Blog Archives

August 4 – 10, 2021

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Swenson’s new Calypso high rise development, Credit Union and Hotel news, Greenway Fraud, movie critiques. GREENSITE… on the need to act now! against Senate Bills 9 & 10 KROHN…will be back next week. STEINBRUNER…County misled voters, Supervisors reduce $for fire protection, Kaiser Clinic questions, Swenson and fire safety in Aptos Village. PATTON…Solving the Housing-Homelessness Crisis. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Olympics”

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FREDERICK A. HIHN MANSION 1872. This was the only full Italian Villa style house ever built in Santa Cruz, according to John Chase’s book The Sidewalk Companion to Santa Cruz Architecture. Like so many architecturally important structures, it was torn down to be replaced by our present city hall. The mansion was designed by Charles Davis.                                       

photo credit: courtesy of Neighborhood Moving Services…see below
Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE August 2

SWENSONS NEW CALYPSO 6 STORY PROJECT. 130 Center Street, 6 story mixed use 233 single room…..etc. etc. Folks who live in the affected area (I’m one) got a notice last week referring to a meeting to be held on August 3 online with Zoom about Barry Swenson’s proposed “Mixed use” building on 130 Center Street. Barry’s son, Case Swenson, will be the principal pusher. It comes with 233 Single Room residential units and only 209 parking stalls. There’ll be 305 bicycle parking spaces, 2 commercial spaces and 27 public bicycle parking racks. It’ll be a six story “mixed use” building probably due to the 2 commercial spaces. If you go to Google maps and look it up, you’ll see that it is the Hertz Rental Car lot, an Auto Body shop and The Blackburn House apartments that will be closed or heavily affected. Santa Cruz Local stated that “there will be twenty-three units for very-low income households, based on area median income and eight units for moderate income households”. Watch for fallout! 

COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION SALE AND HOTEL UPDATE… One very well informed reader (and longtime friend) wrote… “I don’t know how long SCCCU has wanted to sell our downtown branch. CEO Beth Carr said it’s been over a year since there was an agreement and the membership was told. We were unable to verify this. We are unable to get any Minutes of Board meetings, as Beth Carr says they’re confidential.  

As far as I know, Owen Lawlor has been putting a project together since day one. Originally I believe the site was for a “mixed use” development, but about 3 years ago the Planning Commission approved General Plan changes that allowed for a hotel. I’ve heard third hand that Bonnie Lipscomb, City’s Economic Director, has greased the wheels for the luxury hotel. It appears Owen Lawlor is totally behind a hotel. There’s a guy, Stephen Chen of Eagle Point Hotels, who is the formal applicant for the project. Here’s Owen Lawlor’s front group legal filing for the luxury Hotel Cruz.

Also, we believe the parcels Owen Lawlor has assembled from city and The Santa Cruz Community Credit Union are all in the “Opportunity Zone”.

CASE AGAINST GREENWAY IN SANTA CRUZ. OR… DO NOT SUPPORT THE GREENWAY FRAUD!  
Jim Weller, expert land title consultant, sent the following report about Rail and Trail and Greenway to a few outlets including BrattonOnline. He states…

“We got trouble, my friends. Right here in River City, with a capital G, and that stands for Greed, and that rhymes with Green — as in Greenway.

(The municipality of Santa Cruz, California has been called “River City,” because it is at the place where the San Lorenzo River flows into Monterey Bay. I intentionally invoke the libretto of the 1957 musical stage play, “The Music Man.” Read on.)

Here we are, now, in 2021.

You see, in the County of Santa Cruz, California (home to some 275,000 people) it is unfortunately the present case that a small, shadowy special-interest group, who are organized as a 501(c) 4 “dark money” political action committee, having cleverly adopted the euphemistic name, “Greenway,” are threatening the public good and our local civil order with disruptive, paid-for propaganda and misinformation.

Just like a bunch of damned Trumpite Republicans.

In my well-informed opinion, if I do say so myself, this despicable Greenway con game needs to be exposed for what it is — a fraudulent scheme aiming to privatize the single most important piece of Santa Cruz County’s public transportation infrastructure — for their personal financial gains.

Yes, I said fraudulent. I meant it. Political fraud. Are you ready to look at the anatomy of a shameless attempted public rip-off of massive proportions? Dig.

The back story:
Around 2002, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) began negotiating to purchase the existing 32-mile long Santa Cruz Branch railroad from Union Pacific Railroad Company. It was a complex transaction. It took a while to conclude. The RTC finally closed escrow in 2012, for a purchase price of $14.2 million (a good deal at twice the price). Tens of millions more public dollars have been invested since then, improving the public rail infrastructure.

RTC is an instrumentality of the State of California. Its functions are to plan for and allocate funding for state highway and public transportation infrastructure. Every county has such an agency. The RTC is funded by the state, separately from the County general fund, as an independent public authority. The commissioners of the RTC include the five members of the County Board of Supervisors, one representative each of the four incorporated cities, and representatives of the Metropolitan Transit District, which provides local bus and paratransit services, some of whom are also City Council members.

The Santa Cruz Branch railroad corridor was purchased with state funding, pursuant to the 1990 California Proposition 116 public transit bond measure. Its purpose was, and is, explicitly for a future public passenger rail transit system to be implemented in due course, when fully planned and funded. Early in 2021, the RTC commissioners adopted their staff’s “preferred alternative,” a concept involving advanced electric passenger rail technology, not yet in the design phase but in the planning process.

Meanwhile, the plot thickened.

Since around 2014, led by a famed high-tech philanthoper, a group of very wealthy local investors, agricultural and commercial land owners, and their lackeys, have organized to carry out a hugely well-funded political campaign with intense propaganda designed to permanently prevent any use of the publicly owned railroad corridor for public transportation purposes. “Greenway” is their brand.

Why? What for? Their objective is as plain as it is bizarre. The Greenway gangsters say openly and shamelessly that they want to commandeer control of the public railroad corridor and repurpose it for private recreational use. They say they want to redevelop the entire 32 miles of real estate as a so-called “linear park,” repaving the entire width of the corridor with two lanes of divided expressway for bicyclists and a separate lane for pedestrians. And no public transit, ever.

The “Greenway” scheme these bozos are pushing would not be a public transportation asset at all — the corridor would most likely be owned by a parks agency, or a recreational organization — maybe even for profit, if they can somehow force the RTC to transfer the land into the private sector.

That’s a pretty ballsy objective, isn’t it? A gang of a dozen or so rich white guys, sniffing opportunity, teams up, in the guise of a public-spirited grassroots group, doing the old AstroTurf Shuffle, and proceeds to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least that much — who knows — it’s dark money) over a period of years, with no public accounting, and with the goal of privatizing the local public sector’s most valuable transportation asset.

Awesome, eh? What bold market disruption! What entrepreneurial initiative!

The Greenway gangsters, and their accomplices, have been incessantly meddling in local politics, contemptuous as they are of public authority, and the public interest, and the integrity of public institutions.

They don’t give diddly-squat about anyone but themselves and their class of elites.

In 2018 Greenway foisted a ludicrous ballot initiative (Measure L) on the itty bitty City of Capitola (population, 10,000) – a campaign they billed as “Save the Trestle,” but which ended up simply forbidding the town to direct pedestrian and bicycle traffic using the railroad corridor around the antiquated railroad trestle over Soquel Creek, and instead routing travelers a short distance along city streets. In other words, Capitola supposedly now has to force users of a pathway someday to be built in the RTC’s corridor to cross directly over the ancient rickety railroad trestle, where there is not enough width for both a pedestrian/cyclist path and a rail transit system — even though Capitola has no authority over the use of the corridor, or the trestle, even though the City of Capitola sued Greenway to stop the initiative, and even though the RTC’s near-term planning involves a redesigned new crossing for both rail transit and trail users. (Get it? No room for public transit on the old trestle now, so Trail Only — Forever!)

Who supports this? I know who the Greenway gangsters are, for the most part. I know where they live and what they own. They could be served as defendants tomorrow, if they made the wrong move and got caught. I could name them, but they have a propensity for threatening punitive lawsuits against anyone who criticizes them, and I don’t want to give them the opportunity. That’s what kind of people they are. They’re filthy rich, they’re merciless, and they have moneyed interests at stake.

The Greenway gang even bought themselves a County Supervisor last year. They funded a brash young upstart who was, by the way, their paid operative and their Greenway Executive Director, to run for election against the incumbent, who was an honorable, three-term Supervisor who happened to be one of the leading local advocates of public passenger rail transit as a member of the RTC. The Greenway gangsters hated him. They demeaned him. They demonized him. The then-incumbent is Jewish, and they targeted him with scurrilous anti-Semitic cartoon images. They were determined to knock him off in the election no matter how much money it took. They succeeded. Their golden boy had only one actual campaign issue — the “Trail Only” objective of Greenway. Other than that, their puppet candidate was pretty much all shuck and jive, with grinning billboards of his fresh face all over town — placements paid for by the usurpers.

Since then, the Greenway gang has managed to compromise six of the twelve RTC commissioners in support of their anti-public transit objective. Along with their bought Supervisor, they have, by a combination of promises and threats, influenced in their favor two Capitola City Council members serving on the RTC, one delegated paid staffer appointed to the RTC by another County Supervisor whose conflict of interest kept him off the RTC, followed by an outright member of the Greenway gang who was appointed as an RTC alternate by that Supervisor, and yet another member of the Board of Supervisors, who is elderly and facing re-election next year. The Greenway gang has thereby stalemated the RTC’s progress in planning for passenger rail transit. They brought progress by the professional RTC staff in the public interest to a dead stop by corrupting the RTC commissioners. Cumshaw rules the day. (See how they did that? Money equals clout. See why I call them a gang?)

Functionally, Greenway is nothing more than a privately-owned political propaganda mill, a dis-information machine designed to confuse public sentiments and to propagate a deptive narrative in community discourse. Their goal is to reify the false dictum that “we can’t afford public transit,” and to promulgate the idea that private recreational uses of the publicly owned railroad corridor are preferable. They also have donated big money to their favored candidate, and they promise to sponsor opposition candidates against incumbents who don’t play their game.

One irony of Greenway’s “Trail Only” campaign is that it posits a false dichotomy. For them, it’s all about “rail” versus “trail” — one thing or the other. But the RTC’s well developed plans include a protected, paved pathway for bikes and pedestrians, within and alongside the railroad corridor, adjacent to the tracks. And eventually, a public passenger rail transit system. The RTC plan is for “rail and trail,” and segments of the trail are already completed; others are under construction. It’s all planned, designed, and funded. But Greenway hates the RTC’s “rail trail” because it doesn’t preclude public transit, and that’s their main goal. Greenway wants something completely different. No public rail transit. Ever.

Now. Today, July 21, 2021, Greenway has publicly announced its intention to circulate an initiative petition they hope will accomplish the first step in their master plan to privatize the railroad corridor. This is their Measure L on steroids. In substance, their proffered countywide “YES GREENWAY” initiative would simply delete any and all references to possible future passenger rail service from the County General Plan. (Get it? Squelch. Slam! Case closed. No way.)

It sure looks like the Greenway gangsters are plotting to seize control of the public railroad corridor for themselves. Maybe they will permit the general public to walk or bike or scoot or buzz or zip along their Greenway highway by the California coast. But there will never be public transportation there if they have anything to say about it. Forget it.

These Greenway gangsters are enemies of the public interest. They hate public administration, except when it enriches them. I know these people. They’re privateers. They worship Money, and above all else, they look out for number one. Screw everybody else. Believe me, I couldn’t make this up.

The upshot:
If you live in Santa Cruz County and you happen upon some clueless shill hustling a “YES GREENWAY” petition for signatures, give them the cold shoulder. Tell them to get lost.

These clipboard meisters will be paid well in cash by Greenway for voters’ signatures. These hapless hustlers may be ordinary poor schmucks busting a living for ten bucks a pop getting signatures, and maybe you’ll feel sorry for them and want to help, but you must remember they’re being paid by a gang of rich anti-public interest schemers who deserve nothing but our opprobrium. Don’t sign!

The Greenway stooges will lie enthusiastically. They’ll say something like, “Do you want to have a nice trail along the coast for biking and walking?” They’ll say nothing about their paymasters’ real game: to kill any prospect of public transportation in the public railroad corridor.

Do the right thing. Defend the public good and the public interest.

DO NOT SUPPORT THE GREENWAY FRAUD!

Be sure to tune in to my very newest movie streaming reviews live on KZSC 88.1 fm every Friday from about 8:10 – 8:30 am. on the Bushwhackers Breakfast Club program hosted by Dangerous Dan Orange.

A FORTUNATE MAN. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (86RT). This is one fine movie. It’s from Denmark and has a deep enough sub plot centering on Christians and Jews that will keep you very attached. It’s a love story, a social commentary of that period in history, and a portrait of a young man with a destiny…at least he thinks so. Go for it.

THE PURSUIT OF LOVE. (AMAZON PRIME SERIES).(84RT) Covering the period between 1927 and 1941 this is the story, a romantic story of the relationship between two young women who are cousins. It’s light, airy, diverting and a big change from all the violent screeners we are offered nowadays. Underneath it all there’s a clever satire about the “upper class”and their virtues. When you’re feeling down this one will definitely work.

LET HIM GO. (HBO MAX, PRIME VIDEO SINGLE). (84RT). In every sense of the words this movie stars Kevin Costner and Diane Lane and that means something nowadays. It means good (not great) acting. So many of the movies in the last two years especially, are cheap, amateur, thrown together productions just for the online streaming. This movie has a plot that takes place in the 1960’s in Calgary, Canada. A grandmother tries to get her grandson back from a cruel, unlikable, mean, bloody family. Not a great film but a treat to see a genuine motion picture production instead of the eyewash we subscribe to. Go for it.

A STONE IN THE WATER. (PRIME VIDEO SINGLE). (60RT). A demented woman kidnaps a pregnant woman in order to steal her baby…and that’s not all…it’s in Oregon and the plot jumps to 35 years later plus a car crash, a disappearance, a retarded young boy now in his manhood. For some reason I noted that the script was bad, and it is , or was but the movie is too convoluted the acting even with Bonnie Bedilia is just not anything that will take your mind off anything lately.

THIS LITTLE LOVE OF MINE. (NETFLIX SINGLE). It’s a cheap Australian version of White Lotus (which I like). A woman attorney who can’t act goes to another beach town, with another over developed beach community. Both actors work at having American accents and fail miserably. A zero plot, great photography but not worth your time or rental monies.

DOM. (AMAZON PRIME VIDEO SERIES). It’s a long fight between father and son in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. The son is an addict and dad is a military agent. It’s sad, violent, and will keep you involved. Rio looks like a very developer friendly city by the beach. It’s how Santa Cruz would look if Barry Swenson and Bud Colligan had even more power. Not great abut time consuming.

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. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.  

THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (53RT). A genuine love drama. It stars Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley. I mean to say it’s a real weeper and full of twists in time and in emotions. Two sets of lovers set about forty years apart and the search for happiness by a journalist who is determined to find out why neither relationship worked. It’s a tear jerker of the first class and if you like weepers go for it. Yes, I liked it.

EXIT PLAN. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE). An insurance investigator checks in to a very special hotel in Denmark exclusively inhabited for patients who make their own plans on dying. Then he too realizes that he’s dying from a tumor. It’s an excellently told and deep and depressing story about assisted suicide. Full of time and personality shifts you’ll be transported into moments thinking about your own demise. Watch it when you’re in a good mood only.

JOLT. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE). Kate Beckinsale and Stanley Tucci are the leads in this almost comic book, action, sci fi thriller. It’s fun to watch as Kate has electric chargers strapped to her chest to shock her into proper behavior in case she gets too violent.(35RT). It’s a B-movie and diverting if you need it nowadays but you’ll forget 98% of it in minutes.

GUILTY. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (60RT). An Indian flick in many ways. They use the #MeToo theme and I’m not sure why. It’s about a young girl who accuses her lover of sexually abusing her. It’s how she handles the reporting and going public with the sex charges that make up the plot. Ultimately it lacks focus and purpose but it is sincere. Watch it only when “necessary”.

THE COOK OF CASTAMAR (or) LA COCINERA DE CASTAMAR.  (NETFLIX SERIES). A 12 episode Spanish extravaganza about a young maid who, in the 1720 Barcelona works her way up from lowly kitchen help to a loving position helping the lord of the castle in every way. She has claustrophobia but manages to change her entire world. Fascinating, well-acted, beautiful photography and worth your time.

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August 2

Pocket-lining

There are two Senate Bills, 9 and 10, fast approaching final approval in the State Assembly and then headed to the Governor’s desk. These bills spell the end of single-family neighborhoods. They mandate ten units on single parcels that meet certain conditions and they override local zoning initiatives. 

Senate bill 9 rezones R1 (single-family) neighborhoods to allow lot splits that can accommodate 4 units, not counting an ADU and a Junior ADU, which adds up to a potential 8 units on what is currently zoned for a single house plus ADU’s. 

This is on top of state-mandated density bonuses that give developers twice the zoned height, ending the ability of local elected officials to amend the projects.  Hence the slew of 80 feet tall mixed-use buildings approved for downtown, along the river levee and south to the first roundabout. We will soon see the first example at Laurel, Pacific Avenue and Front streets.  

Senator Scott Wiener, one of the lead authors of both bills has called backyards and single-family homes “immoral.” He is heavily funded by the real-estate industry. He and other supporters exploit social justice jargon as a selling point, but organized communities of color, particularly in San Diego and Los Angeles strongly oppose these bills. They see speculators waiting in the wings to snap up single-family homes and develop market rate dense housing, further marginalizing renters and homeowners of color. A recent Investors trade magazine writes that $5 billion is now available for speculators and investors to buy up single- family rental homes across the sun-belt. There’s big money in the wings.    

There are no requirements in either bill that such new housing include any affordable units. Our local inclusionary law applies only to projects over 10 units. If SB 10 passes, even that local initiative can be overturned by a majority vote of the council if a developer friendly council considers it stands in the way of increased housing. Our greenbelt may not be protected from development under SB 10.

SB 10 gets rid of all environmental review. Approval of a multi-housing development in your neighborhood will be ministerial, not discretionary. What that means is approval is automatic. No public hearings, no public input.

The smokescreen for this real estate bonanza and state lawmakers’ promotion is the myth that more housing equals lower cost housing. If you repeat a myth often enough it masquerades as truth. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Absent rent control and mandated truly affordable controls, all this new housing under SB 9 and 10 will be market rate, which means expensive, given today’s construction costs and inflated land values.  We do not need more housing at all income levels. Santa Cruz city has fulfilled its state-mandated housing provision in all categories except Very Low Income. That is where the need is and that is the opposite of what is contained in these Senate bills.

If a one-bedroom, 400 square feet unit rents for just shy of $3,000 a month as is the case with new downtown developments, imagine what one of the 4 new houses on a single-family lot will rent or sell for? Land value is based on what can be built on that land. A single house at current inflated values is worth over a million dollars. Four houses on one lot, each over a million dollars means that the same square footage is worth four times as much, a dream for real estate speculators and absentee landlords, a nightmare for someone looking to buy a house, other than the wealthy, displacement and a long commute for low income workers. 

Although SB 10 disallows a current single-family house to be demolished if a renter has lived there for 3 years, imagine the incentive to get rid of that renter should the absentee landlord wish to take advantage of this new law, should it pass?

One analysis of SB 9 concludes that the effect of re-zoning single- family neighborhoods will be felt only slowly since most current homeowners won’t immediately sell. They obviously aren’t talking about the city of Santa Cruz where 54% of single-family homes are non-owner occupied, meaning they are rentals with the property owner living somewhere else. SB 9 is a huge incentive for such property owners to sell at the new higher land value driven by the re-zoning. 

Senator John Laird is waffling on SB 10 and Assembly member Mark Stone, who has not taken a position on SB 10, voted for its evil twin SB 35 last time around. Both need to hear from you. Go to Lairds and Stones websites and email them your views. Request a zoom meeting. The bills still have to pass the Assembly.  August 16 is the deadline.  The future of Santa Cruz cannot be further ripped from local control and dictated to by a clueless Sacramento.

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.

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August 2.

Chris will be back next week.

(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 16 years. Krohn was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. That term ended when the development empire struck back with luxury condo developer money combined with the real estate industry’s largesse. They paid to recall Krohn and Drew Glover from the Santa Cruz city council in 2019.

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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August 2.

THE COUNTY HAS MISLED VOTERS WITH FALSE CLAIMS OF INDEPENDENT CITIZEN OVERSIGHT ON MEASURE G SALES TAX FOR FUNDING FIRE PROTECTION
There is no “Independent Citizen Oversight” as promised for the countywide Measure G sales tax, sold to voters in 2018 to fund “fire” as well as other “critical unmet needs”, and in fact, ZERO dollars have gone to support fire response efforts.

When I recently quizzed Ms. Edith Driscoll, County Auditor Controller and Tax Collector, about the status of the Measure G “Independent Citizen Oversight” committee, here is her shocking reply:

Ms. Steinbruner,

The language for Measure G states the funds are subject to citizen oversight, not an separate oversight committee. All County funds are subject to citizen oversight as the financial information is reported in Annual Financial Reports that are audited by an external audit firm annually. Regarding an audit of the funds, any funds received by the County is included in the County’s Annual Financial Reports. Measure G funds were general purpose revenues and are therefore not audited separately. I have pasted the link to the County’s financial reports. The financial records for fiscal year 2020-21 will close very shortly and the final financial reports will be presented to the Board of Supervisors and posted on the website in late December or early January 2022. 

I recall Christina Mowrey provided to you the Measure G funding amounts in a separate email previously. I would double check and follow-up with you on that item.  

Best Regards,

Edith Driscoll
Auditor-Controller / Treasurer – Tax Collector
County of Santa Cruz
701 Ocean St., Rm 100, Santa Cruz CA 95060
831.454.2683
Edith.Driscoll@santacruzcounty.us

Dear Ms. Driscoll,

I wonder if you could please provide me with information about the Measure G countywide sales tax Citizen Oversight Committee and the audits of that revenue?

According to the 2018 Measure G ballot language (see below), both must occur. How much money did Measure G generate annually for the County to date?

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

Becky Steinbruner

Ballot question
The ballot question was as follows:[1]

“To continue funding 9-1-1 emergency response, paramedic, sheriff, fire, emergency preparedness, local street repairs, mental health services, homelessness programs, parks, economic development and other general county services, shall the County of Santa Cruz be authorized to increase by ordinance the sales tax on retail transactions in the unincorporated area of the County by one-half cent for twelve years, providing approximately $5,750,000 annually, subject to annual audits and independent citizens oversight?[2]

Santa Cruz County, California, Measure G, Sales Tax

Ms. Driscoll was mistaken in that I received NO specific information from the County Budget Manager, Ms. Christina Mowrey, regarding Measure G revenues, other than “The Measure G actual revenues and expenditures will be included in the Adopted Budget so we can represent the total actual revenues and costs.”   

She did provide information about the Proposition 172 statewide Public Safety permanent 1/2 cent sales tax intended for fire and law enforcement, but that the County allocates ZERO DOLLARS for fire protection.  See more about that below.

But I digress…

We all need to remember that in November, 2018, the County Board of Supervisors authorized the ballot initiative Measure G for a new 1/2 cent countywide sales tax that would pay for “critical unmet needs”.   They promised it would have “independent citizen oversight”, which is what had been promised for other similar new broad taxes, such as Measure D transportation tax that had passed just two years previous.

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SWENSON NEGLECTS PUBLIC SAFETY IN APTOS VILLAGE FOR FIRE DEFENSIBLE SPACE

When all Californians are working hard to reduce wildfire risk by improving fire defensible space on our properties, why is Swenson Builders NOT cleaning up a glaring fire hazard in Aptos Village???  Although I have twice written Fire Marshal DeMars of the Central Fire District about this nuisance and public safety hazard, the tall dry grass fuel ladders on the hillside bordering the Phase 2 subdivision development and the homes above on Mattison Court persists.  (see photo)


Swenson’s Phase 2 maps posted in the area show this as the “Park Parcel”.  At some point in the future when the lot is no longer of use to the construction project, Swenson is supposed to offer this “Park Parcel” to the County for a park, but does not have to make any improvements at all.

Write Central Fire Marshal Mike DeMars and ask that this public safety fire hazard be abated immediately.  Mike DeMars mike.demars@centralfiresc.org (831) 479-6842

AND QUICKLY…..

1) Car accident in Nisene Marks blocked ingress / egress for nearly 90 minutes last week.  Luckily, the driver was not hurt and the car did not catch fire.

What is State Park’s plan for emergency evacuation of the Park, in the event of a wildland fire?  I wrote State Parks to ask, but have received no response.


2) The Bayview Hotel is in line to receive some TLC, beginning with fumigation tenting last weekend. (see photo attached)  We all look forward to seeing the Hotel and restaurant re-opening!  Built in 1870, it is the oldest hotel in Santa Cruz County.

3) The Draft State Low Income Household Water Assistance Program comment period ended last Friday, but continue to ask local municipal water suppliers to keep this on their radar, and keep it on yours, especially if you are burdened by Soquel Creek Water District’s outrageously expensive rates that have been designed to pay for the disgusting plan to make the MidCounty area residents drink treated sewage water.

WRITE ONE LETTER.  MAKE ONE CALL.  ATTEND A ZOOM MEETING FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR PATIO.  MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK AND JUST DO SOMETHING.

Cheers, Becky

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

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August 2

#214 / Solving The Housing-Homelessness Crisis

Online, the opinion column from which this picture came is titled, “It’s Hard to Have Faith in a State That Can’t Even House Its People.” In the hard copy version of the column, which appeared on the editorial page of The New York Times on July 30, 2021, the headline was a bit more upbeat: “California Can Solve Its Homelessness Crisis.”

I was pleased that Ned Resnikoff, the author of the column and the policy manager for the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco, didn’t call out so-called NIMBYs, and their supposed opposition to new housing developments, as the sole or major cause of the the state’s homelessness problems. Resnikoff’s column included the following observation, which I think is right on target: 

As economic inequality has threatened the nation’s political system, it has most likely worsened homelessness in California. In a recent paper, researchers presented evidence that income inequality may fuel homelessness in regions where housing supply fails to keep up with demand. The authors theorized that this may be because the wealthiest households in an unequal city bid up the cost of housing for everyone else, making it increasingly unaffordable to lower-income residents.

This appears to be exactly what happened here the Bay Area, where the unfathomable wealth generated by the tech boom has been mostly captured by those at the top of the income distribution. Because Bay Area cities have failed to produce enough supply to keep up with population increases, lower and middle-income residents now have to compete for housing with the super-wealthy, whose ability to outbid everyone else continually forces prices up. 

In order to deal with our homelessness crisis, we (collectively) have to deal with our crisis of “wealth inequality,” and provide housing (both rental and for-sale housing) at prices that average and below-average income persons can afford. Simply building “more” housing doesn’t solve the problem, because if we are looking for “the market” to provide housing, we will never be able to build enough housing to meet genuine community needs at the lower end of the income scale. 

In our current capitalistic system, a “market-based” approach to providing necessary housing will never succeed, since the whole purpose of the market it to make sure that sellers of goods and services get the highest prices that purchasers are willing to pay. When there are lots of people with the economic ability to buy housing (a very scarce commodity) those people will end up owning or renting what’s available. Those with lower incomes will lose out. There is no “market” solution to our housing crisis.

There are, however, two or three ideas that could help address the problem: 

  • First, we could enact legislation to require large businesses (like Facebook, and Google, and Netflix, for example) to provide housing for all the new workers that the company will need, when the company expands and hires new workers. Currently, the companies expect local communities and others to provide housing for their new workers, and since their new workers often receive very handsome salaries, they outbid ordinary income persons, and make the homelessness problem worse. This is, in essence, what Resnikoff was saying, in what I have quoted from him, above. This is certainly something that residents of Santa Cruz County know about, firsthand.
  • Second, the state government could enact a statewide program of inclusionary housing, requiring housing developers to restrict the price of, perhaps, 25% of all the new housing they construct, making that housing available at a rental or for-sale price that is affordable to persons with average or below average incomes. Such inclusionary housing should also come with a resale restriction, insuring that those who buy such housing, at the restricted price, cannot turn around and then sell that housing into the “market,” but will be required to sell the house, if and when they do sell, to another person of average or below average income. 
  • Finally, the state could also enact a rule that would require all new housing, specifically including market rate housing, to be sold with a resale restriction that would require a person who buys a new home to sell it, when and if they do sell it, at a price that is no larger than the price for which they bought the home, plus verified inflation. That would help, a lot, in taking speculation out of housing prices.

There are, undoubtedly, other things that we could do (collectively) to provide adequate housing. Spending public money to provide housing to those who need it is an obvious example of a very simple solution to the housing crisis. Publicly-produced or subsidized housing, sold into the private market with resale restrictions, as discussed above, could directly deal with the problem. That would take a lot of money, of course, to provide the amount of housing that is needed, but I’m with Resnikoff (in the hopeful headline version of his column): California Can Solve Its Homelessness Crisis. 

We would have to spend our own money to do it, and that would mean higher taxes on those with higher incomes. That’s where we would get the money to spend. California could do that, and so could the federal government. Higher taxes on upper income people would mean less consumption by those upper-income people, whose money would have been committed to address the homelessness problem. 

The extremely wealthy wouldn’t like that, of course, but Resnikoff is right. We can solve the problem. The question is whether we will!

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 gapatton@mac.com

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EAGAN’S SUBCONSCIOUS COMICS. View classic inner view ideas and thoughts with Subconscious Comics a few flips down.

EAGAN’S DEEP COVER. See Eagan’s ” Deep Cover” down a few pages. As always, at TimEagan.com you will find his most recent  Deep Cover, the latest installment from the archives of Subconscious Comics, and the ever entertaining Eaganblog

Olympics

“Arguing is the Olympics of talking”
~Stewart Stafford.

 “It was not the money that was my main motive; it was the challenge and the thrill where I got my kicks. Armed robbery to me was like a sport. To take on an armored vehicle with two armed security guards—it was like an athlete attending the Olympic Games.”
~Drexel Deal

“It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people. I wanted it to be for myself. But I was still doing it for other people”
~Simone Biles 

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a powerhouse, and we need more like her in government.


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