Blog Archives

June 23 – 29, 2021

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…New Santa Cruz history book, new movie critiques. GREENSITE…on whose future for Santa Cruz? KROHN…If I Had A Hammer! STEINBRUNER…Supervisors raise their benefits and pay, new cameras for fire detection, parking spaces in new commercial developments. PATTON…Hello Neighbors. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Summer”

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SANTA CRUZANS FOR STEVENSON, 1952. These local stalwarts went to Sacramento that day to support Adlai Stevenson – who ran against (and lost to) Dwight Eisenhower. Harry Truman decided not to run for reelection. Eisenhower carried every state outside the south!                                                    
              
                                       
photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.
Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE June 21

NEW SANTA CRUZ HISTORY BOOK. Stanley Stevens, librarian Emeritus of UCSC and fabled historian, has just finished a rare and unusual book containing some in-depth facts, figures and dates for Santa Cruz County. Technically it’s about Impeachment charges against Honorable Lucas Flattery Smith, that took place from February to March 1905. It’s available on line and it’s free! 

You’ll read many, many references to F.A. Hihn, Charles Younger, William Waddell, Howard Trafton, the Big Creek Power Company, and dozens of prominent former citizens. Over and above to the main testimonies centering on the impeachment, the biographical sketches of the people named in the transcripts are important to any who want to delve deeper into our historical past. Amongst the legalese are stories of murders, thefts, and all sorts of other historical data. It’s odd to think that we had an impeachment trial here: be sure to read all about it. 

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.

PHYSICAL. (APPLE SERIES) Rose Byrne plays a 1980’s housewife with some very bad dreams. It’s a comedy, and so there’s a few laughs as she faces food binges, a miserable husband, some strange fitness classes and has trouble with reality.(63RT). What it really exposes is our obsessions with body weight, mental problems, even political residue. I don’t watch many comedies but definitely offers some funny moments, and some serious introspection. 

RUN. (HULU SINGLE). (88RT) You’ll experience a mother like no other in this internal horror story. A teen-aged daughter who can’t walk, has diabetes, paralysis and more, finally realizes that her mother is not what she believed she was. This terrifying story reaches a climax a bit later than you’d think, but it’s still worth watching.

SECURITY. (NETFLIX SINGLE) In an Italian beachside small town much like Santa Cruz, a young girl accuses a man of power and political holdings of rape. She has a father who is, or was, a pedophile. Complex, involving, and well directed, it’s a wakeup call to think about our own security including our CCTV cameras and iPhones.

LUPE. (HBO MAX SINGLE). A serious movie centered around and focusing on a transgendered young boxer from Cuba who comes to NYC looking for his sister. Much nudity, some odd moments of joking, all centered on a transgendered world. He thinks his sister may be prostituting herself, and he finds support from a prostitute friend of hers. Not the greatest film ever, but it’ll give you a chance to think about that transgendered world.

LUPIN. (NETFLIX SERIES). I critiqued this first series episodes a few months ago, and now that the New Yorker wrote such a laudatory piece about Omar Sy’s starring role I’ve watched many more episodes….and they’ll all good. 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 the two seasons so far. What is outstanding is that the acting is excellent and believable. Omar Sy is the “new” Black star, and has everyone talking about him and his fabulous acting style. This is one of the finest detective shows I’ve ever seen….don’t miss it. 

IN THE HEIGHTS. (HBO MAX) (96RT).The huge, lavish, much-talked-about musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who became famous doing Hamilton. I loved the classical musicals, both onstage like Oklahoma and South Pacific, and the classic Hollywood musicals like Wizard of Oz, Annie Get Your Gun, Gigi, West Side Story, White Christmas, Carmen Jones, Oliver and dozens more — but Heights didn’t touch any of those high standards. It’s the story of a young girl of Puerto Rican heritage who went to Stanford, and was subjected to racial prejudice. Does she go back to Stanford, does her boyfriend go back to his Dominican Republic home? Who did win the lottery at the very last minute and how?  Go for it IF you like musicals… because there’s way too much music and not enough plot in this one. 

TRAGIC JUNGLE. (NETFLIX SINGLE) Set in the very deep, dark jungles of Belize in the 1920’s – and the Mexican border – we watch the workers strip the trees of chicle to make chewing gum. Then there’s two teenage girls who switch identities, and one of them is a very haunting witch who drives and kills the workers one by one. The plot goes everywhere and overly complex. You’ll wonder where the story is going for about ¾ of the movie then after that, you won’t care.

PANIC. (AMAZON PRIME SERIES) A teenage high school action thriller that has mostly 20 and 30 year olds playing the parts. The “kids” create a (literally) death-defying night of dangerous stunts. It all happens in Carp, Texas (a fictional town) and some of the stunts are genuinely scary. Each episode ends right at the critical moment when the teen is about to do the stunt. You won’t learn anything, but you’ll stop thinking about masks for a while. (68RT) 

HERSELF. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE). A distraught mother of two daughters splits from her abusive husband, and works hard to build herself a new house from ground up. So it’s her story, a very Irish story (filmed in Ireland) touching, heartfelt, well-acted, not too significant… but go for it.

 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.  

TENTACLES. (HULU SINGLE). So there’s this homeless guy in LA who gets his girlfriend Tara to move into his parent’s old house. And she’s really a monster who makes snakes crawl out of his ears and mouth. There are so many of these women turned monster movies I’m surprised there isn’t more rejection of the basic plot. Skip this one too as long as you are at it.

THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. (58RT) Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson have made careers out of Conjuring movies. This one (of three) actually has some very scary scenes even though we’re watching at home. Somebody said it’s like The Exorcist with more ghosts. It sticks to the investigating of ghosts as usual and there are not many twists and turns, but it’ll take your mind of your masks and being in public again.

LISEY’S STORY. (APPLE TV SERIES) (55RT). This brand new series is from Stephen King’s best seller and stars Julienne Moore plus Clive Owen. He’s a famous novel writer who was shot in a crowd scene and Julienne keeps remembering past events that have curious twists. It’ll remind you of John Lennon’s death and I’d predict that the remaining series will be well worth watching.

DOMINA. (PRIME VIDEO SERIES). (86RT) This was actually filmed in Rome in July 2020.It’s all about the friends and enemies of Julius Caesar and what happened after his assassination. They are all there in 44BC, Nero, Cicero, Cassius, Antigone, and more. It lacks any dignity that a Roman Government would have had plus they use the fuck word every 20 seconds, which is more than odd and out of date. Language authorities tell us that the word fuck was not used until 1475 AD. It could have been another Game of Thrones which it tries hard to copy but fails in its contemporary language and acting.

WHITSTABLE PEARL. (PRIME VIDEO SERIES) Another mysterious death/maybe murder involving a woman detective. (88RT). Filmed in Whitstable, England. She runs a restaurant plus a detective agency. A much loved guy is found drowned and mysteriously tied to a boats anchor. The detective faces all kinds of odds and obstacles as she works to find out who actually did murder him. I’ll again predict that this new series works out well. Go for it

PANIC. (AMAZON PRIME SERIES) Teen age high school action thriller that has mostly 20 and 30 year olds playing the parts. The “kids” create a literally death defying night of dangerous stunts. It all happens in Carp, Texas ( a fictional town) and some stunts are genuinely scary. Each episode ends right at the critical moment when the teen is about to do the stunt. You won’t learn anything but you’ll stop thinking about masks for a while. (68RT) 

HERSELF. (AMAZON PRIME SINGLE). A very distraught mother of two daughters splits from her very abusive husband and works hard to build herself a new house from ground up. He’s a genuine psycho and he’ll never change, probably!! So it’s her story, a very Irish story (filmed in Ireland) touching, heartfelt, well-acted, not too significant but go for it.

UNDINE. (PRIME VIDEO SINGLE). Based on a mermaid type myth this love story gone wrong takes place in Berlin. Undine is a guide in a city institution and is in love with a guy who can’t ever leave her without dying. It rambles on and on underwater and on land but goes nowhere worth watching. It got an undeserving 89RT. You choose but I’ll bet you won’t stay with it all the way though.

THE LAST THING HE WANTED. (NETFLIX SINGLE). Ben Affleck has a small part in this boring saga. Anne Hathaway and Willem Dafoe help carry the plot which comes from Joan Didion’s novel. Anne is a secret reporter working in Costa Rica in 1984 trying to get the goods on a big time power figure. Loose script, and obvious ending. Avoid it. 

SHE. (NETFLIX SERIES). A beautiful and unhappily married Hindi woman in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is a part time police employee. She’s pressured to pose as a prostitute to trap a big time drug king. Her sister is a college student and her husband is a drunk. She gets into much trouble and then begins to realize that she’s very human and capable of falling in love. It’s twisted and complex and develops slowly over the episodes but watch it anyway. 

TO THE LAKE. (NETFLIX SERIES). It has a rare 100RT rating!!! A terrible and almost familiar pandemic hits Moscow. The city is blocked off and victims have eyes that are white! We follow a very split family that goes through many relationship issues as well as trying to escape the white eyed victims. There’s an autistic son, an extra cute daughter all running and avoiding their enemies. They end up in a refuge ship!! You’ll think constantly about the Covid scene we are living in. Go for it.

I’M YOUR WOMAN (AMAZON PRIME SERIES). A double dealing husband brings home a new baby and then he disappears. The wife then has to go on the run with some thug to hide from husband’s would be killers. The plot thickens and thins and twists beyond belief. Not a great series and I lost track after about three episodes. (81RT)

TREEHOUSE (HULU SINGLE). Remember that you have to watch or skip ads on HULU.
A hugely successful chef/restaurateur is also a womanizer. One of his “dates” committed suicide and her sister and women friends give him drugs and they become witches. They do almost drive him permanently insane. It’ll remind you of the Windsor Mayor Foppoli and his Winery and all the sexual charges against him. And it’s very poorly acted too.

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June 21.

A SIGN FOR THE FUTURE
When asked in a recent radio interview the reason for such controversy over the city’s plan to demolish the downtown library and rebuild in a new location under a parking garage, including the removal of multiple heritage magnolia trees and the loss of the current Farmers’ Market site, the library director replied, “Well that’s Santa Cruz.” 

This pejorative opinion that Santa Cruzans are knee-jerk reactionaries is not uncommon within the ranks of the city’s upper management as well as within pro-development circles including at UCSC. I’ve heard it expressed in a number of contexts. “It’s Santa Cruz, people sue the city over anything” opined one senior staff to another who vigorously agreed. This, in my presence, prior to a meeting to find common ground to avoid a lawsuit going to court. My thoughts at the time were: “well if the city produced valid EIR’s (Environmental Impact Reports) rather than skewing them to fit an a priori agenda there would be no reason to sue.” Nobody and no group I know like to sue. It’s expensive, time consuming, exasperating as well as having no guaranteed favorable outcome. That the outcome is frequently favorable to the plaintiffs should give the city pause for thought. They might consider that they are wasting public monies in trying to advance their agendae at the expense of proper environmental review.

None of the city leaders understands the emotional attachment that many long-time residents feel for familiar buildings such as the downtown library, which together with the Civic Auditorium and City Hall creates the nearest we have to a Civic Center. To sever one of these three public anchors, to forge a new one in a different location under a parking garage and to remove significant heritage trees is a pot not sweetened by throwing in a dollop of “affordable” housing after the fact. It leaves many feeling adrift. Our sense of place is rapidly being fractured by a combination of clear-eyed speculators, compliant city upper management and like-minded council majority.  That the city’s Parks and Recreation approved budget removed staffing positions for the Civic Auditorium and shifted monies to two new part-time staff positions for youth sports suggests where things are headed.

It is truly alarming the scale at which this transformation of Santa Cruz is being orchestrated.  As you read this, city council will have voted on two clearly contradictory items. One is to approve the expenditure of $508,812 to pay consultants to complete the Downtown Plan Extension Project. This project is a plan to extend the downtown boundary from the current edge at Laurel Street to a new boundary at the first roundabout and the river levee. If approved, this will permit new buildings south of Laurel to be up to 85 feet in height as contrasted to the current zoning height limits of 35 feet. I don’t recall any public hearing to discuss this concept, only a last minute council item to move ahead with drafting a RFP. Consultant-directed public hearings are planned for the future so the die is cast. 

At the same meeting council will vote on whether to approve a ballot measure for a one half of one percent sales tax increase due to the apparent dire straits of the city’s current and future budgets. If approved by a public vote in November the increase would put the city’s sales tax at the maximum allowed by law.  Never mind that a sales tax is a regressive tax, disadvantaging lower income earners. In this context, a half million dollars in consultants’ fees for a project that seems to have by-passed public scrutiny should be out of the question.

A small symbol of where we are headed is contained in the new sign (below) at the stair entrance to Cowell Beach and repeated at the ramp entrance to the beach in case you missed it the first time.

The current city leadership apparently sees nothing out of place with erecting this large sign depicting a photograph of the Dream Inn between you and the view of Monterey Bay. Such a lack of sensitivity for place and aesthetics is a harbinger for what we can expect for Santa Cruz unless far more of the community becomes massively political. 

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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June 21

IF I HAD A HAMMER
Each time the city manager’s office weighs in and attempts to act on, and not for, this community’s most vulnerable residents, it reminds us of the aphorism: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But yet, there they were this past Monday morning, the Santa Cruz police sent six cops and half a dozen vehicles (for what?)–two were parked in the river bed of the San Lorenzo River, and at least five CalTrans workers and their three vehicles, all descended upon the latest large encampment. One of the Caltrans vehicles was actually equipped with what looked like a snow removal device. Other assorted contractors with dumpsters and a tiny skip-loader were at the ready and upon the signal from an orange-vested Caltrans employee, began moving in on the camped. It was yet another army of workers on another mission to extirpate homeless people from public lands. We’ve seen this movie before.

Journalist Janet Malcolm, a long-time New Yorker staff writer, died last week. She was 86. Malcolm stirred the journalist bedrock foundation principal of objectivity, in her damning and compelling 1989 literary-knifing of writer Joseph McGinniss’ ill-gotten gains relationship with convicted killer, Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. It was a two-part essay called, “The Journalist and the Murderer.” The piece kicked off a decades-long conversation about the notions of truth, objectivity, and what non-fiction writers owe to readers, and themselves, about telling a story and sticking to the facts. Malcolm seemed to be questioning truth itself. She wrote in her article, “Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments.” Either Malcolm is severely jaded by events following the publication of her many essays, or she is simply speaking about what she’s learned in a life in the writing trenches. “He (the journalist) is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.” Ouch. Malcolm’s perspective reminded me of Santa Cruz city manager, Martin Bernal and his bureaucratic buffoonery, yet symbiotic relationship in addressing homeless people. Is Bernal part of an industry, at first menacing and then preying upon those most in need, mainly because it’s easy?

If All You Have is a Hammer–

Bringing in the Cavalry
Every homeless person still looks like a nail to the city manager’s office these days, and that hasn’t changed much since the years of former city manager, Dick Wilson. What’s changed are the sheer numbers of houseless people, and Bernal now lacks the budget to round-up the homeless and either give them bus tickets to Humboldt county or set them in front of the Santa Cruz sign on the northbound shoulder of Highway 1 like they would with Jerry’s Kids back in the 80’s and’90’s who followed the Dead to the next show. Social workers, transitional housing, mental health counseling, and food distribution be damned in this city manager’s world view. His office is going full-steam ahead on sweeping up homeless people the old-fashioned way, with police truncheons and garbage trucks. There are just too many people living outside in tents for the city bureaucrats under Bernal’s direction to win the former whack-a-mole houseless game they once were able to control through camping ordinance citations and trespassing fines.  No wonder Bernal’s retiring. He used to be able to keep the issue out of sight and therefore out of the minds of many locals, but this is 2021. The current para-military incursion I witnessed taking place this week at the end Felker Street, not far from Denny’s, was a battle for a portion of the San Lorenzo riverbed and a small ravine along Highway 1. Since the war has been lost, the only victory that could be claimed by the forces of bureaucracy was just pushing the vulnerable a little bit deeper into the river watershed and out of sight. It’s likely the two Santa Cruz Sentinel reporters I saw exiting from the camp that once was, will likely portray the mounds of garbage in pictures, and assign descriptions to camp denizens as disempowered and perhaps not just a little bit guilty for being poor and destitute.

The Hard Work
On another hand, what I see at the Benchlands below San Lorenzo Park, is a delicate process of human organization being played out, albeit within the capitalist system. I’m convinced that the numbers of homeless keep growing because the gap between rich, poor, and very poor has grown exponentially, at a similar rate perhaps to Jeff Bezos’ burgeoning fortune during the pandemic. There is a growing organization amongst campers, a sharing of food and what few resources they possess. There are at least two kitchens, regular garbage clean-ups, and group meetings at around 5pm. Of course, this is unsustainable in the long run. The camp is more political and social statement than a long-term cooperative living arrangement. My fear is that the resources needed to house, counsel, and provide job-training will not come, not because community and state resources do not exist, they do, but it is a lack of creativity and priority. Policy-makers must allow those with good ideas to implement their good ideas, and local law enforcement must be cut back and allow those monies to be redirected to the actual needs of the unhoused. Treatment over arrests, job-training not jail time, and counseling instead of simply telling people to move along must all occur simultaneously. It is surely not rocket science, but it is going to take a lot longer to address this human-made tragedy than it did to get to the moon, so let’s roll up our sleeves, realize the enormity of the task before us, and get started.

“Every year, 20 million people are displaced from their homes as a result of climate-fueled disasters. How do you go forward right now in this moment in history and not address the terrible climate crisis that we face and fundamentally transform our energy system?” (June 20)

The Great Morgani, aka Frank Lima was performing downtown this past weekend, as he has for more than 25 years. He will be my guest on KSQD’s Talk of the Bay, Tues. June 22 at 5pm. If you miss the broadcast, you can go to the KSQD’s archive  
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(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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June 21

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS APPROVES 7.9% SALARY AND BENEFIT INCREASE FOR THEMSELVES
Somehow, when so many in our County have lost their jobs and businesses in the past year, the Board of Supervisors would have taken a cut themselves.  I thought this might happen, considering recent County Code changes to tie Supervisor salary increases to that of Superior Court judges.   NOPE!!!

This week, the Board approved a 7.9% salary and benefit package increase for the 17 full time Board staff.  It averages $13,296/person.  

Approve the 2021-22 Proposed Budget for the Board of Supervisors, including any supplemental materials, and take related actions, as outlined in the referenced budget documents, and as recommended by the County Administrative Officer

[Board of Supervisor Budget Increase]   June 21 agenda, Item #15

“The Board of Supervisors Proposed Budget includes $3,103,325 in expenditures, no revenues and $3,103,325 in General Fund contribution, reflecting a total increase of $226,036 or 7.9 percent from the fiscal year 2020-21 budget.”

COUNTY FIRE TO PURCHASE 10 NEW THERMAL IMAGING CAMERAS AND NEW CHIPPER
On the backs of the CZU Fire property owners and others in the rural County areas, it seems large purchases are in store.  The County Fire Proposed Fixed Asset Purchases for the coming year total $1.536, 710, and include 10 new thermal imaging cameras ($90,000) and a new chipper ($70,000).  Where will these cameras be positioned and who will monitor them?  Who will run the chipper to best help the rural property owners who need help clearing fire defensible space?

Also planned is $75,000 for a pod runner (cell on wheels)???  The budget also states two Type 3 engines will be purchased at $1.1million.  At the last County Fire Dept. Advisory Commission meeting, County Fire Chief Larkin announced he had ordered two Type 1 engines…not Type 3 engines, for Davenport and Corralitos stations.  Type 3 engines are excellent for wildland fire response on mountain roads, but Type 1 fire engines are for urban fire response, and are known as “pavement queens”.  What did Chief Larkin really do and how will the rural people be best served?  

See page 474 of the County Budget Fixed Assets

PUSHING PEOPLE OUT OF THE RURAL AREAS OF CALIFORNIA
It is shocking to read reports such as that just published by Next 10. The State’s efforts to push people out of rural areas is now palpable.  Consider the recent “Rebuilding for Resilient Recovery” report that concludes it is just too risky and expensive to continue to allow people to live in rural areas of California.  

Next 10

“Researchers analyzed three rebuilding scenarios in line with each community’s physical and socioeconomic characteristics and identified the economic, climate, workforce, future fire risk, and resident displacement impacts each of those scenarios were likely to have. The scenarios included:

  • Rebuilding as usual, in which existing recovery plan and historical growth trends guide the anticipated development patterns;
  • Managed retreat and urban density, in which disaster survivors are incentivized to move to lower-risk locations, while land use planning and incentives promote infill development in existing urban nodes; and
  • Resilience Nodes, in which communities rebuild some housing in high-risk areas but incorporate robust wildfire mitigation features, including development clusters surrounded by defensible space.

The report finds that pursuing either the “Managed Retreat” or “Resilience Nodes” pathways can reduce fire risk and household costs for residents, when compared with the “rebuilding as usual” scenario, while also helping to meet housing and climate goals. While the “Managed Retreat” scenario provides the largest safety and climate benefits, it presents new displacement risks for residents. The “Resilience Nodes” scenario offers the most potential for economic growth, with fewer social equity impacts, but also delivers less of a guarantee of lower future fire risks.”

Fire rebuilds look more dismal everyday, due to Board of Forestry new Rules (public hearing June 22), the State’s onerous new septic requirements (public hearing June 23), and denial of insurance to areas the State deems “too risky”.  If you care about being able to live in the rural areas in the future, and help take care of them, join in these hearings if you can.  

NO PARKING SPACES REQUIRED IN FUTURE RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENTS?
If AB 1401 legislation is approved, no city or county could require new developments to provide any minimum number of parking spaces in most cases.  Introduced by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, here is the hammer to Government Code for local control over developers:

“65863.3.
 (a) A local government shall not impose a minimum automobile parking requirement, or enforce a minimum automobile parking requirement, on residential, commercial, or other development if the parcel is located within one-half mile walking distance of public transit.”

Think about what that could mean in downtown Santa Cruz and the unincorporated County neighborhood areas.

And quickly,….

Slavery continued after Juneteenth…maybe changing the date of our Country’s celebration of the end of slavery is worth examining?

Tracing Center | Where in the U.S. did slavery still exist after Juneteenth?

WRITE ONE LETTER.  MAKE ONE CALL.  ATTEND A PUBLIC HEARING ON ZOOM.  MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK AND JUST DO SOMETHING.

Happy Summer Solstice! 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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June 15

#166 / Hello, Neighbors

The heartfelt appeal below comes from a posting on the web-based application Nextdoor

Hello Neighbors, I have a question. What is driving up home prices in Santa Cruz? What is driving prices up 30%-50% over the past two to three years? Who is buying these homes? … I keep a close eye on houses and have a great real estate agent, but now that I am in a position to buy a house the prices keep going up with multiple offers over the asking price and I wonder how anyone from Santa Cruz County can keep up. A standard raise at work is between 5%-and 8% each year – nowhere near the increase in home prices. Several houses on Zillow on the market now are priced above 50% of what they sold for a few years ago. Congratulations to all the people who bought homes and are making a 50% profit in such a short period of time, which is great for you. And I don’t blame anyone for taking the advantage of increased demand and making such a handsome profit on their investment. My rent is more than many mortgages (over $5K a month) and I am grateful I can afford this but am losing hope that I’ll be able to buy a house in my hometown. My young adult daughters were born and raised here and I always thought Santa Cruz would be our home that I would have a home base for them to return to. I would like to know though, where sellers are going and who is able to afford to pay $1,500,000 for a modest home? Thank you for your answers and insights.

Over a hundred comments were promptly posted in response. They included the following: 
 

  • Wealthy workers from Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) are buying second homes in Santa Cruz and outbidding local people. 
  • Wealthy workers from Silicon Valley, who can outbid local residents for housing, are moving over here because they can now work remotely and who wouldn’t rather live in Santa Cruz?
  • Wealthy workers from Silicon Valley, who can outbid local working families for housing, are choosing to buy in Santa Cruz because the prices here are less than in the Silicon Valley, and who wouldn’t rather live in Santa Cruz?
  • Wealthy workers from Silicon Valley are cashing out stock, and think Santa Cruz real estate is a good investment. It’s a great place to park their money. With all those dollars, they can easily outbid local residents.

 
My sense is that all of these responses are right on target. The common element is that in a “market economy,” which is where we live, those who can pay more than others get the goods that are available. Those who can’t pay more don’t get the goods! With few exceptions, Santa Cruz residents trying to buy a home in Santa Cruz are simply unable to outbid those from the Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) whose incomes are vastly greater than the incomes of Santa Cruz workers. A working family relying upon a Santa Cruz income will almost inevitably be unable to purchase a home here. They will simply be outbid. This is what gave rise to the heartfelt appeal I have reprinted from Nextdoor.

Is there anything to be done? 

As many, if not most of us, have noticed, our economy does not distribute its economic benefits anywhere near equally. Though we are definitely “all in this together” where our economic system is concerned, a very small percentage of the population gets almost all of the money that the economy produces. Others get hardly anything. Since we do live in a market economy, it’s natural that those with more money get to buy what they want, while others are not able to buy even what they need. The only real solution to this problem is to change the massive income inequality that makes it impossible for ordinary working families to buy a home. I support national legislation to accomplish just that. That’s what it will take.

Unfortunately, the Santa Cruz City Council is trying to solve the problem by placing faith in what is often called the “law of supply and demand.” That is another “market solution.” If we just build a lot more new housing, the Council reasons, there will be more supply, and surely that will bring the price down. The census bureau tells us, however, that Santa Cruz County has a total population of about 273,000, and that the median income of Santa Cruz County residents is about $82,000 per year. Given this, there is simply no way to provide a supply of housing that could let Santa Cruz County residents, with their rather modest incomes, outbid the 7,000,000+ residents of the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, many of whom have incomes far greater than $82,000 per year. 

In fact, trying to lower prices by letting the developers build more (and the State Legislature, like the City Council, is trying to advance this agenda) does not mean appreciably more affordable housing for local residents. Instead, it means more local impacts on water, traffic, parking, and public services, more local costs for taxpayers to absorb, and more existing neighborhoods made less congenial. And the kicker is that these new developments quite often demolish existing, modest single family homes, to make way for housing that will be sold to non-Santa Cruz residents, those from the Silicon Valley (and elsewhere) whose incomes let them outbid working families with Santa Cruz level incomes.

When I think of the massive challenges that we must face and overcome, global warming always comes to my mind first. I next think of the massive wealth and income inequality that is undermining national unity, and that is destroying our local communities from within. 

Including my own local community. 

The heartfelt appeal from Nextdoor is a cry of anguish. We need to make that cry of anguish resound from the lowest to the highest levels of our politics and government, and we need to deal with the wealth and income inequalities that are not only driving Americans apart, but that are helping to destroy our local communities.  As with global warming, the extent of the changes we must make are daunting. 

But that is what we need to do!

And in the meantime, let’s stop destroying our neighborhoods in the false hope that “market solutions” for our affordable housing crisis will work. For-profit developers are the problem, not the solution. When developers want approval for a new development, here’s what I think the rule should be. For nonprofit developers planning to produce new housing units – housing that will be permanently price-restricted, and that can be rented or purchased by local residents who have local incomes – I think the answer should probably be “yes.” Build it.

When for-profit developers ask for approval, urging on their mega-projects, designed for the market economy (the economy in which those with the most money will get the goods) I think the answer should probably be “no.” 

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

SUMMER

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby 

“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
-John Keats, Bright Star: Love Letters and Poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne 

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.”
-George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones 

“A man says a lot of things in summer he doesn’t mean in winter.”
-Patricia Briggs, Dragon Blood 

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Technology is frickin’ amazing! This is “A Day at the Beach” from circa 1899, upscaled and enhanced. The jerky movements of early film are gone, and this looks like actual people! I am absolutely floored.


COLUMN COMMUNICATIONS. Subscriptions: Subscribe to the Bulletin! You’ll get a weekly email notice the instant the column goes online. (Anywhere from Monday afternoon through Thursday or sometimes as late as Friday!), and the occasional scoop. Always free and confidential. Even I don’t know who subscribes!!

Snail Mail: Bratton Online
82 Blackburn Street, Suite 216
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Direct email: Bratton@Cruzio.com
Direct phone: 831 423-2468
All Technical & Web details: Gunilla Leavitt @ godmoma@gmail.com

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