BRATTON…CNN, MSNBC, surfer protection, Reed Searle, Covid shots. GREENSITE…on yet another blow to neighborhood activism. KROHN…Reed Searle, City Hall rot, who manages the city manager. STEINBRUNER…CZU fire rebuild issues, George Washington Bust and Inaugural address, Santa Clara County and Supreme Court, Mid Peninsula project contamination, Japanese Internment, Swenson Developers Bike jump anniversary. PATTON…Read the fine print. EAGAN… classic Deep Covers and Subconscious Comics. QUOTES…”COMPUTERS”
DATELINE February 15
MUMBLES, MURMURS AND QUESTIONS. It’s about time and way past due that surfers get the attention and care regarding concussions that football players are beginning to receive. Long regarded as nothing more than a hobby, surfing is a way of life for a growing number of humans. Education, facilities, and understanding are much needed, and especially here in Santa Cruz – but around the world too.
Spending as much or as little time as possible watching TV – mostly CNN and MSNBC – I learned that the MS in MSNBC stands for Microsoft, who used to own the channel, together with General Electric. CNN on the other hand stands for Cable News Network, and was created by Ted Turner in Atlanta. But what I really wanted to ask is why these two channels have such flakey, off-beat advertisers? Here are two leading news channels with vast viewers, only able to get advertising from Liberty Liberty Mutual, Florida Key resorts, Kay Jewelers, mortgage lenders, weight loss scams and old age prescription meds. Why nothing from brands and products with good reputations? Are they afraid of our political leanings?
REMEMBERING REED SEARLE. Reed Searle was one of my best friends. He died a year ago on Feb. 21. Chris Krohn writes about Reed this week, and reminds us… “H. Reed Searle was a community activist and august mentor to a generation of rabble rousers and political change-makers in Santa Cruz. He died on Feb. 21, 2020, he was 87. There will be a memorial on Zoom for Reed this Sunday, Feb. 21st at 11am. Please join us.”
COVID SHOTS…WHO’S IN CHARGE? A regular reader sent this concern…”On Thursday, February 5th, Sutter Health announced that they are expanding Covid vaccinations to their clients in the 65-74 age category. Great for their patients, but what about those in the most vulnerable age category, 75+ who are not members of Sutter Health? Why isn’t the vaccine allocated on an equal basis to everyone in the Phase 1b, tier 1 category (age 75+) regardless of where one obtains healthcare? I guess membership has its privileges.
There is one aspect of vaccine distribution that I believe is overlooked and deserves examination. I’ve been reading about the major healthcare providers: Dignity, Kaiser, Sutter/PAMF, and their successful distribution of the vaccine to Phase-1a, and now 1b. That is a good thing for their clients and beneficial overall for protecting vulnerable populations. Just as important are the recent vaccinations of farm workers, a significantly vulnerable group. However, from the standpoint of equitable distribution to vulnerable populations, this effort falls short. I’m seventy-seven, my wife is eighty, but we don’t use one of the aforementioned providers for healthcare services. My doctor’s practice is simply not equipped to deal with mass inoculations, lacking the equipment and the staff. We are left to fend for ourselves. We’ve signed up with the State of California and a local pharmacy chain, hoping to get in the queue in a reasonable time frame. While I appreciate the complex infrastructure needed to manage vaccine distribution and the obvious reliance on major healthcare providers who have the expertise to facilitate widespread vaccinations, but why are they allowed to limit vaccinations only to their clients? Shouldn’t vaccinations be given to everyone in Phase 1b, age 75+ first, regardless of healthcare provider? How is this equitable? Shouldn’t the County of Santa Cruz take charge of vaccine allocations and use Dignity, Sutter/PAMF, and Kaiser to inoculate vulnerable populations so that fair distribution of this limited resource can be accomplished? In addition to the distant Fairgrounds, multiple vaccinations sites could be established at Cabrillo, Kaiser Arena, and UCSC. These changes would be for the greater good, not just for the chosen few, in my opinion”
A VIGILANTE. (PRIME VIDEO SINGLE). Olivia Wilde does a surprisingly fine job as an abused woman who works hard to regain her sense of self, after terrible, horrible beatings. She becomes so confident that she then starts assisting other women victims in revenging their scenes. It has a 90 RT score.
CLARICE. (CBS NETWORK SERIES) This movie details what happened to the Jodie Foster character in Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) doesn’t appear in this one. Adjusting to “normal” life, the heroine agent is now assigned to an investigative team who gives her a terrible time, and it’s hard to understand why it happens. Lots of really bad acting, some phony plot twists. Try playing solitaire instead.
CRIME SCENE: THE VANISHING AT THE CECIL HOTEL. (NETFLIX SERIES) 57RT. L.A’S Cecil Hotel is the focal point of this documentary series. The hotel is very real, and in the last 100 years has been the site of many, many murders and strange events. The disappearance of a young woman student sets off this backtracking saga of tragedy. Watch it, it’s hard to believe it’s true – and should convince you to cancel any reservations you have at the Cecil. In case you care, it’s now called “STAY ON MAIN” and records show 16 deaths at the then Cecil. It has 700 rooms and is also closed for renovation, soon to reopen.
SQUARED LOVE. (NETFLIX SINGLE) A Polish comedy involving a beautiful woman who hides, and combines, two careers. She’s a beautiful, sexy, near-nude model who then somehow manages to teach youngsters in a grade school. It’s light, breezy, and a change of pace. It reminded me of Call My Agent. It’s distracting and will help you get through the next two hours.
TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER.(NETFLIX TRILOGY) Lots of online hype about this light-hearted teen age comedy. It has a 75 Rotten Tomatoes rating. Silly, foolish, unreal, pointless and poorly acted. Anyone over 12 years of age should avoid it by every means necessary.
SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, PBS) you can find it on.
MALCOLM AND MARIE. (NETFLIX SINGLE) Zendaya the co star of this movie is from Oakland. She and John David Washington plus a few friends filmed this in a “glass house” in Carmel during the pandemic and did a super job. The plot involves John a filmmaker who has just received a great review of his new film in the LA Times arguing throughout the entire film with Zendaya. Their fights are our fights, their issues are our issues and it’s an excellent movie. 59RT
ADU. (NETFLIX SINGLE).Some poor director decisions make the weaving of three almost totally unrelated stories into one heartwarming movie. Adu is a little boy who has to escape his warlike Africa hometown. Another story centers on the conflicting feelings of border guards. The most involved saga deals with illegal elephant ivory tusks and a father/daughter entanglement. It’s a fine movie but hard to follow.
FIREFLY LANE (NETFLIX SERIES) a 48 on RT. Katherine Heigl and her BFF Sarah Chalke go through some show biz type plots and make this a pretty ditzy movie. There are laughs and cute twists but nothing, absolutely nothing here that you’ll remember while you’re looking for a new mask to wear later today.
BLISS. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE) I’m giving up trying to figure out the plot of this one. Owen Wilson gets fired from his job and meets Salma Hayek and it goes sci-fi and nonsense from there on. Local fans should watch for Joshua Leonard son of Bob and Joann Leonard of Watsonville, he plays Cameron. The movie switches from realities to fantasies and back again. You’ll probably give up long before it’s over….don’t worry about it. 81 RT
THE VANISHED. (NETFLIX Single) I’ve always liked Anne Heche but she wasted her time and talent in this mixed up saga. A couple with their little daughter go to a trailer park. The daughter disappears and it takes a long time to stage the reason why. Do not waste your time trying to outwit the movie…take a nap instead. 21 on RT.
SOMEONE HAS TO DIE.(3 PART Netflix Series). Set in Spain in the 1950’s during Franco’s rule this is a genuine period piece. It centers on Spain’s prejudices against Mexico and any immigrants from there. It goes on to make a spy movie about which of the boys are gay and how to disown them. After those two themes it ends on secret sex between two families and who is genuinely faithful to their marriage vows. A very heavy handed, serious movie. Watch it.
THE LAST PARADISO. (NETFLIX SINGLE). This movie takes place in Italy in the 1950’s. Lower class farmhands fight the wealthy and crooked landowners. They fight over the price of olives, the rising cost of living in such squalor and of course the secret love affairs carried on between the fighting families. The hero is killed and his brother comes to the small town to investigate and we are not told how it all works out. Involving but forgettable.
LADY AND THE DALE. (HBO SERIES) This nearly unbelievable documentary has a 100 RT. It’s the result of executive directing by the Duplass brothers which makes any movie near great to begin with. Jerry Dean Michael was a con artist from birth. He later changed his name to Elizabeth Carmichael a Trans woman and managed to convince a lot of the world that the motorcycle with two tires in front would change the world. See it as soon as possible, great fun betwixt the grimaces.
RADIOACTIVE. (AMAZON PRIME Single) The lovely and effervescent Rosamund Pike plays the Polish born Marie Curie. This pointless drama includes Curie’s secret love affair, it adds her belief in the occult and as a movie it is beautifully filmed. Curie also was the first woman to win the Noble Prize. It lacks a driving force in spite of showing us Curie’s fight against sexism, and from ethnic prejudice. I’d give it a 5 out of 10 if I was giving anything.
HACHE. (NETFLIX Series)You’ll remember that the lead woman’s name is HACHE which begins with H as does Heroin. Taking place in Barcelona in 1960 it’s the story of Hache a prostitute who eventually (about three episodes) figures out how to not just break into the controlling mob scene but become a significant player. You’ll see lots of violence, much police illegal activity plus brutality and sex. There are better things to do with your time.
PALMER. (APPLE TV+ Single)The big deal here is that it stars Justin Timberlake as Palmer who was a football star in high school but then got sent to prison. He returns back to his hometown and becomes a full time parent to a gay little 7 year old boy. Many sobs later Palmer settles into his leading role and it’s fairly predictable. Watch it if you want to feel good about something.
BELOW ZERO (NETFLIX Single) A Spanish film about the trailer that is transporting prisoners from one prison to another. The trailer is stopped by spiked tires and a long search among the prisoners for one in particular. Which prisoner, and why him is the main plot. It’s tense, exciting, and nearly believable. Don’t miss it for sure! It was number one on Netflix a week ago!!!
THE DIG. (NETFLIX SINGLE) You can’t beat the pairing of Britain’s Carey Mulligan and Ralph (“Rafe”) Fiennes in this 1939 setting that centers on the excavation of an Anglo-Saxon burial ship named Sutton Hoo from the seventh century. British Museum’s battle over the rights to own and move the ship and Mulligan fights them. Brilliant, absorbing, great scenic splendor and never better acting. See this one as soon as possible. Checking upon this I read… The 27 meter long Anglo-Saxon ship from Sutton Hoo no longer exists. It was made of oak and after 1,300 years in the acidic soil, it rotted away leaving only its ‘ghost’ imprinted in the sand. The movie never deals with this fact making us believe that the wooden ship itself was three dimensional.
LOSING ALICE.(APPLE + Series) It’s filmed and set in contemporary Israel. A woman film director is facing getting older while raising three daughters and living with her husband who’s a famous movie star. Much sensitive game playing between them as they deal with a beautiful young screen writer who wedges her way between and amongst them. A first class movie, with fine directing, good camera work and a plot that will keep you completely involved. Don’t avoid it. It has a 71 on Rotten Tomatoes.
PENGUIN BLOOM. (NETFLIX Single) One of the most shallow, corny, cutesy movies in decades. Naomi Watts becomes wheel chair bound and a magpie named penguin is supposed to be some message to her to keep living. It’s a 100% Australian production, which adds some interest but it’s so treacley you’ll have a tough time staying with its predictable and weak plot.
ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI. (APPLE + SINGLE)Try to imagine an intimate get together with Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown from the NFL in 1964. Their shared and unshared reactions to the racial issues of their time is amazingly realistic and educational. It has a 98 on RT and deserves it. It’s an adaption of the play and shows the sensitive, delicate reactions to racial prejudice. Watch it and think about the genius behind Regina King’s first big time director achievements
THE WHITE TIGER.(NETFLIX Single) A wonderful story and movie from a book about the class system in India. It takes place in Delhi and centers on Balram a young boy who grows from a very wise to near genius level in fighting India’s rigid social structure. Struggling upwards in the illegal government system Balram succeeds and ends up controlling a business of his own. A long war between servants, ruling classes, mobsters, and family ties, it’s brilliant, go for it by all means.
THE RIPPER.(NETFLIX Series) There was a mass murderer in London in the late 1970’s and early 80’s who patterned his killings after the famed Jack the Ripper the century before (1888) . This documentary is not only well done but it centers on the very poor and later exposed police investigations. A real change in online viewing… it’s perfectly assembled, logically developed and surprising in the exposing the lousy job the police and other authorities did in the decades they tried to catch The Ripper. The real Jack the Ripper (1888) was never caught even though he’d sent letters to the police.
GIRI / HAJI. (NETFLIX Series) Giri Haji means Duty/Shame. Tricky, involved, many flashbacks, stabbings and only a fair series. It’s set in London and Tokyo where a detective goes searching for his gang involved brother. Yakusas (Mafia) battle each other and share very weak promises and loyalties to their gangs. No standout acting or direction, it just seems to go in circles with no purpose. You can easily avoid this one, and no-one will know the difference. Trust me.
BRIDGERTON. (NETFLIX Series) Set in 1813 London this is a poor copy of Downton Abbey (1912-1926). Even the music background sounds like Downton Abbey, but the acting is miserable, the casting lacks class and the sub plots are boring. One interesting thing is that the casting is multi-racial. That means there are blacks and Asians in roles that seem out of historical accuracy, but it is odd to think about what the real times were like. Julie Andrews does the entire voice over for the series, but it doesn’t help the overall phoniness.
KILL BILL. (HBO MAX parts one and two). Quentin Tarantino created a masterpiece of movies with these dramas. Uma Thurman and David Carradine keep us totally absorbed in this saga of blood, sweat and brilliance. Sure you’ve seen it before (back in ) but watch it again, there’s so many subtle touches we missed the first time.
PRETEND IT’S A CITY.(NETFLIX SERIES) 86 on rt. There are seven episodes in this diatribe about New York City by author and critic Fran Lebowitz. Martin Scorsese is both her producer and her interviewer and enabler as Fran takes apart the many sides of why people live in New York. If you like or even love New York City you’ll howl over the issues, problems and challenges she makes such good fun of hour after hour. High rents, street crimes, crowds, weather, she covers them all.
TIGER. (HBO) This is a two part documentary on HBO that tells us, or reminds us of all the troubles Tiger Woods has faced in his golfing career. His sex life, his injuries, his children, his completely domineering father; it’s all in this expose. Still we watch and admire Tiger for the way he’s survived. Completely riveting and revealing. Watch it quickly while HBO is still featuring it.
PIECES OF A WOMAN. (NETFLIX SINGLE) This movie is just a bit corny and cute but it’ll grab you in many different ways. A young couple has a baby with the help of a midwife. The baby dies and the plot thickens around the midwife and mom’s mother. The mother is well played by Ellen Burstyn. You could guess the ending but I’m not going to help you. If you need to shed a tear or two during these sad times go for it. I liked it a lot.
LUPIN. (NETFLIX SERIES). A neatly twisted robbery plot of Marie Antoinette’s necklace from the Louvre. There’s revenge, politics (French politics) and many, many Louvre scenes. The plot is complex enough to keep you glued to your viewing device for all seven episodes. What is outstanding is that the acting is excellent and believable. Reader Judi Grunstra writes…” In your blurb about the Netflix show “Lupin,” you say there are 7 episodes. There are only 5 (more to come in a 2nd season)”.
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND.(HBO MAX SINGLE) Staten Island like New Jersey has a nutty and not too good a reputation around the New York City area. Marisa Tomei does a great job as mother to a bunch of teen agers trying to grow up on the island. Steve Buscemi has a bit part too. The boys hopes, dreams, smoking weed, and trying to face their predictable future make this a near tear jerker, I recommend it.
NOTES FOR MY SON (NETFLIX SINGLE). An 80 on R.T. this is a nearly true to life sad saga of a well known Argentine woman is dying of ovarian cancer. She’s got a 4 year old son and an engrossing husband who combine to make this a vastly superior movie. It deals with assisted suicide, euthanasia, sedated death in a completely realistic way. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the emotions, and it’s a fine movie.
THE MIRE (NETFLIX SERIES). A Polish murder mystery taking place in the early 80’s . An important community leader and a prostitute are found dead and some competing journalists/ writer’s search for the guilty guy or woman will keep you centered. Well done, nicely acted, and another season is coming soon.
NEIGHBORS WAGE A VALIANT EFFORT
David took aim against Goliath at the February 9th Santa Cruz city council public hearing on the appeal of a proposed development at 418 Pennsylvania in the Seabright neighborhood. Goliath was in Sacramento, leaving the city Planning Department staff and city attorney to break the news that we are out of stones. We no longer have local control over housing developments, however much they change the small town character of Santa Cruz.
Sacramento passed Senate Bill 330, the Housing Crisis Act in 2019 to address what they see as a critical state housing shortage. The policy-makers attribute the high cost of housing in the state to the shortage of supply, expensive permits and lengthy public hearings. The Bill takes aim at all three.
Since Santa Cruz has already fulfilled its state-mandated supply of market rate housing, one might hope the lawmakers would use a scalpel to dissect the communities that lag behind and sew up that hole rather than use a club to bludgeon all. Such is not the case. Despite the fact that recent projects such as 555 Pacific have market rate units standing empty, developers see a hot market in Santa Cruz, fueled by Silicon Valley, UCSC growth, second homers, work from home re-locators and with the new state law, no impediments to getting their projects approved.
Projects in the works include the 151 unit Water St. project, the 89 unit Bay/West Cliff project, the 408 unit Ocean St. project, the 205 unit Pacific Front project, the 175 unit Front St. project, the 175 unit Front/Riverfront project, the 120 unit Coral St. project and many more of varying sizes, either already approved and moving forward or close by. Most of the large ones include thousands of square feet of retail beneath the housing. Add density bonuses and soon the heights tower above zoning height limits of 80 feet.
The project at 418 Pennsylvania is small by comparison. It consists of three, three-bedroom, and three bath units in a rectangular box-like structure, thirty feet tall. There is an existing legally non-conforming house on the lot that will remain. Over 50 residents wrote protesting the design and challenging staff’s position that their recommendation for approval was solidly in conformance with state law. Nearby residents spoke to how the project will overwhelm the area. They questioned staff’s reading of SB 330, asked for a better, more compatible design that among other things didn’t block sunlight from their backyard, a quality of life-altering impact in my mind. While SB 330 disallows a reduction in the number of bedrooms and units in a project, I couldn’t follow the Planning Director’s reasoning why the three bedrooms in each unit couldn’t be made somewhat smaller, keeping SB 330’s edicts while allowing for a better design, and lowering the market rate cost of each unit. Three-bedroom, three bath market rate houses are not cheap.
What irked me the most (I have the good fortune to not live next door to this project) was the manipulation of images, distorting the size and impact of the project. This is standard developers’ toolbox. The rendition below is what was presented at the hearing. The existing single story house on the lot is fore-grounded, along with a few other small structures to be removed. The three-story project is in the background, rendered modest by the manipulation of perspective. Every hearing I have spoken at I’ve asked Planning staff to request developers to give the public realistic images or better still, like other communities, story poles so we can assess the visual impact on site. Not only did staff allow the developer to use this image, staff used the same image in their presentation. Not hard to guess which side they were cheering for.
The presentation from the developer, Workbench was the usual run-down on how much we need housing, how a teacher who faces leaving Santa Cruz will be able to stay here now this project is being built and so on. A few supporters claimed low-income marginalized locals would benefit from this project. I’m not sure how or why since market-rate housing for newcomers means the well-off moving to town, raising the Area Medium Income and displacing lower-income current residents as rents rise to keep up with the market. Council member Justin Cummings supported by council member Sandy Brown tried for a motion to have the developer and neighbors meet one last time to try for a better design. Despite Workbench’s website proclaiming that “Collaboration and consensus-building are at the core of our development philosophy” they didn’t nod their heads and no other council member supported the motion.
It’s only a matter of time before most neighborhoods face similar projects. At the State level there is no shortage of housing activists, speculators and compliant politicians preparing legislation for the removal of single-family zoning, plus a weakening of CEQA so that triplexes and duplexes can replace older single-family homes, bulldozed as soon as the current owners die or sell. The sad part is that this trend not only lines the pockets of developers, drives out the working poor, urbanizes our small towns, it also raises the cost of housing. That’s the elephant in the room and it’s tramping all over town.
|Gillian Greensite is a long time local activist, a member of Save Our Big Trees and the Santa Cruz chapter of IDA, International Dark Sky Association http://darksky.org Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.|
Feb. 15, 2021
I first met Reed Searle in the living room of Gordon Pusser’s home on Swanton Blvd. it was for a SCR[a]P meeting, Santa Cruzans for Responsible Planning. The Terrace Point Action Network evolved into SC[a]P, Santa Cruzans for Responsible Planning. Somewhere between those two groups, SCAN, the Santa Cruz Action Network, which began electing progressive city councilmembers beginning in the 1980’s, saw its demise. Then SCR[a]P seemed to transition into the CWC, the Community Water Coalition, and we began meeting at Reed’s house on Swift Street. It’s a craftsmen cottage where you can hear the Pacific’s waves in the distance lapping at the base of West Cliff Dr. The CWC later seemed to yield to the more insular and crusty, Save Santa Cruz, which unfortunately became an invitation-only group primarily formed to disseminate the real estate and developer schemes always hanging out on Surf City doorsteps. Save Santa Cruz continues to try and stir up the no-growth passions of eastsiders, particularly as they concern the supposedly defunct Corridor Plan (or is it defunct?), and now the looming building boom projects at 831 Branciforte, the “RiverFront” project downtown at the corner of Front and Soquel, and also the enormous 400-plus “SOU” project at 908 Ocean Street, but I digress. These meetings at Reed’s were forums, seminars, and discussion sections about Santa Cruz growth and how to preserve the historical, geographic, and social character of this place we call home. Were we Nimbys? Preservationists? Slow-growth and no-growth advocates? Affordable housing activists? Democrats with a radical agenda? Or, as an old professor of mine used to say, were we simply “coffee cup revolutionaries?” Well Reed, who only served sparkling water and plates of mixed nuts from those big canisters from Costco, effected some sizeable changes in this town. At the end of the day, many of those house discussions led to some profound policy changes in the city such as no desalination plant has yet been built; a water advisory committee was formed to assist in our city’s leading the way in water conservation while insuring an adequate supply for many years to come; conversations and activism around Measure S and the “library-garage” project became staples in these meetings; preservation for a long while (and then not) of the historic La Bahia; Reed helped in limiting the number of “vacation rentals” here; he advised in establishing a current cap of 19,500 students at UC Santa Cruz, and a community advisory committee to UCSC on growth was formed and it met periodically. In his quiet, erudite, bubbly, and articulate way, H. Reed Searle was a community activist and august mentor to a generation of rabble rousers and political change-makers in Santa Cruz. He died on Feb. 21, 2020, he was 87. There will be a memorial on Zoom for Reed this Sunday, Feb. 21st at 11am. Please join us.https://allegheny.zoom.us/j/6188776686
Reed Searle was a real anti-development mensch, a real person of integrity and honor. Even into his 80’s he offered spot-on critiques of many major building projects, some built and many not, threatening to over-run our town, and he continued all the way to the end of his life to offer sage advice on how to checkmate developers’ money and tricks. He never acted out of self-interest and always brought much mirth and good will to every gathering. When I was elected to the city council for the second time, Reed opened up his living room to hold steering committee meetings, he called them “kitchen cabinet” sessions. Twelve to 15 of us met each Saturday before a council meeting to discuss the often-lengthy council agenda. Reed was always prepared no matter if it was thin at 200 pages or over 500, he had a comment on almost every item of city business. Reed was born in Rockport, Ill. and he graduated from the University of Chicago before obtaining his law degree from Hastings College of Law. Reed was a lover of both opera and PRT (Personal Rapid Transit), spent a number of years living in England and once ran for State Assembly. He is survived by two ex-wives, Barbara Searle and Suzanne Searle; his long-time companion Yvonne Jaycox; two children, David Joshua Searle-White and Karen Linnea Searle; four grandchildren, and many, many friends.
Something Rotten at City Hall? (Reed would like this being exposed.)
Political egg, and a little bit of money, were left on the face of city manager Martin Bernal from last week’s city council meeting. It goes something like this… Lee “100 units here and 400 over there” Butler is the planning director for the city of Santa Cruz. He was brought into that position, having been the “third” choice for planning director because the first two who were actual planning directors, turned the job down. City manager Bernal hired Butler and the poor guy–Butler–is currently only making over $200k per year. So, his boss, Bernal, was stumbling around the city hall shop trying to figure out how to get him a raise, and also hoping the community did not hear about it because it might look bad since many city workers have been laid off during these pandemic times. So, what does chief executive Bernal do? He comes to the city council meeting last week to create another executive position within the city manager’s office called “deputy city manager,” and it’s for Butler, and the salary is set at $15k more than he gets now because I guess, Frederic Lee M. Butler cannot live on his current salary of $253,859 in pay and benefits in 2019 (https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?a=santa-cruz&q=lee+butler&y=). The city budget is bleeding more red ink daily and more layoffs are looming. Bernal justifies the raise because he added another task to the Lee Butler portfolio: homelessness. And on a side note, does anyone for a minute seriously think that the now-houseless will be occupying any of those hundreds of planned SOUs and condos that Butler is shepherding into town that I mention above?!? See all city salaries here …and by the way, there is not one female employee in the top 45 salaries in the city of Santa Cruz according to the web site, Transparent California.
Bring the Popcorn and Watch the Tape
See the city council tape for yourself. The questioning of Bernal starts with vice-mayor Sonja Brunner, “Can you (Bernal) speak to the deputy city manager position being filled…” at 1 hour and 59:00-minute mark on the tape and it continues with Councilmember Sandy Brown’s lawyerly follow-ups (at the 2:00:00 hour mark on the video) that bring out the fact(s) that something really smells around the Bernal city hall, the foul odor even comes through on the Zoom app. Pay close attention to the Zoom pictures of councilmember’s faces as it seems like Bernal’s padding of the city manager office budget is not being bought. (Video tape can be seen here.) I am sure after watching the tape you will agree that Councilmember Brown is standing up for tax-payers and closely scrutinizing the actions of a sometimes slippery city manager as that is what she was elected to do.
The City Staff’s Worst Nightmare, “the Kitchen Cabinet is plotting”
L-R Sandy Brown, Maggie Ama, Roland Saher, Bruce Bratton, Katherine Beiers, behind Katherine, R-L is Ed Porter, Reed Searle, Fred Geiger, Candace Brown, Sarah Durant, and Shelley Hatch.
(Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 14 years. He was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. His term ended in April of 2020.
Email Chris at email@example.com
On February 8 and 10, the County held virtual Town Hall meetings to inform the public, especially those who lost their homes, about the progress to issue permits to rebuild in the CZU Fire areas. The many people participating were told to expect at least THREE YEARS before being able to rebuild. Most will not be allowed to re-use the foundations of their damaged homes, due to heat degradation of materials.
Property owners must get a temporary PG&E hook-up before allowed to apply for a building permit. What about those who never were on the power grid? Assistant Planning Director Paia Levine assured the group there are current discussions with high-level PG&E executives regarding the White House Canyon area. CalFire has to sign off on all road and access requirements. There will likely be neighborhood-level meetings soon. She also said the Board of Supervisors will be considering possible fee reduction issues in March or early April.
Other speakers included Marilyn Underwood, Director of County Environmental Health, discussing the requirements for hazardous debris and septic approvals that must occur before any property owner can apply for a building permit. The map available here provides the numbers of Phase II Clean-Ups that are in progress, have been signed off, and the number of permit applications in the works. On February 8, there was only ONE applicant, and Ms. Underwood stated that was the first in the entire state. This permit application includes allowing temporary housing on the site.
She said no erosion control (hydro-mulching) could be done at a site until the hazardous debris evaluations are completed. Only 40% have had the debris removal done.
Another speaker was Mike Renner, representing the 4Leaf Consultants. The County has hired this firm to operate the Recovery Permit Center in the basement of the 701 Ocean Street Government Building to streamline the permitting process for the CZU Fire property owners. He outlined the process for all who want to rebuild:
1) Pre-Application Meeting /Screening
2) Geological, Fire , Environmental Health requirements (being streamlined)
3) Permit Issuance.
He emphasized that people really need to come in and talk with the Permit Center…but you have to make an appointment.
The next speaker was Matt Johnson, County Code Compliance. He stated that there will need to be rigid set-backs met for septic systems and potable water supplies, as well as riparian areas. Hydrants and water storage tanks shown on all plans as a condition of approval. He is working with local fire agencies who will make recommendations and compliance requirements for state fire codes, and can reject an application based on this compliance.
He stated that Code Compliance and fire agencies will review the permit applications when submitted, and review the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) options. Unlike the usual permit review dialogues, there will be no Comment Letters sent to the applicants, eliminating the “back and forth discussions”. Instead, the applicant will receive a list of suggestions of what they have to do to meet compliance, and the applicant can answer “yes” to agree to do those things, or “no” to reject them. He said there will be ONE point of contact for the inspection process, rather than a revolving door of different inspectors (who may issues a revolving door of endless requirements).
The question I wanted to ask, but could not, was: What is the appeal process??? Our County has no effectively functioning Building Code and Fire Code Appeal Board composed of industry professionals that could help achieve safe and habitable alternatives for the property owner. In 2009, then-County Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello eliminated this alternative for property owners, shifting the responsibility to the County Board of Supervisors, who know little about these trades, rely 100% on staff say-so, and charge $1800 to rubber stamp whatever they are told to do. (See Code 12.12.080
Many in the Community have recently been asking for the re-instatement of the former, more functional and equitable Building and Fire Code Appeal Board, especially in light of what the State Board of Forestry as well as impending legislation SB 55 are proposing.
Last week’s meeting included many excellent questions from the people, including questioning why it should take so long to even place a tiny home or ADU on their own property to begin to recover and be present to take care of their land. Many expressed overwhelm by the number of separate applications for soils, septic and fire, and wondered why it cannot be done with one application? The answer was the agencies all have different tracking systems for the information, and require their own applications.
Others worried about a possible moratorium on wells. County Environmental Health Director simply recommended “get a professional to look at it”.
County staff had no answer for the questions about housing constructed with shipping containers
Both meetings were recorded, and should soon be posted on the Recovery Permit website.
WATSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO DISREGARD SURVEY RESULTS AND RELOCATE GEORGE WASHINGTON BUST FROM CIVIC PLAZA
Last Tuesday, the Watsonville City Council voted to remove the George Washington bust in Civic Plaza Park. The public opinion poll of over 1200 showed over 60% felt the bust should stay. Many thanks to Councilmembers Ari Parker and Lowell Hurst who voted against removing the bust, and wanted the matter to come to the people as a ballot measure.
Ironically, the Council took this action shortly before the national holiday honoring the birthday of our first President of the United States of America, George Washington. Will that paid-holiday soon be revoked?
WRITE ONE LETTER. MAKE ONE CALL. ATTEND A VIRTUAL MEETING, ASK QUESTIONS AND EXPECT ANSWERS. MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK, AND JUST DO SOMETHING.
Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.
Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com
February 13, 2021
#44 / Fixing The Fine Print
I know that lots of people feel somewhat guilty about signing up for some new online account or application without checking out the “fine print,” the “terms and conditions” that will govern how users are treated by the application that will be providing them with the services that they are hoping to utilize. After all, signing something without reading it just isn’t the right way to be responsible. Right?
Right. But… what’s the real point of reading those “terms and conditions,” anyway? It’s not like you can negotiate for anything except what is being offered. The only real question is whether or not you want to use Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Tik-Tok, Spotify, Snapchat, or any of the other online applications that have now become ubiquitous, and that are actually quite essential to many people’s lives. If you want the service you “accept” the terms and conditions. There isn’t any other option.
The “contracts” established by our decision to accept the terms and conditions imposed by those internet platforms and application providers – and make no mistake, when we “accept” those terms and conditions we are definitely entering into a “contract” – are a “take it or leave it” deal. That kind of a contract is called a “Contract of Adhesion,” and internet service providers aren’t the only ones that use them, either. In fact, automobile insurance policies, healthcare policies, title insurance policies, appliance warranty contracts, rental agreements, and many other such contracts, make “adhesion contracts” the most common type of legal contract which most consumers are likely to encounter.
An editorial in the January 23, 2021, edition of The New York Times, suggests that “It’s Time To Fix The Fine Print.” Here’s how The Times outlines its concerns:
Violations of such terms and conditions agreements recently gave Amazon the power to block the right-leaning social media site Parler and for Twitter to ban Donald Trump and to sweep tens of thousands of QAnon pages into the digital ether. Time will tell the degree to which tech companies will police their own sites in the coming months and years. But if they do, terms and conditions will be a pretext they use to do so.
The potential for abuse on the one hand and restricting speech on the other hand has spurred calls for major reforms to the tech sector from politicians of both parties. Courts and lawmakers are also zeroing in on reforms to terms of service agreements that would help reset the balance of power between consumers and tech companies. At the same time, several large companies, like Google and Facebook, have been buffeted in recent months by antitrust lawsuits and investigations into their market dominance. Regulators and lawmakers say their propensity for acquiring smaller rivals, gobbling up user data and striking exclusive deals with one another has allowed them to operate illegal monopolies that ultimately hurt consumers.
How, though, do you actually “fix” this problem? Individual negotiation won’t work, as already discussed. What about a methodology that would allow us to negotiate collectively?
There is such a methodology. It’s called “legislation,” or “regulation.” Decisions about what the internet platforms must do can be established by appropriate legislation and/or by regulations promulgated by governmental agencies. I, for one, would like to see a “standard” set of terms and conditions that would apply to all internet providers, and that would level the playing field, giving us, collectively, the ability to “bargain” and “negotiate” with these billion-dollar behemoths.
An online news article, dated January 22, 2021, makes clear just how arbitrary the giant internet platforms have become.
It’s time to renegotiate. It’s time to fix the fine print!
Gary Patton is a former Santa Cruz County Supervisor (20 years) and an attorney for individuals and community groups on land use and environmental issues. The opinions expressed are Mr. Patton’s. You can read and subscribe to his daily blog at www.gapatton.net
Email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org
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“I do not fear computers. I fear lack of them.”
“The computer was born to solve problems that did not exist before.”
“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window”.
“To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer”.
~Paul R. Ehrlich
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