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)

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 – 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).