Dear Chris Krohn
Our cоmmоn grоund; ( AaH ) dеliverеd by pаrtiсipаnt #:1210
Dear Chris Krohn
Our cоmmоn grоund; ( AaH ) dеliverеd by pаrtiсipаnt #:1210
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.
Measure M: Our ‘Network’ Moment?
The 2018 election is now over. The counting continues. How much were voters paying attention? Was this one of those once every 20-year major community skirmishes? Nineteen eighty-one was one, and 1998 was another. These were perhaps two other historical election-year markers in which the electorate sought out real change. You know it’s happening when local politics begins to leak into casual fall conversations about the World Series, or how the beginning of the UCSC school year brings smiling students and mega traffic back to the Westside. People found themselves this fall asking casual strangers, ‘So, what do you think about this rent control thing?’ Could this year’s election be a voter ‘aha’ moment? Many are on edge about the cost of housing and the inability to find solutions to homelessness as well. Could this be a Peter Finch moment we are living in?
Remember, that old, and a bit odd, 1976 drama, Network, where Finch played a Walter Cronkite-type news anchor who at a certain moment instructs his audience to open their windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any longer.” Well, I hear what’s coming out of Santa Cruz windows and it’s something like, ‘I’m mad as hell and I just can’t pay this kind of rent any longer.’ Unlike what ensued in the fictional movie Network, real people in Santa Cruz came together this past winter and wore out their flip-flops and running shoes pounding the pavement to gather signatures, over 10,000 in only 87 days! Measure M is the result. Hundreds entered the political fray, some for the first time, to qualify this initiative. Never before had so many signatures been gathered so quickly in the city of Santa Cruz. But are these activists ready for the mad dash towards the November 6th finish line? Measure M got some major pushback from landlords, real estate developers, and outside corporate interests to the tune of $1 million. A local group, Santa Cruz Together opposed M, and combined with this outsider money they had a corporate war chest. It was an epic local battle. Tons of outsider Goliath money far exceeding the Movement for Housing Justice’s meager $50,000 effort. Who will prevail? Big money or big heart? There are still thousands of votes to count from the city of Santa Cruz, but we should know something this week. Stay tuned because this revolution will likely also not be televised.
An Every 20-year Revolution?
Could this all be a local form of Thomas Jefferson’s revolutions cycle? “God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion…” This Santa Cruz “rebellion” was sparked by a whirlwind of national and international events, but a simpler truth is that rent is too damn high. We may live in a Santa Cruz bubble, but it is a bubble of our own making. History tells us that when hundreds participate in a local movement and gather over 10,000 signatures in the process, something in our community is awry and change is likely close at hand.
Many UCSC grads and undergrads were accepted to go here, but were never told much about the depth of this community’s housing crisis. Immigrants living and laboring in Santa Cruz for the past two decades, making what many of us would consider middle-class incomes, have suddenly seen their rents rise 30-50%, while their wages remain stagnant. Locals who grew up here surfing, hiking, and loving the hell out of this place have found themselves all at once displaced as their parents sold during “a hot market,” while other parents were renters and wanted to retire, but can’t because if they keep working they can stay near their children. Santa Cruzans are “mad as hell” and Measure M is but one way of saying, ‘We not going to take it any longer.’ A whole new generation is becoming politically active. A movement? Maybe, but Measure M will be but one political and social barometer if any movement is to take off here in Surf City.
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:
“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.”
Neighborhood Integrity, Truly Affordable Housing, Protecting the Natural Environment
Voter Issues Redux
If you remember last week I started a list of issues that progressive candidates might run on, or pay close attention to during the upcoming November, “off-year” election. The issues discussed last week, (which can be found by scrolling down to last week’s http://brattononline.com column), were neighborhood integrity or livability; creating truly affordable housing; and protecting and enhancing our precious Santa Cruz natural environment. This week it’s about city-university issues; traffic and transportation; enhancing the pedestrian-bicycle experience; and what I like to call, Santa Cruz foreign and domestic policy stands.
So, how many issues can a candidate actually run on?
In the old days it was perhaps simpler, but no less daunting for anyone running a serious city council campaign. The issues were usually water, traffic, and housing, in that order. Now, there’s less emphasis on water, although H2O is always a significant piece of most local political discussions. But it is HOUSING and homelessness that have just sucked all the air out of Santa Cruz politics. It is, without a doubt, THE campaign issue and it began in earnest in 2016 and will likely continue through 2024. Of course, traffic, quality of life–livability–and the environment are close behind. So how to choose?
Each candidate must try to get up to speed on the myriad of issues Santa Cruz faces by setting up loads of meetings…with homeless advocates (McHenry, Kramer, Adams, and Conable) city department heads (at least the city manager, police chief, and planning and finance directors); reaching out to past winning, and losing, candidates…there are enough ex-mayors out there to field possibly an entire 12-person basketball team (Lane, Bryant, Beiers, Scott, Fitzmaurice, and soon, current Mayor Terrazas come to mind); seek out UCSC honchos, if you can get ahold of them (Blumenthal, Tromp, and Latham among others); visit our Sacramento reps (Sen. Monning and Assembly member Stone), and try to shadow US Rep. Panetta for a day if he will let you; and check in with SEIU reps Urrutia, Nathanson, and Colby, and Monterey central labor council political rep, Glen Schaller as well). And if housing is the issue, meeting with for-profit (Swenson’s Nickell and Devcon’s Lawlor), and non-profit (Mercy Housing and Mid-Peninsula) housing developers, as well as rent control advocates (Jagadeesan, Cavooris, Hochman, and Smedberg) and anti-rent control SC Together (Renshaw) too. So many meetings, I know. But if you’re a candidate, this is what you do. I suggest choosing 2-4 issues, developing a 1-2-minute stump speech on each, and bringing all future forum
Election Issues, Part II
Make no mistake, UC Santa Cruz, Inc. represents the single largest political issue candidates will have to deal with because it’s attached to all others. UCSC usually is, and likes to act as, the elephant in the room–a player flicking at the levers of local power, and hoping to be unseen while it works the back rooms of the housing, traffic, and water political landscape. The gargantuan growth of the U over the past decade has come to represent all of our housing, traffic, and water woes. So, consequently the more than 40,000 students, faculty, staff and other support services locally attached to UC, Inc. present huge impacts on the quality of life for everyone in town, crashes, bumps, and bangs that are not so easily mitigated away.
It is up to the next city council to continue the foot-in-the-door dialogue recently begun as a result of the Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP) process. It is past time for the council to work diligently alongside the university in approaching the regents with the perhaps unwelcome line in the sand: No más UCSC growth past 19,500! This message has to be given in unity (77% of voters agreed on June 5th), full-throated, and with integrity and the understanding that you as a candidate and future councilmember are representing the 65,000 residents who live here now. The message must be delivered resolutely, zealously at times, and with commitment. This continuing communiqué must include that scaling back the growth of the university will have positive impacts on the UCSC education brand.
Next, traffic is a LOS–Level of Service–“F” on several thoroughfares throughout the city at many times during the week and on weekends. Boardwalk traffic has never been adequately dealt with; I suggest an independent analysis of on-campus and off-campus traffic counts (given that UCSC traffic honchos say cars on campus have not increased since 2005…?!?) Getting people out of their cars by providing alternatives remains a constant challenge for the next city council. And all those who say that cars are not going away anytime soon should support as many car-alternatives as possible so when they want to drive there will be less congestion. More parking garages, additional freeway lanes, and larger numbers of cars streaming ever-so slowly to the Boardwalk are not solutions progressives seek. Closing Pacific Avenue to cars, ordering up a thousand more e-bikes (half placed on the UCSC campus), parking more beach-goers at the county building, and perhaps using the now half-dozen Google-Apple-Amazon buses patrolling Pacific each morning to pitch in and bring Boardwalk patrons from Silicon Valley to Santa Cruz on weekends may offer some relief to our traffic woes.
Of course, shoring up Metro Bus funding and demanding the Regents pay more to transport students around campus and town instead of continuing to raise their tuition could simply be called: councilmembers performing constituent services. Besides closing Pacific to autos, we need to focus on moving bike lanes away from traffic. The green lanes were a good start, but now comes the tough decisions of how to shield bikes from the internal combustion engine. If we can do that it will be another game-changer in getting people out of their cars. In addition, let’s bring back the “free parking” for all e-cars. It’s an incentive that went away two years ago after having what appeared to be a successful 13-year run.
The People’s Republic of Santa Cruz Foreign Policy Office
Over the years, the Santa Cruz city council has taken many stands–against nuclear power, off-shore oil drilling and invading Iraq, El Salvador and Nicaragua. We’ve supported recognizing, and protecting our immigrant population, the Amah Mutsun (Ohlone), the Sioux at Standing Rock, and medical marijuana patients. We’ve demanded Granite Rock not bid on Trump’s border wall (success!) and that the state ban fracking (unsuccessful, so far). These issues are usually brought to the council from various community interest groups. What happens is the council provides a forum for debate and discussion and then votes, up or down, whether they believe the community is benefited by supporting the issue before them. Despite periodic criticism, developing these “foreign and domestic” policy stances takes little council time and from my experience really aids the community in providing an outlet for residents who anxiously want to do something about world issues that go beyond 7th Avenue. I like that our residents are active and concerned about life outside of Santa Cruz.
There’s much to say and do concerning housing the homeless and providing more mental health, drug, and alcohol abuse programming. The state of California has passed some major bills that will allow cities to apply for funding. The next council must hit the ground running in directing staff to secure this funding. In the area of social services there is much more progressives can do. The fact is, progressives came to power in Santa Cruz advocating for more social services funding. I say, how about a Department of Social Services? Berkeley does it, maybe it’s time we do too.
(Goes to Democrat primary winner, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who is currently on a tear to reshape the Democratic Party and make it work for her generation (and mine too!).