BRATTON…Earthquakes and our new high-rises, UCSC’s East Meadow update. Last week’s photo data correction. GREENSITE…on West $Cliff Drive: Erosion of Public Trust. SCHENDELDECKER…Of consent agendas and river levees, or is the San Lorenzo River a person? STEINBRUNER…Becky had a concussion and will return ASAP. HAYES…February’s Flower. PATTON…David Brooks and the “Bright-icize” bias. MATLOCK…will be back next week. EAGAN…Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover WEBMISTRESS’…pick of the week: fireworks!!!. QUOTES…”Beaches”.
DATELINE February 13
OUR NEW HIGH RISES & SAFETY. There have been almost enough pro and cons about the many new high story structures going up around our Santa Cruz Downtown area…and elsewhere nearby. Now when we have the near hell that earthquakes caused in Turkey facing us, how can we be sure that every new high floor apartment is safe from the often predicted earthquakes that can and already caused so much damage to our community? Shortly before our 1989 earthquake structural engineers hired by our county told us our building were unsafe. What did we do in view of professional warnings? Ignored them completely and laughed about such dangers. Now, with experts warning us so often about even larger/longer quakes headed our way, what are we doing about it?
Are all of the high rises even those containing almost acceptable affordable rates being inspected and triply checked for earthquake safety? Too many times our local officials bend to developers’ sad pleas about affordability with regards to building in extra protection, especially in the upper floors. We need to keep asking and demanding our rights to safety and health and prepare for those San Andreas faults that can level us so quickly….remember 1989.
EAST MEADOW NEWS….A very concerned and heavily involved campus oriented organization The East Meadow Action Committee got organized to protect the campus and the community against what the Board of Regents so often approved way too rapidly. They just released their latest newsletter…
East Meadow Update, 2/13/23
Friends of the Meadow:
The East Meadow remains intact – no bulldozers in sight. What is less immediately evident, however, is why that is so. Why has an administration so hell-bent on destroying the meadow been unable to do so?
There are two impediments to those bulldozers:
First, way back in March 2019, when UCSC first pitched the project to the Regents, Chancellor Blumenthal claimed that Student Housing West would produce student rents well below what students would pay off-campus. It was a completely unrealistic claim, but it sounded great, and the Regents remembered it.
In October 2020, with the help of so many, EMAC won a court verdict that ordered the UC Regents to vacate their approval of the project. The Regents were required to reconsider and re-approve the project. When that question came before the Regents in March 2021, it would have been possible to modify the proposal, keeping construction out of the meadow, but instead UCSC requested reapproval without changes. The Regents complied.
However, remembering those earlier UCSC claims about project rents being substantially below rents off-campus, the Regents made their re-approval contingent on a commitment to keep rents “30% below market.”
The UCSC administration got reauthorization of the project as they wished, but with a precondition they cannot possibly meet or even come close to satisfying. They have an approval they can’t really use, and it is unclear how they plan to deal with that impasse.
Second, while EMAC is no longer litigating, others are. Just a couple of weeks ago, (January 17, 2023) yet another brief was filed in the Sixth District Court of Appeals (one of two that are currently pending at that appellate court). It will take this latest case more than a year to work its way through the system, so at the very least the project will be in court well into 2024. Because it is dependent on bond financing, and because bond buyers will not finance a project with pending litigation, it appears that there will be no construction for many months to come.
These are two big reasons why the bulldozers are not warming up.
It should be remembered that all this delay is a consequence of long-standing administrative incompetence dating back to the Fall of 2017. At that time, UCSC had been working for months on the original version of a project that would have been entirely on the west side of campus – none of it in the East Meadow. This early version met with no opposition of consequence. But to save an estimated six months on the project schedule (by avoiding a negotiation with US Fish and Wildlife over accommodation of a listed species) the administration abruptly decided to modify the plan and sprawl a portion across the East Meadow. A storm of protest from many sources erupted, and as a result, the project is now headed for at least six years of delay.
If the planners had, instead, continued along the lines of the original version of the project, it would have been completed last month (January 2023, by their own schedule). Students would now be enjoying thousands of new beds of on-campus housing. Instead, construction has not begun, and who knows when, or if, it will start?
This was not a one-and-done mistake. Over and over, from the Fall of 2017 to the present, the administration has had (and it still has) the opportunity to go back to the original version, eliminating opposition and getting the project moving forward. It has never been necessary to put any of Student Housing West in the East Meadow. Due to the administration’s stubborn insistence on building there, they own the delay to date and the delay yet to come.
East Meadow Action Committee
LAST WEEK’S HISTORIC PHOTO. If you scroll down to last week’s BrattonOnline you’ll see the startling photo of post rain disaster and the trolley tracks floating in midair. Thanks to eagle eyed reader Mike Hess we all now know that was the view in 1915 looking east along 12th avenue. Those are the trolley tracks that ran from Twin Lakes Beach. Thanks Mike.
I search and critique a variety of movies only from those that are newly released. Choosing from the thousands of classics and older releases would take way too long. And be sure to tune in to those very newest movie 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.
VENGEANCE. (PRIME MOVIE) (6.6 IMDB). Set in Texas it’s billed as a comedy, but I didn’t laugh once. B.J. Novak gawks and mugs his way through solving the murder of an ex-girlfriend. He’s now a writer for the New Yorker which is impossible to believe, and his relating to Texas ways are equally impossible but still not funny. Ashton Kutcher plays an important role and really stands out from the rest of the cast. Save your time and money.
HIGH WATER. (NETFLIX SERIES) (7.2 IMDB). Our recent/present Santa Cruz worries and dealings with flood waters makes this a thoughtful movie. A Polish film based on Warsaw’s handling of an oncoming flood wave in 1977 keeps you involved through the politics, the relationships, and the health issues that must be decided before the waves hit the city. It’s a true piece of history except that all the human stories are fictional but well scripted and acted. Well worth watching.
DEAR EDWARD. (APPLE + SERIES) (7.5 IMDB). A 12 year old boy is the only survivor of a huge passenger plane filled with folks going to LA from New York City. How he deals with his survival and the support group he attends are pretty convincing. It’s about diets, debts, even sex and how the relatives of the casualties handle their losses.
SERVANT. (APPLE + SERIES) (7.5 IMDB). This 2019 series directed by M. Night Shyamalan has been revived and new episodes are released each Friday. A young couple lose their baby and mom started to go crazy in the worst way. A baby doll becomes part of the plot and you’ll have a tough time figuring out who is the craziest. The photography is great and it’s a Shyamalan movie…that should tell you enough.
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, or 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.
LIVING. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.5 IMDB). Bill Nighy who’s actually only 77 plays a much older rigid, tightly controlled city worker who gets the news that he has just six months to live. How he handles the rest of his life and the changes he makes creates a heartfelt and super movie. The acting is award winning and the plot touches every one of us. It’s actually a re-make of Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” (1952) and it’s even more personal.
THE SNOW GIRL. (NETFLIX SERIES) (6.8 IMDB). A Spanish movie about the kidnapping of a six year old girl. The story goes back and forth between the real parents who are searching for her and the detectives and a reporter who keep on the trail for many, many years. It turns into a mystery and has a melodramatic ending but it keeps you awake and involved.
THE WATCHFUL EYE. (HULU SERIES) (6.4 IMDB). Only the first two episodes have been released so far and they look promising. It takes place in New York City in a haunted but classy old fashioned apartment building. It has many shots reminding us of The Shining with people appearing and disappearing in hallways. It’s not near any Hitchcock film but there are minutes that will keep you glued to your screen.
MY NAME IS VENDETTA. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (5.6 IMDB). Yet another Mafia movie and yet it has minutes that are exciting, well-acted and quite watchable. From Italy and taking place in Milan, a father and young daughter work hard to escape the Mafia who are determined to seek revenge on the father for an evil deed he committed years before. It’s violent, bloody, nearly predictable but well worth watching IF you like that sort of movie.
HOW I BECAME A GANGSTER. (NETFLIX MOVIE) (6.9 IMDB). The biggest problem with this version of the movie is that it is dubbed in English from the original Polish. For me that’s a loss both visually and acting wise. We learn that still another country has a Mafia or a branch of it and there’s not much else to discuss, we’ve seen it all before.
WEST $CLIFF DRIVE: EROSION OF PUBLIC TRUST
It is more than a little disconcerting when considerable public monies are spent, months of consultants’ field work undertaken, scores of public workshops organized, and finally a city council unanimous vote approving a Plan, to have the manager of the Central Coast District of the CA Coastal Commission (CCC), Kevin Kahn declare that “coastal commission staff have not received a final version of the Plan”, that what they received was only a “draft version.” Really?
I’m referring to the West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan, approved by city council in April 2021 and sent for approval to the CCC which has sat on the Plan ever since.
This Plan, requested by the CCC, was funded by a $342,000 Caltrans grant with an additional $43,000 from city monies. Developing the Plan spanned the years from 2019 to 2021. I was one of the 17 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) members, representing the Parks and Recreation commission. The consultants included experts in geology, coastal erosion, and transportation. Months of field work was undertaken. The final document headed for council approval was 213 pages long with 4 Appendices and 3 pages of Tables and Figures. Public input was captured at numerous workshops, at a Planning Commission hearing and finally at city council. The Resolution adopting the City of Santa Cruz West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan as an “official plan in accordance with the CA Coastal Act” was signed and voted in by council on 20th of April 2021. Doesn’t sound like a draft plan to me.
In claiming that the city council Resolution is not the final version, the CCC manager is playing fast and loose with the public trust. Whether the city staff who worked on the Plan will cave to his influence remains to be seen. Meanwhile the movers and shakers in the newly formed Save West Cliff group have no doubt met with CCC staff, the city manager, the economic development director, city council members and state park officials. This is how the democratic process is eroded. While the group is coy in public about their agenda, given the quotes I shared in last week’s column from their founders, you can bet it involves a radical make-over of West Cliff Drive as an economically driven recreation and commercial hub, marketed to attract thousands.
Amidst this hoopla and much more to come, the words of the city’s Public Works senior civil engineer, Josh Spangrud, should not be buried. In assessing the damage to the 3 main areas of West Cliff Drive, he points out that these are all places that had already sustained the loss of some of their coastal armoring which has not been fortified since the 1990’s. That the areas with armoring are still in good condition and saw little damage; that armoring does work. In an interview with Max Chun of Lookout, Spangrud says “regardless of what the future use of West Cliff is, what has washed away has to be replaced now, or we’ll lose the entire road.”
It appears the CCC does not favor armoring and would like to remove some of it along West Cliff to open access to pocket beaches. This explains part of their desire to revise the West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan or “the draft” as they are calling it. Given that position, it will be illuminating to read their recommendation for the application #3-22-075 on behalf of 1307 West Cliff, the sole house on the ocean side of West Cliff Drive. Previous CCC conditions of approval for renovation of that house included removal of all the armoring. The application into the CCC is a request to modify that condition and shrink the area requiring armoring removal.
Whatever that outcome, one thing is clear, only continued armoring will buy us time to claim human access to West Cliff Drive, whether one way or two ways, cars, or no cars. Without armoring, future storms will eventually render access a non- issue.
There really is no basis for opening another discussion of the future for West Cliff Drive. That issue has been decided and is codified in the West Cliff Drive Adaptation and Management Plan, voted on by city council following an exhaustive public process and awaiting CCC approval. It is a Plan developed to last until 2034 and allows for events such as the January storms which provided an opening for exploitation of the issue, and some are jumping on the bandwagon. The fear is that accuracy, integrity, democracy, and concern for those most impacted, including wildlife, will be the casualties in the stampede.
|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.|
Dateline: February 13
OF CONSENT AGENDAS AND RIVER LEVEES, OR…
IS THE SAN LORENZO RIVER A PERSON?
As you walk, bike, or drive along or across the San Lorenzo River between Highway 1 and the trestle bridge this week, until mid-March, you may see increased activity on the levees: mowing equipment and contracted workers with hand tools, tagging to preserve or removing most plants between the ground and five-feet high. The city is under the gun to carry out an intense campaign to control plants and animals in order to keep local control of our levee infrastructure.
But there is an irreconcilable conflict between protecting our river’s ecology from human impacts and protecting people and their built environment from the river itself.
For 230 years, non-Indigenous settlers of Aulinta(k) have repeatedly attempted to exploit and control the river and her floodplain. The powerful try, fail, and try again–even to this day–with earth, pumps, bigger buildings, and now the city council majority’s Downtown Expansion Plan right against the levee and in one of our most flood-prone areas (Mayor Keeley likes to call it a “new neighborhood”).
At the city council meeting of December 13, 2022, Consent Agenda Item 26 to approve vegetation management and rodent control for our FEMA levee maintenance accreditation was passed. Thanks to the vigilance and persistence of everyday people, the item was pulled for public comment and council discussion.
Of course we want and need our levee to be in compliance with safety standards, especially with thousands of residents living in areas that could be devastated by levee failures.
So what’s the conflict?
The crux of the issue is that the upper 20 feet of the inboard/riverside/inside slopes and the entirety of the outboard/landside/outer slopes of the levee must be open to visual inspection in case of failure like sand boils, especially during storms. On the other hand, we have a decades-long history of community planning and action around the river’s habitat and ecosystem restoration, calling for improved biodiversity, aesthetics, and public access. There has been a sometimes-cooperative effort by city government and residents, occasionally supported by federal funds, to plant and maintain riparian, riverine, and estuarine habitats with native plants and to control invasive weeds. Check out the San Lorenzo Urban River Plan (SLURP). The online document is missing page 72, the Beach Flats recommendations. If you’ve got a paper copy that could be scanned, let me know!
Sadly, much of the SLURP and similar plans have been mothballed, like the 1996 Jesse Street Marsh Management Plan which called for the marsh’s restoration in a tradeoff with the wastewater treatment plant’s expansion in Neary Lagoon. Instead, Jessie Street Marsh has been treated as a zone for both organized abandonment and control through prison-labor vegetation management.
Like so much public land, there is a complex web of jurisdictional responsibilities for the levee. While the inboard slopes of the levee are under the jurisdiction and regular maintenance of public works, they have been subjected to annual vegetation management by city-contracted workers to US Army Corps of Engineers specifications for years. At the same time, a lengthy area of that inboard slope plantings is under the watch of the Coastal Watershed Council and their volunteers.
The outboard slopes of the levee are under the jurisdiction of the parks department, with a section under the care of Jane Mio, Project Director of the Valley Women’s Club’s Native Habitat Restoration Program’s “San Lorenzo River Estuary Re-vegetation Project,” or The Estuary Project, and more volunteers.
The current FEMA accreditation plan calls for removal of many existing plants at ground level and “limbing up” of tree branches to above five feet to create open space for easy visual inspections. Intentionally planted low shrubs like manzanita and coyote bush would be cut to the ground annually, or removed and replaced with native grasses and wildflowers that can be mowed. Specialists would reserve the option of using herbicides on invasive plants.
In spite of the California Fish and Wildlife’s rules on protecting nesting sites, the deadline for work to be completed is long before nesting season is over. While there will be a biologist survey done to mark nests to avoid during work, the work itself will eliminate currently established, potential nesting areas.
Does it really make sense to “manage” or even destroy a significant number of native plants that were put there on purpose, for good reason, often with public funds?
Burrowing animals, especially the ground squirrels, will primarily be controlled with rodenticides. So far, the ground squirrels and gophers have frolicked for generations without breaching the levee, though they do present some risk, however small, of tunneling through and weakening the entire structure. A far less toxic, more effective, cheaper, and fun option would be to use raptors and other birds of prey as “integrated pest management.” Habitat restoration, perches and nesting boxes have proven effective elsewhere.
Even while the city is under a tight deadline to contract and complete work for FEMA accreditation, government leaders and agencies are reevaluating how this kind of work is done. Times may finally be changing, with ecological, decolonial, and antipatriarchal practices (perhaps) finally trickling up to the establishment from decades of radical thought and activism, even if they co-opt these practices for their own neoliberal, rather than liberatory, ends, as the Biden/Harris administration did at COP27 last November.
Included in that Biden/Harris document: “Nature-based solutions in floodplain management: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is revising its floodplain management requirements to require consideration of nature-based solutions as alternatives for all projects that have the potential to affect floodplains or wetlands. This action is in response to Executive Order 13690, which established the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that requires federal agencies to amend their floodplain policies to consider the use of nature-based solutions. Interim program policies are underway.”
The US Army Corps of Engineers’ partnership with the Network for Engineering with Nature website describes, “Engineering With Nature® [as] the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaboration.”
Aside from the ludicrous trademark on “Engineering With Nature (™),” and the offensive assumption that we can continue to engineer nature at all, this time with her, even to maintain the military-industrial complex and protect private real estate, there are useful recommendations here. Many are low-tech, managed retreat options that many of us on the ecological-left will see as common sense: give rivers room to roam again (via levee setbacks), restore carbon sinks and improve water quality with wetland restoration (including removing hardscapes like parking lots), improve species survival and diversity with reforestation projects (aids integrated pest management).
Perhaps our next ballot initiative could be to recognize our river’s rights of personhood, as the people of Toledo, Ohio, did for their portion of Lake Erie and its watershed in 2018.
A year after its establishment near the present-day clock tower in 1791, Mission Santa Cruz was destroyed in a flood. Only needing to learn that lesson once, missionaries retreated and rebuilt on top of the nearest terrace. Instead of me rehashing it, you can read The History of Floods on the San Lorenzo River in the City of Santa Cruz, a mid-length online article by Daniel McMahon.
I thoroughly agree with Daniel McMahon’s conclusion: “A reading of the history of a town developing in a floodplain, and struggling to cope with the floods of 120 years suggests that there is a relationship between the river and the city, and that this has always been a changing relationship. Some balance can hopefully be found between the protection of the City of Santa Cruz from the San Lorenzo River, and the protection of the natural aspects of the river from the city.”
It seems to me a huge folly to establish a permanent human settlement in a flood plain, and then to increasingly armor that settlement each time it floods again. Once built, we’re largely locked into the logic of that infrastructure, and it becomes less and less likely that we will pivot to respect the logic of the land.
With catastrophic climate change happening now, globally and in Santa Cruz, we already live with “weather whiplash,” unprecedented proximity of wildfires, faster-than-modeled sea-level-rise, and intensified beach and cliff erosion. With downtown residents’ recent evacuation warning, West Cliff Drive crumbling into the sea, and the lucrative Steamers Lane losing cliff chunks, which logic will prevail?
A fortress isn’t going to save us from the changing climate. Managed retreat is the reasonable response, given that unmanaged retreat is the only other option.
To get involved with current river restoration work, contact:
Barbara Riverwoman, Protect Our River, email@example.com, 831-346-8944
Jane Mio, The Estuary Project, slvhabitatrestoration.org
Coastal Watershed Council, Get involved, volunteer!
And don’t forget to keep reading those consent agendas, you never know what gems you’ll find!
Also on this week’s city council agenda:
So much for increased transparency, accountability, and participatory democracy under Mayor Keeley’s tenure! I guess from now on if we want to know the rationale behind councilmembers’ votes, we’ll have to remember to track down the meeting minutes two weeks later, instead of hearing their thoughts during the meeting or in the easily available online recording. This item also snugs up language around disruptions to council meetings.
Consent Agenda Item 10: Changes to the Councilmembers’ Handbook (CN)
The proposed resolution would amend the Councilmembers’ Handbook (on page 23 at “Remarks of Councilmembers Entered in Minutes”) so that it contains the following language: “In response to a roll call vote, Councilmembers shall respond with “yes”, “no”, or “I am disqualified.”
If a Councilmember wishes to have an abstract of their statements on any subject under consideration by the Council entered in the minutes, they may submit those statements in writing to the City Clerk Administrator within 48-hours after the relevant Council meeting ends, and those statements shall be included in the minutes.”
We also received the police chief’s terse responses to the auditor’s report, including a 2019 death in custody. I’ll keep saying it: we need a community police oversight body, not just a single independent auditor.
General Business Item 27: Response to 2021 Independent Police Auditor Report (PD)
In 2022 the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) presented its 2021 annual report to the Public Safety Committee (March 23, 2022) and City Council (August 23, 2022). The report addressed the IPA’s review of thirteen formally investigated public complaints, administrative investigations involving an in-custody death and a vehicle pursuit, and two other concerns regarding SCPD performance.
The report notes that many files reviewed reflect “thorough investigations and sound conclusions” but also outlines 26 recommendations to strengthen accountability systems, including ways that SCPD can improve investigation and review of critical incidents.
And in the budget adjustments, $35,000 for a new SCPD indoor shooting range? That amount of money could help at least 10 residents avoid eviction, access reproductive health care, or get seniors rides to appointments if it was shifted from the police budget to CORE funding for social services.
General Business Item 30.1 FY 2023 Budget Adjustments and Information
|Joy Schendledecker is an artist, parent, and community organizer. She lives on the Westside of Santa Cruz with her husband, two teens, mother in law, and cats. She was a city of Santa Cruz mayoral candidate in 2022.|