sentinel, November 21, 2003
OPINION, Letter to the Editor

Legislators took on the issue of urban sprawl last year, and it's important to keep the matter on the front burner. When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger went on the "Tonight Show" to announce his candidacy to talk-show host Jay Leno, he most definitely did not discuss land-use issues in California.

But long after the applause has died and other day-to-day political issues have presented themselves, land use is on the governor's plate - as it well should be. This is just one of the many issues that can be easily ignored as the new governor settles in and starts to deal with a multibillion-dollar budget shortage in Sacramento.

But Californians care deeply about land use. A recent study pointed out that those living near the coast are willing to pay more in taxes and housing to keep the coastline open and free of pollution. Californians care about land-use issues inland as well - and throughout California.

One of the few major actions successfully dealt with last year by the state Legislature was an Assembly bill - AB 857 - that established important planning priorities for development throughout the state: Promoting infill development; Protecting open space; Encouraging compact and efficient development patterns.

According to an organization called the California Policy Reform Network, those priorities must be part of any future planning and budgeting by state agencies. The sponsor of the bill, Assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, recently declared in a speech to the Association of Bay Area Governments that the measure is "the most important piece of land-use legislation in 30 years." These kinds of planning priorities hardly seem novel to those used to Santa Cruz County politics. After all, planning and controlling growth have been the dominating political issues here for the past two generations. However, statewide, development pressures have caused all sorts of sprawl and runaway building. This legislation provides a different approach, sometimes known as "smart growth."

But even if the governor hasn't talked about smart growth with Jay Leno, he has given signs here in the early going that the issue of growth will be on his priority list as governor.

According to the Policy Reform Network, some of Schwarzenegger's appointments are supportive of restraining sprawl. Two appointments in particular were singled out as positive: Sunne Wright McPeak, formerly CEO of the Bay Area Council, has been named secretary of business, transportation and housing, and Terry Tamminen, the new director of the state Environmental Protection Agency. Both are familiar with the land-use legislation.

Even a sympathetic governor could be excused for ignoring the issue of land use while he grapples with billion-dollar problems. However, in the long run, the future of California is as tied to land-use decisions as it is to the health of its budget. We hope that the governor will find time and energy to ensure that land use continues to be part of the public debate.


The Santa Cruz Sentinel, March 24, 2004
By Brian Seals, Sentinel staff writer

A housing plan that calls for 3,341 housing units to be built in unincorporated areas through 2007 inched closer to final approval Tuesday. The county Board of Supervisors approved a draft of the so-called housing element by a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Jan Beautz dissenting.

Housing elements are planning tools aimed at pushing cities and counties to plan for a certain amount, and types, of housing. The state withholds some housing funds from governments that do not have certified plans. The plan discussed Tuesday was generally similar to the draft unveiled in June 2003. The major difference is that it calls for building more houses and apartments, and also allows for more densely built housing.

It was the latter that brought kudos and criticism. Beautz said she fears the 1st District she represents, especially the Live Oak area, will be the dumping ground for dense housing. "Sixty percent of Live Oak's housing stock is high density," Beautz said. "We should look at it throughout all the districts."

Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt said the county needs to work to use what little land is left for housing. She said density comes down to how a project is built. Wormhoudt said she recently took a tour of dense projects. "I came away with the feeling that good design has as much to do with whether high density works or not," Wormhoudt said.

The draft plan calls for upping the density potential on some parcels from the current 17 units per acre to 25. Virginia Johnson of Progressive Housing Advocates said she supported even greater density, especially along major transportation routes.
"It is better than it was before," she said. Others said that kind of density is an undesirable housing recipe. "I don't think you'll find many Americans that want to live in such a dense manner," said resident Daniel Beckett. The other difference in the most recent draft is in the amount of housing the plan envisions. The last draft, rejected by the state, called for 2,621 units.

While that allocation is still the subject of a lawsuit, the county planned for the 3,341 mandated by the state and doled out by the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments. Supervisors also made other alterations before submitting the plan to the state, including developing an amnesty program to legalize illegal units, and removing a request for laws limiting construction-defect lawsuits for condominiums.

Supervisors also asked for a legal opinion on a proposed policy giving affordable housing developers first crack at buying properties in default on tax payments. The next step will be getting state approval. Tuesday's action gives the state Housing and Community Development division 60 days to respond. Supervisors could also implement the plan without state endorsement, risking the county's share of state funding.



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