Take 1: WHAT AN ELECTION!
It was a consequential campaign. From the very start back in February, many long-time observers of the Santa Cruz City Council were aware that the 2018 election might be a memorable one. With the state of national affairs what they were–Trumpism, Kavanaugh, and McConnell, (oh my!)–many locals who wished for better outcomes were ready to invest time and energy into local politics. After all, a severe housing crisis was helping fuel an even more severe homeless crisis and not getting involved was not an option.
Take 2: It Was an Issues Election
Although Measure M, which called for rent control, was a ballot initiative for the ages–providing iron-clad support for tenants, first–the Santa Cruz city council majority was also at stake. The council was experiencing a five-member, 12-year market-rate development-first ethos. It was a well-oiled vice grip manufactured by those with great means, and it resulted in that majority often turning a deaf ear to various segments of our community. Whether it was the hundreds who came out to council meetings in 2015 to protest the acquisition by the police of a Lenco BearCat Tank offered by the Department of Homeland Security, or protesters who railed against the non-acquisition of the Beach Flats Community Garden, there was a stark portrayal that things were not well in Surf City. Then, the community pushback on two projects at either end of Pacific Avenue comprising over 150 condos with little affordability seemed to go almost unnoticed by the developer class. (And now along comes Devcon’s 206-market rate apartment complex…stay tuned.) Earlier (2016) a former church site property, zoned for multi-family housing, was transformed into a play palace for the well-heeled traveler, now known as the Broadway Hyatt.
The Majority vs. the Neighbors
The current city council majority had also registered yays in the face of Westside neighborhood opposition in order to place a garish hotel on Mission near Swift Street without implementing any neighborhood suggestions; a cell tower on Meder Street was approved in the face of 20 neighbors present in council chambers; and Jump Bike racks were put in places they simply should not be. Combine that with an Eastside uprising over all the council yes votes for market rate housing along the “corridors,” which produced few affordable units and set the stage for a robust and rigorous council campaign of issues over platitudes and hoped for leadership over policy rubber stamping. The campaign was informative and heated. It was about “housing, housing, housing.” Rent control was the obvious wedge issue, but the library-at-the-bottom-of-a-five-story-garage-on-top-of-the-Farmer’s Market was also center-stage. A 25% inclusionary ordinance to help yield more affordable rentals was suggested as was offering tenants priority over the university-inspired rental inspection ordinance.
The Denouement Aftermath
The votes are due to be certified on Dec. 6th. It appears that only the “provisional” ballots, some 6000 countywide, are yet to be counted. The National Conference of State Legislators defines a provisional ballot in the following way, “Provisional ballots ensure that voters are not excluded from the voting process due to an administrative error. They provide a fail-safe mechanism for voters who arrive at the polls on Election Day and whose eligibility to vote is uncertain.” (http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/provisional-ballots.aspx)
The current SC city council “winners” appear to be Justin Cummings, Donna Meyers, and Drew Glover should the current trend of voting returns continue until 12/6. The Good Times last week said that this candidate formation would likely hold. The Santa Cruz Sentinel also seemed to suggest the same this past Monday morning and three new faces would indeed appear soon at city hall. But ultimately it is the County Clerk, Gail Pellerin who will issue a final ballot summary and report. The Santa Cruz City Council will likely rubber stamp that count at its Dec. 11th meeting and then it will become real and a key historical moment all in the same time. As I said here last week, the people who supported Justin, Drew, and Measure M worked hard, overcame the moneyed interests, and should be proud of their work no matter the outcome, although cleaning up yard signs, paying off any last-minute loans, and cleaning up the campaign office is much easier when you win. Soon, it will be on to the process of healing some of our community’s open political wounds. I look forward to participating with the next city council in that process.
City Council Agenda-packing
The city council agenda this week, and Dec. 11th, appear to be a developer-dream team wish list. Perhaps those free housing-marketeers are beginning to sweat with a new council coming soon, so let’s place whatever we can on the council agenda before January comes around. We’ve got Accessory Dwelling Units BIG ordinance changes; a SIX-year permits extension for the 32-condo project at 1800 Soquel Ave; a fake 15.5% (over two years) “rent control” ordinance; and the further evisceration of the 1980 Measure O ballot initiative, which mandated 15% of all housing development be “affordable.”
Happy Birthday Isabel!
My daughter Isabel was born 18 years ago this week and watching her grow and change, and change again has been one of the true joys of my life.