Majority Report July 23, 2018

What’s At Stake in the Next City Council Election?

Neighborhood Integrity, Truly Affordable Housing, Protecting the Natural Environment

Voter Issues Redux

Let Santa Cruz be an example of building bridges and not walls.

Let Santa Cruz be an example of building bridges and not walls.

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 issuestraffic 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.

P.S.

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)

Just in from Movement for Housing Justice

Santa Cruz for All of Us

Dear Rent Control Supporters:

Opponents of the rent control measure missed the legally-mandated deadline to turn in their argument for the ballot. Now, they are asking the City Council to consider a proposal to extend the filing deadline for the initial ballot argument, a special giveaway that would effectively give them two rebuttals instead of one and that could violate election law.

We need your support before the City Council to make sure that the election process remains fair and transparent.

As you know, our campaign depends on dedicated volunteers like you. Together, we have cleared every obstacle in our way and met every deadline. When we were faced with the task of collecting 5,700 signatures in half the usual time allotted to a ballot measure, we collected 10,791! When the City Council gave both sides a July 10 deadline to submit a ballot argument, you better believe we made sure we got our argument to the city clerk on time.

In contrast, our opponents are bankrolled by the powerful Sacramento-based California Apartment Association. But even with thousands to spend on fancy consultants, they ignored the legally-mandated deadline to submit their ballot argument. Instead, in violation of election rules, opponents were shown our ballot argument and then allowed to submit their rebuttal. Since they have already seen our ballot argument, this effectively gives them two rebuttals instead of one, leaving us less able to answer their misleading claims.

We’re asking you to call or email the city council citycouncil ahead of the August 7 special meeting. Please be polite but firm when expressing your opposition to this proposal which would change the statement filing deadline after the fact. Some points you might want to make to the council in your email:

(831) 420-5020 or

  • Rent control supporters are ready and willing to make our case and refute our opponents’ arguments. But changing election rules for rent control opponents’ benefit is blatantly undemocratic.
  • We’ve worked our butts off to meet every campaign deadline. Would the council be as willing to bend the rules if the shoe were on the other foot?
  • If the city council changes our election deadlines for rent control opponents, they can write their argument having already read our now-public ballot argument. This gives them two rebuttals, while giving proponents only one.
  • Before you vote, consider how it will look when campaign finance reports come out, and it becomes apparent that the special interests behind this proposal contributed to your reelection campaign. Will the voters believe that you made an impartial decision?
  • We don’t have to worry that the anti-tenant lobby will have no chance to get its message out. The California Apartment Association has thousands to spend on mailing every household in Santa Cruz several times over. Don’t let this Sacramento-based lobby group buy their way onto our ballots, too.
  • Finally, don’t pass on the heat you are feeling from the realtor lobby onto a city worker. The city council signed off on the July 10 deadline for ballot arguments, and the buck stops with you!

The real fight is just beginning!

Click here to RSVP for these upcoming opportunities to help the campaign for rent control

Movement for Housing Justice

Wow! Talk About David vs. Goliath!

Rent control foes raise $324,000 to fight rules

ELECTION 2018
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

Majority Report June 20, 2018

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?

New Vision?

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!

Majority Report

Making Inroads

Breaking News: Organizing Neighbors Works

This week I want to acknowledge a few of the people-initiated actions that led to some city hall power brokers having to change policy courses, rethink their priorities, and actually have to deal with the needs and wants of voters. We often dwell on the times that these same decision-makers failed to heed the people’s call to stop, and change course. The dreaded BearCat tank was one, for instance; rezoning of the Unity Temple church property from multi-family to hotel in order to make way for the Broadway Hyatt is another; and a lot of effort was put into obtaining some affordable units at two Swenson projects, the 94-condos at 555 Pacific and the 79-condo scheme at 1237 Pacific, but to no avail. A 173-units of housing in all and nothing was designated as affordable, at least not for ten years. But alas, there were other more recent political endeavors undertaken that have yielded some positive change.

Progressive Community Strikes Back

The Corridors Plan has been put on hold (shelved? maybe, maybe not) because of the work of the Branciforte Action Committee’s (BAC) relentless door-to-door, town hall, and telephone pole placard-style of campaigning. It was a grassroots campaign that halted some pretty onerous single-minded, profit-driven desires that saw developers in cahoots with city planners. Of course, this one ain’t over, but it has been significantly put on hold for a while. The current rent freeze now in effect in the city of Santa Cruz has led to countless rent increases NOT taking place. Of course, it may be short-lived until the results of the November election are in, but for now we need to declare a victory…because it is keeping some people in their homes right now. The third success has been the extraordinary delay that’s taken place with the parking and planning department’s ill-advised scheme to stick the public library into the bottom of a five-story hunk of cement. To make the optics even more perilous, it happens to be planned for the site of the current farmer’s market in downtown Santa Cruz. The unremitting efforts of at least three local groups–Don’t Bury the Library, the Campaign for Sustainable Transportation, and the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network–has yielded a current checkmate with city hall and a rethinking of how best to use the $23 million from a bond measure passed to remodel and renovate the current downtown library. It must be said that the leadership of Jean Brocklebank, Rick Longinotti, and Pauline Seales, all seasoned veterans of past neighborhood organizing efforts, has led to significant delays in implementing this project. Back in December, the DLAC–Downtown Library Advisory Committee–put forward a recommendation. The four choices arrived at by city staff seemed to leave no room for the creativity and energy that had been assembled within the DLAC. So, with their hands tied they went with staff’s recommendation to put the library inside the parking garage, but six months later their decision has not yet arrived onto any city council agenda, mostly because of the tenacious organizing done by the groups who seem to favor a pedestrian, alternative transportation, and smaller carbon footprint Santa Cruz future. It has left a city bureaucracy reeling and double-clutching for ways in which they can realize their dream of yet another downtown parking garage. Now fellow progressives, just stop and take a deep breath. Please consider these accomplishments for a moment. Then, reflect upon other past successes too like Lighthouse Field, Wilder Ranch, the Moore Creek Uplands, the Del Mar Theatre, the Tannery Arts project, and the Pogonip. That is some history. What a legacy to bequeath to your children and grandchildren! Keep it up because there’s still a lot more to do.

The Developers Stand at the Gates Once Again, Cha-chinging

Peter Douglas, the first Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission was fond of saying, “The coast is never saved, the coast is always being saved.” The same can be said of our Santa Cruz city resources. City councilmembers, when elected, might do well to stick with the medical profession’s credo, First, do no harm. We are elected to be informed stewards of a very special place, one that was special before we arrived and one that, if we do our jobs well, will continue to thrive and be a place where future generations will feel content that those who came before watched after this unique environment. Will future Santa Cruzans understand that we cared how much workers earned, fought for housing justice, racial equality, and ethical environmental stewardship? It is a daunting task, but one that can in fact be realized more locally by city councilmembers than by members of congress. Despite our major gains the developers and real estate interests are knocking once more at the Santa Cruz front door. On June 12th, the city council’s evening session will be dedicated to discussing housing, pedestrian, and transportation plans for the downtown. It is an area spanning Pacific and Front Street between Laurel and Soquel and abutting the San Lorenzo River. It’s important that the community shows up and makes its collective voice known. This is a very important part of our downtown that needs more eyes on it. Five hundred to 800 units of housing is contemplated for these streets, including a possible hotel at the corner of Soquel and Front. Will the developer Devcon be let off the hook in building the minimum 15% affordable units? Or, will the city council demand even more? Or, will the council let them off the hook and sign up for condos and rent them at market rate prices? It will go better if the public gets involved. Then, on June 19th, a week later, the 7pm council discussion will center around parking downtown and how to use the $23 million in bond money to fix, remodel, or build an entirely new public library. Again, the council needs your input.

A Strange Decision

I couldn’t help but be mystified by the county Board of Supervisors decision to allow Nissan to build a car dealership off Soquel Avenue near 41st. This was one of those few blockbuster decisions that happen every decade. It seems to me it was a complete 180-degree reversal from the future many of us thought we were headed towards: alternative transportation, cutting greenhouse gases, and affordable housing now! Aside from the enormous amounts of tax revenue that cities and counties reap from these deals, I thought our county was different. I wanted to think that we were going towards a future not based in gasoline-powered pods, but supporting a more livable community, environmentally sustainable and one fundamentally opposed to more cars. Seems like this property could’ve been housing, which may have brought as much traffic as some Nissan supporters argued, but you would’ve had housing. Now we will get another temple to the automobile. This all makes very little sense.

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