Majority Report – April 9-15, 2018

Let My People Go

Santa Cruz Renters sing:

Well, I looked over Jordan and what did I see

Coming for to carry me home

A band of Angels coming after me

Coming for to carry me home

Santa Cruz Landlords respond:

We’ve seen this movie before.

Rent Control Fear in River City: Anti-Rent Control People Win One Battle, 17-14

The evening council meeting on March 27th was all about housing, and it appeared to pit a large group of renters against an even larger number of landlords, developers, and real estate interests. It was a night when the California Apartment Association perhaps out-organized the Movement for Housing Justice and Students United with Renters. Maybe the two latter groups didn’t show in even greater numbers because they were out gathering signatures on the rent control petition. As 31 people addressed the council on the agenda item, the Housing Blueprint Committee Report, the landlord-developer group won my unofficial tally, 17 speakers opposed to rent control and 14 were in favor. This housing committee is made up of councilmembers Watkins, Chase, and Brown, and even though rent control is not really part of the committee’s charge, the public clearly showed up to either support or denounce rent control.

After hearing from city staff and the public, the final results on the council side of the podium were minimal. No actual housing or city resources would be expended, just more time to study the housing issue. The final motion included language that requested the Housing Blueprint Committee and staff “to prioritize specific projects that may yield more immediate results, specifically highlighting ADUs and legalization of unpermitted units and inclusionary rates…” All good stuff if enacted, but council direction seemed to be to simply study the issue more and return to council at a future unknown date. Councilmember Brown and I were able to get a slight opening on the 20-25% housing inclusionary that Brand-New Council candidates campaigned on in 2016. In the end, Councilmember Cynthia Mathews tossed a bone by including this language in the motion: “Explore an increase in the inclusionary rates.” Oh yeah, one BIG concession too: staff was directed to send letters to all landlords and let them know, ‘er…by the way, the city is in a state of emergency with respect to housing and you are hereby directed by the rent freeze ordinance NOT to raise the rent on your tenants.’ This last part of the motion is significant. But, isn’t telling landlords they can’t raise their rent prices a little bit like telling Donald Trump he can’t Tweet? Folks, the fight is on.

Council Side Note

In the afternoon city council session, the developer dream of “Density Bonus Provisions for Affordable Residential Units” (sounds pretty good, but there would be very little affordable anything in actual practice), which means adding more floors if the developer provides a unit or two of affordable housing–was unexpectedly sent packing, at least for the moment. The city council, on a 4-3 vote (Watkins, Chase, Brown and Krohn in the majority) requested the density bonus issue go back to the Housing Blueprint Committee. Seems like that committee was snubbed by the Planning Department, which bypassed them and went straight to council with this ever-so urgent (NOT) request.

Blood on the Tracks: Santa Cruz Together Turns Out a Crowd Ready to Fight Rent Control

I went to several public meetings this week, but one I attended is rather memorable. You’ve likely heard that the making of public policy is often compared with sausage-making? Well, what happened in the Police Community Room on Center Street last Wednesday (April 4) night was a window into the process of making fire and brimstone. A new pro-property group, Santa Cruz Together, called for a meeting to discuss some tactics and strategy on how to defeat the as yet qualified rent control ballot initiative. Speakers that night seemed to firmly believe it will be on this November’s ballot. Dan Coughlin, self-identified as having a “business degree,” and Lynn Renshaw, “MBA from UCLA,” presided over a packed house of 100-plus. While Coughlin emphasized the group was comprised of “property providers,” and “mom and pop landlords,” Renshaw laid out an analysis of where the Santa Cruz bubble might go if rent control passed at the ballot box. “It imposes burdensome relocation fees… [with a rent board] there’s no sufficient oversight and it sets its own salaries…impartiality is not required…someone who is not credit-worthy still gets a sub-lease.” In addition, she offered some overhead slides for the crowd to chew on: 37,672 register voters in the city, 13,205 single family home owners, 14,643 renters in houses, and 9,824 tenants renting apartments. I think she was trying to get across the point that a great effort by this group would have to be undertaken if rent control was to be defeated. Then it was back to Coughlin for some basic strategy points: 1) “speak from the heart,” 2) “acknowledge the plight of the tenant,” and 3) “don’t pick fights with students.” Pretty good advice! Coughlin also added, “This campaign was born out of the NextDoor site, if you are not on it, get on it.”

City Council is ‘Meeting-Light’ this Week

The often obscurely written Santa Cruz city council agenda, while still obscure this past week, was on the lighter work side. Of course, there are the usual BIG-sounding topics: Climate Action Plan Update; city give-away of “encroachment permit for Astound/Wave Broadband” network for more lousy cable deals; and lots of money being spent by the H20 department for an “inflatable dam rubber bladder replacement project” at $200k, and a “professional services contract” ($173k) to plan for a “capital improvement project” for the Laguna Creek and Major Creek diversion facilities. The council was also asked to approve “right of way” permits at seven locations, the most controversial being Swanton and W. Cliff, for the coming Jump bike stations program. Perhaps the most significant issues were two items referred to the “closed session” agenda: “Arlt v. City of Santa Cruz,” concerning the death of a local Dad, Sean Arlt, at the hands of SCPD and the “negotiations” concerning the “Skypark” property the city owns in the middle of Scotts Valley, site of an old airport. The real fireworks may occur later in the evening when there will be a joint city council-water commission 7pm meeting. Since the BrattonOnLine deadline comes before the council meeting, I will let you know next week if we take up the chorus that I am continually hearing from Santa Cruzans: My water bill is too damn high! Will our sky-high water bills be the elephant in the room, or take center stage? See you next week.

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“I want to thank the teachers across the country who are saying loudly and clearly that taking care of our kids and schools is more important than giving tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations.” (April 3)

BRATTON ONLINE >

Majority Report – March 15, 2018

Four WOW Issues that Passed a Usually Divided City Council

A Tutorial on What Can Be Done in the Minority

February was a dry month for water, but a downpour happened on the policy front. If city council actions in February were measured meteorologically, it might be called one of the wettest legislative months on record. With a slightly center-right leaning mayor, David Terrazas, presiding over a politically fractured city council, no less than four significant policy issues were passed by the Santa Cruz City Council this past February.

While relatively recent councils have voted to accept a BearCat tank from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, refused to purchase land for a permanent Beach Flats Garden, would not allow for a vehicle parking area for destitute residents, and for decades city councils have repeatedly turned down safe sleeping zones for homeless residents, these current council decisions might appear out of a Cuban play book. This is not to mention that the city manager’s office has reported that Santa Cruz spends upwards to between $18 million-$20 million on combating homelessness and substance addiction issues through its police, fire, and parks and recreation departments. Given that backdrop, the Santa Cruz city council approved a dizzying array of former politically left issues: funding for a homeless camp site at 1220 River Street; voting to place a measure on the June ballot calling on the university to limit its enrollment to 19,500, which is the currently agreed upon number from the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP); and a first-ever rent freeze was enacted on February 13th, along with a just-cause eviction ordinance.

Given Surf City’s progressive history versus the current “moderate” council majority, one might assume that this group of councilmembers took a leap leftward. Probably not. More likely, former left-ish causes have become mainstream issues. It makes sense to set up a place for homeless people to sleep, to tell the university enough is enough, and to protect renters given that well over half of our residents rent.

Left vs. the Mainstream

Nationally, left issues like universal college tuition and healthcare for all have been moving steadily towards the center of American politics. Partly a result of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, but also because so many Americans struggle to pay the always increasing health insurance costs, and student debt-servicing. Some day we will figure out how much creativity and job motivation is lost by people not changing jobs they no longer like, or grew out of long ago, simply because they do not want to lose their healthcare. Ditto with college loan payments. Graduates cannot take on a post-college internship for further career experience, but instead move into barista or restaurant jobs to pay off their loans. In the past, many young people could leave college with enthusiasm and an adventurous mindset perhaps, but now they are saddled with anxiety and find few opportunities that will pay their living expenses and debt-service payments.

The Ugly Underbelly of Rent Control Rumormongers

The rich are attempting to eat the less-rich. If you are a landlord you have received no fewer than five offers in the past two weeks to sell your property. One from Scott Webber and Aimee Dietle from Century 21 states that they “work with 3 separate investor clients that pay cash, fair market price and close escrow in 17 days.” Scott and Aimee don’t seem to get it. Seems to me the city council took an extreme action on February 13th, called for by many in this community, to pass a rent freeze and contain this disease called rent madness. Now, some realtors seem to be saying it’s a tough climate, so sell us your property, at presumably a bargain, because rent control is coming. “All 3 are seasoned property investors and would gladly assume the current tenant lease contracts you currently have.” Who are these people? Are they betting that the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act will not pass statewide, and that rent control goes down at the ballot box in Santa Cruz in November? “If you have any interest in discussing what your property is worth,” these realtors invite you to “please call or email us at your convenience.” (831-818-2817) Renters, it is darkest before the dawn and the vultures are indeed circling. The community must circle too around our collective survival and right to housing. The Movement for Housing Justice can be reached at: https://movementforhousingjustice.org/

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“I’ve never believed in this blue-state, red-state nonsense. Yes, Lubbock voted overwhelmingly for Trump. But any county in this country, which has people who are struggling, can and must become a progressive county.” (March 10)


Picture of the Week

Drew Glover

City council candidate, Drew Glover spoke to the council in favor of restoring funding for children’s programming at the Nueva Vista Community Center in Beach Flats…and $25k was indeed restored!

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).

Majority Report | November 6

Not All City Council Meetings Are the Same

A Dream

It occurred to me recently that maybe we need to look at housing differently. Maybe we should look at it like universal healthcare, or public education. Maybe since everyone needs a place to live, we need to find places for everybody. Possibly, if we can agree that housing itself is a right, it may be the way to free up funding for affordable housing because it is a civil rights issue, and people of color are being pushed out of their homes in greater numbers because of skyrocketing rents. That’s what Lorena Melgarejo and Anne Bellows argued in an editorial in the San Mateo Journal this past Sunday. http://www.smdailyjournal.com/opinion/guest_perspectives/renters-rights-are-civil-rights/article_1ee2c38c-b20e-11e7-970a-23fca667d7b0.html

They wrote: “This month, San Mateo County and a handful of nearby local governments officially recognized what many of us already knew: Large rent increases and no-cause evictions are an urgent civil rights issue on the Peninsula. These practices, which thrive in the brutal rental market on the Peninsula, undermine the housing security of many — but they disproportionately harm African-American, Latino, Filipino and Pacific Islander renters. Left unchecked, the displacement crisis we now face will lead to a new era of housing segregation.”

Along with education (Article 26) and healthcare, housing (Article 25) is also included in what’s become the gold standard of human rights documents, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/), and for good reason. Everybody needs a place to live. Of course, the housing crisis is bigger than Santa Cruz because everyone cannot live here, but we have to figure out the numbers and plan, and also secure the funding for affordable housing for people who live here now. We’ve got to continue making demands on Sacramento and Washington, D.C. while working locally on obtaining money for an affordable housing trust fund, taxing speculators, and building a 24/7 emergency homeless shelter. We can do this.

Donna Brazile’s New Book, Hacks

Are you kidding me?! Donna Brazile’s new book, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. It’s the memoire in which she confides to the readers that the Hillary Clinton campaign came to own and operate the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and that in itself might’ve made for an unfair primary against her opponent, Bernie Sanders. Well, I get it, Bernie is a socialist. He believes we all should be taken care of, probably even believes in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see above). I get that. He was not a real big “D” Democrat, so realpolitik demanded that the Dem party elders do everything they could to Stop Bernie. But somehow the party will change and Bernie, like same sex marriage, minimum wage, universal healthcare, equal pay for equal work, and collective bargaining will come out on the right side of history. Just watch (and I hope you participate too!). What all this says is that a whole lot of Democrats, socialists, and non-party people are disappointed in the democratic process and the current Democratic Party and are demanding change. To all of you I say, keep pushing, on the inside and the outside, it’s the only way change actually happens.

Another Bite at Swenson Apple on Pacific

Councilmember Brown and I pulled item #9, Park Pacific Subdivision at 1547 Pacific Avenue, off the city council consent agenda last week. “Subdivision” (map) is the word for $money$. By obtaining a subdivision map, Barry Swenson Builder represented by their Santa Cruz Manager, Jesse Nickel, is now able to avoid providing twelve affordable rental units. The scheme is like this: since they will be “for-sale units,” Swenson-Builder will not have to sell the Magic 12 for at least ten years to comply with the city’s 15% inclusionary law. They will rent them out instead, all 79 condos, at market rates. I checked with the city attorney and planning director before the meeting and they both said the council could demand the 12 inclusionary units be rented out at affordable HUD rents, right now. Brown and I argued for this, but were rebuffed by a council that was more intent on “filling a hole” than obtaining more affordable housing.  These units slipped away like so many others into that profit-driven black hole named, Does-Not-Pencil-Out. (If this is sounding like a Molly Ivins story about the Texas state legislature, well you wouldn’t be too far off the mark…do as I say, not as I do.)

Looks Like the City Might be Getting into the (Socialist?) Ambulance Transport Business

A unanimous motion “carried to direct staff to delay selected projects until the Winter/Spring after the October 2018 implementation to ensure appropriate staff capacity to launch the operation of an ambulance transport service, if awarded.” Which is city clerk-speak for putting off the selection of a new banking services agreement (aka, get rid of Wells Fargo) until 2018 and put all of our extra administrative efforts towards securing the ambulance franchise that our fire chief, Jim Frawley is recommending. If the city wins the bidding contest with private contractor, AMR, we will be taking a gigantic step forward in providing additional medical services for the homeless, avoiding unnecessary hospital drop-offs, and creating up to fifty new well-paying city jobs. And I support all of that, just not the part that puts off into the future cutting the cord with Wells. According to Chief Frawley, the city will put out 10-12 ambulances serving the entire county from Scotts Valley to Watsonville. Sound ambitious and risky? The council weighed this, and the initiative will come back for additional direction, but for now I find it incredibly exciting. In an era where cities are selling off services, our city is on the brink of signing up to provide a service that should not be profit-driven, one that stands to benefit the entire community.

CM and Finance Director’s Agenda Item to Balance Budget Flops

Item #18, “FY 2018 Proposed Budget Balancing” was voted down 4-3. With Councilmember Cynthia Mathews calling herself the ” adult in the room,” as she made a motion to accept the staff’s $2 million-plus cuts in city services, the silence on the council dais was deafening as the motion went down for lack of a second. David Terrazas followed with a motion to delay a vote on any budget cuts until the council had a chance to look deeper and decide if it had any choices on what we could cut. It was quickly seconded. At least four councilmembers were not supportive of the choices made by the city manager and finance director. The council was not consulted, nor were city commissioners, neighborhood groups, nonprofit providers, or anyone else outside of the city’s department heads. Bravo Councilmembers Terrazas, Watkins, and Brown in voting to delay this decision until the council is given better information about the overall budget and a set of alternative choices! (Footnote: the final vote was actually 5-2 with the mayor joining the majority after arguing to accept the staff recommendation. A new 5-2?)

Density Bonus Agenda Item

What is a “density bonus?” It is a provision that is granted by a city to a developer, or homeowner, if they agree to include a certain number of affordable housing units in their project. For example, if the developer is willing to include a significant number of affordable units they would be granted an additional story on a given project. A number of state laws were recently passed, including ones concerning the issue of density bonuses. City staff was bringing an ordinance forward to “clean up” existing city ordinances, but the council decided to put it off until January in order to, again, discuss what options are available and to deliberate on what the new state laws might mean for development in Santa Cruz. It was a good decision that will definitely be revisited.

Short Term Rentals (STRs)

Back again for a second, and presumably final reading, was the Short-Term Rental ordinance final adoption and also a “Resolution Directing the City Manager to Submit the Amendments to the California Coastal Commission.” Me and Councilmember Sandy Brown voted no on this ordinance (another 5-2) because it gives away too much of the Santa Cruz housing stock to tourists. Five hundred and fifty permits were approved, 200 for unhosted (people owning two or more units and not living on the premises) and 350 permits for hosted (people who have to live on the premises) STRs. We asked the council to go slower, as we did in approving only 8 (likely 4-5) permits for cannabis dispensaries in the city. STRs are taking rental housing away from residents who need it and who live here now. When you put together the 550 STR permits with the hundreds of market-rate-for- sale units that Silicon Valley looks on as second homes, and combine that with over 9000 UCSC students who are searching for off-campus rentals, then you quickly see the outlines of our working-class and workforce housing crisis. Short term rentals are neither the cause or solution to our housing crisis, but a definite symptom that’s afflicting the Santa Cruz patient looking for housing.

Rent Freeze Emergency Ordinance Called for by Over 100 City Council Attendees

The city council meeting of Oct. 24th was sailing along when, all of a sudden over 100 residents showed up for “oral communication” to demand that their city council acknowledge our current housing crisis and pass an immediate rent freeze to protect tenants from escalating rents in Santa Cruz. This crowd clapped, told heart-rending stories about trying to exist in a difficult rental market, and carried various signs for rent control, ones denouncing greedy landlords and imploring the council to take immediate action on a rent freeze. Finally, the last speaker, Danny Drysdale pleaded with the city council to enact a rent freeze to protect tenants while community groups circulate rent control petitions. I made a motion to add a rent freeze to our agenda because we are in the middle of a housing emergency and there is a clause in our city charter that might allow us to place a previously non-agendized emergency item on our agenda. We are in fact experiencing a housing crisis and I hoped the council would discuss the gravity of this disaster and vote on an immediate rent freeze for all the reasons speakers at the public podium stated. Mayor Chase agreed it is an “emergency and a crisis,” but she wanted to bring it back with a smorgasbord of other housing issues on December 5th, and thus potentially burying the rent freeze issue.  “It’s already agendized for December 5th,” according to Mayor Chase. I put forward a motion, seconded by Councilmember Brown to avoid mixing the rent freeze issue with all the other housing issues and put it on the November 14th city council agenda. The audience seemed fine with that and this action would recognize their efforts and acknowledge the housing crisis in Santa Cruz. The motion was defeated, 5-2. Cross your fingers for the December 5th meeting in which maybe, a rent freeze, rent control, no-cause evictions, developer pot-sweeteners like the 15% affordable housing inclusionary loophole that developers have been using to not build affordable housing, all of the affordable housing ideas the mayor has been hearing during her listening tour, and the status of campus housing and the 3000-bed facility UCSC is seeking developer financing to construct. All these could end up on that December 5th agenda. Stay woke and stay tuned, not much of this revolution will be televised!

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“Instead of more tax breaks for Wall Street, we must make public colleges and universities tuition-free by taxing Wall Street speculators.” (Nov. 1)

Photo of the Week

 

On a cloudy day in Lower Ocean neighborhood about a dozen protesters set up a post in front of the Sleep Tight apartments on Ocean Street this past week to provide support for tenants who were to be evicted.

Majority Report | November 1

See more at http://brattononline.com/

Just the Facts Ma’am

Sgt. Joe Friday on the old cop show, Dragnet, used to say, “Just the facts ma’am,” which is pretty convenient when you might not want to hear the quilt of stories behind how the facts became facts. But without context, facts are like vacuum cleaners sold to people who don’t have access to electricity, convenient machines, but not very useful without a power source. There’s quite a few “facts” running around Santa Cruz inside the housing, homelessness, and UCSC conversations, but often a context, the stories behind the facts, is lacking. Having stated the obvious, I am going to now put out a bunch of factoids that happened this week and in the interest of time, let you draw your own conclusions. It’s a kind of, do as I say not as I do, column this week.

  • Library-garage architects (advocates?) presented three plans recently to the Library Committee. 1) $37.7 million to renovate existing library; 2) $47 million to build a new, one-story library, 3) $49 million to build a new two-story library…but, lo and behold, if it is put inside of a five-story parking garage the price magically comes down to $26 million. BTW, none of these buildings would be “net zero energy,” which is really sad in 2017.
  • Just the facts ma’am: Six undergraduate women were evicted by the city this past week from 102-104 Hillcrest Terrace below the University off Highland. They were given 36 hours to vacate and not offered any alternative housing opportunities as far as I’ve been able to ascertain. One of them said to me when I stopped by to see what could be done, “We can kiss tomorrow’s midterms goodbye.”
  • In the new movie, Mark Felt (Watergate’s Deep Throat character) the main character, FBI second-in-command to J. Edgar Hoover, Mark Felt played by Liam Neeson, goes through a long list of communes where his runaway daughter might be, and he lands on one in Ben Lomond of all places, on Bear Creek Rd. In the next scene he is retrieving her and bringing her back Washington, D.C. just in time to see Nixon walk across the tarmac and get on that infamous helicopter just after resigning.
  • SC4Bernie member and UCSC student leader, Jeff Stoll talked to City on a Hill Press recently about housing and his comment as one of now 19,000 hill-dwellers bears repeating. “At the end of the day, housing is the issue that unites the campus and the community…it’s an issue related to campus development and the way we want to see the campus expand or not expand in a sustainable way.”
  • UCSC Prof. Adam Millard-Ball reported that in the transportation research he is conducting, “traffic sprawl” in the United States peaked in 1994, but not in Atlanta, they seem to still be in “sprawl” mode he said. He also said that car ownership peaked in 2005. Interesting.
  • Just the Facts Ma’am–the top issues of concern by residents in the Prospect Heights neighborhood voiced at a forum on public safety at Delaveaga School hosted by SCPD Chief, Andy Mills were: Isolate aggressive transients, form private sector partnerships for patrolling, focus on community safety–wellness and quality of life, make mental health collaborations between city and county, connect crime to campsites, there needs to be more visible patrols–get out of the car and more citizen involvement, use compassion when confronting homeless, police need to be proactive vs. reactive, and we need to find better ways of managing mental illness. Chief Mills also said that “80% of the calls for service by PD are for homeless-related issues.”
  • Just the Facts Ma’am Talking Points from Eastside Save Santa Cruz meeting last Thursday night:
    • “Anyone here play poker? Well, the Corridors Plan is currently on ‘hold,’ we need the city to ‘fold’ the Corridors Plan.” (Jerry Christianson)
    • Farrell’s Donuts vs. Dunkin’ Donuts (corporations certainly know how to vulture local businesses)
    • Habit Burger? Where did that come from?
    • The goal of developers is to maximize profits…and we get that. The goal of the city council should be to maximize the quality of life for residents, and THEY should get that!
    • Is 340 square feet for $1700-$2000 really “affordable by design?”
    • “We need housing for people who live here now.” (Dawn Norris)
    • City has approved over 500 hotel rooms in the past three years. Where will the wait- staff, gardeners, bartenders, and chefs all live?
  • Gary Patton hit it out of the park at the eastside meeting when he said: “Let’s make this city the way we want it to be, not the city someone tells us it should be.” And on the accusation of NIMBY-ism, Patton said, “We have nothing to be ashamed of if we fight for our community…we can’t have self-government if we don’t get involved ourselves.” Patton seemed to lay down the gauntlet when he said if developers really want to build in Santa Cruz they can build 50% market rate and 50% affordable…the crowd went wild!
  • Okay, Patton and the rest were all really good, but Carmela Weintraub had the quote of the night when she stood up from the audience and announced: “Okay, we saved the Pogonip, we saved Lighthouse Field, we saved Wilder Ranch…now we have to save the whole god-damned city!” (Applause!!!)

Finally, I planted a redwood tree and a sequoia tree in my backyard this week…I really felt powerful, can’t wait for the grand kids to figure out how to save them when the developers come!

Bernie Tweet of the Week

“Are you truly free if you work 100 hours a week because you can’t find a job with a living wage? Are you free if you have no health care?” (October 29)

Packed Save Santa Cruz eastside meeting, over 200 in attendance!

llar performances by eastside community members at the Save Santa Cruz forum (L-R): Gary Patton, Jerry Christiansen, Walt Wadlow, Dolores Salazar Talbert, Deborah Marks, Dawn Norris, Candace Brown, Bob von Elgg, and Cyndi Dawson. Kudos!

Majority Report October 23

Originally published on BrattonOnline: the latest incarnation of Bruce Bratton’s weekly opinion columns, 34 years and running. Featuring additional content from Gillian Greensite, Chris Krohn, Becky Steinbruner, Gary Patton, Lisa Jensen, Steven DeCinzo, Tim Eagan, and more!

Hidden Agenda or Open Agenda?
Why Not Just Publish an “Agenda for Dummies?”

So much of the Santa Cruz city council agenda is made up of snooze items. For example, the “Reconciliation of Private Encroachment on City Watershed Lands,” might be one. The issue is that years-ago somebody paved over city land to put in a private driveway and now they want to trade two of their acres to the city for the driveway land. Then there’s approving grants for Water Department “technical assistance contracts,” worth a couple of million dollars. Of course, many agenda items are snooze items until something goes wrong resulting in a law suit. The city is often involved in suing and being sued. Turns out though that so much of municipal substance is shrouded in the bureaucratic word blather making up each agenda item. This week’s city council agenda was of particular note. It was seemingly filled with insignificant and tedious snooze items, but in fact reflected a great deal about of our current collective anxiety around affordable housing, healthcare, a planning department that sees things differently than the community, and a city budget deficit. Perception and deception are unfortunately often by-products in our representative democracy.

Still No Affordable Rental Housing at Swenson 79-condo Project at 1547 Pacific Avenue, Why?
Not to beat a dead horse, but there they were, 11.85 units (15% of 79) of affordable rentals right there on the table at the last two city council meetings. The majority decided not to demand these units because it “just won’t pencil out” for the developer. On the Tuesday, Oct. 24th agenda, Barry Swenson and company was asking the council for a final condo map for their Pacific Park project (the old Bookshop Santa Cruz site). Seems like they need the map in order to rent the units at market-rate and avoid selling them to further avoid having to sell the affordable ones. If you are confused, then this complicated scheme is working. It’s the eleventh hour or the bottom of the ninth or nearing the end of overtime, whatever metaphor works, and the city council needs to decide which side of the affordable housing debate they are on. Either find developers who only build affordable, or continue making deals with devils who have their bottom lines, or shareholders’ concerns, first. Hoping for affordable units isn’t the same as making them build the units. The council is responsible to the housing needs of the community, not to the 20-30% profit margin developers expect.

Public Ownership of Ambulance Services
Can the Santa Cruz Fire Department add a countywide ambulance service to its workload? The short answer is, maybe. But, there is a $70,000 consultant contract on the agenda to evaluate the potential to make this happen. It would mean not having to take a huge fire truck out with the inevitable private ambulance service, usually AMR, following close behind. Instead, SCFD would leave the fire truck at the station and operate its own ambulance. In fact, if Fire Chief, Jim Frawley’s dream is realized we just might better be able to attend to our “unhoused and economically disadvantaged populations…” A part of Frawley’s dream bears repeating here from the city council staff report he submitted for this council agenda item:
“Because they (homeless and economically disadvantaged) are not able to address small health issues while they are small, their conditions worsen to the point where emergency 911 service is needed. As a part of the (new city) ambulance transport service, a special unit that actively and proactively engages with these communities can dramatically alter the response needs by providing mobile health services, referrals, and connection to other services like mental health experts, substance use disorder counselors, and social service case workers.”
Can I get an Amen?! Wow, yes, a fire chief with vision. Go Chief Frawley! The only drawback is that to implement this it will take a variety of finance and IT city staff to assess and get the project up and running. The downside is that there are tradeoffs in workloads being discussed. One is that the finance director is suggesting that a way to free up the 1,350 person-hours the start of the ambulance endeavor may take, is to delay moving on finding new banking services. Earlier this year the council gave direction to find an alternative to the now tarnished and disreputable current service provider, Wells Fargo. Another choice offered would have the city not moving forward until 2018 on a Parks and Recreation fee study. What would the public say about this? What’s more important, not giving city money over to a disreputable bank, or not performing a fee study? I think I know which one the public would choose. Yes, the ambulance idea is a worthy one and we need to move ahead with all deliberate speed, but we also need to find a path sooner than later in withdrawing city support of a failing financial corporation.

A Report that Sent a Planning Director Packing?
Again, here’s an agenda item you would never know is a follow-up, “status update’ that was ordered by a previous city council. It was the outcome of a rather scathing outside consultant in-depth report on “Improving the Planning and Community Development Department.” The report was issued on March 16, 2015 at the behest of city manager, Martin Bernal and likely a majority of city council votes at the time. I believe this 31-page report is the first time it’s ever appeared in a city council agenda. (Go here , click on item #16, then go to the right column to see the document.)

The report states on page 11, “A common customer comment is that the Planning and Community Development Department is not doing an effective job of communicating with the public about the planning and building process. As a result, some customers are frustrated with the department, calling it ‘bureaucratic,’ ‘rigid,’ ‘not helpful,’ and similar comments.” The Conclusion reads like this: “Without measurable customer service objectives and measures of workload or service activity, it is difficult to confirm the quality of service that staff believes they are providing or hold them accountable if they are not. And, based on customer interviews, there is room for improvement.” Folks, this is not pretty stuff, and likely led to the demise of former Planning Director, Julianna Rebagliati. But what I fear is that her ouster came about more because she was going too slow in approving for-profit development in Santa Cruz, which may actually be a desire more in line with the present wishes of the community, i.e. reign in the developer-class. What I hear from the community is yes to affordable housing and no to second-home large profit-driven development; severely limit the number of short-term rentals, and engage with the university to house ALL of its students over 19,000 on their beautiful campus. Is “planning” just about building and economic growth? Since when did planning become synonymous with being responsible for lining the pockets of this developer class? Air quality, water quality, care for the bay and our redwood groves, being good stewards of the resources we have…shouldn’t this be the bedrock mission values of our “planning and community development” department?

City Manager (CM) Suggested Budget Cuts You May Want to Know About
The cuts the city manager is asking the council to make by January aren’t pretty either. Under the agenda title: “FY 2018 Proposed Budget Balancing,” CM Bernal put forward a list of nine pages of line item cuts totaling $2,278,219. Some of the cuts are as follows, and remember this is from the CM and his department heads. As far as I know, there have been no public meetings, neighborhood meetings, consultation with the various city commissions, nor has the city council suggested any of these cuts. There are more, but the following seem short-sited:
• $124,000 from the elimination of on-site probation officers. This may delay probation related reviews.

• $43,725 in various reductions to Recreation programs and facilities including youth & teen programming, sports and general classes, special events, and support for Louden Nelson, the Museum, and Harvey West pool.

• $27,000 in reduced capacity for City Council special projects (who knew we had this money?!?)

• $35,250 in Wharf maintenance and technical services. This will impact various levels of commerce, utility or the public’s safety.

These are just a few of the cuts I am concerned about. Please email me (ckrohn@cruzio.com) any ideas you might have on cuts the city might make given the $2 million-plus current deficit.
To see list, click here.
and click on item #18 then look over to right column and click on documents to see list of cuts.
P.S.
Over 500 people came out this past week at the Civic Auditorium to hear Professor’s Steve McKay and Miriam Greenberg present their findings on how crazy bad our housing market has become. They had an army of over 200 students interview 1700 renters across Santa Cruz county. You can see their work at http://noplacelikehomeucsc.org/en/
P.P.S.
This Thursday the Santa Cruz Community Church at 411 Roxas Street on the eastside will be buzzing with Save Santa Cruz people advocating for the final entombing of the “Corridors Plan.” Many believe it is not dead yet, but still limping along. I suggest Save Santa Cruz people look at Item #23 “Density Bonus Ordinance Amendments” on the Oct. 24th council agenda and see how even without the Corridor Plan, a nasty for-profit developer genie is working over-time.

Bernie Quote of the Week
Sen. Sanders on Trump’s tax plan: “It is a Robin Hood proposal in reverse…it must be defeated”

Pictures of the Week—DevelopmentGood Development
Ribbon cutting for thirty-nine new affordable units on Soquel Avenue near 7th Ave.

Bad Development

Single-family monster home on Getchell near the corner of Wanzer Street

Ugly Development

Everyone asks me, ‘What is this?’ It is a soulless hotel
on Mission Street Extension. No emoji can express our collective community angst and sadness.