Majority Report | December 28, 2017
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Woke and Spoke
The People Have Spoken
I wrote a column back in July in which I quoted those who came to the podium to clue the city council in on what ails city renters concerning the dearth of affordable housing in Surf City. They pretty much covered the housing conundrum: 1) developers get away with bypassing the city’s own 15% affordable inclusionary by paying a pittance into the housing fund of what a unit actually costs to build and thus economically segregate our community even further; 2) high cost of housing on-campus has students streaming down the hill and dislocating working families. I’m sorry, but housing 52% of an ever-growing student population–19,000 and counting–just doesn’t cut it; 3) there are well over 500 vacation rentals in the city of Santa Cruz and that is beginning to severely reduce our available housing stock for working people; and 4) Silicon Valley high tech workers have found a refuge in our city…just stand out there and count the “Google Buses” on the Avenue any given day.
WE ARE IN A HOUSING CRISIS
What do “the people” who come out to city council meetings to be a part of the community debate advocate? Of course, most would likely sign a rent control initiative in a heartbeat, but contrary to what the landlord-property owner is yelling at anyone who will listen, rent control is not THE answer, but it certainly is a part of solution. If we pass rent control we definitely get the attention of the moneyed-class because then you’re talking about their money. Tenants united is the only way to confront free-market abuses. First, you do a rent freeze to protect existing tenants, then pursue the rent control initiative. But what else should be on the table according to local voters? Real estate transfer tax, a soda tax (Berkeley raised over $3 million in one year), a 3% hotel tax. And by the way, doing all three of those will perhaps double the former Redevelopment funding that was lost when the program was ended in February of 2012. If rent control is to be successful the voters must also pass an initiative that installs an elected rent board. Tenants and landlords would both benefit from a Santa Cruz office of housing that also includes money to defend tenants in court. Lastly, it appears a housing bond will be before voters next November. This is also another important piece of the ever-difficult housing puzzle. Folks, if you want to ensure that this community has a fighting chance to win this housing struggle, you must ask city council candidates for the 2018 ballot the tough questions around housing, and scrutinize the records of incumbents who may be once again asking for your vote, but often voting contrary to your interests.
Camping in San Lorenzo Park. I counted 57 tents today, and I had a great conversation with Public Health Nurse, Tia Paneet. She is compassionate, informed, and a real caregiver. She runs a homeless services outreach office, which is funded by SC county.
Then You Get Tough
The community is demanding that UCSC stop admitting students without guaranteeing them housing. The current situation is just not working for Townies. The city has been losing big-time to the “U” over several years now. The losing streak likely began in 2005 after the last Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) was agreed to by the then-city council and the UC regents. Seems like it’s time for some old-fashioned Nikita Khrushchev (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4JhyHz3M5U) shoe-banging and prepare for the arduous negotiations that are about to come. Khrushchev got the world’s attention, but the Santa Cruz city council only needs to get the UC regents’ attention. This coming year is perhaps the time for much shoe-banging. The LRDP is set to expire and there’s a committee of community “stake-holders” who will meet six times with university officials and offer input on what a reasonable town-gown agreement should be. These conversations need to be frank, and clear negotiations with cards placed on the table, need to occur. No one I know is wishing the university to go away. In fact, the opposite is true. We are a more culturally rich, diverse, and vibrant community with our city on a hill present and accounted for, but we cannot allow the hill to swallow the town. Are we nearing the point of having too much of a good thing? Where is the tipping point? It is up to this committee to provide input and help chart a course that has the town and the gown thriving. No one-sided agreements can be allowed this time around. We also need to get tough on short-term rentals and live within our means. If 500 is the magic number, then no more. We must hire a firm like Host Compliance a firm out of San Francisco, which would monitor this number and make sure the hotel tax is paid and that the number of short term rentals remains stable. We must also get tough with market-rate housing developers. They must get the message: if you build in Santa Cruz you will build the inclusionary (affordable) units in every development. You will not be able to pay your way out.
Bernie Tweet of the Week
Congratulations to @GDouglasJones for his great victory. Congratulations to the people of Alabama for doing what few thought they would do. This is a victory not just for Jones and Democrats. It is a victory for justice and decency. (Dec. 12)
Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom speaking recently at the SCPD Community room to over 100 community activists and even some supporters. He won high praise for discussing a homeless plan to support cities, support for universal statewide healthcare, and he’s proud that we are a Sanctuary State.