Did a developer steal this woman’s camera?

By on Wed, July 13, 2005

Cheri Parr
Barbara Mauz is ankle-deep in eucalyptus cuttings, and shorter than this pile of chips.
Victoria Ortiz
It may be ephemeral, but the stream and the surrounding trees dwarf Barbara Mauz and Coastsider photographer Cheri Parr.
Cheri Parr
A little further downstream, you can see tracks where the bed is being used as a road.
Cheri Parr
The wood chips drift like snow among the trees. Yesterday, they were trees.
Cheri Parr

On Monday morning, says Barbara Mauz, men clearing land for a Miramar developer stole her camera while she was trying to take a picture of what they were doing.

Barb Mauz lives on the southern edge of El Granada, within earshot of Miramar. Recently, that area of Miramar has become a center for development in the unincorporated Midcoast.

The area is sensitive. It butts up against the urban/rural boundary and the Mirada Surf hillside area. It’s on the borders of three greenbelt open space areas:  Mirada Surf, Quarry Park and Peninsula Open Space Trust’s Wicklow property.

An ephemeral stream (a stream that flows only during and after it rains) winds through it. Although the stream is ephemeral and partially underground, you can see a well-defined channel and the willows, riparian plants that thrive on stream banks.  You can see the willows further downstream at the Quarry Park access road of Highway 1. It passes under the highway to feed the willows at Magellan as well.

Welcome to Miramar Heights

In the last few years, an entire neighborhood of mansions has sprung up almost overnight in Miramar east of Highway 1. Someday, they’ll call it Miramar Heights, but you probably don’t even know it’s there, because most of this development is just out of sight of the highway.

But as the development has moved east toward the hills, and north toward El Granada, it has become impossible for folks in this part of El Granada to ignore.

Barb Mauz has several concerns. First, they were filling the stream bed with wood and chips from the eucalyptus trees they had cut down. Second, in addition to blocking the stream, the eucalyptus could be lethal to plants and animals in its bed.  Third, she wants to make certain that whatever changes are being made are recorded, so that Coastsiders and the county understand what is lost in this development. And she wants to make sure that the urban/rural boundary and greenbelt open space areas are respected.

What Barb saw

Barbara Mauz is a small woman, but she’s also a fierce defender of her local environment. She’s fought many battles over the years with developers, the county, and the Coastal Commission.

She knew the development had been going on, but she wasn’t necessarily expecting anything Monday morning. She described what happened in an email.

I heard lots of saws and noise & when I went up from our house and looked down Moro to where my little stream is. All of the trees there were gone. So, I went over there with my little throw-away camera to document whatever was going on. I took a picture of some guy blowing Eucalyptus chips into the channel—those chips can kill any wetland plants and animals. The guy in charge came over and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was concerned about the stream and the area in general as it is a fragile and beautiful place directly adjacent to the Open Space areas.

I told this guy and the one in charge that it would be just plain terrible for people who walk past this area going up to quarry park & will now only see monster houses instead of the natural area. He appeared to be listening and said that he didn’t want people taking pictures of his truck and that he didn’t want anyone from the county coming over looking at what they were doing—then he snatched my camera; he gave me a $20 bill. I told him that I didn’t want his money and that I wanted my camera back.

But Barb wasn’t getting her camera coming back.

On Tuesday, my wife Cheri went to the site with Barbara Mauz to take more pictures. Our daughter and her friend tagged along.  The guys got into their truck and left the site at the sight of the two women and two girls armed with yet another camera.

Wednesday, Barbara Mauz filed a report with the Sheriff’s office. The deputy who took the report went over to the site, but the man whom Barb says took her camera denies having done it.

What are we to do?

Babara Mauz wants the stream protected. Right now, it isn’t recognized as a coastal resource by the Coastal Commission. She says, "Make the county and the owners restore the stream and plant sequoias for people who are using Quarry Park. Write letters asking the County Board of Supervisors not to permit building on this ephemeral stream—or other such streams & creeks such as Medio Creek which is also currently under threat"

Barb wants a movement.  The first step is to understand what’s happening in this place and to share that information.

We’ll never know what’s happening in out-of-the way neighborhoods unless we ask questions, take pictures, and share information. If we’re going to do this, we have to assert our right to know what’s happening. That’s a big reason I started Coastsider.

We only have Barbara Mauz’s word for what happened on Monday. But I do know that despite her fears for her safety and privacy, and her doubts about the Sheriff’s interest, she took her complaint to the Sheriff’s office.

I also know that I have been the subject of aggressive behavior at construction sites that I have photographed for Coastsider.

I am beginning to learn how quickly the landscape in this part of the Coastside has been altered. Everyone should be aware of this, because it doesn’t take long to completely change place this size.

With the county’s Local Coastal Program about to be updated, what’s happening in Miramar could happen anywhere. Large parts of Montara are already in play in the LCP update.

What is essential is that everyone on the Coastside know what they’re missing behind a thinning screen of trees, in a buried ephemeral stream bed, on the film in a stolen camera, or in a windowless room in Redwood City.