Majority Report April 9-15, 2019

Santa Cruz City Council Strategic Planning? Not Yet

The new council is entering its fifth month and still no Strategic Plan in site. It has been a “Waiting for Godot” chess match with the current city manager, Martin Bernal, when and if a council strategic planning session will be held. This council-manager form of government can be tricky. I believe the city council wants to go forward with this session asap, but the city manager needs to be in the room too. The city council hires and fires the city manager and city attorney, but the city manager hires and fires the rest of the 800-plus city work force. The absence of a strategic planning session is not because there is a lack of will on the part of councilmembers. I believe we want to craft a two-year plan now and we are already a half year behind. The traditional “Two-year Strategic Plan” is now looking like a 1.5-year project instead. The clock is ticking and the “other side” knows it. The previous city council’s two-year-old plan is over. The Corridors Plan, Wharf Master Plan, Library-in-a-Garage plan and homeless services non-plan are all either on hold or on life-support. When will a new two-year strategic plan be implemented? The community must be heard from.

New Council, New Plan?

A group of Santa Cruz activists, homeowners, renters, volunteers, and students have now met three times since last November’s election in order to come up with a community strategic plan, or perhaps a People’s Plan. More than 60 people have attended these people’s planning meetings, and a broad range of topics have been discussed including council communication, the Brown Act, rent control, raising the minimum wage, separating the library from the garage, a permanent site for the downtown Farmer’s Market coupled with a community town commons, halting USCS student growth, implementing effective police review, and how to best address our homeless and houseless crisis. Topics also included are how to best spend the gas tax money to support alternative transportation, formation of a people’s budget committee, and how best to allocate parking fund revenue in the pursuit of affordable housing. A single issue keeps coming up again and again: if Santa Cruz has a “15% inclusionary” to create more affordable housing, then why aren’t we raising more concerns about the “85% unaffordable housing” that is currently being proposed?

A People’s Strategic Plan

What’s possible over the next year and six months? This Community-Council group met three times for a total of 9 hours. Here is a brief summary of issues which might be a part of a city council Two-year Strategic Plan:

  • Separating the Library-in-a-Garage Concept
    • creating a “town commons-plaza” and permanent farmer’s market space if that is where constituents want to go
    • remodeling the current library (pretty big constituency for this, far larger than city manager-staff constituency)
  • Homeless Shelter—city put a bid in on Seaborg property next to the current Homeless Services Center…how to get this up and running once escrow period is over?
  • Housing and Rent StablizationTask Force—how do we light a fire and get people moving on this…David Ceppos is the consultant from the Sacramento-based Center for Collaborative Policy (CCP) who interviewed the entire council and now will choose 20 community members to interview to determine make-up of task force.
  • Climate and Bio-Diversity Commission—begin with a city council subcommittee and work with current Climate Action Taskforce coordinator, Tiffany Wise-West.

Other honorable mentions

There are so many good ideas out there in our community. At some point, we will have to decide what does a one-year, two-year, three-year, and four-year strategic plan look like. Then, a tentative calendar for moving agenda items forward from the community onto the city council agenda needs to be formed and out of this process it could be determined which issues might be placed before voters. The following is a list of issues under discussion by the Community-Council group, ones that could also go onto the city council Two-Year Strategic Plan agenda if that meeting ever occurs. If not, the community will continue to carry on with its own strategic planning.

  • Form a Human Rights Commission and a Youth Commission
  • Buy the Beach Flats Garden
  • Reform the Rental Inspection Ordinance to favor tenants and keep safe but unpermitted properties in the housing pipeline
  • Institute a police review board (“Cop Watch”)
  • Pass a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance
  • Pass a “public banking” ordinance
  • Write a General Plan amendment restoring urban-rural transition to Golf Club Drive area
  • Build a minimum of 200 units of affordable housing on parcels that the city currently owns. These include the NYAC building (between bus station and old Tampicos) and the former thrift store site on Front Street. The city should be receiving some $8.4 million coming into its coffers from the recent sale of the Sky Park property in Scotts Valley.

Bernie’s Tweet of the Week

“How do we have trillions of dollars to spend on endless wars, but we don’t have the money for education and health care? How do we have money for tax breaks for billionaires, but not to feed hungry children? Together we are going to change those priorities.” (April 1)

Majority Report April 2-8, 2019

“A Taking?”
I missed last week’s city council meeting, but I am including the Cliff Notes version summary here. In “closed” then “open” session the city council voted to acquire by eminent domain part of the property where Central Home Supply now has its business. The idea is to widen the Highway 1 and 9 intersection, which is arguably one of the most chaotic in Santa Cruz. City Council adopted a resolution that made the finding “that public necessity requires the acquisition by eminent domain of the real property…” owned by the Santee family at 744 River Street and 708 River Street. I am not sure I would’ve voted to acquire by eminent domain this property, for two reasons: 1) I do not believe we need more asphalt at that intersection, and 2) it is a very significant action on the part of government, any government, to force a property owner to sell against their will. There must be a clear “public benefit.” Perhaps legally, the case for a “public benefit” can be made, but for me Central Home Supply is business Santa Cruz needs and benefits from and this forced property sale may very well cause them to leave town. They have another similar business in Scotts Valley, but…it’s in Scotts Valley.

Damn Cell Towers, Boxes, Small Devices, Conduits, and Polls
Verizon Wireless finally got their encroachment permit “for the installation and maintenance of underground conduits, vaults, at grade cabinets and wireless canister antennas mounted on utility pole at 117 Morrissey Blvd. within the City’s right-of-way.” This permit was turned down twice before by the city council, but a letter was recently received by the council from a Verizon suit threatening legal action. And, like most city councils around the state, we rolled over with the threat of costly litigation being the dagger hanging perilously over the head of our local government. At least Councilmember Sandy Brown stuck in a “friendly amendment” “regarding efforts by cities to modify regulations to make it difficult for Verizon and other telecom companies to install cell towers. ” Go Sandy!

Health-in-All?
Just the facts ‘mam…From the minutes of March 26th meeting: “Councilmember Mathews moved, seconded by Mayor Watkins, to approve the Health in All Policies Work Plan and $20,000 budget for consultants and materials.” Just sayin’! As Deep Throatadvised Bob Woodward back in the summer of 1974: follow the money.

Lot 24
The evening meeting saw many dozens of neighbors fill council chambers to say NO to the use of the staff inspired Lot 24 for a homeless transitional camp. It is a parking lot near the end of Chestnut Street adjacent to Depot Park. I believe the council heard neighbors loud and clear. Personally, I am not sure I would’ve voted for it (and certainly NOT the other staff suggestion of putting an encampment in the Jessie Street Marsh!?! Not sure what the thought was there.) How about this as a tentative plan: 1) clean up Ross Camp using state money (part of the $10 million that came to Santa Cruz to address homelessness), 2) have a non-profit group come in and manage the camp, 3) hire social workers to perform a needs census, 4) open 1220 River Street campsite and find out who would move over to that camp, and at the same time keep a managed Ross Camp open with a reduced number of tent sites. What if we disbanded the Ross Camp immediately as some of my council colleagues wish to do (it’s also on the April 9th agenda)? Campers will move back to the site alongside Holy Cross, to the Pogonip, to DeLaveaga Park, and to other neighborhoods that have since seen their campers move to the Ross site. This item segue-ways into this week’s agenda…

This Week on the City Council
Item #7 SB 1 Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account, FY 2019-20. Senate Bill 1 was the 12-cents per gallon gas tax that passed in 2016 and had to be re-passed in 2018. Santa Cruz receives between $1-2 million per year from this tax. The council was sent a list of Public Works projects. It was their list and not the city council’s list. I have been asking for a while for a comprehensive list of what SB 1 funds can be used for. I have not yet received that list. I will ask again.

Item #10 (UBER) Jump Bike Contract Amendment #2.
These bright red bikes seem to be everywhere. People are using them. Is this program the unmitigated grand slam hit and sexy alternative to the gasoline engine vehicle that some are saying? We would like to think so; myself included, but like a certain policy pop culture buzzy-fuzzy word suggests, are these Jump Bikes feelings data driven? What are the numbers…of users, injuries, bikes left in the right-of-way, satisfied customers, where people are leaving bikes, i.e. most popular places to ride to…we want to see all of it? City Council needs to look at the data before approving any more contract amendments, electric outlets, or dedications of more SC public real estate to this endeavor. Many questions concerning this program need answers. Please, show the city council and the community the numbers.

Item #14 City of Santa Cruz Commitment for Civility Proclamation.
Sure, as long as it does not interfere with people’s First Amendment rights. I urge everyone to listen to this NPR piece “Charlottesville Debates Civility.

It’s about the Charlottesville, Va. city council. Seems that two African Americans were elected after a white supremacist killed activist Heather Hyer with his car in 2017 in a tragic political (madman) act. The radio piece concerns establishment politicians railing against the “incivility” of the new councilmembers.

Item # 15 Homelessness and the Gateway Encampment.
(see “Lot 24” above.)

P.S. I believe this item will allow members of the community who brought forward issues about possible location of homeless-houseless transitional encampments to see that their voices were heard by the city council. They perhaps changed the course of history in their neighborhood(s). It is a good feeling when as a member of the public you try and fight city hall and you end up feeling like someone in local government listened.

Item #1 City Council Work Plan and Strategic Planning. 
As I mentioned last week, this council is coming up on five months being in office and still no “strategic” plan for the next couple of years. So, council will have the opportunity to plan to have a planning meeting. This agenda item is only to schedule a “strategic” planning session. Contact city councilmembers and let them know what they should be planning for…Affordable housing? An emergency homeless shelter and day-use facility? Enacting mitigations to climate change? A permanent home for the Farmer’s Market? A new downtown library which might crown a real civic plaza at Church and Center Streets? A city-wide composting program? A Human Rights Commission? Buying the Beach Flats Community Garden? Let the city council know what you would like to see…this is your government.

“The DCCC’s new rule to blacklist + boycott anyone who does business w/ primary challengers is extremely divisive & harmful to the party. My recommendation, if you’re a small-dollar donor: pause your donations to DCCC & give directly to swing candidates instead.”(March 30). (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee =DCCC)

Majority Report March 25, 2019

BrattonNote… instead of running Chris Krohn’s weekly Majority Report I asked him if we could re-“print” a letter that originally ran in the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s editorial page. He agreed. This letter is signed by some of the most active women in our community and gives a very deserving and needed approach all the recent fuss and furor over Mayor Watkins and the agenda choice.

“We respectfully disagree with a recent opinion piece regarding Santa Cruz City Council decorum. As women who have worked most of our lives, we are very sympathetic to the challenges women face in a sexist culture. As women, however, we are not exempt from the standards we enforce. We need to stay mindful of our responsibility to accuracy, inclusion and public process.

The Santa Cruz mayor and city council are no exception. We have a well-educated, firm woman serving as mayor at present, Martine Watkins. We are fortunate that our City Council, including all of the three men: Drew Glover, Chris Krohn and Justin Cummings, are unusually supportive of and sympathetic to women, as well as to people of other oppressed genders living in our sexist culture. We are aware of the personal journeys each has taken to be effective in that struggle. That is why we are saddened by the mayor’s actions this past month. On Feb. 5, Mayor Watkins declined to agendize items that council members Glover, Krohn and Brown had prepared together and forwarded to her several days before the regularly scheduled “agenda review” session. She did not communicate with her colleagues personally to discuss her decision. The item addressed the topic of how to help move levee encampment residents, an urgent problem. The decision was the mayor’s to make and her responsibility. Declining her colleagues’ request, however, was unnecessary. None of us supports using the role of meeting facilitator as a means to prevent colleagues from bringing forward new ideas. Especially when three elected colleagues, the most allowable under public meeting laws, endorse the ideas.

On Feb. 8, as part of an article on homelessness, Councilman Glover wrote about his feelings of being sidelined in this way, ending his article with the following: “I can understand what the mayor may be trying to do and I think she is a good person, but needless to say, I am disappointed,” communicating sadness mixed with conciliation. Unfortunately, Mayor Watkins responded by delivering a now-infamous, public tongue lashing from her seat at the center of the dais on Feb. 12, taking her colleagues and the large public audience by surprise, and giving the objects of her accusations no details and no opportunity to respond. Sexism is a serious problem in our culture, but using unsubstantiated attacks to tar your colleagues does nothing to improve the situation at best and at worst, weakens the entire movement to dismantle sexism.

We are disappointed with Mayor Watkins and her supporters. Mayors serve as facilitators, and hopefully leaders, of the council. Mayor Watkins received the support of Krohn and Glover. The ad hominem attack included a group opinion piece alluding to nonspecific sexism and poor decorum attributed to members Krohn and Glover. Choosing sides, as the opinion-piece promotes, feeds the flames of division on the council and promotes the very divisiveness that the women who signed the opinion piece objected to. The comments seem a frustration that the centrist leadership has shifted and she is now serving on a council with a more progressive council majority. The resulting attack to the integrity of councilmembers Glover and Krohn seem exactly the personal attacks that the mayor discourages at council meeting public comment.

We are confident that the mayor and all council members have the capability to resolve any misunderstandings and differences for the good of the community on their own time. We also hope that all council members maintain the ability to address issues with each other in person rather than from the dais. We wish Martine Watkins, Chris Krohn and Drew Glover success in their leadership roles. This is a dynamic time for the city of Santa Cruz with a high-level community engagement which many communities would envy.

Signed by, Mathilde Rand, Randa Solick, Susan Martinez, Ernestina Saldana, Denise Elerick, Alesa Byers, Sara Ringler, Barbara Riverwoman, Abbi Samuels, Isabelle Scott, and Kaitlin Gaffney. (Previously published in the editorial section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.)

Majority Report Nov. 29, 2018 – Election Aftermath

Take 1: WHAT AN ELECTION! 

It was a consequential campaign. From the very start back in February, many long-time observers of the Santa Cruz City Council were aware that the 2018 election might be a memorable one. With the state of national affairs what they were–Trumpism, Kavanaugh, and McConnell, (oh my!)–many locals who wished for better outcomes were ready to invest time and energy into local politics. After all, a severe housing crisis was helping fuel an even more severe homeless crisis and not getting involved was not an option.

Take 2: It Was an Issues Election

Although Measure M, which called for rent control, was a ballot initiative for the ages–providing iron-clad support for tenants, first–the Santa Cruz city council majority was also at stake. The council was experiencing a five-member, 12-year market-rate development-first ethos. It was a well-oiled vice grip manufactured by those with great means, and it resulted in that majority often turning a deaf ear to various segments of our community. Whether it was the hundreds who came out to council meetings in 2015 to protest the acquisition by the police of a Lenco BearCat Tank offered by the Department of Homeland Security, or protesters who railed against the non-acquisition of the Beach Flats Community Garden, there was a stark portrayal that things were not well in Surf City. Then, the community pushback on two projects at either end of Pacific Avenue comprising over 150 condos with little affordability seemed to go almost unnoticed by the developer class. (And now along comes Devcon’s 206-market rate apartment complex…stay tuned.) Earlier (2016) a former church site property, zoned for multi-family housing, was transformed into a play palace for the well-heeled traveler, now known as the Broadway Hyatt.

The Majority vs. the Neighbors

The current city council majority had also registered yays in the face of Westside neighborhood opposition in order to place a garish hotel on Mission near Swift Street without implementing any neighborhood suggestions; a cell tower on Meder Street was approved in the face of 20 neighbors present in council chambers; and Jump Bike racks were put in places they simply should not be. Combine that with an Eastside uprising over all the council yes votes for market rate housing along the “corridors,” which produced few affordable units and set the stage for a robust and rigorous council campaign of issues over platitudes and hoped for leadership over policy rubber stamping. The campaign was informative and heated. It was about “housing, housing, housing.” Rent control was the obvious wedge issue, but the library-at-the-bottom-of-a-five-story-garage-on-top-of-the-Farmer’s Market was also center-stage. A 25% inclusionary ordinance to help yield more affordable rentals was suggested as was offering tenants priority over the university-inspired rental inspection ordinance.

The Denouement Aftermath

The votes are due to be certified on Dec. 6th. It appears that only the “provisional” ballots, some 6000 countywide, are yet to be counted. The National Conference of State Legislators defines a provisional ballot in the following way, “Provisional ballots ensure that voters are not excluded from the voting process due to an administrative error. They provide a fail-safe mechanism for voters who arrive at the polls on Election Day and whose eligibility to vote is uncertain.” (http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/provisional-ballots.aspx)

 

Drew Glover

Drew Glover

Justin Cummings

Justin Cummings

 

The current SC city council “winners” appear to be Justin Cummings, Donna Meyers, and Drew Glover should the current trend of voting returns continue until 12/6. The Good Times last week said that this candidate formation would likely hold. The Santa Cruz Sentinel also seemed to suggest the same this past Monday morning and three new faces would indeed appear soon at city hall. But ultimately it is the County Clerk, Gail Pellerin who will issue a final ballot summary and report. The Santa Cruz City Council will likely rubber stamp that count at its Dec. 11th meeting and then it will become real and a key historical moment all in the same time. As I said here last week, the people who supported Justin, Drew, and Measure M worked hard, overcame the moneyed interests, and should be proud of their work no matter the outcome, although cleaning up yard signs, paying off any last-minute loans, and cleaning up the campaign office is much easier when you win. Soon, it will be on to the process of healing some of our community’s open political wounds. I look forward to participating with the next city council in that process.

City Council Agenda-packing

The city council agenda this week, and Dec. 11th, appear to be a developer-dream team wish list. Perhaps those free housing-marketeers are beginning to sweat with a new council coming soon, so let’s place whatever we can on the council agenda before January comes around. We’ve got Accessory Dwelling Units BIG ordinance changes; a SIX-year permits extension for the 32-condo project at 1800 Soquel Ave; a fake 15.5% (over two years) “rent control” ordinance; and the further evisceration of the 1980 Measure O ballot initiative, which mandated 15% of all housing development be “affordable.”

 

Happy Birthday Isabel!

My daughter Isabel was born 18 years ago this week and watching her grow and change, and change again has been one of the true joys of my life.

Drew Glover

Majority Report November 24, 2018

Vote-Counting Continues at 701 Ocean Street

There is relative quiet for now in Room 310, the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s office and official place of ballot counting. Unlike Florida’s Broward County’s embattled clerk, our clerk Gail Pellerin, is calm, efficient, on-task, and appears determined to get this vote count right even if her staff has to work 11 and 12-hour days. I’ve made repeated visits this past week to Room 310, including Sunday, and early this morning, Monday. They are just wrapping up the “vote by mail” count and will soon begin opening the first-ever general election CVR’s, or “conditional voting registration” counting. This last category was created by the California state legislature to extend voting opportunities right through the 8pm hour of poll closures on Nov. 6th. It was done so that as many California voters who wished to vote could indeed cast a ballot. Over 2000 “same day voters” did indeed take the legislature up on their latest drive to elicit input into the political system, and according to one county clerk employee, Santa Cruz ranked Sixth among the state’s 58 counties where same day registration took place. Los Angeles, being the largest county, is tops, but percentage-wise, Santa Cruz county may be the largest same day voting participant. Counting the same day ballots, as well as the 50% of vote by mails that come in during the last days of the campaign, is the reason why it takes weeks to come up with a final tally.

Growing Movement

I am proud of the hundreds who participated in the Justin Cummings, Drew Glover, Yes on M and Yes on Prop. 10 campaigns. It was a team effort. Win or lose I must say that the blood, sweat, and tears that began last February–gathering over 10,000 petition signatures–and continuing up until the polls closed at 8p on election day was nothing short of Herculean. The engagement, debate, meeting stamina, and walking endurance places many of you in the civic-activist hall of fame. When over 100 show up on a sunny Sunday to knock on doors…well, that’s the kind of community I want to live in. When the votes are certified on December 6th by our County Clerk, all of you who participated in gathering signatures, walking and talking, and working on the amazing get out the vote effort that took place in the final frenetic days of the election have little to regret. When some volunteers could not show up, others did. When Lower Ocean was covered, volunteers would head over to Seabright or South of Laurel or up to campus. People were committed and flexible. Many moving parts yielded many moving people, cars, bikes, skateboards, and feet. Wow, is it really over? Who among us has not woken up recently wondering what neighborhood you would cover that day? Or wondered what happened to all those yard signs we put up? Did anyone dream of forgetting to vote and wake up in a cold sweat of at first regret, and then relief that the election is actually over? Onward to victory!

Next UCSC Chancellor?

I was kind of blown away when I arrived at the UCSC campus’ Tierra Fresca restaurant last Friday. I thought I was coming to sit with a group of campus insiders to discuss what criteria might be used in selecting the next Chancellor. I passed several armed police before descending the stairway to an eatery that sits right above the College 9 and 10 student dining hall. I breezed into the room and casually passed a woman whose head was buried into her podium notes. As I strode past she looked up. It was former Homeland Security chief, former Arizona governor, and current UC President Janet Napolitano. I introduced myself, welcomed her to Santa Cruz, snapped a selfie and headed for table 8, which was already bedecked with plates of salmon sitting atop top an arugula salad. Clearly, this was not going to be provincial affair. We were immediately welcomed by Janet and asked to discuss two questions:

1) What qualities would you want in the next Chancellor of UCSC? (Napolitano’s question) (btw, George Blumenthal is retiring)

2) If we (the table, there were 9 tables of 6-8 participants each) were getting together in five years, how would you measure the success of the choice that was made? (consultant’s question)

We were then told to get to work in our table groups and assign someone to report back out to the entire nine tables what the group discussed. It was 12:10p, we had until 1p to chat. This all had to end by 1:30p.

Political and Local Glitterati

It was a conversation that included County Supe John Leopold, state resources chief John Laird, Assemblymember Mark Stone, County Supe Bruce McPherson, SC city councilmember Cynthia Chase, former mayor Don Lane, and many others with great amounts of city and county experience. I noticed no current students were present and I would hope a separate set of these meetings could be arranged to hear their input…Here are my notes, which I presented to the larger group. Seems to me they pretty much sum up what other tables discussed and presented as well. At my table were McPherson, Chamber of Commerce exec. Casey Byers, former Asssemblymember and current UC Regent Charlene Zettel (first Republican Latina in state Assembly), search firm consultant David Bellshaw, and Donna Mekis former Pres. of UCSC alumni Council. It was a healthy, albeit polite discussion in which I tried to hammer home the messages I’ve received from the SC electorate and my experience from my day job on campus: 1) there’s some pretty ugly labor conditions on campus that have been going unaddressed, 2) UCSC students are at the root of housing crisis in town, 3) respect and stewardship for a healthy and thriving natural environment on-campus and off-campus is essential for the next chancellor to grasp, 4) the city council and UCSC have a long and inextricable bond and must figure out how to live together, and 5) campus growth affects almost every aspect of local government.

The Criteria Discussed in Selecting Next Chancellor

—Build a strong campus-community, which means engaging in a city-county-UCSC dialogue;

—Next Chancellor should be aware that they are coming into a heated atmosphere around the issue of campus growth and have something to add to the discussion;

—This person should expect a certain culture of intimacy, and with that a culture that speaks up. In other words, guarded and thin-skinned chancellors need not apply!

—Must possess a commitment (and track record?) to first generation students;

—The perfect candidate should have a handle on the tech community and be willing to conduct outreach;

—Next Chancellor should be someone who embraces the natural environment and understands how important that is to the UCSC and city community;

—He or she should possess experience with labor relations and negotiating with unions;

—We need someone who is “transparent” and “authentic,” meaning if the chancellor and faculty have a different viewpoint the faculty knows that the chancellor is being transparent and authentic with them and trust can be built that way;

—Housing, housing, housing…we are in a community-wide housing crisis and the next Chancellor’s skillset ought to reflect some experience elsewhere in this regard;

—She or he must be “fundraiser-in-chief;”

—Chancellor candidate has to be experienced in dialogue with students…be “culturally competent” as well;

—The Next head of this university has to be willing to live on campus (the outgoing Chancellor did not live in Santa Cruz);

—There is a culture here that is sober, serious and questioning…it is perhaps characterized by the idea that “we are going to change the world,” and the ultimate candidate must embrace, or at least understand this concept;

—Lots of people in Santa Cruz county go over the hill each day–33,000–the next Chancellor must be a leader on-campus, off-campus, and be willing to meet with the business community.


Bernie Sanders Bernie Tweet of the Week

“If we transition to a renewable energy system, as we must, we can save money and create millions of jobs while leaving our kids a planet that is healthy and habitable.” (Nov. 19)
Drew Glover hitting the streets with volunteers

Majority Report Sept 1, 2018: Drew Takin’ it to the Streets Because Change Can’t Wait!

Last Week This Week on the City Council

Because of BrattonOnline deadlines, I often cannot relate to you, the dear reader, what happened at the city council this week because the column comes out the same day as we have the council meeting. So, let me lay out what was on the meeting agenda this week. Every agenda has something of consequence. That is, the public’s money gets spent, decisions are made about various neighborhoods, downtown and the beach area, and an item, strange and interesting, often appears on the agenda, but shrouded in bureaucrat-ese.


The Hidden

Item #7 was a “Resolution amending the current “Conflict of Interest Code.” There are 10 pages of “disclosure categories,” 1 thru 4, but no real information or ways councilmembers might evaluate why a “Buyer” in the Finance department is now a “3” (“city/Department-Related Income”), and the “Sustainability and Climate Action Manager” will be in the “1” disclosure category (“Full Disclosure”).


The Staff Being Too Political?

Item #8, also on the “consent agenda,” (which usually indicates there will be no discussion and council likely all agree on passing the item) was a bunch of recommendations by the city manager that the council endorse certain state propositions, “1, 2 and 3,” and “oppose props 5 and 6 on the November 6, 2018 General Election Ballot.” Of course, I wanted to know why he wasn’t making a recommendation on Proposition 10, the repeal of the onerous Costa-Hawkins bill that prohibits any sort of rent control statewide on any units build after 1994? You can go to the League of Woman Voters recommendations: https://lwvc.org/news/our-voting-recommendations-november-ballot-measures And why did he recommend the council support Prop. 3 when the League of Women Voters is firmly opposed?


Developer-Friendly City Council?

Item #20 is the “Density Bonus Zoning Ordinance Amendments.” Folks, we have a Planning Director that has his marching orders from a City Manager (who believes he has them from a council majority) to develop anywhere, anytime, and on almost any property in this city. Nothing seems to be sacred, or off-limits, whether they’re proposing to build 400 units on Golf Club Drive right up to the Pogonip, or Forty condos along Ocean Street Extension, which is currently more like a country road. Six-hundred units downtown, where many believe the bulk of any development should go, might be acceptable, but only if half of them were actually affordable. “Density Bonus” is a cha-ching, cha-chinging sell-out musical show for developers, but it’s likely to be “a hard rain that’s gonna fall” on the rest of us. There is much to be aware of with this developer-giveaway ordinance. Be warned, if voters wish to max out market-rate development in a once beautiful beach town, then vote for the incumbent and her slate running in the next election.\

Drew GloverBut if you seek a council majority that will protect our environment, negotiate with developers for more affordable units, protect local business over corporate crap while standing up to city planning staff and soliciting neighborhood input, then check out council candidates, Justin Cummings and Drew Glover. If they win, they would help form a council majority come November to halt the

current sell-off of Santa Cruz to out of town (and some local) developers. “Density bonuses” should

ONLY be used to create more, not less affordable housing.


The OMG! Item

Another heritage tree (item # 21) will be felled if the city council takes the word of a 6-1 Parks and Recreation Commission vote over the advice of its own urban forester and allows this 50-foot Giant Sequoia with a 53-inch trunk to be cut down. It now stands tall, proud, and healthy in front of 1420 King Street near the corner of Baldwin. Here’s hoping for an 11th hour reprieve…


“Update on City Communications with UCSC”

Yes, this is an agenda item (#24), and what it’s meant to do is put the June 5th “no-growth” vote to a test. The people spoke and 77% said no more student growth, at least no more until the current problems caused by university past growth are mitigated, dealt with in other words. Continuing to over-grow is THE issue. The City of Santa Cruz needs to work closely with the university and go attend the UC regents meeting(s) and speak out; we need to get state legislators involved; and finally, the UCSC administration needs to be convinced that they will be a much more desirable and better educational institution, more likely to fulfill their pedagogical mission when they limit campus student enrollment to 19,500.


Waiting for Godot…I mean an Interim and/or Permanent 24/7 Homeless Shelter

It is fast entering into the realm of mythology that Santa Cruz will ever get a Homeless Shelter, to house at least 150, any time soon. Witness this statement in the council staff report: “Developing solutions to complex problems requires deliberate, collaborative and thoughtful planning, and sufficient time.” So perhaps the passage of two or five or ten years has not been enough time? Okay, in fairness, the council took a lot of heat when we said we would consider Dimeo Lane, Delaveaga Park, a part of the Pogonip, and a portion of city property off Emeline Street to house those currently living on our streets. Neighbors in those areas did not necessarily take to the idea. But over a year ago our Economic Development office did not act on acquiring the recently vacated Sports Authority building on River Street, or the Goodwill Bargain Barn in Harvey West Park when they were available. And guess what? The state will likely award $9.3 million to Santa Cruz in the form of a grant to assist in creating services to support our homeless population. Will it take another two years to “collaborate with stakeholders” to finally fund shelter for our community’s most vulnerable population? All I can say is vote, vote, vote this November for new councilmembers who want to act NOW to address and reduce the stresses and strains on this community, and on this community’s homeless population.


Something’s Gotta Give?

This city manager, in my view, has not been able to adequately marshal city resources into addressing homelessness, or remodel the downtown library in a timely manner, or develop a plan to acquire the Beach Flats Community Garden, nor has he been able to implement a protection plan for tenants now having their rents raised above the 2% city council-mandated “rent freeze” amount. Well, I guess this situation might be what elections are about…


Minutes

I end with a chat-up about the minutes from the last meeting. They are “action” minutes and do NOT actually say what the tone, breadth, or scope of the discussion was, only that the city council took an action, an up or down vote. I advocate we should offer the public, as many cities already do, much more detailed minutes about what councilmembers and the public argued for or against, not simply that a vote was taken. So, the actions the Santa Cruz City Council took at the August 7th and 14th council meetings were:

  • The sweetened beverage tax previously placed on the November ballot asking voters to approve a 1.5 cents per ounce tax was rescinded because Sacramento legislators in June made a law that no city can place a tax like this on the ballot until 2031. Go figure. (Aug. 7th)
  • By a vote of 4-0, council passed a resolution allowing the anti-rent control group, Santa Cruz Together, to include their ballot argument on the November ballot, overturning the city clerk’s decision because the group had missed a July deadline. Councilmembers Mathews, Terrazas, and Krohn all recused themselves from this vote. (Aug. 7th)
  • I was the lone vote against a fee deferrals extension for the (non-)development of 350 Ocean Street. This item concerns those boarded up buildings along Ocean Street that the property owner and developer first, forced tenants to vacate and secondly, they’ve been allowed to remain empty. It represents a fair and just case for the city to exercise its power of eminent domain in order to produce affordable housing, which would be a real “public benefit.” Instead, with this extension it will likely be a minimum of a couple years before anything gets built.
  • Charter Amendment Review Committee was established and will have 7 individual city council picks and 6 at large members chosen by the entire council. The mission of this committee is to study 1) a directly elected mayor, 2) district elections, 3) council compensation, and 3) “ranked choice voting.” It is planned that the committee begin its work sometime this October. The vote was unanimous to establish this committee.
  • An appeal of a building at 1024 Soquel Ave. (at Cayuga across from eastside fire station) was denied by a 5-2 vote with Councilmembers Brown and Krohn voting to uphold the appeal. Many changes were made by the developer, John Swift, thus making it well worth the time of eastside neighbors…still, it will likely be an ugly building, not in-line with current architectural motifs on the eastside.
  • Perhaps, turning back the staff’s recommendation of a Jump(Uber) bike rack “adjacent to 102 Woodrow” was the biggest turn-around of events on that city council day. The final vote was 6-1 to study other sites and receive a report back from staff in six months. Councilmember Chase was the lone vote to support city staff’s recommendation in placing a bike rack at Woodrow and West Cliff.
  • And finally, the removal of “two heritage trees,” beautiful and amazing trees near 200 Washington Street was approved, 5-2, with Brown and Krohn having hoped to save the trees, but this council was just not in the mood.

Bernie SandersBernie Tweet of the Week

“We must remember that the struggle for our rights is not a struggle for one day, or one year, or one generation – it is the struggle of a lifetime, and one that must be fought by every generation.”

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)

Santa Cruz City Council meeting

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.

Majority Report

Everybody’s hero, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was in Santa Cruz this past week. She did two shows in fact, in the basement of McHenry Library on the UCSC campus.