I missed last week’s city council meeting, but I am including the Cliff Notes version summary here. In “closed” then “open” session the city council voted to acquire by eminent domain part of the property where Central Home Supply now has its business. The idea is to widen the Highway 1 and 9 intersection, which is arguably one of the most chaotic in Santa Cruz. City Council adopted a resolution that made the finding “that public necessity requires the acquisition by eminent domain of the real property…” owned by the Santee family at 744 River Street and 708 River Street. I am not sure I would’ve voted to acquire by eminent domain this property, for two reasons: 1) I do not believe we need more asphalt at that intersection, and 2) it is a very significant action on the part of government, any government, to force a property owner to sell against their will. There must be a clear “public benefit.” Perhaps legally, the case for a “public benefit” can be made, but for me Central Home Supply is business Santa Cruz needs and benefits from and this forced property sale may very well cause them to leave town. They have another similar business in Scotts Valley, but…it’s in Scotts Valley.
Damn Cell Towers, Boxes, Small Devices, Conduits, and Polls
Verizon Wireless finally got their encroachment permit “for the installation and maintenance of underground conduits, vaults, at grade cabinets and wireless canister antennas mounted on utility pole at 117 Morrissey Blvd. within the City’s right-of-way.” This permit was turned down twice before by the city council, but a letter was recently received by the council from a Verizon suit threatening legal action. And, like most city councils around the state, we rolled over with the threat of costly litigation being the dagger hanging perilously over the head of our local government. At least Councilmember Sandy Brown stuck in a “friendly amendment” “regarding efforts by cities to modify regulations to make it difficult for Verizon and other telecom companies to install cell towers. ” Go Sandy!
Just the facts ‘mam…From the minutes of March 26th meeting: “Councilmember Mathews moved, seconded by Mayor Watkins, to approve the Health in All Policies Work Plan and $20,000 budget for consultants and materials.” Just sayin’! As Deep Throatadvised Bob Woodward back in the summer of 1974: follow the money.
The evening meeting saw many dozens of neighbors fill council chambers to say NO to the use of the staff inspired Lot 24 for a homeless transitional camp. It is a parking lot near the end of Chestnut Street adjacent to Depot Park. I believe the council heard neighbors loud and clear. Personally, I am not sure I would’ve voted for it (and certainly NOT the other staff suggestion of putting an encampment in the Jessie Street Marsh!?! Not sure what the thought was there.) How about this as a tentative plan: 1) clean up Ross Camp using state money (part of the $10 million that came to Santa Cruz to address homelessness), 2) have a non-profit group come in and manage the camp, 3) hire social workers to perform a needs census, 4) open 1220 River Street campsite and find out who would move over to that camp, and at the same time keep a managed Ross Camp open with a reduced number of tent sites. What if we disbanded the Ross Camp immediately as some of my council colleagues wish to do (it’s also on the April 9th agenda)? Campers will move back to the site alongside Holy Cross, to the Pogonip, to DeLaveaga Park, and to other neighborhoods that have since seen their campers move to the Ross site. This item segue-ways into this week’s agenda…
This Week on the City Council
Item #7 SB 1 Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, FY 2019-20. Senate Bill 1 was the 12-cents per gallon gas tax that passed in 2016 and had to be re-passed in 2018. Santa Cruz receives between $1-2 million per year from this tax. The council was sent a list of Public Works projects. It was their list and not the city council’s list. I have been asking for a while for a comprehensive list of what SB 1 funds can be used for. I have not yet received that list. I will ask again.
Item #10 (UBER) Jump Bike Contract Amendment #2.
These bright red bikes seem to be everywhere. People are using them. Is this program the unmitigated grand slam hit and sexy alternative to the gasoline engine vehicle that some are saying? We would like to think so; myself included, but like a certain policy pop culture buzzy-fuzzy word suggests, are these Jump Bikes feelings data driven? What are the numbers…of users, injuries, bikes left in the right-of-way, satisfied customers, where people are leaving bikes, i.e. most popular places to ride to…we want to see all of it? City Council needs to look at the data before approving any more contract amendments, electric outlets, or dedications of more SC public real estate to this endeavor. Many questions concerning this program need answers. Please, show the city council and the community the numbers.
Item #14 City of Santa Cruz Commitment for Civility Proclamation.
Sure, as long as it does not interfere with people’s First Amendment rights. I urge everyone to listen to this NPR piece “Charlottesville Debates Civility.”
It’s about the Charlottesville, Va. city council. Seems that two African Americans were elected after a white supremacist killed activist Heather Hyer with his car in 2017 in a tragic political (madman) act. The radio piece concerns establishment politicians railing against the “incivility” of the new councilmembers.
Item # 15 Homelessness and the Gateway Encampment.
(see “Lot 24” above.)
P.S. I believe this item will allow members of the community who brought forward issues about possible location of homeless-houseless transitional encampments to see that their voices were heard by the city council. They perhaps changed the course of history in their neighborhood(s). It is a good feeling when as a member of the public you try and fight city hall and you end up feeling like someone in local government listened.
Item #1 City Council Work Plan and Strategic Planning.
As I mentioned last week, this council is coming up on five months being in office and still no “strategic” plan for the next couple of years. So, council will have the opportunity to plan to have a planning meeting. This agenda item is only to schedule a “strategic” planning session. Contact city councilmembers and let them know what they should be planning for…Affordable housing? An emergency homeless shelter and day-use facility? Enacting mitigations to climate change? A permanent home for the Farmer’s Market? A new downtown library which might crown a real civic plaza at Church and Center Streets? A city-wide composting program? A Human Rights Commission? Buying the Beach Flats Community Garden? Let the city council know what you would like to see…this is your government.