Last Week This Week on the City Council
Because of BrattonOnline deadlines, I often cannot relate to you, the dear reader, what happened at the city council this week because the column comes out the same day as we have the council meeting. So, let me lay out what was on the meeting agenda this week. Every agenda has something of consequence. That is, the public’s money gets spent, decisions are made about various neighborhoods, downtown and the beach area, and an item, strange and interesting, often appears on the agenda, but shrouded in bureaucrat-ese.
Item #7 was a “Resolution amending the current “Conflict of Interest Code.” There are 10 pages of “disclosure categories,” 1 thru 4, but no real information or ways councilmembers might evaluate why a “Buyer” in the Finance department is now a “3” (“city/Department-Related Income”), and the “Sustainability and Climate Action Manager” will be in the “1” disclosure category (“Full Disclosure”).
The Staff Being Too Political?
Item #8, also on the “consent agenda,” (which usually indicates there will be no discussion and council likely all agree on passing the item) was a bunch of recommendations by the city manager that the council endorse certain state propositions, “1, 2 and 3,” and “oppose props 5 and 6 on the November 6, 2018 General Election Ballot.” Of course, I wanted to know why he wasn’t making a recommendation on Proposition 10, the repeal of the onerous Costa-Hawkins bill that prohibits any sort of rent control statewide on any units build after 1994? You can go to the League of Woman Voters recommendations: https://lwvc.org/news/our-voting-recommendations-november-ballot-measures And why did he recommend the council support Prop. 3 when the League of Women Voters is firmly opposed?
Developer-Friendly City Council?
Item #20 is the “Density Bonus Zoning Ordinance Amendments.” Folks, we have a Planning Director that has his marching orders from a City Manager (who believes he has them from a council majority) to develop anywhere, anytime, and on almost any property in this city. Nothing seems to be sacred, or off-limits, whether they’re proposing to build 400 units on Golf Club Drive right up to the Pogonip, or Forty condos along Ocean Street Extension, which is currently more like a country road. Six-hundred units downtown, where many believe the bulk of any development should go, might be acceptable, but only if half of them were actually affordable. “Density Bonus” is a cha-ching, cha-chinging sell-out musical show for developers, but it’s likely to be “a hard rain that’s gonna fall” on the rest of us. There is much to be aware of with this developer-giveaway ordinance. Be warned, if voters wish to max out market-rate development in a once beautiful beach town, then vote for the incumbent and her slate running in the next election.\
But if you seek a council majority that will protect our environment, negotiate with developers for more affordable units, protect local business over corporate crap while standing up to city planning staff and soliciting neighborhood input, then check out council candidates, Justin Cummings and Drew Glover. If they win, they would help form a council majority come November to halt the
current sell-off of Santa Cruz to out of town (and some local) developers. “Density bonuses” should
ONLY be used to create more, not less affordable housing.
The OMG! Item
Another heritage tree (item # 21) will be felled if the city council takes the word of a 6-1 Parks and Recreation Commission vote over the advice of its own urban forester and allows this 50-foot Giant Sequoia with a 53-inch trunk to be cut down. It now stands tall, proud, and healthy in front of 1420 King Street near the corner of Baldwin. Here’s hoping for an 11th hour reprieve…
“Update on City Communications with UCSC”
Yes, this is an agenda item (#24), and what it’s meant to do is put the June 5th “no-growth” vote to a test. The people spoke and 77% said no more student growth, at least no more until the current problems caused by university past growth are mitigated, dealt with in other words. Continuing to over-grow is THE issue. The City of Santa Cruz needs to work closely with the university and go attend the UC regents meeting(s) and speak out; we need to get state legislators involved; and finally, the UCSC administration needs to be convinced that they will be a much more desirable and better educational institution, more likely to fulfill their pedagogical mission when they limit campus student enrollment to 19,500.
Waiting for Godot…I mean an Interim and/or Permanent 24/7 Homeless Shelter
It is fast entering into the realm of mythology that Santa Cruz will ever get a Homeless Shelter, to house at least 150, any time soon. Witness this statement in the council staff report: “Developing solutions to complex problems requires deliberate, collaborative and thoughtful planning, and sufficient time.” So perhaps the passage of two or five or ten years has not been enough time? Okay, in fairness, the council took a lot of heat when we said we would consider Dimeo Lane, Delaveaga Park, a part of the Pogonip, and a portion of city property off Emeline Street to house those currently living on our streets. Neighbors in those areas did not necessarily take to the idea. But over a year ago our Economic Development office did not act on acquiring the recently vacated Sports Authority building on River Street, or the Goodwill Bargain Barn in Harvey West Park when they were available. And guess what? The state will likely award $9.3 million to Santa Cruz in the form of a grant to assist in creating services to support our homeless population. Will it take another two years to “collaborate with stakeholders” to finally fund shelter for our community’s most vulnerable population? All I can say is vote, vote, vote this November for new councilmembers who want to act NOW to address and reduce the stresses and strains on this community, and on this community’s homeless population.
Something’s Gotta Give?
This city manager, in my view, has not been able to adequately marshal city resources into addressing homelessness, or remodel the downtown library in a timely manner, or develop a plan to acquire the Beach Flats Community Garden, nor has he been able to implement a protection plan for tenants now having their rents raised above the 2% city council-mandated “rent freeze” amount. Well, I guess this situation might be what elections are about…
I end with a chat-up about the minutes from the last meeting. They are “action” minutes and do NOT actually say what the tone, breadth, or scope of the discussion was, only that the city council took an action, an up or down vote. I advocate we should offer the public, as many cities already do, much more detailed minutes about what councilmembers and the public argued for or against, not simply that a vote was taken. So, the actions the Santa Cruz City Council took at the August 7th and 14th council meetings were:
- The sweetened beverage tax previously placed on the November ballot asking voters to approve a 1.5 cents per ounce tax was rescinded because Sacramento legislators in June made a law that no city can place a tax like this on the ballot until 2031. Go figure. (Aug. 7th)
- By a vote of 4-0, council passed a resolution allowing the anti-rent control group, Santa Cruz Together, to include their ballot argument on the November ballot, overturning the city clerk’s decision because the group had missed a July deadline. Councilmembers Mathews, Terrazas, and Krohn all recused themselves from this vote. (Aug. 7th)
- I was the lone vote against a fee deferrals extension for the (non-)development of 350 Ocean Street. This item concerns those boarded up buildings along Ocean Street that the property owner and developer first, forced tenants to vacate and secondly, they’ve been allowed to remain empty. It represents a fair and just case for the city to exercise its power of eminent domain in order to produce affordable housing, which would be a real “public benefit.” Instead, with this extension it will likely be a minimum of a couple years before anything gets built.
- Charter Amendment Review Committee was established and will have 7 individual city council picks and 6 at large members chosen by the entire council. The mission of this committee is to study 1) a directly elected mayor, 2) district elections, 3) council compensation, and 3) “ranked choice voting.” It is planned that the committee begin its work sometime this October. The vote was unanimous to establish this committee.
- An appeal of a building at 1024 Soquel Ave. (at Cayuga across from eastside fire station) was denied by a 5-2 vote with Councilmembers Brown and Krohn voting to uphold the appeal. Many changes were made by the developer, John Swift, thus making it well worth the time of eastside neighbors…still, it will likely be an ugly building, not in-line with current architectural motifs on the eastside.
- Perhaps, turning back the staff’s recommendation of a Jump(Uber) bike rack “adjacent to 102 Woodrow” was the biggest turn-around of events on that city council day. The final vote was 6-1 to study other sites and receive a report back from staff in six months. Councilmember Chase was the lone vote to support city staff’s recommendation in placing a bike rack at Woodrow and West Cliff.
- And finally, the removal of “two heritage trees,” beautiful and amazing trees near 200 Washington Street was approved, 5-2, with Brown and Krohn having hoped to save the trees, but this council was just not in the mood.
Bernie Tweet of the Week
“We must remember that the struggle for our rights is not a struggle for one day, or one year, or one generation – it is the struggle of a lifetime, and one that must be fought by every generation.”