Rent Control Epitaph or Beginning of a Movement?

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.

A Movement?

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.

Short Term Rentals

If you are a homeowner and live in your home while hosting a short-term renter I do not believe the city will be targeting you, per se, and there will be 350 permits available soon to “hosted” STR’s. If you own a non-hosted STR then this is a situation I see as troublesome, in terms of offering up scarce housing to those residing outside of Santa Cruz. Housing that so many are competing for right now. If you leave town for vacation each year for a month or so, I hope an accommodation in the ordinance can be made. I do not believe that limiting short-term vacation rentals is the absolute solution to our housing woes, but it is a piece of a very difficult, often painful puzzle for many. I see good people of goodwill struggling to figure this out and I look forward to your continued participation,

Pieces of the Housing Puzzle

What is the Housing Puzzle?

Everybody who is living in Santa Cruz deserves a place to live. The federal government’s guidelines say no one should be paying more than 30% of their salary into rent. We know that many, according to Steve McKay and Miriam Greenberg’s research ( that many are in fact “rent-burdened,” and paying upwards to 70% of their income towards rent. So, what can be done?

First, we can make developers produce 25% of their rental units affordable, according to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. Secondly, the city council can pass a rent freeze and just cause eviction leading up to a communitywide rent control signature gathering effort, which is set to begin in January. Third, the city council can fully fund a 24/7 emergency shelter with “wrap-around” services. We can also urge the city council to ONLY work with non-profit housing providers, open a tenant’s rights office at city hall, demand the university house its students on campus, pass a speculation tax on home-flipping, and put a 3% hotel tax increase in order to raise around $3 million a year for an affordable housing fund.


Homelessness, petty crime and drug use

I empathize with residents who are dealing with some of the chaotic activity occurring in our community. I urge you to keep calling the police when you need help. Chief Andy Mills just finished the fifth of five community meetings. He says he will be releasing “the plan” soon after digesting resident comments that he gathered.

Also, try and discuss the difficult issues of homelessness and mental health with your neighbors…ask them what they might do…I have two daughters and I live downtown. I worry every day about their safety. My car has been robbed 3 times in the past year. Me and my neighbors are also dealing with a pretty large group of homeless as most neighborhoods in our city also experience. We have a neighborhood email list to stay in touch, I encourage residents to start on if they do not already have one, good way to get to put names with faces around your ‘hood too.

I am distraught some days about how drugs are destroying people’s lives and bleed into the larger community. I am advocating for building a 24/7 shelter; adding a day center where those experiencing homelessness can get help; placing social workers alongside police officers in every patrol car; and getting all police trained in crisis intervention training (CIT). I also want to fully fund the drug, alcohol, and mental health programs that are now operating, like MHCAN, but severely understaffed. In addition, I support placing a housing bond on the ballot in 2018 with funding for transitional housing as being a significant piece of the bond pie.

Yes, there is a housing crisis in Santa Cruz

So, what do we do?

I very much want to see a housing bond put forward to purchase, fix up, and maintain houses and apartments as affordable units, in perpetuity. $250 million to $300 million countywide bond would likely add less than $20 to everybody’s property bill. It should be on the November 2018 ballot.

I have fears that working with for-profit developers will yield few units of affordable housing, and not very much is collected in in-lieu fees either, given the enormous need we have. As a community, we’ve got to demand more affordable units from for-profit developers than previous councils have in the name of the community.

I would like to work with council colleagues and the community to address our Santa Cruz housing crisis…My interests include:

  1. limiting the number of short-term rentals (right now we passed an ordinance that limits it to 550 permits. I voted no because I thought around 300 permits seemed right.)
  2. incentivizing the building of ADUs (accessory dwelling units in back of main house)
  3. passing a just-cause eviction ordinance to protect tenants
  4. confronting the university on its growing student body and non-growing bed space problem and limit them to housing all of their students over 19,500;
  5. seriously begin tackling the rising and pervasive community challenge of homelessness and houselessness. We need a 24/7 emergency shelter, some of the bond money should be included for a shelter.

Let’s keep each other apprised on these issues and make sure we show up at meetings, discussions and forums to make our case that, a) this is what a housing crisis looks like and b) we are not mourning, we are organizing renters, homeowners, students and the homeless alike.

You are not alone in your concerns, and we must be ready to show up when it counts most (like the next three city council meetings), advocate for affordability, vote, and keep talking to our neighbors as we search for solutions together.

Beach Flats Community Garden

The tiny, but flourishing Beach Flats Community Garden sits in the middle of a largely working class section of town was threatened with closure in 2015, but the greater Santa Cruz community came together to support residents and made a collective voice known in supporting an important community asset. Sixty percent of the garden was saved for the local community garden. The continued existence of the garden remains precarious though. Residents seek to preserve the entirety of this community asset and we must continue to demand the WHOLE garden be preserved.

A petition, drafted by garden supporters with over 700 signatures, states: “We believe that the Beach Flats Community Garden is a vital community resource. Loss, fragmentation or relocation of the garden would irreparably damage this thriving and unique space of food production and community engagement. We ask the City of Santa Cruz and the Seaside Co. to work together with members of the community to find a long-term solution for keeping the entirety of the garden open as a public space.”

The bottom line is the Beach Flats Community Garden does not have to close. If you agree, please sign the petition at: You can lend your voice as well. Let your neighbors know about this effort, call the City Council at 420-5020, and the Seaside Co. at 423-5590 because, “el pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido.” The people united will never be defeated.

To see more got to

Protecting and Enhancing Our Green Spaces

The people of Santa Cruz have chosen in past elections and by legislative action to set aside and protect sensitive habitat and community green spaces. Enormous community activism and energy went into saving Lighthouse Field from hotel development; funding the purchase of the Pogonip and the Moore Creek Uplands; as well as preserving Wilder Ranch for our children and grandchildren. I am grateful to those who came before us and who fought these past battles over land-use and achieved ample preservation. I salute you. Now, it is the duty of the current city council to insure that these spaces are well-maintained and accessible to the public for hiking, strolling, picnicking, and just plain hanging out. They are awesome places to recreate with kids, meditate, meet friends, or just simply walk and lose yourself in thought. There are other spaces too such as the Jessie Street Marsh and the Beach Flats Community Garden that require us to take steps to make sure these spaces are preserved as well. I urge residents to visit these web sites and to get involved in your community.