Editor’s note: This article was updated because it incorrectly stated PORC failed in its Measure K initiative and to correct a statement that the South Bay Indigenous Solidarity does not speak for the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Last update Aug. 24 at 12:10 p.m.
Over 30 people gathered at the Y Road and Betabel overpass along Highway 101 on Aug. 20 to protest against the development of a local property they claim is sacred to the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. The overpass is between the Highway 25 and Highway 156 exits on Highway 101.
The protest began with participants making a circle on Y Road where Canyon Sayers-Roods, who describes herself as a cultural representative for the Indian Canyon Mutsun Band of Costanoan Ohlone people, welcomed participants to Mutsun territory, sang the “Grandmother Song” and acknowledged indigenous protocols.
Marcus Rodriguez of the Pajaro Valley Ohlone Indian Council of Watsonville followed Sayers-Roods with the “Mother Earth Song.”
The protesters then headed to the overpass with signs in hand and chants such as “Protect, Juristac” and “Pretect, Betabe,” voicing their opposition to the construction work being done on the commercial location known as the Betabel Road project.
According to a press release by South Bay Indigenous Solidarity, a San Jose-based organization, the area known as Juristac by the Amah Mutsun is a sacred ceremonial site that contains cultural resources such as burial, village and habitation sites.
The release also claims the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band has not received a formal consultation for the project and that no archaeological survey or ethnographic study was performed. BenitoLink was unable to contact the county over the weekend to find out whether a consultation, survey or study were required.
“The reason construction is happening or able to happen is because apparently of loopholes that exist in the environmental laws, which are normally the laws that kick in for setting up the process of culture resource management, as they call it,” Lou Chiaramonte, Jr. with South Bay Indigenous Solidarity told BenitoLink at the protest.
He clarified that they were there to support the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band but not to speak for them.
Fallon Greig, a PORC member, said she attended the protest because she felt the county was not listening to the will of the voters, who rejected Measure K in 2020 which would have set more specific development standards for the Betabel Road project and three other properties.
“We need to protect our rural spaces,” Greig said. “We live in this beautiful area and we don’t need to have the [Highway] 101 corridor full of pit stops.”
Local activist group Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC) has filed initiatives and several lawsuits against the county and the Betabel Road project. While the initiative was presented as stopping the rezoning, it only stopped the guidelines of development proposed for four properties along Highway 101.
On June 1, owner Rider Mc Dowell and environmentalist Herman Garcia held a groundbreaking ceremony to initiate the development of the first phase of the plan which includes a produce stand, mercantile, and restrooms. When fully completed, the project is expected to also include a visitor center, gas station, restaurant and hotel.
Garcia, who has done extensive habitat restoration work on the property and consistently supported the Betabel project, observed the event from his Coastal Habitat Education and Environmental Restoration (CHEER) truck parked at the gates of the project, 800 feet away.
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