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:
- The sweetened beverage tax previously placed on the November ballot asking voters to approve a 1.5 cents per ounce tax was rescinded because Sacramento legislators in June made a law that no city can place a tax like this on the ballot until 2031. Go figure. (Aug. 7th)
- By a vote of 4-0, council passed a resolution allowing the anti-rent control group, Santa Cruz Together, to include their ballot argument on the November ballot, overturning the city clerk’s decision because the group had missed a July deadline. Councilmembers Mathews, Terrazas, and Krohn all recused themselves from this vote. (Aug. 7th)
- I was the lone vote against a fee deferrals extension for the (non-)development of 350 Ocean Street. This item concerns those boarded up buildings along Ocean Street that the property owner and developer first, forced tenants to vacate and secondly, they’ve been allowed to remain empty. It represents a fair and just case for the city to exercise its power of eminent domain in order to produce affordable housing, which would be a real “public benefit.” Instead, with this extension it will likely be a minimum of a couple years before anything gets built.
- Charter Amendment Review Committee was established and will have 7 individual city council picks and 6 at large members chosen by the entire council. The mission of this committee is to study 1) a directly elected mayor, 2) district elections, 3) council compensation, and 3) “ranked choice voting.” It is planned that the committee begin its work sometime this October. The vote was unanimous to establish this committee.
- An appeal of a building at 1024 Soquel Ave. (at Cayuga across from eastside fire station) was denied by a 5-2 vote with Councilmembers Brown and Krohn voting to uphold the appeal. Many changes were made by the developer, John Swift, thus making it well worth the time of eastside neighbors…still, it will likely be an ugly building, not in-line with current architectural motifs on the eastside.
- Perhaps, turning back the staff’s recommendation of a Jump(Uber) bike rack “adjacent to 102 Woodrow” was the biggest turn-around of events on that city council day. The final vote was 6-1 to study other sites and receive a report back from staff in six months. Councilmember Chase was the lone vote to support city staff’s recommendation in placing a bike rack at Woodrow and West Cliff.
- And finally, the removal of “two heritage trees,” beautiful and amazing trees near 200 Washington Street was approved, 5-2, with Brown and Krohn having hoped to save the trees, but this council was just not in the mood.
Bernie Tweet of the Week
“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.”
What’s At Stake in the Next City Council Election?
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.
BERNIE TWEET OF THE WEEK
(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!).
“It is a human rights violation to separate children from parents, as ICE has done. This admin. continues to keep children from their parents. Sexual assault and abuse is not uncommon in ICE detention, either.” (July 19)
Rent control foes raise $324,000 to fight rules
Tenant advocates supporting Santa Cruz ballot measure have $30,000 in donations
By Jondi Gumz
jgumz@jondigumz on Twitter
SANTA CRUZ >> With the Nov. 6 election about 100 days away, theCalifornia Apartment Association
has raised more than $383,000 to fight stricter rent control regulations for the city of Santa Cruz while tenant advocates who wrote the rules going to voters have raised about $30,000, according to the latest campaign finance reports.
A locally organized group, Santa Cruz Together, met the
No More Parking Garages!
Death of the Great American Parking Lot (and Garage)
We are in a pitched battle locally. Did you know parking spaces are in search of library books? Will meter attendants unite with public internet users inside one monstrous structure? Can sheltered automobiles really coexist alongside sheltered humans in a public space poised bombastically atop the former Farmer’s Market site? Victory? Or is a remodeled and revamped 1968, now odd-looking building, the way to live within our municipal financial constraints? The great library-garage debate that’s been raging in town for months (some say years) was in overdrive this week as the city council held a planned public study session to decide whether we continue down the fossil fuel path, or just say NO to any more $40k parking spaces. Will it be settled this week, or will the tin can of a “public works” project be kicked down Cedar Street, left on Church, and land all the way back onto city hall’s drought-tolerant landscaping? (Note: BrattonOnLine deadline is Monday at noon, so I will have more next week.)
E-Vehicle Flies in the Ointment
Parking bureaucrats froth at the mouth over monuments to the internal combustion engine (revenue$, revenue$, revenue$). Hell, they will even fully embrace electric cars if they could charge them to park! Funny thing was, since 2002 the city’s parking department could not fine electric vehicle owners who parked in city spaces because the council back then was trying to incentive e-vehicle use. That ended in 2016. I guess because Santa Cruz suffers from an e-vehicle glut? No, but it appears to be petty backlash by the city parking Czars who felt they were losing revenue. They lobbied hard to get the meter money back from the elitists who drive Nissan Leafs, Chevy Bolts, Kia Soules, and BMW i3s. These cars currently sell for between $21,000 and $35,000 after federal and state rebates. And please, don’t even get the parking apparatchiks started on those pricey Teslas.
Going Extinct: Parking Garages or 8-Track Tapes? Parking Garages or Crystal Sets?
“The bottom line: We’re going to need much less space to store cars. Some cities are gearing up to take advantage of the shift…Urban parking lots are dead or dying, and how we use the curb is changing,” said Rich Barone, vice president of transportation for the Regional Plan Association of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.” (Pew report, Dec. 12, 2017 http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/12/12/why-downtown-parking-garages-may-be-headed-for-extinction)
Environmentalists, the scourge of public works departments everywhere, are leading the charge and visioning a different kind of library project. Library sí, they say, parking garage no! There is a definite not-too-green aspect of building and maintaining a behemoth parking structure for 650-plus cars. Once built this garage also further eliminates impervious surfaces, produces toxic run-off, and will displace numerous trees on the site. The future is about how to park less cars downtown, and more about pedestrian amenities, how to create multiple nexus points between downtown and the San Lorenzo River, and finally where to place more trees and benches. Can we implement Traffic Demand Management (TDM) strategies now and not after the proposed garage becomes reality? Maybe we can use the desal issue as a model. Remember, our community far exceeded all conservation measures recommended by city staff and we avoided building a desalination plant. Can we get enough people not driving a car to downtown and actually forgo this $35-$40 million cement mistake?
Here’s an idea. Yes, Santa Cruz deserves a nice library, a monument to intellectual curiosity, civic virtue, and community vision. What about this: Sell the existing library site ($3-5 million?), take the $23 million in library bond money, and the additional $5 million to relocate the Farmer’s Market that’s being contemplated (that’s about $33 million), and build a library fronted by a long-desired town plaza. The plaza could then be the permanent home for the Farmer’s Market, and at the same time we could preserve all 12 trees on the site of the current Lincoln and Cedar Street parking lot. In fact, why not have a contest? It could be very exciting. Have architects and builders submit plans. Tell’em they have $33 million to build it, and no more. Voila, no five-story garage, no monument to the internal combustion engine, and no large structure overwhelming the neighborhood, and the 12 mature trees would be preserved. This is such a wonderful time to be having this debate. Just sayin’! The report the city council received recently has a staff recommendation to relieve businesses of fees they currently contribute so that the city can provide downtown parking. But monthly fees to park in the various city-owned garages would nearly double in cost, going from $38 to $75. I support this increase, but only if the increased revenue goes toward paying for bus passes, Uber-Jump bike fees, and occasional Lyft rides for all downtown city workers. Also, downtown businesses have to make good on bus passes for their employees too if they are to be relieved of paying “parking deficiency fees.” (P.S. BTW, the real cost of providing a downtown parking space per month is more like $105 per month.)
The Dirty, Not-so-little Secret
It is envisioned by Santa Cruz parking czars (no czarinas involved) that much of the new condo building planned for downtown would rely on this “library-garage” five-story scheme at Lincoln and Cedar. The market-rate developers would be relieved of having to build “sufficient” parking and instead, they would send their tenants to put their late-model cars to rest in the city-built parking structure. So, will there be a developer building fee that will off-set the parking garage construction costs? One has not been proposed yet.
Speech-ifying ON the Housing B.S. Report
On the night of this past June 12th, real estate interests and developer-types of all kinds came forward to extoll the market-rate housing recommendations in a report from the city council’s Housing Blueprint Subcommittee. Obviously, the recommendations were heavily influenced by this lobbying class through our own Santa Cruz Planning Department. Who could disagree with paving the way for hundreds more market-rate homes downtown? Me, for instance. The vote to approve was 5-1 with Councilmember Sandy Brown absent. I was the lone no-vote and before I voted I addressed the audience and the city council:
Well, here I come as the unwelcome guest at the garden party.
“Doesn’t pencil out.” How often we’ve heard that line from developers. I for one believe all housing is not equal. The next city council will hopefully learn to say NO to developers who will not build inclusionary housing…because you know what? Market-rate housing does not currently “pencil out” for dishwashers, baristas, or even nurses. The next city council will hopefully learn how to say no to developers who want to pay in-lieu fees, or at least charge them a fee equal to the amount one of their units will be sold for. ($500k plus!) I take my hat off to this council for protecting housing by passing a rent freeze and just-cause eviction ordinance. But, I do not see either of those two accomplishments listed in this report in front of us tonight. I cannot support the removal of the owner-occupied requirements for ADUs. I cannot support the moving target of 10% or less inclusionary units proposed [in this report]. I cannot support a “Housing Academy” instead of an Affordable Housing Commission. The commission would at least be made up of residents [and not pedantic bureaucrats]. I cannot support a developer-heavy plan [that’s in front of us tonight] that will yield few affordable units for people who live in Santa Cruz right now. What I do support is a 25%-30% inclusionary [in every project]. I support getting up to speed and investing city resources in gaining affordable units. I support the creation of an affordable housing commission. I like looking at increasing the TOT (hotel tax) to build affordable housing. I support the idea of unbundling parking. I support the concepts here of placing housing near transit. I support involving the public more in housing decisions. Tonight, I am not so comfortable being this canary in the coal mine, but it seems to me if this plan goes forward y’all are throwing down a gauntlet and setting [up campaign issues) for the next election. So, I for one am looking forward to November. Thank you.
Bernie Quote of the Week
If you don’t love Bernie, you really must admire his principles though in not endorsing his son, Levi for a congressional house seat. He believes in his son, but rejects political nepotism. Bernie said, “I don’t believe in dynastic politics. He’s on his own… I’m sure he’s gonna do very well…” (June 7) https://cnn.it/2JnR7jh #CuomoPrimeTime What a dad!
Dear Mayor Terrazas and City Council members,
I am unable to attend the 6/19/18 study session. Therefore, I hope you will consider these comments on the “Downtown Parking Fees and Rates” agenda item. In particular, I would urge Councilmembers to seek answers to the following questions, the answers to which are not evident from the staff report.
A lettter from The Santa Cruz City Council to UCSC’s Chancellor George Blumenthal regarding passing a motion adopting recommendations for the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).