Santa Cruz City Council Passes a Rent Freeze and Just Cause Eviction Ordinances

NEWS FLASH

Santa Cruz City Council Passed a Rent Freeze and Just Cause Eviction Ordinances Last Night

With over 100 inside and another 150 outside looking in through the windows at 809 Center Street, city hall, the Santa Cruz city council passed a freeze on rent increases until election day, Nov. 8th. The vote was unanimous and takes effect immediately. Landlords cannot raise the rent now!

Majority Report | January 29, 2018


Tyranny of the Majority
If it be admitted that a man, possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach? Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with Democracy in America the consciousness of their strength.”
–Democracy In America, p. 287-88 (Harry Reeve translation, Penn State, 2002) (http://seas3.elte.hu/coursematerial/LojkoMiklos/Alexis-de-Tocqueville-Democracy-in-America.pdf)

Power Grab?
The basis for three council votes that the progressive community lost at last Tuesday’s (Jan. 23rd) Santa Cruz City council meeting is reflected within Alexis de Tocqueville’s phrase, one he coined while observing the potential downside of American democracy, “the tyranny of the majority.” It was practiced with impunity by a 4-member council majority. It happened when the mayor wanted to add the vice-mayor to the closed-door bi-weekly “agenda review” meeting. It’s a meeting I wrote about last week that is held to set the official city council meeting agenda. Fifteen department heads and the mayor sit down and discuss the essence of the coming week’s city business. While I support the vice-mayor attending this meeting I also support other councilmembers attending. So, I made a motion that a rotating councilmember be able to attend. My motion was seconded by Councilmember Richelle Noroyan. (Thank you Richelle!) The majority was having none of it. Why should they let minority members into such a meeting? I can only guess at the reason. The next majority move was to not allow a discussion on an agenda item I brought forward to level the playing field in council appointments to city boards and commissions. The resolution I put before the council was to restore the one councilmember-one commission appointment process in order to avoid the current democratic charade of four councilmembers being able to appoint seven commissioners to each of the city’s thirteen active advisory bodies. Why not have some minority views on those commissions? I would have argued that, but since Councilmember Sandy Brown was under the weather and could not attend the meeting, I received nary a second for my motion from a tight-lipped majority. The third item had to do with renter protection. If renters were forced to leave their domicile by the city because of health and safety violations not attended to by the property owner, shouldn’t the city compensate the renters in terms of paying for temporary housing so as not to be put them out on the street? The city could then sue the landlord to recover costs. Sandy Brown and I brought this to the council back in October and it was coming back now with a big stamp of disapproval by our Planning Director, Lee Butler cum City Manager, Martin Bernal. It would be a city budget buster they argued, put the city into too much risk they declared. Let’s just try it, I argued. If it proved to be expensive, we could bring it back to the council and repeal it. After all, aren’t the city’s renters near the top of the council’s priorties list? Maybe, maybe not? Even if tenants in this town were in the minority, which they’re not, shouldn’t a majority of the council be taking care of tenants? It was too harsh a decision for me, one in which made me feel like I live in a parallel universe and could only watch the majority again step in doo doo. I have to believe the renters will weigh soon.

Good-bye to UCSC College Community System?
Will Student Housing West (SHW) put final nail in UC’s once “different campus” dream?
“Each college is a vibrant living/learning community supported by faculty and staff who provide academic support, organize student activities, and sponsor events that enhance the intellectual and social life of the campus.”
–From UCSC Housing, “UCSC’s 10 Campuses” (http://housing.ucsc.edu/colleges/)
Where were the preliminary planning studies to decide on 3,000 beds? Seems like the last time the UC Admin. did a study of this kind for “west campus housing” it was back in 2015 to look at around 1,000 beds. But, once the bed count was increased, the University changed their process and turned the question over to the three short-listed private developers who were tasked with inventing the project (so much for student and community input) and how it might be sited. As far as I know, the developers were not asked to carefully fuse the project into the campus’ legacy of residential colleges or even really acknowledge the 2005 LRDP, other than superficially (but how could they… the project seems to go against what the 2005 LRDP advises.) Yes, more bed space on campus is needed, desperately, but not so the campus can grow, but so it can catch up with its inordinate bigness within a community of only 62,000 residents. When UCSC houses at least 75% of its currently capped 19,500 students, then maybe we can discuss any further growth. It is a fair guess that UCSC abandoned the process of doing planning studies and jumped in bed with “3P”–public-private partnership– developers because the UC Admin. is under enormous pressure to meet deadlines, so they are essentially cutting corners. They likely view the 3P developer scheme as one-stop shopping, thus killing the “vibrant living/learning community” concept and not yet agreeing how so control its growth impact on the town. In other words, no one has clearly stated that 3,000 more beds are not just a license to grow the campus by 3,000 more bodies. It is beyond irony that with each new revision of the Environmental Impact Report’s Notice of Preparation (EIR NOP), it has come to light some assumptions that were enabling the 3,000 beds, and it just won’t work. For example, the University thought it could build on the Porter Meadow, site of the annual student 4/20 cannabis event, or to the north of the Meadow below Kresge College. Seems like it turns out, due to environmental constraints, the only part of the west campus site that can be developed is the existing Family Student Housing location. This essentially forces that small parcel of 200 apartments–arguably the most affordable housing site in Santa Cruz county for families to live–to fit an even more absurd density of five to seven story residential blocks.

Rent Control, Rent Freeze, and Just-Cause Eviction
People make history, but not necessarily under conditions of their own choosing.
Will this be the year Santa Cruz finally realizes its electoral power and makes some significant community quality of life changes? If so, when historians look back they just might note that February 13th was perhaps the start of a great Surf City march forward, a regular Movement for Housing Justice campaign that woke a once sleepy electorate. I hear that three Santa Cruz city councilmembers may be placing rent freeze and just-cause eviction ordinances on the upcoming Tuesday, February 13th council agenda. If so, this will be an historic occasion you will not want to miss. What these ordinances just might do is provide cover for rent-weary tenants during the lead-up to the November rent control vote. Let me back up. There is a rent control initiative that was submitted last week to the city clerk’s office and if all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed an officially blessed and sanctioned initiative will hit the streets on Sunday, February 11th, I hear. So, come the 13th, folks will be asking the city council to stop landlords from raising rents until the people can decide during the November 6, 2018 election. No, my friends, rent control is not THE solution, but it is an enormously powerful tool, a community bargaining chip in getting the attention of property owners in one of the most expensive real estate markets in California. It also throws down the gauntlet and sends a unified message to those out of control capitalists who are gouging renters and exploiting a housing market that has come to place too much power in the hands of too few landlords. It doesn’t take a weatherman, or women, to predict that fed-up tenants will be trying to stick it to the man this fall by employing Bernie Sanders’, ‘enough is enough,’ and going about leveling the playing field through the ballot box.

Bernie Quote of the Week
“Bernie Sanders recalled his own childhood growing up in a rent-controlled apartment in Flatbush Brooklyn, which ‘meant that my family, which did not have a lot of money, did not have to spend 50 or 60 percent of its limited income on housing.'” (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/12/08/we-have-housing-emergency-heres-how-we-face-it)
EXTRA: Bernie on the plight of the working-class:

Majority Report | January 17-23 2018

Special for BrattonOnLine

The notion that we’re going to cap enrollment and live with a capped enrollment is simply not realistic in the world we live in,” (UCSC Chancellor George) Blumenthal said at a news meeting Thursday. “I think it’s a pipe dream, because the demand for the UC education is increasing by leaps and bounds.”

–Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1-12-18 (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/social-affairs/20180112/ucsc-planning-for-10000-more-students-by-2040)

We call it a moratorium, you call it a cap, let’s call the whole thing off!

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal named the elephant in the room last week and yes, it’s a 10,000-pound one! In a community of 60,000, ten thousand more students are really a lot. You heard right, Blumenthal’s opening salvo at our UCSC-city community is a Long-Range Development Plan that will add a whopping 10,000 additional bodies to Santa Cruz and grow the university to 28,000. Will Santa Cruz will become a university with a city somewhere on the campus? Will campus growth effectively create a Town dressed up and encased in a towering Gown? Twenty-eight thousand is a figure not even envisioned by the most dreamy and visionary planners way back in the day. (http://www.cityonahillpress.com/2016/05/14/ucscs-blueprint/) The 28,000 number seems to have been thrown out by an ambivalent bureaucracy that is playing perhaps an unwitting part in the deterioration of a once great coastal town. Administrators on the hill are either afraid to tell their bosses in Oakland the hard truth that there is no more room at the inn, or they are just resigned to a different truth that California students must go somewhere so why not here? Perhaps, this figure is an early trial balloon, put out by the administration to see how much pushback there might be by townies, student activists, county supervisors, and city councilmembers? No one I know does not want all California children to experience a UC education, but this UC city is maxed out. There are nine other campuses and the state legislature ought to be planning for even more. The city of Santa Cruz, given its size, resources, and carrying capacity has reached its limit. No más after 19,500.

T-W-E-N-T-Y E-I-G-H-T T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D Students?

I’m a member of CAG, the Community Advisory Group of 22 that was set up by the university to advise on the 2020 LRDP process. The LRDP is the university’s “general plan” document and its begun in earnest some two years before it is due to be submitted to the UC Regents. Chancellor Blumenthal and his assistant, Executive Vice Chancellor, Marlene Tromp who is mostly responsible for the UCSC budget, spoke to our group last Friday and dropped the bombshell: T-W-E-N-T-Y-E-I-G-H-T T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D. It was not received well by most of the CAG. Although the Chancellor offered an olive branch when he said, “This needs to be a meaningful group (CAG) that provides meaningful input,” and then proceeded to pan the 2005 UCSC administration for not asking for enough community involvement back then. Blumenthal said, “I was struck by how little input there was from the community, it showed a lack of sensitivity on the part of campus.” Strong sentiments. I’m glad he wants to know our perspective, but those present wondered in various ways if things would be any different this time around, and if our community input would actually be taken seriously. After Blumenthal and Tromp left the room the CAG members were directed to pair up “with someone you don’t know,” and discuss our “core concerns” and be ready to report back to the group what those concerns are. We were limited to three. I immediately sought out someone who I thought might be my political opposite and there across the room was the former Sentinel editor, California secretary of state, assembly member, and current member of the Santa Cruz board of supervisors, Bruce McPherson. Turns out he and I share some similar concerns about university growth. We both liked it that the “U” wanted the community engaged in the LRDP process, but we were surprised by the 10,000-growth figure and wondered if it was simply a negotiating tool. Both of us agreed we want to see what resources UC will contribute to support these students before they arrive to our community. Financial resources that would cover their growth in the areas of housing, transportation, and water McPherson said. Moving around the large set of tables that formed a horseshoe at the Museum of Art and History downtown, each CAG member stated their “core concerns,” and they didn’t sound too supportive of growing the university more. I note a few of those concerns here:

Ted Benhari of Bonny Doon and the Committee to Limit University Growth (CLUE) said his concerns were the “quality of life impacts on the community and maintaining the urban services line…” Bill Tysseling, retired and the former Exec. Dir. of SC Chamber of Commerce said, “Funding of infrastructure, and an eastern access [road] has to occur or we have to keep everyone on campus.” Cynthia Mathews, Santa Cruz city councilmember noted that “UCSC will completely dominate…basically you will have a company town. We need to avoid a monoculture.” John Aird, Healthcare Executive and CLUE member was emphatic, “Fifty-percent growth is flat-out unacceptable.” Andy Schiffrin an Aide in Supervisor Ryan Coonerty’s office and also a Santa Cruz political observer for over 40 years said, “Input is meaningless without accountability…it would take a legislative solution…it’s a political problem that we have…” Robert Orriza said the university must “stop growth until beds are on-line because the currently planned 3000 beds will not be going in until 2020, so don’t grow anymore until those are in place.”

“An LRDP is like a city’s general plan. It designates areas of campus for certain types of use: open space, for example, or housing. It does not mandate growth.” (my emphasis) (https://news.ucsc.edu/2018/01/lrdp-update.html)

–Chancellor George Blumenthal, Jan. 12, 2018

Pipe Dreams Revisited: “Ain’t no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don’t stop!

The community is calling for a moratorium on student growth until city services can catch up in the areas of housing, traffic, and water infrastructure. A five-year moratorium sounds about right. Blumenthal was quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel last week calling a cap on enrollment “a pipe dream.” Well, since we have a lot of dreamers in this town, we get called a lot of names. Pipe dreams are something we know about. Stopping a good-ole-boy convention hotel on Lighthouse Field was once considered a pipe dream; voters dreamed of approving the purchase of greenbelt lands–a choice of taxing ourselves to buy open space was pipe dreamy; stopping developers from building 10,000 units on Wilder Ranch was at first an activist pipe dream; preserving the Beach Flats Community Garden for the community is still in the “pipe dream” stages, a work in progress. And of course, there was everybody’s favorite little pipe dream that would just not go away, the legalization of first, medical marijuana and now complete legalization. Some pipe dreams just will not die. This community’s been known to dream big. One might also ask which is the bigger pipe dream, a moratorium on accepting more students beyond the current cap of 19,500, or allowing ten thousand additional bodies to migrate here from all parts of California and beyond, to an already crowded Surf City? Will they be told there is no more housing here? Hey Regents, game on.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“Republicans in Congress must now summon the courage to stand up to the racist ramblings of our “stable genius” president. Democratic and Republican senators must continue efforts to produce a bi-partisan Dream Act to be voted on by the Senate as part of the overall budget deal.” (Jan. 12)

Two Photos of the Week

Cooper Street closed for the large march on MLK Day! Over 2000 marched.

Super community activist, Ernestina Saldana holds her “Bell of Freedom” award, given to her this past Sunday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Justly and richly deserved. Si se puede!

All Politics are Local, Even State, Federal and International Issues

Feds vs. the City of Santa Cruz

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the liberal, do-your-own-thing, can’t-we-all-just-get-along, feel-good political waters of both the Golden State and the People’s Republic of Santa Cruz, a political hell begins to erupt. Along comes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to tell us that he’s going to allow off-shore oil drilling off the central coast. Then it’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he wants to stop all cannabis production. What does Acting Commissioner of the IRS, David Kauter require? That homeowners no longer deduct their mortgage payments from their federal taxes. Next in line is another “Acting Director,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Thomas Homan, he wants to deport our immigrant community members. And then there’s the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, he wants to slow down our internet traffic. The master of this dog house, Donald Trump, lost California by over two million votes, so to some political watchers it would seem quite logical that he would come to hinder, thwart, hobble, restrict, and generally wreak havoc on the people of this state. He’s beginning. Not long ago I can remember letters to the editor, or to city hall, inquiring and questioning the wisdom of devoting city time to debating national and international issues. War for example has been debated by past city councils: Ronald Reagan’s contras, George Bush Sr.’s Kuwaiti expedition, and later his son’s Iraq War policies. Once the council passed a resolution to send Chilean mass murder, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who was being detained in London, back to stand trial in Santiago. More recently the council is set to discuss a resolution asking the legislature to prohibit importation of crude oil from the Amazon. Santa Cruz has a long track record of being involved in US domestic and foreign policy issues.

When the People Lead, the Leaders Will Follow

The city council of Santa Cruz, I would argue, possesses an enviable history of creating forums to offer locals the opportunity to bring forward national and international issues, debate the why and how each issue might affect their pocketbooks and their moral consciences. If an issue is significant to enough of our constituents, chances are a councilmember will request it appear on a council agenda and a resolution, or ordinance, may be voted upon. This usually takes up little council time and fulfills an obvious community need: our residents seek forums of engagement beyond the usual street sweeping, garbage pickup, parks, or public safety concerns. Council agenda items do in fact offer an outlet and an escape valve for dissent on local and international concerns. We have an active and engaged electorate who see local issues connected to the state, national, and international chess board. It is in this spirit that now more than ever we need to keep our eyes wide open as many of the national issues become in-your-face local ones. Buckle up, 2018 will present us with many conundrums and decisions.

Those Who Make Peaceful Revolution Impossible,

Make Violent Revolution Inevitable

Take for example the issue of immigration. Since at least the 1980’s, this community has taken legislative stands in favor of welcoming immigrants. It started with Reagan’s war on Central America, notably El Salvador, and has led to the more recent city council resolution and ordinance denouncing last February’s Homeland Security Investigations-ICE raid on our immigrant community and restating that our city is truly a sanctuary city. Residents by the hundreds came forward to demand legal protections for immigrants and that we direct our police not to work with ICE when it comes to detaining Santa Cruz residents. The city council also passed a resolution urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 54, the Sanctuary State bill, into law. He did and as a result this past week we saw assurances on the part of our county Sherriff, Jim Hart that immigrants once they are released from county jail will NOT be turned over to ICE. This is HUGE! In fact, here is a portion of the email that immigrant’s rights advocate, Jim Weller sent out last week under the subject line, VICTORY: SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SHERRIFF IMPLEMENTS SB 54 FULLY! Sheriff Hart met with us again today to announce his decision. He agrees with us. Henceforth, “not a dime” of effort, as Jim Hart put it, will be made to cooperate with ICE. From now on, our County Sheriff’s office WILL NOT INTERACT WITH ICE in any way at all. From now on, ICE will get zero information about anyone, and nobody will be turned over to ICE ever except in rare instances with a criminal warrant for arrest signed by a Federal judge – and even then, ICE agents will not be allowed inside the jail facilities; they will have to take custody outside. THIS IS A BIG STEP FORWARD IN THE RESISTANCE! The interests of human rights, civil liberties, and simple justice are being served in Santa Cruz! We should congratulate Sheriff Jim Hart, the ACLU, the Public Defender, the Watsonville Law Center, the deportation defenders in the Bar Association, and the Sanctuary Santa Cruz network for their principled deliberations.

If democracies are truly led by the people, this effort is indeed the pot of gold at the end of a legislative rainbow of actions.

What Just Might be Coming to the SC City Council This Year?

  • Revenue enhancement measures (taxes) to cover the increasing costs of city pension costs, mainly police and fire will be on the ballot. (Some options: Hotel, sugar beverage, real estate transfer). http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20171204/NEWS/171209887

  • Rent stabilization, rent freeze, just-cause eviction ordinance will all likely be debated vigorously this year, in Santa Cruz and at the state capitol. http://kazu.org/term/movement-housing-justice#stream/0

  • Will 2018 see a silver stake finally pierce through the Corridor Plan and exorcise the final ghosts of a plan that was never accepted by many on the city’s eastside? https://www.change.org/p/santa-cruz-city-council-stop-high-density-zoning-for-water-st-and-soquel-ave-in-santa-cruz-calif/u/18028631

  • Will this be the year the Jessie Street Marsh actually moves toward restoration and the 2003 plan is finally implemented? https://jessiestmarsh.wordpress.com

  • A housing plan is needed that designates 50% of the planned for 1000 downtown units be affordable and offered to people who live here now, not as short-term rentals or second homes.

  • A plan to confront homelessness that is authored by both the city and county, which includes a designated on-going revenue stream to get people housed and into programs that offer drug, alcohol and mental health treatment.

  • And lastly, there is that pesky $23-million-dollar question: will the public library bond money be used as bait to finally convince the public to support the Public Works Department’s five-story parking garage to be built on the current site of the Farmer’s Market at Lincoln and Cedar streets?

Predictions for 2018

  • The city of Santa Cruz will join other municipalities in forming a state bank!

  • Ranked Choice Voting will get on the ballot this November.

  • Rent control will be instituted in Santa Cruz come January 1, 2019.

  • Barry Swenson Builder will finally be convinced to build the damn affordable rental units.

  • Homelessness-houselessness ain’t going away.

  • The Giants will make it to the playoffs!

  • The Trump Administration gets into a spat with Santa Cruz, which makes national news.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“We need to get our priorities right. Not giving tax breaks to billionaires. Not throwing millions of people off of health insurance. We have got to pay attention to the working families of this country.” (Jan. 8)

Photo of the Week

../../Pictures/Photos%20Library.photoslibrary/resources/proxies/derivatives/09/00/9a5/UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_9a5.jpg

Seen along Ashby Street in Berkeley, Ca.

This Week on the City Council | December 28

Majority Report | December 28, 2017

This and much more at BrattonOnLine.com …

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.

Majority Report | December 19

To see all the week’s in-depth news analysis go to BrattonOnLine.com

Which Side Are You On?

Last council meeting of the year brings home little bacon, and no tofu. But a subcommittee to study the Santa Cruz housing crisis some more? That got done.

This would be the year of housing, housing, housing according to Mayor Cynthia Chase. That was back in December of 2016 when the mayoral world was new and immigration raids and a homeless benchlands camps were yet to come. December of 2017 might’ve been thought about in terms of the next comet sighting, a happening event but still far off. Hope, along with Santa Cruz dope, were still wafting freely through borrowed gas-tax repaving projects and declarations that Surf City might be the fourth most expensive planetary housing destination. That was then. Chase again reiterated the pledge in a Good Times interview on Jan. 23rd, “Housing is a big focus this year.” (http://goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-news/qa-cynthia-chase/) Even when faced with a Homeland Security-immigration crisis on Feb. 15th–seems like the Department of Homeland Security had a desk inside the SCPD, and no one knew about it… except the SCPD–she didn’t change direction and make “sanctuary” her main issue. Nope, she doubled-down proclaiming at her “state of the city” address in May, “Our community is struggling with a full-blown crisis that requires rethinking of approach, emphasizing innovation, capitalizing on the growing level of compassion and expertise in our community and we need to come together to define our collective housing condition.” (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20170523/NEWS/170529865) Of course, that statement was made in front of a developer-real estate heavy crowd. A very different crowd than the one that would show up the next month, 400-strong, at the SC Civic Auditorium. The June 24th council meeting was all about housing, housing, housing questions…and the crowd got back the council majority’s collective answer: study, study, study. But alas, it wasn’t until August that the mayor began her “listening tour” and the vaunted “Year of Housing” became a full-throated, the-British-are-coming cry, culminating in a five-month sprint all the way to the end of her mayoral run. That mad dash ended this past week in a few council motions she suggested others make because as mayor she cannot introduce legislation. Her words were spoken forcefully, trying to overcome laryngitis and possibly, shear exhaustion. The finish line was nigh, but the gold (silver? bronze?) simply out of reach. Her main suggestion was to allow a committee of three councilmembers to go off and deliberate on the reams of material collected during her “listening tour” and then come back to the council in March with recommendations. During her marathon listening sprint she met with over 30 different groups to discuss “the crisis,” our brand of Northern Ireland’s “The Troubles,” I guess; five city council study sessions were held; and the mayor seemed to expend every ounce of her being in order to get something going and move the city toward real housing solutions for all. But therein lies the conundrum.

“Which Side Are You On?”

It goes back to the old union song, “Which Side Are You On?” It was written by Florence Reece at the age of 12 and her father, a coal miner, was out on strike during the great “Harlan County War.” It was often performed by Pete Seeger, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XEnTxlBuGo) The real estate interests in Santa Cruz have enough housing. The developer class gots their homes too. Mayor probably should’ve crossed them off the list early. No? The Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, and University Admin-types all have interests in continuing the failed state of a market-driven housing system in this part of the world. It’s not what Santa Cruz needs. Supply and demand can be thrown out in this arena. Mayor Chase’s margin of victory some three years ago came about because “The Progressives,” threw their support behind Bruce Van Allen, Leonie Sherman, and ‘da mayor. She simply forgot (?) who brung her as the political saying goes. She found some new friends at the big dance, I guess.

Our father was a union man some day I’ll be one too.
The bosses fired daddy what’s our family gonna do?
Come all you good workers good news to you
I’ll tell of how the good old union has come in here to dwell.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

The folks who showed up at the civic auditorium last June pretty much covered the gamut of our Santa Cruz lack of affordable housing troubles. I doubt the “listening tour” produced much in the way of new ideas than those gathered at the civic a few days before council went on their customary July vacation. If a subcommittee of the city council and a group of impaneled residents, would’ve rolled up its collective sleeves immediately following June 24th meeting and started then, we might actually now have a plan. Oh, but staff got in the way and I guess suggested a “listening tour,” lengthy report backs, more study sessions, and reasons not to risk too much at this time given the city manager’s $2.7 million current budget deficit. The plan put forward at last week’s city council meeting may well likely culminate in some really good suggestions by next June of 2018, right before the city manager (CM) puts the kaibosh on the whole thing ’cause we now a $3 million hole in the budget’ as a result of past police and fire pension agreements. We just can’t take on any more stuff that costs money right now will be the CM’s mantra. But folks, the real harm in forming this council subcommittee is that it’s leaving out the public. I suggested expanding the committee. Give each councilmember two appointments and unleash the intelligence and creativity that overflows in this town. So many smart people here have a singular passion: real affordable housing. And they know a lot more, and have a lot more time, than any current member of the city council. I can honestly say there isn’t any member of the current council given his or her other committee assignments, council meeting dates, and outside jobs who can offer but a modicum of time, and that’s just not good enough given what’s at stake. So, look for certain city staff to try and lead the subcommittee towards a kind of bureaucratic promised land when final recommendations come back to council.

San Lorenzo Park Tents not going away before end of year according to SC city manager.

Santa Cruz Has a New Mayor

David Terrazas was sworn in as the 94th mayor of the city of Santa Cruz last week. (https://www.santacruzpl.org/history/articles/340/) He began his mayoral reign on the evening of December 6th. Formerly, vice-mayor Terrazas literally changed hats all in one motion as Mayor Cynthia Chase was absent due to a nasty cold. During his new mayor remarks, he spoke of “a deep love of Santa Cruz,” and proudly stated he is the grandson of immigrants, and that his wife Monica is also an immigrant from El Salvador. David’s remarks were as circumspect as they were emotionally charged. There is “a crisis in mental health…there is crime on our streets…public misery and disorder…” Terrazas itemized his public safety concerns first. He wants to “improve the Riverwalk,” and “keep open spaces healthy and family-friendly.” I think I supported him when he said, “we need to find out who the homeless are and what they need to get off the street.” Amen brother. He said he had three priorities: 1) community safety, 2) support for city core services including support for youth programs, and 3) “cleanliness of downtown.” He also said, “I support getting back to basics.” There was not much in the way of specifics, but it was offered up before more than 80 David-supporters present with gobs of passion, multiple smiles, all the while exuding a sense of determination and forthrightness. I think too he wanted to be candid, but he held himself back, perhaps for another day and time.

Gavin Newsom, Candidate for Governor, Comes to the Cruz Looking for Support

In my life-time, no elected governor has ever run a campaign on universal healthcare, support for sanctuary cities (and state!), or addressing the needs of our state’s most vulnerable population, the homeless. Gavin Newsom says he is running on all these issues. He also seems to be proud to run on these intractable matters. They are arguably the state’s most pressing and persistent ones. Newsom was in town this past Saturday bringing his upbeat, unabashed, some might say oil slick brand of liberalism to Surf City. In his hour-long presentation before a crowd of well over 100, mostly Dem party loyalists at the Police Community room on Center Street, Newsom offered his stump speech, and he even acknowledged it at one point, thanking the audience for asking tough questions on homelessness, creating a state bank, releasing Prop. 51 funds, housing more UC students on campus, and the one he received the most applause on, universal-single payer-medicare for all healthcare. I came away impressed and wondering if as the front runner–LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California State Treasurer John Chiang, and former California Public Schools Superintendent Delaine Easton are all running–he will tack towards the center as he visits the rest of a state that is not Santa Cruz or San Francisco. He appeared quite comfortable here in the city of the Holy Cross. Villaraigosa will be in Santa Cruz on Wed. Dec. 13th at Fred Keeley’s house.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“The Democratic Party will not become a vibrant and successful 50 state party until it opens its doors widely to the working people and young people of our country. I am extremely pleased that the Unity Reform Commission has begun that process.” (Dec. 9)

Picture of the Week

New Sheriff in Town

Santa Cruz Mayor, David Terrazas being sworn in by Superior Court Judge, Paul Marigonda in the Santa Cruz City Council Chambers at 809 Center Street.

A Bit of Relief For Renters!

November 14, 2017 | By Chris Krohn

Anxious residents flee their home on Hillcrest Terrace in October, located below UCSC, after receiving an eviction notice giving them less than 48 hours to leave. (Photo by C. Krohn)

The city council passed a unanimous recommendation that city staff come back with an ordinance that may bring some needed relief to tenants. Included in the council action are some teeth that might growl at bad-actor landlords. If a tenant has to be evicted when a landlord’s property is red-tagged because of life-threatening health and safety issues, then the tenant would be eligible for receiving immediate relocation expenses from the city; up to 4-5 months of rent to be collected from the landlord; and the city is directed to go after the landlord for any out-of-pocket expenses on the part of the tenants, or the city of Santa Cruz.

Back in October, six UCSC undergrads were evicted by the city of Santa Cruz, but they weren’t offered any compensation or relocation assistance. Their only remedy was to have their landlord pay two months rent as required by law, but their landlord would not respond to tenants. What the new proposed ordinance would do is offer a safety net to evicted residents in the form of immediate relief by providing funds to stay in a hotel. The city might then place a lien on the landlord’s property if they resist compensating tenants and the city.

 

City Begins Acting on Homeless Services Recommendations

November 14, 2017 | By Chris Krohn

What’s seemed like years since the Homeless Services Committee convened–well it has been a couple–ended their work and the issue finally came to council earlier this year, but without action on the street. Well we are finally seeing some headway. It has been months since the Santa Cruz city council said, ‘yes staff, go to it!’ The community continued continued to suffer and the homeless-houseless part of the community is suffers even more. At today’s city council meeting, Assistant City Manager, Tina Schull, came forward to tell tell us yes, on Dec. 1st homeless advocate Brent Adams will begin running the city’s storage program to help manage houseless individuals’ belongings. Wow, this will hopefully prove to be one small step forward. In addition, as of Nov. 1st according to Schull, the homeless services center will provide showers, bathroom facilities and laundry facilities.These are services we’ve been hearing about for a long time, ones that came and went in past years, but now they’ll be open a solid eight hours each day for bathing and washing clothes. I think we might be making headway!

(Photo by Dan Coyro, Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Outside Sources Influence Our Housing Demand

By Aldo Giacchino

POSTED: 11/11/17, 4:55 PM PST|

The community disquisition about housing that is currently underway has highlighted quite well the unavailability of low and moderate cost housing. The misguided solution that has been put forth is that if we build a lot of new housing, prices/rents will come down. The city bureaucracy has jumped on this bandwagon, enthusiastically promoting higher densities and the construction of thousands of units in six- to seven-story buildings. The city’s motivation, however, is stimulated mostly by the growing city deficit which is caused by somewhat static tax revenues while operating costs increase at a much faster pace. The single solution that council and staff are promoting is that the new housing will bring more net revenue. But this is a fallacy that requires some sober analysis.

Housing demand in Santa Cruz is generated, mostly, by outside sources such as students rotating through UCSC, young professionals from Silicon Valley seeking lower prices, and by second-home part-timers from a wide area. Much of this demand is bolstered by the city’s appeal as a small coastal town and the quest for relief from an overly dense and overly expensive Silicon Valley. These factors are of such magnitude that there is no amount of housing density and market-rate construction increase that will reduce demand or prices. With what is going on in the densification of Silicon Valley, the demand spillover into Santa Cruz will continue, no matter how much we build.
Another part of the overall demand is the local component of low and moderate income workers who are needed to provide services to us all. No amount of market-rate housing is going to help to these people: they need subsidized housing.

With such intense demand, the proposed “build baby, build” solution will be futile. It will not reduce housing costs and will adversely impact the livability rating of Santa Cruz. The transportation, circulation and mobility infrastructure, which is already grossly inadequate, will be severely over capacity. Developers will be the only beneficiaries of such policy. The rest of us will get more gridlock and continuing rises in home prices and rents.

The fact is that new housing does not generate enough municipal revenue to match the increased cost of extending services to the new housing. City expenditure growth is driven mostly by ever-rising employee costs (65 percent of all general fund expenditures), while growth in the primary revenue sources (real estate taxes and sales taxes) is severely restricted by Proposition 13 and by the switch to internet commerce.

For sure, new housing will increase tax revenue at first, as it comes on line, but the predominance of inelastic tax revenue sources cannot sustain the ever increasing municipal costs. There will be no net gain.

Different strategies are needed. Housing for low and moderate income workers requires local/state subsidies and must have a mandatory requirement that each new market-rate housing development include 30 percent-40 percent units for low and middle income workers. The city deficit problem requires expense reductions and also the increase of revenue sources to pay for the growing cost and quantity of city services.

Building more market-rate housing will only increase the severity of the city’s financial problems and, through increased congestion, will certainly bring about a steep decline in the livable qualities of the city. As the business saying goes, when a product produces continuing net losses, you cannot make it up in volume.

Aldo Giacchino is a Santa Cruz resident, a retired city planner, and a retired health care facilities planner and business manager.