Blog Archives

May 20 – 26, 2020

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…UCSC’S East Meadow threats. GREENSITE… on Saving the Wharf #2. KROHN…Covid and local politics, Zoom meetings, City council and development, Democracy in peril. STEINBRUNER…Board of Supes and the Brown Act, County budget and $5 million deficit, Adventists and the homeless. PATTON…Planet of the Humans and Al Gore. EAGAN…Subconscious Comix and Deep Cover.QUOTES…”Washington”


THE MIGHTY SOQUEL CREEK 1955.  Looking East toward Veterle & Howard’s plumbing Supply. You can see the unleashed power of Soquel Creek in its heyday.

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email




UCSC’S EAST MEADOW FUTURE UNCERTAIN.While the city and county of Santa Cruz undergoes enormous changes and threats to its character, quality, size, and uniqueness, the UCSC campus is now — and has been — facing identical issues. The East Meadow Action Committee (EMAC)headed by James Clifford, has for the last two years taken on the protection of the campus from the many threatening proposals to change it, as well as other projects that would conflict with the original campus conception. James Clifford sent a letter to the members of EMAC. Here are some excerpts, plus an appeal at the end for various ways our community can help our important neighbor. 

This spring was the season of our litigation, as EMAC’s CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit moved through the legal process.  EMAC co-founder Paul Schoellhamer did yeoman work going through the Administrative Record (over 60,000 pages!) and helping our attorneys with the legal briefs.  Fundraising efforts for legal fees were also successful; we have been deeply moved by the depth of support for protecting the meadow. 

On May 15, 2020, our CEQA litigation had its oral argument before Judge Paul Burdick of the Santa Cruz County Superior Court.  At that hearing the Judge put forth his tentative verdict in the case, and that tentative verdict registered clear support for the arguments in EMAC’s briefs.  Lawyers for the UC system argued aggressively against that tentative verdict becoming the final verdict, and our side argued in support.  The Judge ordered both parties to produce further briefs on specific issues raised in the oral arguments.  He also set a date for the final verdict in the case: June 19, 2020.

At the university, much has changed since we began our now two-year effort to save the meadow from destruction and to preserve the campus’ environmental integrity.  Several administrators who were the most vocal champions of East Meadow development are no longer in their positions.  The current Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor were not involved in approving the project.  The present fiscal environment, which will bring big budget cuts to the University and which may negatively impact undergraduate and graduate enrollments, may be less favorable for big construction projects, particularly their most controversial components.  This is why an EMAC victory at this stage could be so consequential.   

As we enter these last few weeks, the outcome is uncertain.  The additional work required by the judge brings unexpected legal expenses We realize that in our present situation there are many worthy causes that need your help.  If you are able to give more to protect the East Meadow for generations to come, now would be the time.  

To contribute, see instructions at

We hope you and yours are well.                 

East Meadow Action Committee


May 18

I recently alerted a friend that the Wharf Master Plan includes covering up the sea lion viewing holes. Besides expressing dismay he made a comment that resonated. He wrote, “When you are way out on the end of the wharf it feels like you are at sea.”

If you are familiar with the Municipal Wharf you know what he means. That is if you enjoy a bracing wind, the cries of sea birds and a few folks fishing. Our century old wharf offers a unique experience of being a half -mile out at sea surrounded by nature.  No need for videos or simulations. Contrast that with the rendition of the end of the wharf that will come to pass if the Wharf Master Plan is approved. The rendition of the 45+ feet public building is carefully distorted to reduce its size, scale and impact. The sea lion viewing holes are gone. The Dolphin restaurant, squeezed to the left of the building (out of sight) with its view and open-air feel gone. The view from upstairs at Stagnaros Restaurant to the southeast will be the back of this building, which is significantly higher than the two-story restaurant. Two more buildings of this size are in the Plan. 

Notice that none of the people are fishing. It’s not hard to predict the current folks who fish at the wharf, mostly working class will be moved out if not by sheer numbers of tourists then by the design of the project. If you fish, try to imagine dropping a line amidst this crowd. The plan for the 30 feet expanded eastern walkway is similarly designed to prevent having your car next to you with hatch open, a few chairs and a cooler, with friends and family while fishing. This current pleasure is affordable for the working class. The city has long worked to replace working class visitors with a more affluent sector. That explains why a past city council on advice from the Economic Development Department would not renew the lease for Andy’s Bait Shop at the end of the wharf, as working class as it gets. Since that time Andy’s has remained empty, a storage-shed. 

I’m sure there are those who love the scene above. I don’t happen to be one of them. It feels generic. Unrecognizable. I read the brand Santa Cruz Wharf but I don’t feel it. Apparently there are others who feel the same way since over two thousand people in two weeks signed the Don’t Morph The Wharf petition when the Wharf Master Plan first surfaced 4 years ago. They were locals and locals who had moved to other states and others who lived far away and had visited Santa Cruz and the wharf. Many left comments and the feeling was as one: we love the wharf the way it is: don’t change it!  That doesn’t mean there can’t be a bit of upkeep, the road needs repaving and the lights are too bright but beyond that, leave it alone.

I don’t think it an overstatement to say that this is a class struggle. Perhaps not as significant as is the case with the current high-end building boom in Santa Cruz but connected. It is mirrored in the class of restaurant moving out and the class moving in: the class of people forced out by rising rents and the class moving in. Covid-19 may change this trajectory but a city strapped for money will not be class neutral.

The deadline for comments on the Wharf Master Plan DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report) is fast approaching: due May 27th.  When you comment, this is not the format to say why you are vehemently opposed to the Wharf Master Plan, although that is tempting. It is the format to say why the DEIR fails to adequately study the impacts of the Plan and therefore the claim of no significant impact is incorrect. The city claims the tall new buildings have no aesthetic impact (photos are taken from far, far away). The city claims the migratory Pigeon Guillemots (no relation to pigeons, related to auks) can find new nesting sites from the south or east side of the wharf even though their access is blocked from the west by the new lowered west walkway. Look again at the picture. The south and east sides are packed with people, boats, outriggers…not conducive to the easily disturbed Pigeon Guillemot after it flies from Puget Sound to the wharf each spring. A short email to by the 27th is needed to show we care about our wharf. 

The full report if you are so inclined can be found here.

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    Plus she’s an avid ocean swimmer, hiker and lover of all things wild.


May 18


Disorienting is what comes to mind when I try and follow the local political process in the age of Covid-19. If you are interested in engaging in local issues, finding ways to work on community solutions while the national pandemic politics play out, then these are the times that try men’s, women’s, and non-binary souls. Not only is it scary and chaotic in TrumpWorld, but as we are well-aware his shit is flushed across the country. Locally, who can follow in real-time what is transpiring on the issues we care about? Homelessness?  Affordable  housing? The environment? UCSC growth? Normally, the progressives are pretty good at thinking globally and acting locally, and there exist tremendous electronic resources for keeping up with the latest coronavirus news: economic statistics bombard us; how to avoid Tweet-monster Trump’s hourly pronouncements; Governor’s Cuomo and Newsom‘s usually informative press briefings; and likely the best in humanizing the Covid-19 story, Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. But trying to put all of this information into a localized context without the necessary benefit of real face-to-face public meetings has most of us occupying a kind of wait-and-see social space. This will end soon, right, we tell ourselves. But when? I don’t know about you, but my internal clock has been off. I often wake up at different times, forget this or that virtual meeting I had scheduled, I’m even often unsure about what day it is. And then there’s the anxieties…

Anxiety 101
They are deep, gut-gnawing feelings, sometimes burning a hole in my stomach. One is about our daughter living in a the Covid-19 hotspot, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The other daughter toils away with us in virtual land, sometimes taxing our home internet as three Zoom meetings happen in the same hour.We collectively are linked in weird ways with the outside world, all of us bowing before the hottest internet stock, Zoom.But the Zoom meeting and classroom of today is troubling at best. All three of us–mom, dad, daughter–have concluded that working on Zoom from home requires more focus and more preparation, and the desire to space out and want to clean that cob web in front of your computer or pick up all the clothes and dishes piling up around your room, is constant. Attending these Zoom meetings, I notice it is more difficult to be funny, body language cues coming from the Hollywood Squares screen are all off when trying to assess how a group of six, or 60 colleagues or students are actually thinking as someone’s audio and video drop away. Some have less connectivity than others. Our souls are being severely tested right now along with our compassion and empathy too. Many of my students feel alienated, miss the physical UCSC campus, and can’t find any space away from housemates or family members and sometimes just want to scream, or cry. For me, there hovers over each day a longing, (a knowing?), that this all will end soon. I will be able to once again meet a friend and share a Mike’s Mess at Zachary’s, a citrus IPA at Lupelo, or run into someone at the community table at the Coffee Roasting Company. I even look forward to that cacophony of high school student voices as they flood into the Bagelry mid-morning. How I long to hear those sounds again. 

Sad Daze for Democracy
This people-to-people contact becomes ever more vital when I remember how the public is unable to sit in close proximity and respond in a give-and-take dialogue with city staff members, commissioners, and councilmembers. These are truly sad days for democracy. Of course, I’ve been on Zoom meetings with enviros discussing Michael Moore’s new controversial film, Planet of the Humans; been part of discussions on the city council bi-weekly agendas; attended an Our Revolution post-mortem for Bernie (what’s next?); been at family gatherings too, and endless UCSC staff, faculty, and student meetings…all without great fulfillment. I tend to think most of us are not all that satisfied with our limited contact with each other. Sometimes the virtual meeting exacerbates the fury within for a need to be around friends. And, when it gets to the level of spending and cutting great sums of money as the city is currently doing, we have to find a better way for community input and collective decision-making.

URGENT: Public’s Extreme Vigilance Now Needed More Than Ever
There it was, in black and white, a Santa Cruz Sentinel headline screaming triumphantly above the fold:Development proposals roll in, and in the on-line version, Coronavirus no damper for Santa Cruz development projects. It should now be crystal clear just what the March 3rd recall was all about: $MONEY$. That is, the developers and real estate interests wanted a city council to enable a city staff to facilitate the building of profitable MARKET-RATE housing. Yep, no mystery there. For the price of half a luxury condo, these same developer and real estate interests were able to oust two councilmembers and move toward getting their buildings approved. Of course, we all knew that is what the election was about, but the speed and shear chutzpah on the part of city staff and developers in getting through the permit process is proving alarming. Since the March 3rd election there has been this unleashing of projects (see Sentinel article, Coronavirus no damper for Santa Cruz development proposals) looking for rubber stamp approvals by the city council. Developer interests are working the pandemic for everything it’s worth, and it is worth a lot of greenbacks to them. What is not clear to me is if any of these projects will actually be built any time in the next five years given the state of the economy. So why the rush? Part of the answer is that the “approvals” of these projects are usually transferable and can be sold for major dollars. Developers are rushing now to get approvals in the absence of any real public meetings and before this November’s election when the political climate just might change again. The current virtual approval process for obtaining permits and the lack of public input and scrutiny is unacceptable.

Building Permit Moratorium Now
Why not call for a moratorium on issuing any new commercial building permits until the pandemic has subsided and the council returns to public meetings? So much is on the table in terms of market rate housing projects. The projects being presented are not affordable undertakings, but ones driven by the maximization of profits. Santa Cruz is once again for sale. It may be likely too that the current council will allow the developers to pay “in-lieu” fees so as not to have any of those pesky affordable units in their building envelope. Can we put in place a building moratorium aimed at reigning in over-zealous developers? The emergency powers now enacted and commanded by the city manager can indeed put in place a moratorium on issuing any new building permits until a sense of municipal normalcy returns, as measured by Governor Newsom’s six goals that must be met in order to get the economy back up and running. The fifth bullet point below should be adhered to locally with respect to profit-driven developers. Building permits ought not to be issued until the city has “the ability for businesses, schools, and childcare facilities to support physical distancing.” Punto final! Here are the Governor’s six goals:

  • The ability to monitor and protect our communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed;
  • The ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19;
  • The ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges;
  • The ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand;
  • The ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and
  • The ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary. (

The developer class is fooling no one in its headlong rush to obtain their luxury condo gold and forge ahead quickly in using the pandemic as a way to extract profit from Surf City.

Democracy in Peril
This pandemic, besides losing jobs, childcare, and education time in the classroom for our children, is also bad for democracy. Much is happening in local government without public scrutiny—the Parks Master Plan, Wharf Master Plan, Library in a garage project, a towering curtain of buildings along Front street which will hover over the river, a Jeep dealership (yes JEEP cars), and we already know the Circle Church property has been approved for townhouse development. This is a dizzying array of projects, and it’s taking place while all of us are in lockdown and “sheltering in place.”These are the times when those who see public comment as burdensome, bothersome, and unnecessary will thrive in this atmosphere and push their highly profitable projects forward if we cannot create (invent?) additional avenues for input.

“Before this crisis, half of our people lived paycheck to paycheck. Tens of millions had no health insurance. Some 40 million people lived in poverty. 500,000 slept on the streets. We cannot just go ‘back to normal.’ We must go forward and build an economy that works for all.” (May 18)
(Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and was on the Santa Cruz City Councilmember from 1998-2002. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 14 years. He was elected to the city council again in November of 2016, after his kids went off to college. His term ended in April of 2020.

Email Chris at


May 18

The County coffers are bleeding out as local unelected health officer Gail Newel continues to strangle the local economy and shatter the livelihoods of the people.  The result is a possible $40.5 million County budget deficit, depending on what life rafts the State and Federal governments toss our way.  

Because no one in the County Administrative Office or Finance Dept. really seems to know where all that stands, the customary full week of budget hearings at the end of June will be shortened to June 22-23 and June 30, before the Supervisors go skating off on vacation for a month.  When they return, the budget hearings will happen on August 10-13.  The final 2020-2021 County budget will not be approved until September 15, at which time, maybe we will know how many, if any, life rafts have sailed in at 701 Ocean Street.

But can we really expect any State money when the State budget is $52 million in the hole?  An how much worthless money can the County expect from our federal government, now $24.95 Trillion in debt?

Staff reported that all revenue sources are down by $4.2 million.  The County financing staff had planned to add $6 million to the County’s $56 million reserve fund, but that will not happen.  In fact, the CAO Palacios explained that the County budget will rely on over $20 million from the Reserve Fund just to be able to have a balanced budget in June at the close of the fiscal year, and will require using more in 2020-2021 in order to pay CalPERS government worker pension payments coming due.  

Next year, the 2020-2021 revenue estimates for sales tax will be 25% lower, Transient Occupancy Tax, from hotels and vacation rentals, are expected to be 45% lower, and all other revenue sources are expected to be 25% lower.  

Overall, in the last month, the County has seen a 50% decrease in overall revenue. 

Did the Board of Supervisors discuss this much?  NO.  Supervisor Leopold mentioned that the County government is the largest employer in the County, so any departmental cuts will add further economic stress.  He talked hopefully about the House bill that could allocate $1 trillion for additional COVID-19 aid, and that while dipping into the County Reserve Fund will keep the government afloat for a bit, it is not a solution.

Supervisor McPherson expressed hope that there will be options to reduce the cost of recovery.  

Supervisor Caput mentioned that there will be a need for more extensive and serious discussion of top County staff taking some pay cuts.

Supervisor Friend?  Supervisor Coonerty?  Hello?  Were they even listening?  No one knows, because the images of the Supervisors who are not physically present in the Chambers are absent from the public screen.  Hmmm…I wonder if they were even there and listened….or who it was that actually voted on other critical matters of government earlier in the meeting???

The public has no way of knowing.

Our County is so lucky to have the great team of Fire Marshals Marco Mack and Mike DeMars who are working hard to help people living in the wildland areas of the MidCounty to improve their fire safety.  Last week, the two were honored with the award of a grant administered by the International Association of Fire Chiefs as one out of three awarded in the United States. The grant will support two demonstration projects, one in Aptos / La Selva District and the other in the Central Fire District, and working with rural neighborhoods to conduct table top fire evacuation exercises. Congratulations!  Read more about this on page 113:

By the way, these two fire districts are still moving forward to consolidate most likely by the end of this year.

The FireSafe Santa Cruz Council is working with the Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District to offer neighborhoods in the rural areas FREE chipping of vegetative materials removed to create and improve fire defensible space in the wildland areas of Santa Cruz County.    Apply here:

Landowner Assistance

Now is a good time to remove those fuel ladders but do take care not to remove or disturb nesting areas of local birds now in the process of raising their young. Governor Newsom, even with a $54.3 million state deficit, pledged to give an additional $200 million to fund additional firefighters and staff.

On Wednesday, Newsom said his revised budget will include more than $200 million to increase the state’s preparations for looming wildfires and other disasters. That includes hiring an additional 500 firefighters and 100 support personnel to help make up for the loss of dozens of inmate firefighters who were paroled to ease the risk of coronavirus outbreak

California governor to propose 10% pay cut for state workers to help with $54 billion deficit, union leaders say.

The truth is, the number of inmate firefighter crews was already reduced by about half before the COVID-19 mess occurred, due to the early releases under Prop 47 Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative

Many thanks to the Santa Cruz County Human Services Dept. Director Mr. Randy Morris and staff.

This program was hastily offered by Governor Newsom on April 24, and required County staff to work very quickly in order to qualify for funding.  Mr. Morris and his staff were one of the few in the State that were able to accomplish the task, bringing welcome partnerships with local restaurants that will proved three meals daily to seniors living on the edge and worried about venturing out in public.

Mr. Morris stated the restaurant owners only had one week to respond, but as of last Tuesday, staff was vetting the applications while accepting sign-ups for recipient.  The program is set to end on June 10, but the County intends to request an extension.

The phone number to call to sign up for meals: 454-4406


click here to continue (link expands, click again to collapse)


Cheers, Becky Steinbruner

I welcome your thoughts and discussion:  831-685-2915

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.

Email Becky at


May 14
#135 / Planet Of The Humans

Planet of the Humans, directed by Jeff Gibbs, and with Michael Moore as Executive Producer, is a new and very controversial film. You can view it for free. Just click that link to the title. The film is perhaps particularly controversial because it rather savagely attacks a number of nationally recognized environmental leaders. Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and Michael Brune are three of the environmental leaders whose leadership (and motivations) are questioned in the film.

The film clearly implies – and makes this claim explicit in the case of Al Gore – that these leaders have capitulated to corporate capitalism, and have attempted to push ineffective and contraindicated global warming solutions that will speed up the destruction of the Planet but that will also result in personal profit for them (or corporate support for their organizations). 

Are “gold bars” more important than Planet Earth, asks Al Gore, in a segment included in Planet of the Humans? Do we choose “gold bars,” or “Planet Earth?” That’s what Gore asks. According to the film, Gore went for the gold! 

Let me be clear, this may well not be fair to Mr. Gore, but it is not irrelevant to ask ourselves who is providing environmental leadership, and to what ends. The film definitely poses that question.

There has been a lot of “pushback” to this new film, and while I think that there is a good deal of truth in the “pushback,” I also think it would be wrong simply to dismiss the film, and not to confront the points that the film is seeking to make. In fact, one main point of the film is a point made in Jonathan Franzen’s important article, “What If We Stopped Pretending.”

Franzen’s article outlines what he believes is the inevitability of the massively negative impacts of global warming, but without any personally-directed anger aimed at those whom we might be tempted to blame. Franzen understands that our global warming crisis really is a crisis that we have all caused, and that it is not a “plot,” or something that has been nefariously imposed upon us by the wealthy. Planet of the Humans actually does say something quite a bit like what Franzen says, but the film’s projected anger onto our environmental “leaders” is a component not found in Franzen’s presentation.

For a good example of the pushback to the film, I’d suggest this article, from the Ecoequity website: “Why ‘Planet of the Humans’ is crap.” Tom Athanasiou, the author of that article, who calls the film “crap” (thereby adopting the same antagonistic model of discourse as the filmmakers ) is the author of Divided Planet: the Ecology of Rich and Poor and Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming, and is co-author of Greenhouse Development Rights: The Right to Development in a Climate Constrained World. He is, in other words, a bonafide (and so far unsavaged) expert. In that article calling the film “crap,” Athanasiou does give some credit to the film, even as he objects to a lot of it:

Let me be clear. Gibb’s critique of renewables is just wrong, and its proportions are absurd. You would never know that the “gas as a bridge fuel” people are no longer held in esteem. You would never know that the intermittency problem is being solved, and the storage problem too. You would never know that the problem of decarbonizing the grid has been front and center on the renewables agenda for decades, and that the electric car people know it all too well. You would never know that the technology revolution is well and widely understood to be necessary but not sufficient to the green transition. All of which is to say that this would have maybe been a good movie 20 years ago. Maybe.

On the other hand, alas, there is another hand. His critique of biofuels, in particular, is generally spot on. I was briefly beguiled by the idea back around 2004, when I was paying too much attention to the carbon cycle and not enough to the realities on the ground. But everyone in the movement knows the score on this today, everybody who’s paying attention that is. Just like no-one still believes that natural gas is a bridge to transformative decarbonization, except maybe Michael Bloomberg. And while there are clearly idiot salespeople in the solar movement, it’s not like they’re representative. Though maybe they are, some of the time. The business of business, is, after all, business. But the Sierra Club had its reasons for joining hands with Bloomberg in the Beyond Coal campaign, and they were good ones. It used his money to shut down a lot of coal plants. Case closed (emphasis added).

For me, advancing “biomass conversion,” as a supposed “Green Technology” solution to global warming, is even worse than making the claim that “biofuels” are a way to deal with our climate crisis. Biomass conversion, as I understand it (see the picture at the top of this blog posting) is just another name for deforestation. Learning how this false solution has been pawned off as something positive is one of the main reasons to see the movie. 

There is another reason to see the film, too, besides the strong case it makes against “biomass” as a Green Tech strategy. One of the main ideas presented in the movie is the idea that we can’t trust “leaders” to solve our problems for us. I think that this is a message we need to hear.

We (ordinary people, non-experts) must reallocate our time and get much more deeply involved in and informed about the key political and policy issues that are central to how our local, state, and national governments operate, and how they are responding to our Global Warming crisis. We can’t just assume that between Al Gore,, and the Sierra Club, we’ve got our best and our brightest on the job, and that we can continue on with our “normal” patterns of consumption and complacency. The groups that I think best understand this are groups like Extinction Rebellion and Citizen’s Climate Lobby. Personal involvement by ordinary citizens is their raison d’être.

It is almost always counterproductive to try to advance policy challenges and policy disagreements by seeking to discredit or denigrate those with whom we disagree. But we can disagree without being disrespectful, and we do need to challenge the idea that we have already found a “Green” solution to the global warming crisis, and that if we could just elect another president we’d have this problem well in hand. Franzen doesn’t think that this is true, and Planet of the Humans doesn’t think that this is true.

I don’t think it’s true, either! 

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

Email Gary at



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


“Washington likes to threaten the people over whom they exercise power.”
~Glenn Greenwald 

Not surprisingly, there’s nothing to do at the Pentagon except start a war.”
~Paul Beatty 

“I once saw a snake having sex with a vulture, and I thought, it’s just business as usual in Washington DC.”
~Jarod Kintz

This guy is incredibly skilled at what he does…

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