Majority Report April 9-15, 2019

Santa Cruz City Council Strategic Planning? Not Yet

The new council is entering its fifth month and still no Strategic Plan in site. It has been a “Waiting for Godot” chess match with the current city manager, Martin Bernal, when and if a council strategic planning session will be held. This council-manager form of government can be tricky. I believe the city council wants to go forward with this session asap, but the city manager needs to be in the room too. The city council hires and fires the city manager and city attorney, but the city manager hires and fires the rest of the 800-plus city work force. The absence of a strategic planning session is not because there is a lack of will on the part of councilmembers. I believe we want to craft a two-year plan now and we are already a half year behind. The traditional “Two-year Strategic Plan” is now looking like a 1.5-year project instead. The clock is ticking and the “other side” knows it. The previous city council’s two-year-old plan is over. The Corridors Plan, Wharf Master Plan, Library-in-a-Garage plan and homeless services non-plan are all either on hold or on life-support. When will a new two-year strategic plan be implemented? The community must be heard from.

New Council, New Plan?

A group of Santa Cruz activists, homeowners, renters, volunteers, and students have now met three times since last November’s election in order to come up with a community strategic plan, or perhaps a People’s Plan. More than 60 people have attended these people’s planning meetings, and a broad range of topics have been discussed including council communication, the Brown Act, rent control, raising the minimum wage, separating the library from the garage, a permanent site for the downtown Farmer’s Market coupled with a community town commons, halting USCS student growth, implementing effective police review, and how to best address our homeless and houseless crisis. Topics also included are how to best spend the gas tax money to support alternative transportation, formation of a people’s budget committee, and how best to allocate parking fund revenue in the pursuit of affordable housing. A single issue keeps coming up again and again: if Santa Cruz has a “15% inclusionary” to create more affordable housing, then why aren’t we raising more concerns about the “85% unaffordable housing” that is currently being proposed?

A People’s Strategic Plan

What’s possible over the next year and six months? This Community-Council group met three times for a total of 9 hours. Here is a brief summary of issues which might be a part of a city council Two-year Strategic Plan:

  • Separating the Library-in-a-Garage Concept
    • creating a “town commons-plaza” and permanent farmer’s market space if that is where constituents want to go
    • remodeling the current library (pretty big constituency for this, far larger than city manager-staff constituency)
  • Homeless Shelter—city put a bid in on Seaborg property next to the current Homeless Services Center…how to get this up and running once escrow period is over?
  • Housing and Rent StablizationTask Force—how do we light a fire and get people moving on this…David Ceppos is the consultant from the Sacramento-based Center for Collaborative Policy (CCP) who interviewed the entire council and now will choose 20 community members to interview to determine make-up of task force.
  • Climate and Bio-Diversity Commission—begin with a city council subcommittee and work with current Climate Action Taskforce coordinator, Tiffany Wise-West.

Other honorable mentions

There are so many good ideas out there in our community. At some point, we will have to decide what does a one-year, two-year, three-year, and four-year strategic plan look like. Then, a tentative calendar for moving agenda items forward from the community onto the city council agenda needs to be formed and out of this process it could be determined which issues might be placed before voters. The following is a list of issues under discussion by the Community-Council group, ones that could also go onto the city council Two-Year Strategic Plan agenda if that meeting ever occurs. If not, the community will continue to carry on with its own strategic planning.

  • Form a Human Rights Commission and a Youth Commission
  • Buy the Beach Flats Garden
  • Reform the Rental Inspection Ordinance to favor tenants and keep safe but unpermitted properties in the housing pipeline
  • Institute a police review board (“Cop Watch”)
  • Pass a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance
  • Pass a “public banking” ordinance
  • Write a General Plan amendment restoring urban-rural transition to Golf Club Drive area
  • Build a minimum of 200 units of affordable housing on parcels that the city currently owns. These include the NYAC building (between bus station and old Tampicos) and the former thrift store site on Front Street. The city should be receiving some $8.4 million coming into its coffers from the recent sale of the Sky Park property in Scotts Valley.

Bernie’s Tweet of the Week

“How do we have trillions of dollars to spend on endless wars, but we don’t have the money for education and health care? How do we have money for tax breaks for billionaires, but not to feed hungry children? Together we are going to change those priorities.” (April 1)

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