Amy Goodman and Dan Ellsberg in conversation tonight

The event will be at 730p. It’s part of the Right Livelihood Conference in Santa Cruz this week. There is still room at event, College 9 and 10 dining hall tonight. #10, #16, #15 and #20 buses all stop a few feet away from the event.I love this town!

Below, Amy chats it up with Dan during today’s lunch with students

Majority Report, May 2018


On the picket line with my union UPTE—United Professional and Technical Employees at UCSC, standing with AFSCME—American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees as they fight for Equality!

Report from the Front Lines

Rent Control on Fire

There it was in this past Monday’s, Santa Cruz Sentinel, the headline read, “Santa Cruz rent control campaign hits signature goal.” Over 9,000 signatures were collected locally, and according to someone who logs and checks all those petitions, an additional 1000-2000 were also collected, but couldn’t be included because they were from voters in Watsonville, Live Oak, Aptos, and even Scotts Valley. So, rent control fever appears to be alive in the entire county! Or is it? We all know that signing a petition to get something on the ballot before the voters is perhaps more about supporting the concept of “direct democracy” than necessarily what’s written on the petition. We can still support democracy by petition and be opposed to the issue when we’re in the voting booth, can’t we? What this rent control petition has done though is grab the real estate community by the lapels, and that group is somewhat shaken now. If the petition is approved, we then have the opportunity for a real community-wide dialogue about our housing crisis. I believe most people in this community want such a discussion…and most I’ve talked to also want some immediate ACTION too.

Talk of Substitute Initiative

But wait?!? Several emergency meetings and late night discussions were held recently among members of the Movement for Housing Justice (MHJ) over possible changes in the initiative. Petition circulators were being sensitive to problems brought forward by both tenants, landlords, and homeowners about how the current rent control ballot initiative might be tweaked to satisfy more people. MHJ was seeking more community-wide agreement. Of course, the original petition authors cannot change the petition language itself, which likely 10,000 city residents will have signed when, and if, they turn them in. But, the Santa Cruz City Council could put forward a substitute initiative, one crafted by members of the Movement for Housing Justice and incorporating certain changes in language, ones that came up again and again in front door and shopping center discussions between signers and gatherers. My experience with the MHJ group is that they want as many content Santa Cruzans to come out of this process as possible, while still staying true to their actual goal of bringing some justice for renters that certain landlords can live with in this crazy Santa Cruz housing market. So, the changes that are being looked at have to do with relocation assistance, eviction policies, and rent board salaries as I understand. A deal may be in the works, but I’m not sure anyone should hold their breath. I would indeed guess that some form of rent control will be before the voters this November.

How Did We Get Here?

This Santa Cruz housing crisis was not born overnight. While there has always been tensions between UCSC’s student population and off-the-hill community members competing for available housing, it became much more acute as the 2005 Long Range Development Plan played itself out over the last decade. Housing 50% of the students back then was a helluva a lot more bearable than it is today…and while adding 10,000 more is problematic, the big elephant in the room is the exorbitant rates UCSC charges students to live on campus. Along with passing some form of rent control, those dorm charges have to come down 30-50% if students and non-students are going to find any relief on the housing front. In addition, as I sat in Zachary’s the other day in less than an hour I counted FOUR Google and Apple buses traveling down Pacific Avenue picking up tech workers. Folks, we gotta crisis!

Two More Parts of the Housing Problem

Short-term Vacation Rentals (STRs) make up a significant portion of the lack of housing for students and workers in Santa Cruz. The city council passed an STR ordinance limiting the number of these permitted rentals to 550 overall, but there is a sense that more people might be renting their places out under STR, but without a city permit. The other matter that impacts housing here is the gap between wages and the cost of rent. If we really want people to have a chance of living in the community they work in then we must seriously address the paltry $10.50 an hour minimum wage now in place. Isn’t it time to bring the “Fight for $15” to Surf City?

Addendum Notes

  • The city’s establishment is collectively holding its breath until the June 5th ballotvote, i.e. sales tax increase worth approximately $3million to city general fund…so, no library-garage issue meeting; no city council budget sessions until June 6th; rather small council agendas, filled with “ministerial” items; smiles on all faces until vote is in. By the way, voting started Monday, May 7th when mail-in ballots went out to voters!

10.791 rent control petition signatures turned in this morning!

THIS JUST IN…

Movement for Housing Justice turned in 10.791 today at 10am at the Santa Cruz city hall today. The clerk was waiting. In fact, she closed the main offices and employed a all hands on deck approach as the counting will begin immediately.

Regardless of an Up or Down vote in November…that many signatures represents a Herculean effort on the part a grassroots group made up of hundreds of signature gatherers. It also reflects the fact that people are not happy with “too damn high rents” in this town.

The city clerk and the county clerk have 30 days to count the valid signatures to get the rent control initiative on the November ballot. Around 5,800 are needed. If enough signatures are valid it is expected that the city council will validate the initiative at its June 26th city council meeting and thus place the measure on the ballot.

cheers,

Chris (see pictures below)

Majority Report – April 9-15, 2018

Let My People Go

Santa Cruz Renters sing:

Well, I looked over Jordan and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home

A band of Angels coming after me

Coming for to carry me home

Santa Cruz Landlords respond:

We’ve seen this movie before.

Rent Control Fear in River City: Anti-Rent Control People Win One Battle, 17-14

The evening council meeting on March 27th was all about housing, and it appeared to pit a large group of renters against an even larger number of landlords, developers, and real estate interests. It was a night when the California Apartment Association perhaps out-organized the Movement for Housing Justice and Students United with Renters. Maybe the two latter groups didn’t show in even greater numbers because they were out gathering signatures on the rent control petition. As 31 people addressed the council on the agenda item, the Housing Blueprint Committee Report, the landlord-developer group won my unofficial tally, 17 speakers opposed to rent control and 14 were in favor. This housing committee is made up of councilmembers Watkins, Chase, and Brown, and even though rent control is not really part of the committee’s charge, the public clearly showed up to either support or denounce rent control.

After hearing from city staff and the public, the final results on the council side of the podium were minimal. No actual housing or city resources would be expended, just more time to study the housing issue. The final motion included language that requested the Housing Blueprint Committee and staff “to prioritize specific projects that may yield more immediate results, specifically highlighting ADUs and legalization of unpermitted units and inclusionary rates…” All good stuff if enacted, but council direction seemed to be to simply study the issue more and return to council at a future unknown date. Councilmember Brown and I were able to get a slight opening on the 20-25% housing inclusionary that Brand-New Council candidates campaigned on in 2016. In the end, Councilmember Cynthia Mathews tossed a bone by including this language in the motion: “Explore an increase in the inclusionary rates.” Oh yeah, one BIG concession too: staff was directed to send letters to all landlords and let them know, ‘er…by the way, the city is in a state of emergency with respect to housing and you are hereby directed by the rent freeze ordinance NOT to raise the rent on your tenants.’ This last part of the motion is significant. But, isn’t telling landlords they can’t raise their rent prices a little bit like telling Donald Trump he can’t Tweet? Folks, the fight is on.

Council Side Note

In the afternoon city council session, the developer dream of “Density Bonus Provisions for Affordable Residential Units” (sounds pretty good, but there would be very little affordable anything in actual practice), which means adding more floors if the developer provides a unit or two of affordable housing–was unexpectedly sent packing, at least for the moment. The city council, on a 4-3 vote (Watkins, Chase, Brown and Krohn in the majority) requested the density bonus issue go back to the Housing Blueprint Committee. Seems like that committee was snubbed by the Planning Department, which bypassed them and went straight to council with this ever-so urgent (NOT) request.

Blood on the Tracks: Santa Cruz Together Turns Out a Crowd Ready to Fight Rent Control

I went to several public meetings this week, but one I attended is rather memorable. You’ve likely heard that the making of public policy is often compared with sausage-making? Well, what happened in the Police Community Room on Center Street last Wednesday (April 4) night was a window into the process of making fire and brimstone. A new pro-property group, Santa Cruz Together, called for a meeting to discuss some tactics and strategy on how to defeat the as yet qualified rent control ballot initiative. Speakers that night seemed to firmly believe it will be on this November’s ballot. Dan Coughlin, self-identified as having a “business degree,” and Lynn Renshaw, “MBA from UCLA,” presided over a packed house of 100-plus. While Coughlin emphasized the group was comprised of “property providers,” and “mom and pop landlords,” Renshaw laid out an analysis of where the Santa Cruz bubble might go if rent control passed at the ballot box. “It imposes burdensome relocation fees… [with a rent board] there’s no sufficient oversight and it sets its own salaries…impartiality is not required…someone who is not credit-worthy still gets a sub-lease.” In addition, she offered some overhead slides for the crowd to chew on: 37,672 register voters in the city, 13,205 single family home owners, 14,643 renters in houses, and 9,824 tenants renting apartments. I think she was trying to get across the point that a great effort by this group would have to be undertaken if rent control was to be defeated. Then it was back to Coughlin for some basic strategy points: 1) “speak from the heart,” 2) “acknowledge the plight of the tenant,” and 3) “don’t pick fights with students.” Pretty good advice! Coughlin also added, “This campaign was born out of the NextDoor site, if you are not on it, get on it.”

City Council is ‘Meeting-Light’ this Week

The often obscurely written Santa Cruz city council agenda, while still obscure this past week, was on the lighter work side. Of course, there are the usual BIG-sounding topics: Climate Action Plan Update; city give-away of “encroachment permit for Astound/Wave Broadband” network for more lousy cable deals; and lots of money being spent by the H20 department for an “inflatable dam rubber bladder replacement project” at $200k, and a “professional services contract” ($173k) to plan for a “capital improvement project” for the Laguna Creek and Major Creek diversion facilities. The council was also asked to approve “right of way” permits at seven locations, the most controversial being Swanton and W. Cliff, for the coming Jump bike stations program. Perhaps the most significant issues were two items referred to the “closed session” agenda: “Arlt v. City of Santa Cruz,” concerning the death of a local Dad, Sean Arlt, at the hands of SCPD and the “negotiations” concerning the “Skypark” property the city owns in the middle of Scotts Valley, site of an old airport. The real fireworks may occur later in the evening when there will be a joint city council-water commission 7pm meeting. Since the BrattonOnLine deadline comes before the council meeting, I will let you know next week if we take up the chorus that I am continually hearing from Santa Cruzans: My water bill is too damn high! Will our sky-high water bills be the elephant in the room, or take center stage? See you next week.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“I want to thank the teachers across the country who are saying loudly and clearly that taking care of our kids and schools is more important than giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations.” (April 3)

BRATTON ONLINE >

Majority Report – March 15, 2018

Four WOW Issues that Passed a Usually Divided City Council

A Tutorial on What Can Be Done in the Minority

February was a dry month for water, but a downpour happened on the policy front. If city council actions in February were measured meteorologically, it might be called one of the wettest legislative months on record. With a slightly center-right leaning mayor, David Terrazas, presiding over a politically fractured city council, no less than four significant policy issues were passed by the Santa Cruz City Council this past February.

While relatively recent councils have voted to accept a BearCat tank from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, refused to purchase land for a permanent Beach Flats Garden, would not allow for a vehicle parking area for destitute residents, and for decades city councils have repeatedly turned down safe sleeping zones for homeless residents, these current council decisions might appear out of a Cuban play book. This is not to mention that the city manager’s office has reported that Santa Cruz spends upwards to between $18 million-$20 million on combating homelessness and substance addiction issues through its police, fire, and parks and recreation departments. Given that backdrop, the Santa Cruz city council approved a dizzying array of former politically left issues: funding for a homeless camp site at 1220 River Street; voting to place a measure on the June ballot calling on the university to limit its enrollment to 19,500, which is the currently agreed upon number from the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP); and a first-ever rent freeze was enacted on February 13th, along with a just-cause eviction ordinance.

Given Surf City’s progressive history versus the current “moderate” council majority, one might assume that this group of councilmembers took a leap leftward. Probably not. More likely, former left-ish causes have become mainstream issues. It makes sense to set up a place for homeless people to sleep, to tell the university enough is enough, and to protect renters given that well over half of our residents rent.

Left vs. the Mainstream

Nationally, left issues like universal college tuition and healthcare for all have been moving steadily towards the center of American politics. Partly a result of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, but also because so many Americans struggle to pay the always increasing health insurance costs, and student debt-servicing. Some day we will figure out how much creativity and job motivation is lost by people not changing jobs they no longer like, or grew out of long ago, simply because they do not want to lose their healthcare. Ditto with college loan payments. Graduates cannot take on a post-college internship for further career experience, but instead move into barista or restaurant jobs to pay off their loans. In the past, many young people could leave college with enthusiasm and an adventurous mindset perhaps, but now they are saddled with anxiety and find few opportunities that will pay their living expenses and debt-service payments.

The Ugly Underbelly of Rent Control Rumormongers

The rich are attempting to eat the less-rich. If you are a landlord you have received no fewer than five offers in the past two weeks to sell your property. One from Scott Webber and Aimee Dietle from Century 21 states that they “work with 3 separate investor clients that pay cash, fair market price and close escrow in 17 days.” Scott and Aimee don’t seem to get it. Seems to me the city council took an extreme action on February 13th, called for by many in this community, to pass a rent freeze and contain this disease called rent madness. Now, some realtors seem to be saying it’s a tough climate, so sell us your property, at presumably a bargain, because rent control is coming. “All 3 are seasoned property investors and would gladly assume the current tenant lease contracts you currently have.” Who are these people? Are they betting that the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act will not pass statewide, and that rent control goes down at the ballot box in Santa Cruz in November? “If you have any interest in discussing what your property is worth,” these realtors invite you to “please call or email us at your convenience.” (831-818-2817) Renters, it is darkest before the dawn and the vultures are indeed circling. The community must circle too around our collective survival and right to housing. The Movement for Housing Justice can be reached at: https://movementforhousingjustice.org/

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“I’ve never believed in this blue-state, red-state nonsense. Yes, Lubbock voted overwhelmingly for Trump. But any county in this country, which has people who are struggling, can and must become a progressive county.” (March 10)


Picture of the Week

Drew Glover

City council candidate, Drew Glover spoke to the council in favor of restoring funding for children’s programming at the Nueva Vista Community Center in Beach Flats…and $25k was indeed restored!

Majority Report – March 8, 2018

Over 150 came out, most to voice concern and dissent, with UCSC and the UC Regents notion of wanting to expand enrollment by 50% at UC Santa Cruz campus. Few expressed any outright support for the growth, and most attendees ranged from dissatisfied to extremely upset at the projected growth numbers. The city council is unified, 19,500 is enough. We support quality education and improving quality of life for all Santa Cruzans, therefore we should have no more growth at UCSC, that is the goal. Let’s maintain the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) agreements, which are really a compromise as many in Santa Cruz would like to reduce the current number of students who compete for housing, transportation, and parking spots all over town. We love UC, but it’s time for UC to spread the love and open 2 or 3 more campuses to support this state’s population of college-age students. As Bernie Sanders might say to Chancellor George Blumenthal, “Enough is enough!”

Full House at Paradox to Confront UCSC Growth

Majority Report SpecialMarch 6, 2018

Over 150 came out, most to voice concern and dissent, with UCSC and the UC Regents notion of wanting to expand enrollment by 50% at UC Santa Cruz campus. Few expressed any outright support for the growth, and most attendees ranged from dissatisfied to extremely upset at the projected growth numbers. The city council is unified, 19,500 is enough. We support quality education and improving quality of life for all Santa Cruzans, therefore we should have no more growth at UCSC, that is the goal. Let’s maintain the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) agreements, which are really a compromise as many in Santa Cruz would like to reduce the current number of students who compete for housing, transportation, and parking spots all over town. We love UC, but it’s time for UC to spread the love and open 2 or 3 more campuses to support this state’s population of college-age students. As Bernie Sanders might say to Chancellor George Blumenthal, “Enough is enough!”


Large Hotel Paradox gathering discussing UCSC “paradox,” when is enough enough?