Santa Cruz City Council Passes a Rent Freeze and Just Cause Eviction Ordinances

NEWS FLASH

Santa Cruz City Council Passed a Rent Freeze and Just Cause Eviction Ordinances Last Night

With over 100 inside and another 150 outside looking in through the windows at 809 Center Street, city hall, the Santa Cruz city council passed a freeze on rent increases until election day, Nov. 8th. The vote was unanimous and takes effect immediately. Landlords cannot raise the rent now!

Majority Report | January 29, 2018


Tyranny of the Majority
If it be admitted that a man, possessing absolute power, may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should a majority not be liable to the same reproach? Men are not apt to change their characters by agglomeration; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with Democracy in America the consciousness of their strength.”
–Democracy In America, p. 287-88 (Harry Reeve translation, Penn State, 2002) (http://seas3.elte.hu/coursematerial/LojkoMiklos/Alexis-de-Tocqueville-Democracy-in-America.pdf)

Power Grab?
The basis for three council votes that the progressive community lost at last Tuesday’s (Jan. 23rd) Santa Cruz City council meeting is reflected within Alexis de Tocqueville’s phrase, one he coined while observing the potential downside of American democracy, “the tyranny of the majority.” It was practiced with impunity by a 4-member council majority. It happened when the mayor wanted to add the vice-mayor to the closed-door bi-weekly “agenda review” meeting. It’s a meeting I wrote about last week that is held to set the official city council meeting agenda. Fifteen department heads and the mayor sit down and discuss the essence of the coming week’s city business. While I support the vice-mayor attending this meeting I also support other councilmembers attending. So, I made a motion that a rotating councilmember be able to attend. My motion was seconded by Councilmember Richelle Noroyan. (Thank you Richelle!) The majority was having none of it. Why should they let minority members into such a meeting? I can only guess at the reason. The next majority move was to not allow a discussion on an agenda item I brought forward to level the playing field in council appointments to city boards and commissions. The resolution I put before the council was to restore the one councilmember-one commission appointment process in order to avoid the current democratic charade of four councilmembers being able to appoint seven commissioners to each of the city’s thirteen active advisory bodies. Why not have some minority views on those commissions? I would have argued that, but since Councilmember Sandy Brown was under the weather and could not attend the meeting, I received nary a second for my motion from a tight-lipped majority. The third item had to do with renter protection. If renters were forced to leave their domicile by the city because of health and safety violations not attended to by the property owner, shouldn’t the city compensate the renters in terms of paying for temporary housing so as not to be put them out on the street? The city could then sue the landlord to recover costs. Sandy Brown and I brought this to the council back in October and it was coming back now with a big stamp of disapproval by our Planning Director, Lee Butler cum City Manager, Martin Bernal. It would be a city budget buster they argued, put the city into too much risk they declared. Let’s just try it, I argued. If it proved to be expensive, we could bring it back to the council and repeal it. After all, aren’t the city’s renters near the top of the council’s priorties list? Maybe, maybe not? Even if tenants in this town were in the minority, which they’re not, shouldn’t a majority of the council be taking care of tenants? It was too harsh a decision for me, one in which made me feel like I live in a parallel universe and could only watch the majority again step in doo doo. I have to believe the renters will weigh soon.

Good-bye to UCSC College Community System?
Will Student Housing West (SHW) put final nail in UC’s once “different campus” dream?
“Each college is a vibrant living/learning community supported by faculty and staff who provide academic support, organize student activities, and sponsor events that enhance the intellectual and social life of the campus.”
–From UCSC Housing, “UCSC’s 10 Campuses” (http://housing.ucsc.edu/colleges/)
Where were the preliminary planning studies to decide on 3,000 beds? Seems like the last time the UC Admin. did a study of this kind for “west campus housing” it was back in 2015 to look at around 1,000 beds. But, once the bed count was increased, the University changed their process and turned the question over to the three short-listed private developers who were tasked with inventing the project (so much for student and community input) and how it might be sited. As far as I know, the developers were not asked to carefully fuse the project into the campus’ legacy of residential colleges or even really acknowledge the 2005 LRDP, other than superficially (but how could they… the project seems to go against what the 2005 LRDP advises.) Yes, more bed space on campus is needed, desperately, but not so the campus can grow, but so it can catch up with its inordinate bigness within a community of only 62,000 residents. When UCSC houses at least 75% of its currently capped 19,500 students, then maybe we can discuss any further growth. It is a fair guess that UCSC abandoned the process of doing planning studies and jumped in bed with “3P”–public-private partnership– developers because the UC Admin. is under enormous pressure to meet deadlines, so they are essentially cutting corners. They likely view the 3P developer scheme as one-stop shopping, thus killing the “vibrant living/learning community” concept and not yet agreeing how so control its growth impact on the town. In other words, no one has clearly stated that 3,000 more beds are not just a license to grow the campus by 3,000 more bodies. It is beyond irony that with each new revision of the Environmental Impact Report’s Notice of Preparation (EIR NOP), it has come to light some assumptions that were enabling the 3,000 beds, and it just won’t work. For example, the University thought it could build on the Porter Meadow, site of the annual student 4/20 cannabis event, or to the north of the Meadow below Kresge College. Seems like it turns out, due to environmental constraints, the only part of the west campus site that can be developed is the existing Family Student Housing location. This essentially forces that small parcel of 200 apartments–arguably the most affordable housing site in Santa Cruz county for families to live–to fit an even more absurd density of five to seven story residential blocks.

Rent Control, Rent Freeze, and Just-Cause Eviction
People make history, but not necessarily under conditions of their own choosing.
Will this be the year Santa Cruz finally realizes its electoral power and makes some significant community quality of life changes? If so, when historians look back they just might note that February 13th was perhaps the start of a great Surf City march forward, a regular Movement for Housing Justice campaign that woke a once sleepy electorate. I hear that three Santa Cruz city councilmembers may be placing rent freeze and just-cause eviction ordinances on the upcoming Tuesday, February 13th council agenda. If so, this will be an historic occasion you will not want to miss. What these ordinances just might do is provide cover for rent-weary tenants during the lead-up to the November rent control vote. Let me back up. There is a rent control initiative that was submitted last week to the city clerk’s office and if all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed an officially blessed and sanctioned initiative will hit the streets on Sunday, February 11th, I hear. So, come the 13th, folks will be asking the city council to stop landlords from raising rents until the people can decide during the November 6, 2018 election. No, my friends, rent control is not THE solution, but it is an enormously powerful tool, a community bargaining chip in getting the attention of property owners in one of the most expensive real estate markets in California. It also throws down the gauntlet and sends a unified message to those out of control capitalists who are gouging renters and exploiting a housing market that has come to place too much power in the hands of too few landlords. It doesn’t take a weatherman, or women, to predict that fed-up tenants will be trying to stick it to the man this fall by employing Bernie Sanders’, ‘enough is enough,’ and going about leveling the playing field through the ballot box.

Bernie Quote of the Week
“Bernie Sanders recalled his own childhood growing up in a rent-controlled apartment in Flatbush Brooklyn, which ‘meant that my family, which did not have a lot of money, did not have to spend 50 or 60 percent of its limited income on housing.'” (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/12/08/we-have-housing-emergency-heres-how-we-face-it)
EXTRA: Bernie on the plight of the working-class:

Majority Report | January 17-23 2018

Special for BrattonOnLine

The notion that we’re going to cap enrollment and live with a capped enrollment is simply not realistic in the world we live in,” (UCSC Chancellor George) Blumenthal said at a news meeting Thursday. “I think it’s a pipe dream, because the demand for the UC education is increasing by leaps and bounds.”

–Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1-12-18 (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/social-affairs/20180112/ucsc-planning-for-10000-more-students-by-2040)

We call it a moratorium, you call it a cap, let’s call the whole thing off!

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal named the elephant in the room last week and yes, it’s a 10,000-pound one! In a community of 60,000, ten thousand more students are really a lot. You heard right, Blumenthal’s opening salvo at our UCSC-city community is a Long-Range Development Plan that will add a whopping 10,000 additional bodies to Santa Cruz and grow the university to 28,000. Will Santa Cruz will become a university with a city somewhere on the campus? Will campus growth effectively create a Town dressed up and encased in a towering Gown? Twenty-eight thousand is a figure not even envisioned by the most dreamy and visionary planners way back in the day. (http://www.cityonahillpress.com/2016/05/14/ucscs-blueprint/) The 28,000 number seems to have been thrown out by an ambivalent bureaucracy that is playing perhaps an unwitting part in the deterioration of a once great coastal town. Administrators on the hill are either afraid to tell their bosses in Oakland the hard truth that there is no more room at the inn, or they are just resigned to a different truth that California students must go somewhere so why not here? Perhaps, this figure is an early trial balloon, put out by the administration to see how much pushback there might be by townies, student activists, county supervisors, and city councilmembers? No one I know does not want all California children to experience a UC education, but this UC city is maxed out. There are nine other campuses and the state legislature ought to be planning for even more. The city of Santa Cruz, given its size, resources, and carrying capacity has reached its limit. No más after 19,500.

T-W-E-N-T-Y E-I-G-H-T T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D Students?

I’m a member of CAG, the Community Advisory Group of 22 that was set up by the university to advise on the 2020 LRDP process. The LRDP is the university’s “general plan” document and its begun in earnest some two years before it is due to be submitted to the UC Regents. Chancellor Blumenthal and his assistant, Executive Vice Chancellor, Marlene Tromp who is mostly responsible for the UCSC budget, spoke to our group last Friday and dropped the bombshell: T-W-E-N-T-Y-E-I-G-H-T T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D. It was not received well by most of the CAG. Although the Chancellor offered an olive branch when he said, “This needs to be a meaningful group (CAG) that provides meaningful input,” and then proceeded to pan the 2005 UCSC administration for not asking for enough community involvement back then. Blumenthal said, “I was struck by how little input there was from the community, it showed a lack of sensitivity on the part of campus.” Strong sentiments. I’m glad he wants to know our perspective, but those present wondered in various ways if things would be any different this time around, and if our community input would actually be taken seriously. After Blumenthal and Tromp left the room the CAG members were directed to pair up “with someone you don’t know,” and discuss our “core concerns” and be ready to report back to the group what those concerns are. We were limited to three. I immediately sought out someone who I thought might be my political opposite and there across the room was the former Sentinel editor, California secretary of state, assembly member, and current member of the Santa Cruz board of supervisors, Bruce McPherson. Turns out he and I share some similar concerns about university growth. We both liked it that the “U” wanted the community engaged in the LRDP process, but we were surprised by the 10,000-growth figure and wondered if it was simply a negotiating tool. Both of us agreed we want to see what resources UC will contribute to support these students before they arrive to our community. Financial resources that would cover their growth in the areas of housing, transportation, and water McPherson said. Moving around the large set of tables that formed a horseshoe at the Museum of Art and History downtown, each CAG member stated their “core concerns,” and they didn’t sound too supportive of growing the university more. I note a few of those concerns here:

Ted Benhari of Bonny Doon and the Committee to Limit University Growth (CLUE) said his concerns were the “quality of life impacts on the community and maintaining the urban services line…” Bill Tysseling, retired and the former Exec. Dir. of SC Chamber of Commerce said, “Funding of infrastructure, and an eastern access [road] has to occur or we have to keep everyone on campus.” Cynthia Mathews, Santa Cruz city councilmember noted that “UCSC will completely dominate…basically you will have a company town. We need to avoid a monoculture.” John Aird, Healthcare Executive and CLUE member was emphatic, “Fifty-percent growth is flat-out unacceptable.” Andy Schiffrin an Aide in Supervisor Ryan Coonerty’s office and also a Santa Cruz political observer for over 40 years said, “Input is meaningless without accountability…it would take a legislative solution…it’s a political problem that we have…” Robert Orriza said the university must “stop growth until beds are on-line because the currently planned 3000 beds will not be going in until 2020, so don’t grow anymore until those are in place.”

“An LRDP is like a city’s general plan. It designates areas of campus for certain types of use: open space, for example, or housing. It does not mandate growth.” (my emphasis) (https://news.ucsc.edu/2018/01/lrdp-update.html)

–Chancellor George Blumenthal, Jan. 12, 2018

Pipe Dreams Revisited: “Ain’t no power like the power of the people and the power of the people don’t stop!

The community is calling for a moratorium on student growth until city services can catch up in the areas of housing, traffic, and water infrastructure. A five-year moratorium sounds about right. Blumenthal was quoted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel last week calling a cap on enrollment “a pipe dream.” Well, since we have a lot of dreamers in this town, we get called a lot of names. Pipe dreams are something we know about. Stopping a good-ole-boy convention hotel on Lighthouse Field was once considered a pipe dream; voters dreamed of approving the purchase of greenbelt lands–a choice of taxing ourselves to buy open space was pipe dreamy; stopping developers from building 10,000 units on Wilder Ranch was at first an activist pipe dream; preserving the Beach Flats Community Garden for the community is still in the “pipe dream” stages, a work in progress. And of course, there was everybody’s favorite little pipe dream that would just not go away, the legalization of first, medical marijuana and now complete legalization. Some pipe dreams just will not die. This community’s been known to dream big. One might also ask which is the bigger pipe dream, a moratorium on accepting more students beyond the current cap of 19,500, or allowing ten thousand additional bodies to migrate here from all parts of California and beyond, to an already crowded Surf City? Will they be told there is no more housing here? Hey Regents, game on.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“Republicans in Congress must now summon the courage to stand up to the racist ramblings of our “stable genius” president. Democratic and Republican senators must continue efforts to produce a bi-partisan Dream Act to be voted on by the Senate as part of the overall budget deal.” (Jan. 12)

Two Photos of the Week

Cooper Street closed for the large march on MLK Day! Over 2000 marched.

Super community activist, Ernestina Saldana holds her “Bell of Freedom” award, given to her this past Sunday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Justly and richly deserved. Si se puede!

All Politics are Local, Even State, Federal and International Issues

Feds vs. the City of Santa Cruz

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the liberal, do-your-own-thing, can’t-we-all-just-get-along, feel-good political waters of both the Golden State and the People’s Republic of Santa Cruz, a political hell begins to erupt. Along comes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to tell us that he’s going to allow off-shore oil drilling off the central coast. Then it’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he wants to stop all cannabis production. What does Acting Commissioner of the IRS, David Kauter require? That homeowners no longer deduct their mortgage payments from their federal taxes. Next in line is another “Acting Director,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Thomas Homan, he wants to deport our immigrant community members. And then there’s the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, he wants to slow down our internet traffic. The master of this dog house, Donald Trump, lost California by over two million votes, so to some political watchers it would seem quite logical that he would come to hinder, thwart, hobble, restrict, and generally wreak havoc on the people of this state. He’s beginning. Not long ago I can remember letters to the editor, or to city hall, inquiring and questioning the wisdom of devoting city time to debating national and international issues. War for example has been debated by past city councils: Ronald Reagan’s contras, George Bush Sr.’s Kuwaiti expedition, and later his son’s Iraq War policies. Once the council passed a resolution to send Chilean mass murder, Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who was being detained in London, back to stand trial in Santiago. More recently the council is set to discuss a resolution asking the legislature to prohibit importation of crude oil from the Amazon. Santa Cruz has a long track record of being involved in US domestic and foreign policy issues.

When the People Lead, the Leaders Will Follow

The city council of Santa Cruz, I would argue, possesses an enviable history of creating forums to offer locals the opportunity to bring forward national and international issues, debate the why and how each issue might affect their pocketbooks and their moral consciences. If an issue is significant to enough of our constituents, chances are a councilmember will request it appear on a council agenda and a resolution, or ordinance, may be voted upon. This usually takes up little council time and fulfills an obvious community need: our residents seek forums of engagement beyond the usual street sweeping, garbage pickup, parks, or public safety concerns. Council agenda items do in fact offer an outlet and an escape valve for dissent on local and international concerns. We have an active and engaged electorate who see local issues connected to the state, national, and international chess board. It is in this spirit that now more than ever we need to keep our eyes wide open as many of the national issues become in-your-face local ones. Buckle up, 2018 will present us with many conundrums and decisions.

Those Who Make Peaceful Revolution Impossible,

Make Violent Revolution Inevitable

Take for example the issue of immigration. Since at least the 1980’s, this community has taken legislative stands in favor of welcoming immigrants. It started with Reagan’s war on Central America, notably El Salvador, and has led to the more recent city council resolution and ordinance denouncing last February’s Homeland Security Investigations-ICE raid on our immigrant community and restating that our city is truly a sanctuary city. Residents by the hundreds came forward to demand legal protections for immigrants and that we direct our police not to work with ICE when it comes to detaining Santa Cruz residents. The city council also passed a resolution urging Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 54, the Sanctuary State bill, into law. He did and as a result this past week we saw assurances on the part of our county Sherriff, Jim Hart that immigrants once they are released from county jail will NOT be turned over to ICE. This is HUGE! In fact, here is a portion of the email that immigrant’s rights advocate, Jim Weller sent out last week under the subject line, VICTORY: SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SHERRIFF IMPLEMENTS SB 54 FULLY! Sheriff Hart met with us again today to announce his decision. He agrees with us. Henceforth, “not a dime” of effort, as Jim Hart put it, will be made to cooperate with ICE. From now on, our County Sheriff’s office WILL NOT INTERACT WITH ICE in any way at all. From now on, ICE will get zero information about anyone, and nobody will be turned over to ICE ever except in rare instances with a criminal warrant for arrest signed by a Federal judge – and even then, ICE agents will not be allowed inside the jail facilities; they will have to take custody outside. THIS IS A BIG STEP FORWARD IN THE RESISTANCE! The interests of human rights, civil liberties, and simple justice are being served in Santa Cruz! We should congratulate Sheriff Jim Hart, the ACLU, the Public Defender, the Watsonville Law Center, the deportation defenders in the Bar Association, and the Sanctuary Santa Cruz network for their principled deliberations.

If democracies are truly led by the people, this effort is indeed the pot of gold at the end of a legislative rainbow of actions.

What Just Might be Coming to the SC City Council This Year?

  • Revenue enhancement measures (taxes) to cover the increasing costs of city pension costs, mainly police and fire will be on the ballot. (Some options: Hotel, sugar beverage, real estate transfer). http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20171204/NEWS/171209887

  • Rent stabilization, rent freeze, just-cause eviction ordinance will all likely be debated vigorously this year, in Santa Cruz and at the state capitol. http://kazu.org/term/movement-housing-justice#stream/0

  • Will 2018 see a silver stake finally pierce through the Corridor Plan and exorcise the final ghosts of a plan that was never accepted by many on the city’s eastside? https://www.change.org/p/santa-cruz-city-council-stop-high-density-zoning-for-water-st-and-soquel-ave-in-santa-cruz-calif/u/18028631

  • Will this be the year the Jessie Street Marsh actually moves toward restoration and the 2003 plan is finally implemented? https://jessiestmarsh.wordpress.com

  • A housing plan is needed that designates 50% of the planned for 1000 downtown units be affordable and offered to people who live here now, not as short-term rentals or second homes.

  • A plan to confront homelessness that is authored by both the city and county, which includes a designated on-going revenue stream to get people housed and into programs that offer drug, alcohol and mental health treatment.

  • And lastly, there is that pesky $23-million-dollar question: will the public library bond money be used as bait to finally convince the public to support the Public Works Department’s five-story parking garage to be built on the current site of the Farmer’s Market at Lincoln and Cedar streets?

Predictions for 2018

  • The city of Santa Cruz will join other municipalities in forming a state bank!

  • Ranked Choice Voting will get on the ballot this November.

  • Rent control will be instituted in Santa Cruz come January 1, 2019.

  • Barry Swenson Builder will finally be convinced to build the damn affordable rental units.

  • Homelessness-houselessness ain’t going away.

  • The Giants will make it to the playoffs!

  • The Trump Administration gets into a spat with Santa Cruz, which makes national news.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“We need to get our priorities right. Not giving tax breaks to billionaires. Not throwing millions of people off of health insurance. We have got to pay attention to the working families of this country.” (Jan. 8)

Photo of the Week

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Seen along Ashby Street in Berkeley, Ca.

This Week on the City Council | December 28

Majority Report | December 28, 2017

This and much more at BrattonOnLine.com …

Woke and Spoke

The People Have Spoken

I wrote a column back in July in which I quoted those who came to the podium to clue the city council in on what ails city renters concerning the dearth of affordable housing in Surf City. They pretty much covered the housing conundrum: 1) developers get away with bypassing the city’s own 15% affordable inclusionary by paying a pittance into the housing fund of what a unit actually costs to build and thus economically segregate our community even further; 2) high cost of housing on-campus has students streaming down the hill and dislocating working families. I’m sorry, but housing 52% of an ever-growing student population–19,000 and counting–just doesn’t cut it; 3) there are well over 500 vacation rentals in the city of Santa Cruz and that is beginning to severely reduce our available housing stock for working people; and 4) Silicon Valley high tech workers have found a refuge in our city…just stand out there and count the “Google Buses” on the Avenue any given day.

WE ARE IN A HOUSING CRISIS

What do “the people” who come out to city council meetings to be a part of the community debate advocate? Of course, most would likely sign a rent control initiative in a heartbeat, but contrary to what the landlord-property owner is yelling at anyone who will listen, rent control is not THE answer, but it certainly is a part of solution. If we pass rent control we definitely get the attention of the moneyed-class because then you’re talking about their money. Tenants united is the only way to confront free-market abuses. First, you do a rent freeze to protect existing tenants, then pursue the rent control initiative. But what else should be on the table according to local voters? Real estate transfer tax, a soda tax (Berkeley raised over $3 million in one year), a 3% hotel tax. And by the way, doing all three of those will perhaps double the former Redevelopment funding that was lost when the program was ended in February of 2012. If rent control is to be successful the voters must also pass an initiative that installs an elected rent board. Tenants and landlords would both benefit from a Santa Cruz office of housing that also includes money to defend tenants in court. Lastly, it appears a housing bond will be before voters next November. This is also another important piece of the ever-difficult housing puzzle. Folks, if you want to ensure that this community has a fighting chance to win this housing struggle, you must ask city council candidates for the 2018 ballot the tough questions around housing, and scrutinize the records of incumbents who may be once again asking for your vote, but often voting contrary to your interests.

Camping in San Lorenzo Park. I counted 57 tents today, and I had a great conversation with Public Health Nurse, Tia Paneet. She is compassionate, informed, and a real caregiver. She runs a homeless services outreach office, which is funded by SC county.

Then You Get Tough

The community is demanding that UCSC stop admitting students without guaranteeing them housing. The current situation is just not working for Townies. The city has been losing big-time to the “U” over several years now. The losing streak likely began in 2005 after the last Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) was agreed to by the then-city council and the UC regents. Seems like it’s time for some old-fashioned Nikita Khrushchev (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4JhyHz3M5U) shoe-banging and prepare for the arduous negotiations that are about to come. Khrushchev got the world’s attention, but the Santa Cruz city council only needs to get the UC regents’ attention. This coming year is perhaps the time for much shoe-banging. The LRDP is set to expire and there’s a committee of community “stake-holders” who will meet six times with university officials and offer input on what a reasonable town-gown agreement should be. These conversations need to be frank, and clear negotiations with cards placed on the table, need to occur. No one I know is wishing the university to go away. In fact, the opposite is true. We are a more culturally rich, diverse, and vibrant community with our city on a hill present and accounted for, but we cannot allow the hill to swallow the town. Are we nearing the point of having too much of a good thing? Where is the tipping point? It is up to this committee to provide input and help chart a course that has the town and the gown thriving. No one-sided agreements can be allowed this time around. We also need to get tough on short-term rentals and live within our means. If 500 is the magic number, then no more. We must hire a firm like Host Compliance a firm out of San Francisco, which would monitor this number and make sure the hotel tax is paid and that the number of short term rentals remains stable. We must also get tough with market-rate housing developers. They must get the message: if you build in Santa Cruz you will build the inclusionary (affordable) units in every development. You will not be able to pay your way out.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

Congratulations to @GDouglasJones for his great victory. Congratulations to the people of Alabama for doing what few thought they would do. This is a victory not just for Jones and Democrats. It is a victory for justice and decency. (Dec. 12)

Lt. Governor, Gavin Newsom speaking recently at the SCPD Community room to over 100 community activists and even some supporters. He won high praise for discussing a homeless plan to support cities, support for universal statewide healthcare, and he’s proud that we are a Sanctuary State.

Majority Report | December 19

To see all the week’s in-depth news analysis go to BrattonOnLine.com

Which Side Are You On?

Last council meeting of the year brings home little bacon, and no tofu. But a subcommittee to study the Santa Cruz housing crisis some more? That got done.

This would be the year of housing, housing, housing according to Mayor Cynthia Chase. That was back in December of 2016 when the mayoral world was new and immigration raids and a homeless benchlands camps were yet to come. December of 2017 might’ve been thought about in terms of the next comet sighting, a happening event but still far off. Hope, along with Santa Cruz dope, were still wafting freely through borrowed gas-tax repaving projects and declarations that Surf City might be the fourth most expensive planetary housing destination. That was then. Chase again reiterated the pledge in a Good Times interview on Jan. 23rd, “Housing is a big focus this year.” (http://goodtimes.sc/santa-cruz-news/qa-cynthia-chase/) Even when faced with a Homeland Security-immigration crisis on Feb. 15th–seems like the Department of Homeland Security had a desk inside the SCPD, and no one knew about it… except the SCPD–she didn’t change direction and make “sanctuary” her main issue. Nope, she doubled-down proclaiming at her “state of the city” address in May, “Our community is struggling with a full-blown crisis that requires rethinking of approach, emphasizing innovation, capitalizing on the growing level of compassion and expertise in our community and we need to come together to define our collective housing condition.” (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20170523/NEWS/170529865) Of course, that statement was made in front of a developer-real estate heavy crowd. A very different crowd than the one that would show up the next month, 400-strong, at the SC Civic Auditorium. The June 24th council meeting was all about housing, housing, housing questions…and the crowd got back the council majority’s collective answer: study, study, study. But alas, it wasn’t until August that the mayor began her “listening tour” and the vaunted “Year of Housing” became a full-throated, the-British-are-coming cry, culminating in a five-month sprint all the way to the end of her mayoral run. That mad dash ended this past week in a few council motions she suggested others make because as mayor she cannot introduce legislation. Her words were spoken forcefully, trying to overcome laryngitis and possibly, shear exhaustion. The finish line was nigh, but the gold (silver? bronze?) simply out of reach. Her main suggestion was to allow a committee of three councilmembers to go off and deliberate on the reams of material collected during her “listening tour” and then come back to the council in March with recommendations. During her marathon listening sprint she met with over 30 different groups to discuss “the crisis,” our brand of Northern Ireland’s “The Troubles,” I guess; five city council study sessions were held; and the mayor seemed to expend every ounce of her being in order to get something going and move the city toward real housing solutions for all. But therein lies the conundrum.

“Which Side Are You On?”

It goes back to the old union song, “Which Side Are You On?” It was written by Florence Reece at the age of 12 and her father, a coal miner, was out on strike during the great “Harlan County War.” It was often performed by Pete Seeger, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XEnTxlBuGo) The real estate interests in Santa Cruz have enough housing. The developer class gots their homes too. Mayor probably should’ve crossed them off the list early. No? The Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association, and University Admin-types all have interests in continuing the failed state of a market-driven housing system in this part of the world. It’s not what Santa Cruz needs. Supply and demand can be thrown out in this arena. Mayor Chase’s margin of victory some three years ago came about because “The Progressives,” threw their support behind Bruce Van Allen, Leonie Sherman, and ‘da mayor. She simply forgot (?) who brung her as the political saying goes. She found some new friends at the big dance, I guess.

Our father was a union man some day I’ll be one too.
The bosses fired daddy what’s our family gonna do?
Come all you good workers good news to you
I’ll tell of how the good old union has come in here to dwell.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

The folks who showed up at the civic auditorium last June pretty much covered the gamut of our Santa Cruz lack of affordable housing troubles. I doubt the “listening tour” produced much in the way of new ideas than those gathered at the civic a few days before council went on their customary July vacation. If a subcommittee of the city council and a group of impaneled residents, would’ve rolled up its collective sleeves immediately following June 24th meeting and started then, we might actually now have a plan. Oh, but staff got in the way and I guess suggested a “listening tour,” lengthy report backs, more study sessions, and reasons not to risk too much at this time given the city manager’s $2.7 million current budget deficit. The plan put forward at last week’s city council meeting may well likely culminate in some really good suggestions by next June of 2018, right before the city manager (CM) puts the kaibosh on the whole thing ’cause we now a $3 million hole in the budget’ as a result of past police and fire pension agreements. We just can’t take on any more stuff that costs money right now will be the CM’s mantra. But folks, the real harm in forming this council subcommittee is that it’s leaving out the public. I suggested expanding the committee. Give each councilmember two appointments and unleash the intelligence and creativity that overflows in this town. So many smart people here have a singular passion: real affordable housing. And they know a lot more, and have a lot more time, than any current member of the city council. I can honestly say there isn’t any member of the current council given his or her other committee assignments, council meeting dates, and outside jobs who can offer but a modicum of time, and that’s just not good enough given what’s at stake. So, look for certain city staff to try and lead the subcommittee towards a kind of bureaucratic promised land when final recommendations come back to council.

San Lorenzo Park Tents not going away before end of year according to SC city manager.

Santa Cruz Has a New Mayor

David Terrazas was sworn in as the 94th mayor of the city of Santa Cruz last week. (https://www.santacruzpl.org/history/articles/340/) He began his mayoral reign on the evening of December 6th. Formerly, vice-mayor Terrazas literally changed hats all in one motion as Mayor Cynthia Chase was absent due to a nasty cold. During his new mayor remarks, he spoke of “a deep love of Santa Cruz,” and proudly stated he is the grandson of immigrants, and that his wife Monica is also an immigrant from El Salvador. David’s remarks were as circumspect as they were emotionally charged. There is “a crisis in mental health…there is crime on our streets…public misery and disorder…” Terrazas itemized his public safety concerns first. He wants to “improve the Riverwalk,” and “keep open spaces healthy and family-friendly.” I think I supported him when he said, “we need to find out who the homeless are and what they need to get off the street.” Amen brother. He said he had three priorities: 1) community safety, 2) support for city core services including support for youth programs, and 3) “cleanliness of downtown.” He also said, “I support getting back to basics.” There was not much in the way of specifics, but it was offered up before more than 80 David-supporters present with gobs of passion, multiple smiles, all the while exuding a sense of determination and forthrightness. I think too he wanted to be candid, but he held himself back, perhaps for another day and time.

Gavin Newsom, Candidate for Governor, Comes to the Cruz Looking for Support

In my life-time, no elected governor has ever run a campaign on universal healthcare, support for sanctuary cities (and state!), or addressing the needs of our state’s most vulnerable population, the homeless. Gavin Newsom says he is running on all these issues. He also seems to be proud to run on these intractable matters. They are arguably the state’s most pressing and persistent ones. Newsom was in town this past Saturday bringing his upbeat, unabashed, some might say oil slick brand of liberalism to Surf City. In his hour-long presentation before a crowd of well over 100, mostly Dem party loyalists at the Police Community room on Center Street, Newsom offered his stump speech, and he even acknowledged it at one point, thanking the audience for asking tough questions on homelessness, creating a state bank, releasing Prop. 51 funds, housing more UC students on campus, and the one he received the most applause on, universal-single payer-medicare for all healthcare. I came away impressed and wondering if as the front runner–LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California State Treasurer John Chiang, and former California Public Schools Superintendent Delaine Easton are all running–he will tack towards the center as he visits the rest of a state that is not Santa Cruz or San Francisco. He appeared quite comfortable here in the city of the Holy Cross. Villaraigosa will be in Santa Cruz on Wed. Dec. 13th at Fred Keeley’s house.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“The Democratic Party will not become a vibrant and successful 50 state party until it opens its doors widely to the working people and young people of our country. I am extremely pleased that the Unity Reform Commission has begun that process.” (Dec. 9)

Picture of the Week

New Sheriff in Town

Santa Cruz Mayor, David Terrazas being sworn in by Superior Court Judge, Paul Marigonda in the Santa Cruz City Council Chambers at 809 Center Street.

Majority Report | December 7, 2017

2017: The Year of Housing Dangerously

What’s New (and Old) This Week

  • Spending $80,000 for fencing in Louden Nelson and Star of the Sea Park
  • Now we know why Parks and Rec. purchased the humongous F-150 pick-ups!
  • Do we really need another “committee” to study housing, post “Mayoral Listening Tour?”
  • SC Finance Minister does not, or won’t, get it.
  • Ideas, short of a rent freeze, that city council could implement to protect renters and improve our housing situation in the city of Santa Cruz.
  • Verbal fireworks abound at “library-garage” community meeting this past Sunday
  • Kara Guzman replaces Don Miller as editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Fences Make Good Neighbors?
OMG! Eighty grand. I kid you not. The Parks and Recreation Department (P&R) came forward with a done-deal resolution to fence in Star of the Sea Park and Laurel Park, which is the backside green space side of the Louden Nelson Center. It came to the council big and fat and ripe for a rubber stamp. Meetings were held (with who? “Neighbors.” what neighbors?) and decisions were made, I guess by Mauro Garcia the director of P&R, and he put it on a batting tee before the city council last Tuesday (Yes, the fences were already ordered and construction will start tomorrow. Then he added, almost as an after-thought, …that is if you (the council) pass this resolution approving the funding…) Did I say it will cost upwards to $80,000 for both sites? Will the “wrought-iron fences” do what the neighbors, and Parks and Rec (?) think it will do? ALL persons will still be allowed in the parks during daylight hours. Until we begin funneling the $80k into mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, and shelter space we will likely see more requests for fencing and police for our parks and greenbelt spaces.

Parks and Recreation and Those Enormous Pickups They Purchased
I received a text message last Saturday while marching alongside the mayor and other city councilmembers in the incredibly popular and well-attended Santa Cruz Holiday Parade. (Btw, I counted around 8000 people out in the streets, and I am sure that is a conservative estimate.) It seems that P&R. had a holiday float in the parade. The text said: “It all makes sense now. We needed the Ranger trucks (Ford F-150’s) for the parade.” (They really make a great float!)

click here to continue (link expands, click again to collapse)

2017, ‘The Year to Not Do Anything About Housing,’ or, ‘The Build-Baby-Build Group Wins’
After announcing 2017 as “The Year of Housing,” and following dozens of sometimes grueling and tedious and momentous meetings a big thud seemed to hit the city council agenda for Dec. 5th. Many were expecting this meeting to be THE meeting, to actually get something done. You know, vote on some housing ideas and issues, up or down. The Dec. 5th agenda arrived and this is what the housing item stated:

Santa Cruz Voices on Housing:  Fall 2017 Community Engagement Report (CM)

Motion to direct the Mayor to appoint a priority ad-hoc City Council Housing Blueprint Subcommittee to evaluate the ideas, actions and proposals in the Santa Cruz Voices on Housing Report and return with a set of recommendations for Council deliberation by March 27, 2018.

I recently found this definition:

“Committee: a group that individually can do nothing but as a group decide that nothing can be done.”

Housing Ideas Collected During the “Listening Tour” and Not Yet Acted Upon Because We Need to Take Them to a Committee
Will all the good ideas put forward during the Mayor’s “Year of Housing Listening Tour,” now go to die in a committee? The city council can act on many of the ideas without a committee (of 3 council members? How about a cross-section of 14 community members, which I will advocate.) Right now the Santa Cruz city council can implement real affordable housing measures, like legislating a 25% affordable housing ordinance on every project; offering tenants “just-cause eviction protection” from unscrupulous landlords; commit to placing an initiative on the November ballot to raise the hotel tax by 3% to create a fund for housing and homeless services; implement a vacant homes tax, and even commit to placing a rent control measure on the ballot and let the community decide this issue. I am not holding my breath, but all these measures might be discussed. (Stay tuned because this column goes to bed on Monday’s near noon, so results of the last council meeting are not in yet.)

We Will Be in the Red Until 2024
That is the word from Finance Director, Marcus Pimentel. He and City Manager Martin Bernal are increasingly hard-pressed to explain why deficits in the city budget continue even though city coffers seem flush, there is no hiring freeze, no recession, and people seem to be out in the streets spending money. Their main reason for the deficit: police and fire fighter pensions included in contracts before 2010. So, it will take many retirements until the city (cities all across California to be fair) see a leveling off of revenues versus expenditures. It will take until 2024, in fact. Director Pimentel even brought in the heavy hitters from the accounting firm, Varinek, Trine, Day & Co. LLP, Certified Public Accountants, to explain to councilmembers–he and city manager looking on–that all California cities are in deep doo doo because of the pension agreements they signed in past decades. And if you want to avoid bankruptcy, follow our suggestions on cutting, shaving, and repairing your budget now so we do not have to do open-heart surgery later. Council is pushing back though, not on the veracity of our need to cut, but on what we want to cut and what we want to retain (cut kids programs or capitalize on cost saving through attrition, for example.)

~

Drew Glover (far left) brought a Round-Up ban initiative to the Santa Cruz City Council. The council majority wanted to punt, but then passed a 6-month pilot project that will look at all pesticides used by the city.

Library-Garage Redux?
Stopped in briefly to the Downtown Library Committee’s second to last public meeting last Sunday. Wow! Over a hundred people had been divided up into groups and each group was offering their report-backs to the larger group. What I heard was that virtually no one seemed to want the library paired with the garage, and that several folks said if you have $25 million of public funds for this project why do consultants come back with $30 and $40 million projects? The question of the day: will the city manager and city transportation officials get their garage with a library? Or will they take the garage idea, sever the tie to a library, and go back yet again to the drawing board? This garage concept on the current Farmer’s Market site has been kicked around by city traffic planners for over two decades now. Most of the public present on Sunday seem to believe garages are so 20th century and we need to move into the 21st century. Score one for community organizing! I saw members from the Campaign for Sensible Transportation (CFST), SC4BernieSanta Cruz Climate Action Network, and Don’t Bury the Library all present and accounted for and offering Santa Cruz officials Susan Nemitz,  Martin Bernal, and Jim Burr all they could handle.

Newsworthy

  • Kara Guzman, a former Santa Cruz Sentinel writer is now the Sentinel’s Executive Editor. (Here  http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20171129/NEWS/171129651) This is news! Does the editor of the Sentinel still have the clout in the community it once had? Of course not, but the paper is still alive and kicking, but unfortunately still owned by hedge fund people who are constantly looking to cut and winnow out whatever dough might be left in this hometown newspaper asset. Many of us who still read the Sentinel welcome Kara Guzman and are hoping for greatness.
  • Jake Pierce of the Santa Cruz Good Times gets it pretty right in his recent piece on the forces at work in this city’s housing struggle. Check it out, “Can Santa Cruz Build its Way Out of a Housing Crisis?” Of course, the short answer is, ‘Hell NO!’ But there are forces, usually economic ones (some named in Jake’s article), who will have us believe this and take-down the community with its market-rate supply and demand theories.
  • The best day-to-day working journalist in America, and most hard-working–I’ve run into her in Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, and New York City–is hands-down, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now (democracynow.org). But possibly the best show on the air that offers consistently in-depth and insightful critiques of the media is Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone’s weekly show, On the Media. This week’s version is a compendium of Fake News, which rightly puts the President as the lead rumor-monger on the fake news circuit. Listen to it now at: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/otm/
  • I could not believe it, not only is Bill O’Reilly from Long Island (Levittown), but this week’s New York Times Magazine profile candidate, Sean Hannity, “How Far Will Sean Hannity Go?” has him also from L.I. (Franklin Square). Now, full disclosure, my first 18 years were lived in Nassau County not far from these two infamous Fox News strumpets. No, I’m not proud of that, but Amy Goodman also grew up on Long Island (Bay Shore), so go figure.

Bernie Tweet of the Week
“Mr. President, keep your promises. Today, get on the phone. Tell Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell that you will veto any bill that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” (Dec. 3)

~Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, former Santa Cruz City Councilmember (1998-2002) and Mayor (2001-2002). He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 12 years. He was elected last November to another 4-year term on the Santa Cruz City Council.

Majority Report | November 26, 2017

Visit the Beach Flats Community Garden Now… everything like these marigolds, exploding!

BULLET – POINT NEWS

‘Cause That’s What Friends are For…

My friend, the culture czar/bike anarchist/re-use guru/bioneer/heart-person extraordinaire, Grant Wilson mentioned to me last week, “Hey Chris, I like reading your column, but I don’t always have time. Can you make a bullet point version,” he suggested, “like a ‘what happened and what’s going to happen’ kind of piece?” The answer to your query Grant is, yes, I can and here it is, in bullet fashion with some web sites if you want more information. (But, after reading it over, the bullet points are perhaps too long for ‘bullets.’

Full Disclosure: Only one of the following stories was covered in the Santa Cruz Sentinel this past week that I am aware. In fact, I have not been contacted even one time since the election a year ago by Sentinel city council reporter, Jessica York. Housing reporter, Jondi Gumz has emailed me four times. I queried Sandy Brown and she too said the Sentinel has not contacted her this past year. On the other hand, I have had multiple inquiries from at least three Good Timesreporters, Georgia JohnsonJake Pierce, and Ardy Raghian.


Campus Hot SpotThis picture might not look like much until you know what the scene is…this is part of the 22-member Long Range Development Plan, Community Advisory Group (CAG). They were surveying where new campus housing might go in the upper UCSC campus. Those included in the picture from L-R are Melissa Whatley (Government Affairs for UCSC), Sarah Latham (vice chancellor of Business and Administrative Services at UCSC), Ted Benhari, unknown woman, Charles Eadie (former UCSC, SC city, and Watsonville city planner), Gage Dayton (UCSC Site Steward Director), John Aird (Coalition to Limit University Expansion, CLUE), Gary Patton (former SC county supervisor), Lee Butler (SC city planning director), and four other people including SC county supervisor Ryan Coonerty and SC city councilmember Cynthia Mathews.

This Was the Week That Was

    • Best thing I participated in, along with Councilmembers Sandy Brown and David Terrazas, was calling in the city code compliance officers and asking them to explain how six UCSC undergrads were put out onto the street because the house they were living in was red-tagged. I think we made some headway for tenants in the area of eviction protection. The council directed the city attorney, Tony Condotti, to come back with an ordinance that would have the city help those evicted when the city acts in the face of landlord violations. With two of the six students telling the council their horrific story about being put out, our code compliance staff would only say that they did everything by the book, which no one in the room was contesting. Because of this ordinance, the city in supporting tenants, could place a lien on the house and sue for expenses incurred. Seems like what city guv should be about, no?! (https://chriskrohn.org/2017/11/15/a-bit-of-relief-for-renters/ )
    • Now contrast that to the some not-so-good news to come out of the Nov. 14th city council meeting: The Downtown Recovery Plan Amendments were approved on a 5-2 vote with NO affordable housing provisions that I am aware, while they will allow developers to build up to five and six-stories along the San Lorenzo River on Front Street, from Soquel Avenue to Laurel Street. If you are wondering if this is an OMG pro-growth moment, well…yes, it is. And by the way, a seventy-five- foot hotel width (small boutique style) was changed, first to a 200 feet width and then to NO LIMIT at all. This means that Front Street could have one continuous line of hotels from Soquel to Laurel Street. Yes, unbelievable! This hotel part of the amendment has not been much debated by the community, nor did the city council say much in their discussion on Nov. 14th. The community will have another chance when it comes back to the council on Nov. 28th for the mandated “second reading” of the ordinance.
    • The above-mentioned council meeting was quite the affair, even awe-inspiring from a developer-real estate perspective. It literally gave one the sense of who actually wields power in Surf City. THE FAB FIVE “yes” votes clearly understood who’s in control. Somehow Brown and Krohn’s NO vote in the absence of any inclusionary provision just doesn’t “pencil out” for developer-class. Under the same roof touting build-baby-build were Robert Singleton of the Business Council, Developer Owen LawlorCasey Beyer of the Chamber of Commerce, the personnel director from Looker was there, Ted Burke of the Shadow Brook restaurant, Developer Craig Rowell, and there was even some cheerleading from former Councilmember Mike Rotkin (“The plan does many things in a synergistic way….” Rotkin said.). Indeed, those developer-real estaters present were all quite pleased that this item passed…high-fives, shoulder slaps and big grin$. More Santa Cruz seed corn sold. Check.
  • The lowest-paid worker for the city of Santa Cruz will get a less than hefty raise on January 1st. The wage will go from $10.71 to $11.00. So, while the lowest paid worker was making 21 cents over last year’s $10.50 minimum wage, next year they will be making exactly the eleven-dollar minimum. Something does not seem right here. Bernie Sanders’ “fight for $15” needs to begin right here at home.
  • The city’s Public Works department will be spending $1,244,822 in purchasing four non-hybrid garbage trucks. Seems first generation hybrids were good, but not second generation, according to PW director, Mark Dettle. So, we wait for the third generation, I guess?
  • The city’s Cannabis Ordinance passed with flying colors on its second reading on Nov. 14th, so it is now law. It will go into effect on January 1, 2018 and it appears that long-serving and long-suffering local medicinal supplier, WAMM, will be first in line for a permit. The only contention among councilmembers was raising the current 7% city tax one more percentage point, to 8%. That extra one percent would go to fund “children’s programs” in Santa Cruz. Councilmember Cynthia Mathews vehemently opposed the increase. She preferred it be decided at a future time and to be dedicated to help fund the city’s $2.4 million deficit. Mathews was out-voted. Richelle Noroyan and Cynthia Chase were with her in the debate, but not on the final vote. The vote was 6-1 to dedicate 1% to the children with Mathews holding to her principles, and I admire that.
  • The SC4Bernie meeting was attended by 35 people who were word-smithing the future of the Bernie movement, something that fit in “justice,” “equality,” “advocacy,” “nurturing,” “promoting a healthy planet…” Good stuff like that. Stay tuned on what the final brand will be. I am mightily impressed that this group is trying to architect a future that includes working on issues of social justice, labor, single-payer healthcare, realizing a progressive city council majority in Santa Cruz, and forming coalitions with other like-minded groups throughout Santa Cruz County.
  • The People’s Democratic Party quizzed new Police Chief, Andy Mills on keeping the BearCat Tank, further militarization of SCPD, and homelessness and camping in San Lorenzo Park and other places in town. I believe the group came away believing Mills was someone they could work with on these issues.
  • The big meeting of the week was the city’s formatted, perhaps somewhat canned and uber-scripted, “City Hall to You.” It was held at the Bible Church on the eastside on Frederick Street. The fireworks centered around the “Corridors Plan” (what else!?) and affordable housing. City staff present wanted to talk about other things, but the large group was having none of it. Not wanting to be shut out by the 3 by 5 cards, many residents were forced to shout questions and comments from the audience. Only Mayor Cynthia Chase, City Manager Martin Bernal, and Planning Director Lee Butler had a firm grip on the microphone and were not willing to give that up. While the Police Chief entered like a rock star, quite comfortable addressing the over 200 neighbors present, it was the long-time staff who appeared uncomfortable and not ready for prime-time. While SCPD’s Mills leveled with residents about his plan for not ticketing homeless campers and allowing them to sleep temporarily in San Lorenzo Park, other city staff–affordable housing “guru,” Carol Berg and senior planner, Ron Powers–seemed to obfuscate issues and shy away from what those present wanted to hear about, namely how the Corridors Plan will be killed. Everyone, whether they agreed or not with the PD Chief, appreciated his straightforward and down-to-earth attitude. Other city staff members seem to want to anticipate how residents might hear their words, so they hem and haw and back off on sharing with them the realities of city planning, second home buyers, university growth, high rents, and affordable housing. There was trouble on the eastside of Santa Cruz last week and it’s not going away anytime soon.
  • Many talk about “food deserts,” but we have a real local “news desert” here in Surf City. I advocate all of you to send BrattonOnline (bratton@cruzio.com) your news items and we will try to follow-up and report on them. News in the new millennium has become much more of a collective endeavor, but with mixed results. “Fake News” abounds, but so does real on the ground information at the airport, conditions on 17, real-time video from around the corner or around the world of breaking news. We do not have to rely on the networks as much now, but we have to keep our eyes wide open and use the multiple sources that do exist–alternative and mainstream–in order to stay informed. Read wisely my friends!

News Flash!—–Go To: www.ChrisKrohn.org/ for updates on city council business!

Bernie Tweet of the Week
“If we are going to stop Republicans from taking health care from millions and slashing Medicare to give tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, NOW is the time to stand up and fight back.” (Nov.16)

Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, former Santa Cruz City Councilmember (1998-2002) and Mayor (2001-2002). He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 12 years. He was elected last November to another 4-year term on the Santa Cruz City Council.

Majority Report | November 17

THIS WEEK ON THE CITY COUNCIL:an insider’s report to more meetings

So, You Want Political?!
Wow, what a political week it was! You’d never know it by reading our print media, Santa Cruz Sentinel and Good Times, even though they both did yeoman’s work on reporting out about homeless-houseless sleeping in the San Lorenzo Park Benchlands. There are simply more news-worthy issues happening than they can currently cover. Both Jessica York [here] and Jondi Gumz [here] wrote insightful stories for the Sentinel on camping and UCSC students being evicted in Santa Cruz, respectively. The Good Times’Andrea Patton got a cover story titled, “Homeless Camp in San Lorenz Park Stirs Controversy, Hope.” It was well-researched and contained some key information about the link between the dire housing and ongoing homeless-houseless conundrum in Surf City. But, in the recent past, say 1975-2005, there were at times three, or four weeklies, and the Sentinel had a whopping 15 or more reporters (now down to four, I hear).

Frankly, an awful lot of stuff does not get reported on in this city. Trees are indeed falling everywhere, and the forest is lacking journalism resources. Perhaps we are in transition to the Twitter-verse, Snapchat, and Facebook future, and it continues to be a continuing challenge to get the word out about what’s happening down at city hall. How are those supposedly in charge actually spending your $225 million dollars that passes as the city budget?

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
I know, if you follow this column I’ve used that sub-head before, but this job is a lot about meetings and this week was no different. There were four in fact, at the University alone. All were about housing.

Unacceptable! Pave paradise and put up 79 condos with NO affordable ones. Not only is Swenson Builder about to do that, they now have completely taken the entire sidewalk on upper Cedar Street (across from Cafe Bene) and took out a #10 bus stop as well. I am still asking, what is the public benefit that the public is getting from this Swenson project on the site of the old Bookshop SC? Please don’t cut the Great Walnut Tree too…

First, the developers of UCSC’s Housing West, you know the 3000-bed project that’s actually 2300 beds when they put back all the beds that are now in study lounges, triples into quadruples and doubles into triples situations…yeah, that project. They invited students to “share” what they would like to see. There was a strong presence of Orwellian linguistic gymnastics at the meeting. “We are analyzing sustainability…integrating the project into the campus ethos (at 3000 beds!)…it will be seamless…a hub…and clusters…spaces that mimic the library…” Of course, they never once talked about the main topic on everyone’s mind: $$ HOW MUCH $$$?What I also saw was a developer hamstrung by a reduced building envelope—now only being able to build on the highly successful and popular “Family Student Housing” footprint, and trying really hard to come off as least corporate as possible. They even let out that they would be lowering the number of units for student families (bad idea!) from the current 199 units to 125. One current family housing invitee said to me afterwards, “Why would you ever take down perfectly good housing when we are in the middle of a housing crisis? It’s my home they are talking about.”

Meeting number two at UCSC was with the Student Union Assembly (SUA) president, Max Jimenez. What a breath of fresh air she is. Max Jimenez got into her current elected office job not as a resume-builder, but to actually get something done and make a difference.(Let’s hear it for Community Studies majors!) I am confident she is the right person to be speaking truth to power for UCSC’s burgeoning student body. She’s sharp and she’s been tough on the current administration and I applaud that. Jimenez knows that students are not getting what they deserve. Transportation is maxed out, housing, not a disaster waiting to happen, but happening, while the information flow between the administration and student body is very limited. This is not a good recipe for a university founded on the Cambridge model of “learning in a community of scholars.” Go Max Jimenez!

Meeting number three was watching twenty undergrads grill, or try to, our Mayor. It was a part of Mayor Cynthia Chase’s “Listening Tour” on housing. She stopped by the city on a hill and found discontent this past week. Students let her know what was on their mind. The group was among the most informed on campus and placed several practical solutions on the table in front of ‘Da Mayor. These included an immediate rent freeze, a rent control ballot initiative, decriminalizing homelessness, and allowing the effective Mental Health Client Action Network (MHCAN) on Cayuga Street to expand beyond its current permitted 20 hours per week. They also said the council should repeal Costa-Hawkins, which currently severely limits rent control in California, fund electric buses, and “have a good conversation with TAPS (Transportation and Parking Services at UCSC)” about working together with Metro service on and off-campus. Some also said strengthen the inclusionary housing rule, while someone said we should “require all developments to be 100% affordable.” You got the feeling these students really did their homework.

Meeting number four was with the SEC, the Student Environmental Center, which is making a strong pitch to get students involved in the housing crisis that’s unfolding on and off-campus. The same SUA president, Max Jimenez addressed a rapt audience of some 75 undergrads and graduate students for at least 40 minutes. She gave them an earful about the lack of transparency she experiences in meetings with the likes of Susan Latham the Business and Administrative Services Vice Chancellor, and even UC president, Janet Napolitano who meets with SUA presidents from all ten campuses once each quarter. Jimenez said that some of them even want me to sign non-disclosure agreements. “I live in Kresge. I consider the university my landlord.” Jimenez continued, “When I meet with other SUA presidents I say, maybe y’all can’t take more students, but we really can’t take more students!”The students are worried that the new bed space mirrors the process of some kind of campus urban renewal. Knock down family student housing and build six-story dorms with pool tables and food lounges. “It just sounds a lot like gentrification,” Jimenez said.

Long story short, students understand that the UC administration’s status quo approach on housing is failing them. Insufficient bed space and skyrocketing dorm rents are pricing students out of on-campus housing (currently $1700 per month), making the university by far the largest “bad actor” landlord in Santa Cruz. Stay tuned for more on student organizing and thoughts on how we can support them.

Tours
Last Monday, I was part of an eye-opening tour of our city water facilities. Councilmembers Sandy Brown and Martine Watkins were all along with the H2O department’s director, Rosemary Menard, and her watershed manager (and chief environmental officer), Chris Berry. It was quite the experience! From the Locust Street main office to the River Street “water main replacement project,” and on up to the Coast Pump Station, Bay Street Reservoir, North Coast Pipeline (Little Baldwin Creek), Laguna Diversion along Highway 1 south of Davenport, and all the way to the Newell Creek Dam up towards Bonny Doon and then onto the Loch Lomond Reservoir…wow, mind blowing! It was a feast for the thirsty, the environmentalist, and those skeptical, like me, of city services. On this latter point I felt a lot better afterwards knowing that we have some very hardworking and capable city staff in our water department.

On Tuesday, it was on to the Los Gatos Library with almost a full council, the Downtown Library Advisory Committee (DLAC), city manager Martin Bernal, and the library director, Susan Nemitz all came along on the bus. Nice library up there in Los Gatos, and perhaps more importantly for many readers of this column, there was NO parking garage attached to this very glassy, open, ample and architecturally modern library. Outside I saw bearded-looking techies seated on benches huddled over their laptops waiting for the library to open. There were two outdoor “reading gardens,” delightfully-styled hanging lights, stained glass portals, a separate teen and children’s area, and a “lap top computer checkout station.”

The Los Gatos library was built in 2012 for around $22 million. It is a 30,000 square-foot, two-story Leeds Gold (not platinum) building. The DLAC is currently working on what recommendations to send to the Santa Cruz city council concerning size (currently 44,000 square feet), should it be a remodel or part of a much-talked about parking garage on the site of the current farmer’s market at the corner of Lincoln and Cedar streets. The market would move over to Front Street, behind Kianti’s.

Bernie Tweet of the Week
“The Paradise Papers make clear that we need, in the United States and throughout the world, a tax system which is fair, progressive and transparent.” (Nov. 13)

~Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, former Santa Cruz City Councilmember (1998-2002) and Mayor (2001-2002). He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 12 years. He was elected last November to another 4-year term on the Santa Cruz City Council).