Blog Archives

November 17 – 23, 2021

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…complexities re 831 Water Street, Cummings Supervisor Party, Dear San Francisco Show. GREENSITE…on Paying Attention to the Downtown Plan Expansion. KROHN…Things change the more they stay the same. STEINBRUNER…Country Redistricting and Ryan Coonerty. HAYES…Unusual Ponds. PATTON… That Winning Message. EAGAN…… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Daylight Savings Time”

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SWANTON HOUSE 1883. This three-story hotel was on Front Street where the post office stands now. It burned down on May 30, 1887. Fred Swanton was one of the most significant developers and shakers in our early city history.                                                         

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE November 15

CITY GROWTH AND 831 WATER STREET REVISITED. Once again I asked Lira Filippini to detail and explain what’s behind the changes and decisions involved with the proposed development at 831 Water Street. Lira is a very active participant in civic affairs and has been deep into this particular issue. She wrote,

“The 831 Water Development saga continues.  On October 12th, our City Council courageously stood up against the segregated element of the proposed development and denied the project citing that as one of the main reasons for the denial of this first iteration of proposed housing on the corner of N Branciforte and Water Street.

Skip to November 9th, when our City’s Planning Director received a letter from HCD (Housing and Community Development) in support of the project and encouraging the City to approve it, pointing out that the 90-day approval/denial period gave the City an extra 30 days beyond the 60-day response to developer deadline.  HCD’s letter pointed out that they believe the City is relying too heavily on AB 491, which doesn’t go into effect until January of 2022.  California’s new AB 491 clarifies existing anti-segregation law on the “structure” level of development, making it clear that affordable units cannot be consolidated onto separate floors than market-rate units in large developments.

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In response to this letter, the City Council is reconvening and considering rescinding their denial, which would result in approval of this project.  With permission for a small extension to SB 35’s rigid timeline, they are adding it to their November 23rd agenda.  One of the big questions in front of us is – will they require the affordable units to be distributed as a condition of approval, or will they allow clear segregation development practices within our City?  

Hopefully, our City Council members have read their October 14th official response letter to the developer and will remember their oath to represent their citizens and their commitment to Health in All Policies.  HCD is tasked with encouraging development and it is not a surprise they would support this project, regardless of its many glaring issues – like segregation.

Largely ignored in HCD’s letter, is the many other regulations and laws cited by the City in their response/denial letter to the developer.  For this update, I am going to stick to the segregation issue instead of naming all of the other reasons for denial, and the health and public safety issues they’d cause (like the proximity to a steep slope).

Besides the citing of AB 491, our City pointed out that the segregation of the affordable units from the market-rate units would violate two local regulations that call for dispersal of affordable units (SC’s Inclusionary Ordinance & our Density Bonus Ordinance).  On the State level, the segregation would violate California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.  And because the various tax-generated funding systems the developer is applying for are tied to special needs for the affordable building, the segregation would violate the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, which protects discrimination against those with disabilities.

The City’s denial letter also cited federal laws preventing segregation including “the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the federal Fair Housing Act, and the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”

The process of adopting laws moves slowly.  When something is clearly in violation of the “intent” of many laws, our society needs our representatives to stand up and point this out so that laws can be further clarified and big-industry can’t take advantage of grey areas or omissions.  Segregating the affordable units into one building, separate from the market-rate units in a development project is clearly wrong.  Having shared amenities and pathways that connect them is no different than old redlining practices in which zoning was used to segregate residents but their roads, access to parks/businesses, and utilities still connected them.  AB 491 clarifies segregation is not allowed “within” a structure, preventing it on a much smaller scale than illegal redlining.  

The development of anti-segregation laws clearly needs to be further clarified so that Cities don’t need to be put in the position of entertaining such damaging proposals to equity and anti-discrimination.  

Another big issue in this situation is that within the context of SB 35 State law, our City has already responded to the developer within the required timeline with the delineated reasons for a denial of the currently proposed project – including segregation and non-adherence to a number of our objective standards.  San Francisco’s policy for when this happens is that this closes the chapter on that particular proposal.  The developer is welcome to submit a new proposal with the issues fixed and initiate a new timeline.  

Will our City follow suit – giving themselves and the community the time to adequately review a new proposal?  Will they risk a threatened lawsuit from YIMBY and the developer – to do what is right for their community?  We sure hope they will.  After their first 6 to 1 vote to deny the project, we think our current City Council might just stand behind their community to do what is right.  After all, AB 491 is not the only anti-segregation law backing their original decision.  The developer can always submit a new application and we can still see affordable housing built at this location that will be good for the current and future community”.

Thanks again to Lira Filippini for assembling the facts and foibles around yet another threat to our community…it’s not easy. 

CUMMINGS FOR SUPERVISOR PARTY.
Justin Cummings has created a very together campaign for his third district County Supervisor seat. Here’s what he sent out on Monday, November 15…

“There’s a County Supervisor Campaign Kickoff Party this Saturday, November 20th from 2:30 pm – 5:00 pm at Seabright Social (formerly Seabright Brewery). We will have a number of community leaders speak around 3:00 pm,  and there will be plenty of time for people to mingle and build community. If you are unable to attend we encourage you to donate to help support our campaign. You can also visit our website at (cummingsforsupervisor.com) and click on the volunteer link if you would like to endorse or sign up to put your name on our volunteer list. We hope to see you this Saturday!!! ”

GOODBYE “BEACH BLANKET BABYLON” HELLO “DEAR SAN FRANCISCO”

Longtime Santa Cruzan with a past that includes co-partnering, starring, and founding roles in The Pickle Family Circus, Peggy Snider, sent a fantastic intro. It says in part,

“My daughter Gypsy and her high school friend Shana Carroll (daughter of former SF Chronicle columnist Jon) have opened a show in San Francisco at Club Fugazi where Beach Blanket reigned for 45 years. They are two of the seven founding members of the Montreal company called “7 fingers”.  They both have longed to return home, hang with parents and old friends, etc, so when Beach Blanket closed, Gypsy went in and looked the venue over and decided this was the place to return home to.  

Gypsy and Shana wrote a show about the city where they grew up, called “Dear San Francisco.”  Their company is known for combining stories told by extraordinary circus artists. It opened last month and audiences are loving it. The show is full of San Francisco history, earthquakes, fire, gold rush, Sam Spade, beat poets, the 60s, the Aids era, and rich techies.  It is loads of fun and, of course, is performed by (nine) astonishing performer/acrobats who make it all into a jaw-dropping 90-minute experience”.

Watch the video, and then go see the show! Buy tickets here.

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.

BELFAST. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (7.8 IMDB). Kenneth Branagh wrote and directed this true story of his own upbringing in Northern Ireland in 1969.  It’s a sad story of the killing battles between the Catholics and Protestants and makes us think about “man’s inhumanity to man”. It’s heart-touching and the real star is Jude Hill the 11-year boy who plays young Kenneth. An excellent film that is a bit difficult to follow chronologically but you won’t forget it or your own childhood and the differences and painful similarities. Judi Dench has a small role in it too.

MAYOR PETE. (PRIME SINGLE). Anyone and everyone involved with politics should watch and memorize this documentary about Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 campaign. He ran for president against Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, and more! Not only is Pete gay but he speaks 8 languages is a Rhodes Scholar and has a great sense of humor. The backstage politics, the plotting, the media, and how it all comes together should be a primer for would-be politicians at any level. Don’t miss it especially now that he’s Prez. Joe Biden’s Transportation Secretary and working on highway design!!!

RED NOTICE. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.5RT). Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds are the leads in this action hero comedy. I never laughed once and barely managed to sit through the silly, typical plot involving the theft of three eggs supposedly belonging to Cleopatra. More than killing time or a diversion you’ll sit there critiquing the idiotic jokes and failing plot holes.

YARA. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.1 IMDB) An absolutely puzzling true story of the search and conviction of whoever murdered a 13-year-old girl in Bergamo, Italy. The search went on with little evidence including getting DNA samples from huge groups of citizens. The court’s case was complex and the dogged determination of the woman investigator has become part of Italy’s history. Fine film, you’ll learn a lot.

EDGE OF THE WORLD. (HULU SINGLE). (5.2 IMDB). Sir James Brooke was a British citizen who had a cause. The purpose of his life was to take Borneo from being a jungle island into a recognized nation. In doing so he gave his life to end slavery, robbery, and head-hunting, (and there are a lot of chopped heads depicted) and he had to fight England who wanted to make it their colony. It’s slow-paced but dramatic and worth watching.

QUEEN MARIE. (PRIME SINGLE). (60RT). This is the true story of the Queen of Romania in 1916 doing an enthusiastic job of leading her country in the war against Germany. A bit slow but sincere in the way it separates politics from royalty…very thoughtful. The role of Queen divides her life from her family into the public eye and makes its point forcefully. Good acting too.

THE TRENCH. (PRIME SINGLE). (6.0 IMDB).  Filmed in 1999 not in 2021 as it states on Primes lead page. The now famous Daniel Craig is the co-lead in this deep dive into the hearts minds, and actions of British soldiers living in trenches in France and waiting to fight the Germans during WWII. Over 60,000 Brits were killed in this battle of the Somme and it remains the biggest and bloodiest battle of World War One.

INTO THE DARKNESS. (PRIME SINGLE). (61RT). (6.4 IMDB). It’s set in 1940 as the Germans are invading Denmark. Nearly soul-searching introspection of the many ways each citizen reacts with the invaders. Families are torn apart, businesses are spun around according to the profits or losses from war and you’ll think of so many parallels to our USA situation today. A grand and not great film that you won’t forget. 

 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.  

SPENCER. (Del Mar Theatre Single). (7.2 IMDB). I hope someone asks filmmakers when they will do a film about Princess Diana’s mysterious and largely unsolved death in that tunnel!!! Spencer is a “fable” about Diana’s worst problems. Her bulimia, her self-cutting, her purposeful fall downstairs, and even more bad escapes from her sad reality. Kristen Stewart and Timothy Spall do absolutely magnificent jobs in their roles and Stewart is being promoted as a big-time Academy award winner.

LAND. (HBO MAX SERIES). (6.6 IMDB). Robin Wright is back as the star and director of this lonely woman saga. The woman has a sad background that we only find out near the end and takes to the woods and a cabin in the very remote mountains of Wisconsin. She faces suicide and makes friends with a fine gentleman who helps her stay alive. Terribly dramatic, almost purposeless, but so scenically created that you’ll have a good time watching it. 

FINCH. (APPLE SINGLE).(7.0 IMDB). The always enjoyable Tom Hanks is back as the last man on an earth that was destroyed by radiation. He’s a former tech guy who only has two robots and a dog to keep him company. It’s corny, very familiar and predictable and even has a tornado that looks straight out of Oz!! Watch it when you need a diversion, you’ll smile a lot.

THE HARDER THEY FALL. (NETFLIX SINGLE) (88RT) (6.0 IMDB). It’s unique in “filmdom” to have an all-Black cast in a western. This should be classified as a parody of our earlier Hollywood cowboy movies. Idris Elba and Delroy Lindo lead the typical western plot with gold pistols, dramatic music, and plenty of motherfuckers shouted about. It happens in Salinas, Texas, and what they call Redwood City. But its bloody, violent, brutal murders take place in a fake and foolish Hollywood-style village that we’ve seen in dozens of earlier westerns. I have to mention too that the characters sometimes break out singing which adds to the odd direction of this mess. 

COME AWAY. (PRIME VIDEO SINGLE). (29RT). Almost a Disney copy of Peter Pan meets Alice in Wonderland. Stars such as Angelina Jolie (now just 46) join with Derek Jacobi, David Oyelowo, and Michael Caine but it doesn’t make this worth watching unless you’re under six years old. It has little charm, no new ideas, and the British accents sound phony.

THE TIME IT TAKES. (NETFLIX SERIES). There are ten episodes in this series and …warning…each episode is only 13 minutes long. That means credits, data, details each time you get involved. It’s about a woman and her boyfriend and their couple’s therapy and how their lives change every 13 minutes. It’s odd, unusual, and flips back and forth from past to present, yes, every 13 minutes. Try it and see if it’s your cup of tea.

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HIDDEN VALLEY STRING ORCHESTRA. Sixteen of Northern California’s finest string players will be playing in the early tradition, the orchestra will perform without a conductor. Prepared under the direction of Stewart Robertson, performances will be led by concertmaster, Roy Malan. Comprising sixteen of Northern California’s most talented and accomplished string players, the String Orchestra of Hidden Valley debuted to acclaim in November 2014. Lyn Bronson of Peninsula Reviews said of the String Orchestra’s debut, “A gorgeous performance. Every section . . . a perfect jewel.” 

TWO CONCERTS, TWO LOCATIONS:
Carmel Valley Saturday December 11, 7:30 p.m. Hidden Valley Theatre, 104 W. Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel Valley CA 93924 And in Santa Cruz Sunday December 12, 4:00 p.m. Peace United Church 900 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.Tickets are available online or by telephone at (831) 659-3115

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The Downtown Plan Expansion is well underway. The first zoom meeting was held Saturday morning. I was one of twenty members of the public who attended, along with senior planners and the consultant. The Mayor led off with a motivational speech exclaiming this an “exciting area to look at” and that she is “excited” at the “new economic opportunities for businesses and workers” plus a “new permanent arena, new art and entertainment opportunities with year-round events.” She concluded with the assurance that this “will be a community-driven process” and that “voices will be heard.”

Forgive my skepticism.  When consultants are already hired, boundaries drawn, objectives listed, even significant community opposition is unlikely to turn this vessel around. There was no community input whether to embark on an extension of downtown. The ship had sailed well before the community was invited on board. 

If Saturday’s meeting was any example, critics significantly outnumbered supporters. And if the lower Westside gets wind of this Plan and its impacts, there could be a full-throated roar of opposition for obvious reasons. 

The staff-driven boundary for an expanded downtown is outlined in red on the map. It includes Front Street and Center Street, the two access roads for the lower Westside.  It wraps around long-time established neighborhoods. Displacement of existing lower-income residents is already listed as a possible negative. 

Anyone who lives on the west side of the San Lorenzo River knows that these two roads and the roundabouts are often grid-locked on summer weekends as visitor traffic winds its way to the beach and Boardwalk. You may well ask why doesn’t beach and Boardwalk traffic stay on Ocean Street with a clear shot to the beach and Boardwalk parking lots? Why is it diverted across the river, through two roundabouts, jamming the Wharf traffic and heavily impacting locals trying to get to and from the lower Westside?   

The answer is simple. Planners, downtown businesses and past councils believed that a good portion of beach visitor traffic would go to shop and eat downtown if only they knew where to find it. So traffic planners went about redirecting visitor traffic into the current configuration. This goal is even codified in the General Plan. It came up again in Saturday’s meeting when the city planner spoke enthusiastically about “capturing the energy that goes to the beach and often misses downtown!” So much for caring about impacts on locals who live on the lower Westside: we are not even on their radar.

When it was my turn to speak, I addressed two main points: one was this pie in the sky belief that beach and Boardwalk visitors would flock to downtown if only they knew where it was. If these planners and consultants ever lifted their eyes from their planning manuals and went to the beach and Boardwalk in summer and if they are observant, they would recognize that those who go to the beach and Boardwalk are largely from different demographics than those who go to shop, walk and eat downtown. The latter don’t want to go to the beach and the former don’t want to go downtown. It’s as simple as that. No amount of traffic diversion, consternating everyone in the process is going to change that fact. 

A buzz phrase that is trotted out at times like this is the desire to “connect downtown to the beach.” I admit it sets my teeth on edge. It is code for “lets gentrify this part of town.” Downtown and the beach are already well connected with roads and a number of small shops and services.  It’s not as though one gets to the edge of downtown, scratches one’s head and ponders, “where am I? If only I knew where is the beach!”  The main need is for a long-overdue bike lane and sidewalk on the east side of Front Street but that’s about it. The rest is developer jargon.

The other main point I raised was about zoning and height limits. As you probably know, the state has taken most land-use decisions away from local control. A prime example from this area is the recently approved (and appealed) new project proposed for 130 Center St. The current height limit for Center Street is 36 feet. But this new mixed-use project for 130 Center Street is approved at 76 feet, more than double the existing height limits, all due to the state’s density bonus law and waivers.  Given this new reality, my suggestion was that in the Expanded Downtown, height limits should be capped at the 36 feet limit since they can and probably will be doubled anyway. If they are raised to current downtown heights of 60, 70 and 80 feet, then even those heights can be raised under the density bonus law and waivers.

There is plenty of opportunity for input into this process. Whether input will be cherry-picked or ignored as is often the case remains to be seen. The planner is already talking with area property owners, which is a troubling sign. Property owners are different from the business owners who pay rent to the former. The gentrification of this area will be a windfall for property owners. I would rather city planners waited until the results of community input and environmental review were in, before making overtures to property owners. 

Another troubling sign was the consultant musing that 555 Pacific (the relatively new multi-story apartments where Pacific and Front merge) “probably won’t change for the next 5 to 10 years.” Given such premature obsolescence perspective, I doubt there is room in his toolbox for preserving a sense of place that the old homes and small-scale businesses hold for us locals.

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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November 15, 2021 & March 21, 2017

“THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME”.
Note from Chris Krohn: This column originally appeared in BrattonOnline during the Week of March 21-27 2017. That’s over four years ago. It is filled with hints of what we are experiencing now in terms of growth with the lack of affordable housing. It names some names and contemplates the process of selecting a new police chief, calls out city desk reserved for ICE agents, and cites some progressive city council wins. The process for selecting the police chief seemed to work, and both Bernal and Mills are now gone. Will the new city manager, Matt Huffaker, follow a maximal public input process in selecting the next police chief, senior city engineer, and library director?

A Week in the Life of This Councilmember (March 2017)Every week on the Santa Cruz city council is different. As different as one week is from another there must be some ties that bind. Perhaps it is the dissimilarities, distinctions, or varying disagreements that occur, which link the calendar dates into a more cohesive narrative that may reveal a picture of SC civic life. Early MONDAY morning I met with City of Santa Cruz Planning Department’s Principle Planner, Ron Powers, to discuss “The Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report” (re: Downtown Recovery Plan). It was an engaging conversation, which revealed that this is a big plan, folks. Similar to the steroidal Wharf Master Plan, and the market-rate housing developer dream known as the “Corridors Plan,” this one contemplates BIG changes in the downtown like building heights going to seventy feet along Front Street, for example. It’s a plan that brings together some formidable developer interests too including land-use consultant, Owen Lawlor who teams with Milpitas’ Devcon Construction. And don’t forget Barry Swenson and Doug Ross also have interests in this area too. This plan includes parcels from Soquel to Laurel along Front Street, and from Cathcart to Laurel along Pacific Avenue. The question for city council members might be: What will the public benefit(s) be in these forthcoming projects? Affordable units maybe? It’s up to the community to weigh in and make the developers do the right thing. One elephant in this room also is what will the Metro be doing with their property (1.5 acres)? Play ball with the developers, or go their own way? Stay tuned, the development of our downtown takes a village.

(Nov. 2021 Note I: Developers are running amok in Surf City as a result of the Downtown Recovery Plan being approved on a 5-2 vote (Krohn and Brown voting NO. The good news is that there will be an election in 2022 and 2024 and it’s not just Voldemort we are trying to keep out of the Whitehouse, but needing to confront the selling off of Santa Cruz.)

Bernal the Bureaucrat Who Would be King
Later in the day, I met with city manager (CM), Martin Bernal to discuss the Tuesday city council meeting agenda, but the conversation was mostly agreeing to disagree over one of his pet projects, the so-called “garage-library,” a five-story behemoth planned for the current site of the Farmer’s Market at Lincoln and Cedar streets. I will continue to update this story as information is made available. Tuesday was an official city council meeting and truth be told, I believe every vote taken by the council was unanimous. The most significant moment during the meeting was perhaps city manager Bernal’s not so cryptic message to the city council that there is a “no interference clause” in the city charter he said, prohibiting the council from telling him who to appoint as the next chief of police in Santa Cruz. It came across as a not so subtle message. The other agenda issue the council voted affirmatively on was the sanctuary city ordinance backing up an already approved city resolution stating clearly that Santa Cruz welcomes immigrants and will seek to protect them when threatened by outside federal powers. 

(Nov. 2021 Note II: Border “security” during Voldemort proved to be a disaster with ICE officers endorsing Voldemort and carrying out his twisted agenda. All the more reason why it is such a head-scratching tragedy that we would ever allow federal ICE agents to literally have an office in the SCPD. I hope someone is checking up on this and making sure there are no ICE agents still in the building, or even near it. If you doubt what the V-man has done, read Jon Lee Anderson’s well-written piece on the current political crisis engulfing Honduras at the hands of US operatives and border policies. It’s resulted in thousands of more refugees.)

Unanimous Votes Can Happen (Nov. 2021 Note III: Another major victory by Santa Cruz Left Progressives and Fiscally-minded Moderate, aka Still No Desal.)

The evening city council meeting was a most remarkable event given Santa Cruz’s history of contentious politics. It was a kumbaya moment that had both councilmembers and water commissioners singing the praises of the city’s water advisory committee (WASC). Everyone present was falling over each other in endorsing the post-desalination reset policy recommendations that will help us move toward even greater conservation with the implementation of a more innovative rate-payer structure that incentivizes using less water. But during public comment that night, Curtis Reliford, the made-in-Santa Cruz change-maker and mirth-maker, provided a poignant, and almost surreal moment after a night of back-slapping, when he repeated the Standing Rock campaign slogan, “Water is Life,” and reminded this group of decision-makers that not everyone’s water is so secure.

The Anti-Trump Campaign Continues
Wednesday night I spent at the Resource Center for Non-violence. It was a birthday celebration for Tatanka Bricca (72!) and his partner Carol (68). The evening was filled with music and an informative update on what activists are currently doing at Standing Rock in North Dakota since the pipeline was given a thumbs-up, first by the Trump Administration and then by a judge.  Danny Sheehan of the Romero Institute is there aiding several protesters who were arrested according to Sheehan’s son whose band performed at the birthday party. There has been a news blackout since protesters were forced off the site last month. NPR reported last Sunday that oil could be flowing through the pipeline (DAPL) as early as this week.

(Nov. 2021 Note IV: For the latest on Standing Rock go to the Romero Institute’s web page here.

Bernal, Again
Thursday’s highlight was at the Beach Flats Community Center where I joined fifteen other community members who’d gathered to offer input to CM Bernal as he moves toward reviewing applications of those who’ve applied to be the next police chief. He responded to a variety of questions including, is the ICE agent still embedded in SCPD? (Bernal: That agent is in the process of leaving.), Why have rangers displaced downtown hosts and community service officers on Pacific Avenue? (Bernal: To provide more protection.) And, how can PD be restructured to provide real help to the homeless instead of just issuing more tickets? (Bernal: We don’t have the funding to fund human services…the money goes to our core services, it’s a balance between protection and enforcement.) 

If your group wants to meet with the city manager to offer input on the next police chief, and planning director too, you can email him at: mbernal@cityofsantacruz.com or call 831-420-5020. (Nov. 2021 Note V: Better change that to mhuffaker@cityofsantacruz.com )

It’s All About the Climate Crisis
Friday’s big meeting was a ONE-HOUR gathering of the city’s Climate Action Task Force. It’s a wonderful group of environmentalists, alternative energy practitioners, bicycle advocates, educators, a city staff member, and me. We were summarily told by the staff member that we will NOT be making recommendations to the city council, even though the same council set up the group. BUT we are to assist (?) in implementing the city’s climate action goals as contained within the Climate Action Plan. How, you might ask, will we assist if we are not to make any recommendations? Me too. We will have three more “one-hour” meetings (since when is a task force meeting only one hour?) between now and December. We can talk about stuff, but just don’t make any recommendations was the message. I was perplexed by this outcome, especially given that the massive “garage-library” project, originally a part of our agenda was suddenly taken off right before the meeting by the staff member Tiffany Wise-West’s boss, deputy city manager, Scott Collins. It was a baffling turn of events. 

(Nov. 2021 Note VI: for the latest on this ill-fated former library-in-a-garage project go to ourdowntownourfuture.org 

(Nov. 2021 Note VII: To read what some scientists say on the Conference of the Parties, otherwise known as COP26, go to this article in Nature.)

Weekends Are Made for Meetings
Saturday is usually busy, chaotic, and a buffet of meetings to choose from, and it was no different this past week. But this was also the first weekend of March Madness basketball, which I had to follow in the upper small box window of my computer as I meeting-hopped. First up was the “Community Conversation on Homelessness” at the Garfield Park Church. Around forty people came and went during a meeting where the main discussion topics were: what’s being done around homelessness, what can be done, and what should be done? There was ample input and a particularly thoughtful presentation by Santa Cruz County’s Human Services Department’s senior analyst, Adam Spickler. He stressed that collecting data (“evidenced-based”) is crucial in drawing not only funding, but empathy, from the greater community towards the plight of our city’s homeless population, of which only around 600 are sheltered on any given night out of over 2000 according to the Santa Cruz County Homeless Census & Survey of 2015. Next, I attended the amazing organizing effort being carried out by a newly formed group called, Santa Cruz Indivisible. The civic auditorium took on a job fair-style atmosphere in which hundreds mingled around tables advocating for dozens of causes that included free speech, universal healthcare, immigrant’s rights, and affordable housing to name a few of my favorites. Organizers say that over 2000 have registered with Indivisible in only a few months’ time. What everybody attending seemed to agree upon was that we must all get much more organized if we are going to resist Trump and his regressive social policies. People are fired up and that is good to see. Finally, I attended the meeting of the “Anti-Trump Reading Group, organized by current and former graduate students from UCSC. It’s an eclectic, thoughtful, and provocative assembly that’s been meeting every Saturday afternoon in the backroom of Lupelos on Cedar Street. They send out an academic-style reading at the beginning of the week and the conversation flows on Saturday. “The Tyranny of Structurelessness,” by Jo Freeman was only tangentially brought into a conversation that covered organizing; how to enable democratic practice; meeting facilitation; and the importance of having a media presence within activist groups so the overall message is not coopted or misconstrued.

Say it Ain’t so Granite!
(Nov. 2021 note VIII: Ahhh…a fight we prevailed on.)
Sunday’s meetings included an organizing effort around a Granite Construction boycott, in light of Granite’s bid to build Trump’s wall between the US and Mexico. The other group meeting I attended, Organizing Circle, is a project that grew out of SC4Bernie’s “Brand New Council” campaign to get a new city council elected. Well, the canvassing continues and this group meets once a month to “listen” to neighbors and their concerns about the city. This was the third such walk and between 11 and 25 walkers have made their presence known these past months in the Beach Flats, Lower Ocean, and South of Laurel Street neighborhoods so far. What is unique about the Organizing Circle is that it meets for an hour to discuss tactics, walks for two hours, and then meets at a group member’s house for a potluck-debrief-story-sharing session. It’s actually fun!

Other Notes 

  • The city council’s “norms and values” retreat part I, is Tuesday, March 21st from 3-7 pm at the Harvey West Clubhouse in Harvey West Park… and I’m sure I’ll write something about it in some way next week.
  • Also, don’t forget the Planning Commission’s “special meeting” to discuss, you guessed it, “the Corridors Plan” Thursday, March 23rd at 7pm in the city hall chambers.

(Nov. 2021 note IX: We sort of won the “Corridors Plan” battle too, until 831 Water came along.

The Republican health care bill “should be seen as a huge tax break for the wealthiest people in this country.” 

This is Michael Levy and Sandra Brown, both on the Empty Homes Tax committee. “Would you like to sign a petition to create more affordable housing in Santa Cruz?” (And tax those with two and three homes, and push back on the grow-for-the-rich city council majority and let’s empower the community and let’s get involved.) Sign the Empty Homes Tax petition.
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Chris Krohn is a father, writer, activist, and a Santa Cruz City Council member from 1998-2002 and from 2017-2020. Krohn was Mayor in 2001-2002. He’s been running the Environmental Studies Internship program at UC Santa Cruz for the past 16 years. On Tuesday evenings at 5pm, Krohn hosts of “Talk of the Bay,” on KSQD 90.7 and KSQD.org His Twitter handle at SCpolitics is @ChrisKrohnSC Chris can be reached at ckrohn@cruzio.com

Email Chris at ckrohn@cruzio.com

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November 14

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS BLAZE THROUGH THE REDISTRICTING PROCESS…UNDER PROTEST FROM SUPERVISOR RYAN COONERTY
Strange things happened last Tuesday (11/09) at the County Board of Supervisor’s public hearing on the County Supervisorial Redistricting issues.  In essence, Supervisor Ryan Coonerty protested the incongruous information that County Counsel provided the Board on submitting maps that will re-draw the lines of how people are represented in this County. 

Now, suddenly, there are five options for redrawing the lines, but public communication submitted is not even in the Board agenda packet for what could be the final hearing this Tuesday, November 16.

Last Tuesday’s Board meeting discussion was interesting and yet frustrating.  The Advisory Redistricting Commission (ARC 21) really wanted the Board to reconvene their Commission so that they could do more work, but the Board did not seem to hear that at all when I testified with the request.  The County Administrative Officer, Elissa Benson, who seems to now be running the show, certainly did not let the Board know of the ARC’s requests.

In the end, because the Mayor of Scotts Valley, Derek Timm, had submitted a map to reunite Scotts Valley representation, along with other changes in areas of Santa Cruz near Ocean Street, the Board agreed to include some version of his map in the final hearing next Tuesday.

Supervisor Coonerty was offended that he had in fact tried to submit maps last week that would have addressed areas of UCSC (one area the ARC really wanted to address) but had been persuaded not to do so by County Counsel.  He felt it unfair that Counsel was willing to allow the Board to swiftly adopt the new and somewhat vague map that Derek Timm had submitted, but he had been convinced last week not to submit a map at all. The Board agreed to adopt the maps, and maybe an unknown “Map D” that Supervisor Coonerty said he would work on and submit by the end of the day.  I kept asking that the ARC be reconvened, but was waved aside by Chairman McPherson.

After the meeting, I spoke with Supervisor Caput.  He feels the process is now becoming political.  I again pointed out that if the ARC were asked to reconvene and do the work, it would not appear political.  He agreed, but it obviously went nowhere.

It was disappointing that the Board nor staff even discussed the map that I submitted, and did not ask staff to explain why a Community of Interest comment form I had submitted to staff after the October 26 Special Board meeting was not even in the agenda packet.

This Tuesday’s public hearing agenda packet does not contain my letter of protest, sent November 10 to the Board, stating that maps and documents I submitted were not discussed or considered at all at the November 9 public hearing.

Will the Board schedule another Final Map hearing on November 29 or not?

The sad truth is that the public has had little time or notice to help us understand what this really is about, and how it will affect those whose representational lines may or may not be changed.  None of the Public Libraries have information posted about this process, or any of the “Public Hearings” that have been shoved through under the deadline.

Here is the Redistricting website link…maybe submitting comment through that portal will get it included in the Board agenda packet???

Take a look at the five different maps the Board will consider this Tuesday, November 16. I am glad that Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm was able to get the attention of the Board….what happened to the City of Watsonville?

Call your Supervisor 831-454-2200.

WRITE ONE LETTER.  MAKE ONE CALL.  MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD AND MAKE A BIGGER DIFFERENCE THAN YOU MAY THINK POSSIBLE.

Cheers, Becky

Becky Steinbruner is a 30+ year resident of Aptos. She has fought for water, fire, emergency preparedness, and for road repair. She ran for Second District County Supervisor in 2016 on a shoestring and got nearly 20% of the votes. She ran again in 2020 on a slightly bigger shoestring and got 1/3 of the votes.

Email Becky at KI6TKB@yahoo.com

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November 15

UNUSUAL PONDS
Humans make ponds wherever we can. I bet you can think of half a dozen created ponds easily. Fountains, reflecting pools, “water features,” agricultural ponds, and cattle ponds are scattered across this landscape. Because of our innate affinity for water, we find these artificial ponds beautiful, and when we see the frogs, snakes, or salamanders floating around them, we smile. If most of the ponds were created by people, where did those frogs come from, originally? Why are they here?

Natural ponds are odd anywhere, but especially unusual around this Mediterranean region. It makes sense that ponds fill gradually with soil and muck and disappear with time; and yet, there are old natural ponds. Without human assistance, very specific circumstances must be aligned to create a divet in the earth large and big enough to hold water and qualify as a pond. Without people, something powerful has to occur to keep a pond deep and wet. The powerful and mysterious natural forces that create and maintain ponds have also helped to create a wealth of critters in natural ponds that have been roaming the landscape enjoying the more recent human-created ponds. 

There are five natural types of ponds along the Central Coast: sag ponds, vernal pools, dune slack, oxbow, and cave ponds. Sag ponds are the majority of the region’s ponds and were created and are maintained by earthquake faults. Vernal pools sometimes get big enough to qualify as ponds and are created and maintained by gophers. Dune slack ponds are a creation of waves rearranging sand. Oxbow ponds are a result of floods along streams and rivers. And, cave ponds are caused by the dissolution of limestone resulting in the creation of subterranean cavities.

Sag Ponds – Earthquakes
One of my geology mentors once told me that any natural pond I would encounter along the central coast of California would coincide with an earthquake fault. Interestingly, two faults, both named “Frijoles” have two of the best-known natural ponds of our area. The pond along the main trail for the elephant seal tour at Año Nuevo lies on one of the two Frijoles faults. On the opposite side of the Bay, the pond in front of the big pink hotel in Sand City lies on the other Frijoles Fault. Less accessible to the public are the many natural ponds along the San Andreas Fault above Watsonville. There used to be a large sag pond right under Highway 1 just north and adjacent to the Freedom Boulevard exit. And, there is another sag pond on private land in the northern part of the Swanton area. No doubt there are other sag ponds I haven’t listed…All of the ponds I listed above have water year-round.

Vernal Pools – Gophers
There are vernal pools in the mima mound habitats around the Monterey Bay. These include at Point Lobos, Fort Ord, Pogonip, UCSC, Moore Creek Preserve, and Wilder Ranch. Most recently, scientists have become fairly certain that those pools are a result of thousands of years of soil displacement by gophers. The soils excavated from the vernal pools are adjacent, forming what are called ‘mima mounds.’ Vernal pools are ephemeral, meaning that they do not hold water year-round.

Dune Slack – Waves
Behind and among the dunes that ring the Monterey Bay, you can find another type of ephemeral pond also called dune slack. These ponds are the result of surface water or shallow groundwater not being able to drain downhill due to the presence of natural sand dams, piled up by waves and wind. 

Oxbows – Floods
The bigger streams and rivers carve channels during flood and sometimes then revert to another channel afterwards, abandoning an area carved deep enough to become a pond. Neary Lagoon is the best known one around here. There’s another that a prehistoric Carneros Creek carved down Elkhorn way. There were probably more near the region’s large rivers, but those are now farmed or paved so it is hard to tell.

Cave Ponds – Plants versus Rock
Very few people have seen the local underground cave ponds; most of them are inaccessible. Imagine clear quiet ponds surrounded by crystal-sparkling white limestone with occasional musical echoes of dripping water. These are tens to hundreds of feet underground from the San Lorenzo River around Felton to Scott Creek on the North Coast, with large caverns under UCSC, Wilder Ranch State Park, and Bonny Doon. Rotting plant leaves and needles leach humic acid that dissolves limestone, so caves and cave ponds are created by plants.

Pond Critters
Our region’s various types of ponds support a wealth of interesting pond-dependent indigenous wildlife including newts, salamanders, turtles, toads, frogs, and snakes. California and rough-skinned newts are pond denizens, found naturally in especially in cooler, shadier sag ponds. Salamanders enjoy more sunny and warm sag and oxbow ponds, as well as vernal pools and dune slack. (Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders are critically endangered, despite valiant efforts to protect it) The California tiger salamander (less endangered but still rare), Western toads and rare California red-legged frogs also like warmer, sunnier ponds, which often host a cacophony of common Pacific chorus (tree) frogs.  One of the rarest pond creatures, evolving in sag ponds, is our only earthquake snake: the San Francisco garter snake; it is quite lovely and can be seen around Año Nuevo and north to the Bay. 

All of these pond critters must have hundreds of acres of upland habitat surrounding a pond in order to thrive as adults. They mainly use the ponds as nurseries for their young. The upland habitat is where they find enough food as adults.  

Critter Food
There is enough food in ponds to raise baby critters, but little in cave ponds. Frog and toad tadpoles eat algae. Garter snakes and newts eat frog and toad tadpoles; garter snakes also eat newts. “Newts??!!” you might cry “but newts are super toxic!!” Garter snakes are constantly evolving to be immune to the constantly evolving newt toxins. Down below the ground, the slow-moving cave-dwelling and as yet unnamed potential subspecies of California giant salamander eats also very rare cave bugs and whatever other invertebrates might accidentally wash underground. 

The invertebrate community in ponds has its own food webs. Some of our favorite insects, dragonflies, are one of the pond creatures at the top of the pond food chain. Before they grow wings, fierce underwater dragonfly larvae are like the tigers of the pond world, hunting anything they can grab and shred into bite-sized pieces. Lucky schoolchildren get to observe drops of pond water under a microscope and see zooplankton and lots of other teeny tiny things floating around in what might otherwise look like ‘clean’ clear water.

Back in People Ponds
It is not wrong to be inspired to create ponds, but we must be careful how we do that. Our people-made ponds can serve as new habitats for native critters, but if we add bullfrogs or fish, we’re setting up lethal traps and spreading bad things across the landscape. Non-native organisms will transform what might be a biodiverse pond into a much-simplified ecosystem with no salamanders and few frogs. More and more people are building rain garden (aka rainwater infiltration) ponds- these are more like vernal pools and rarely last long enough to support many pond organisms. Chorus frogs or toads might be able to hatch from eggs and grow past tadpole stage (“metamorphs”) in a raingarden pond that lasts three months. 

It is quite a bit of work to keep longer-lasting created ponds full of water without concrete and with the addition of increasingly precious water. Livestock managers have become experts at creating and maintaining ponds, and now parks managers are learning from them how difficult and expensive that work can be. Because of the rarity of many pond organisms, that knowledge is precious but the viable partnerships/funding to do that work is a constant challenge. 

Grey Hayes is a fervent speaker for all things wild, and his occupations have included land stewardship with UC Natural Reserves, large-scale monitoring and strategic planning with The Nature Conservancy, professional education with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, and teaching undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz. Visit his website at: www.greyhayes.net

Email Grey at coastalprairie@aol.com

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November 15

#318 / That Winning Message

Ezra Klein, pictured above, is a New York Times’ columnist. The headline that topped his opinion column on October 10, 2021, was “David Shor Is Telling Democrats What They Don’t Want To Hear.” That was the online version. In the hard copy edition of the paper, Klein’s headline read, “Can Democrats Find A Winning Message?” David Shor, by the way, is a political consultant known for analyzing political polls. Shor works for liberal and progressive campaigns, and he thinks that the Democratic Party is in trouble. 

“Hey,” I am tempted to say, “Why don’t you tell us something that we don’t already know?”

Klein’s column is quite long, and thus is not susceptible to inclusion here. If you have the ability to elude the paywall erected by The Times, click on the link in that first paragraph, above, and get the whole story.  

In general, here is the way I would characterize Shor’s advice and analysis, at least as described by Klein: Shor is suggesting to the leadership of the Democratic Party that the Democrats should bring to politics the kind of “analytics” that the San Francisco Giants supposedly brought to baseball this last season – a season in which the Giants did a lot better than expected. The leadership of the Democratic Party should be forging its message (and its policies) based on what the members of the Democratic Party are telling the leadership they care about most.

Shor thinks that the Democratic Party is on course to lose its majorities in both the House and the Senate, and that where the Party is, right now, is likely to be “the high-water mark of power they’ll have for the next decade.” To avoid what is likely to happen in 2022 and 2024, says Shor, the Democratic Party needs to “pass a package of democracy reforms that makes voting fairer and easier. To offer statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. To overhaul how the party talks and acts and thinks to win back the working-class voters — white and nonwhite — who have left them behind the electoral eight ball.” If the party doesn’t do that, Shor opines, the Democrats “will not get another chance. Not anytime soon.”

Klein outlines Shor’s credentials to be taken seriously as follows: 

Shor started modeling elections in 2008, when he was a 16-year-old blogger, and he proved good at it. By 2012, he was deep inside President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, putting together the fabled “Golden Report,” which modeled the election daily. The forecast proved spookily accurate: It ultimately predicted every swing state but Ohio within a percentage point and called the national popular vote within one-tenth of a percentage point. Math-geek data analysts became a hot item for Democratic Party campaigns, and Shor was one of the field’s young stars, pioneering ways to survey huge numbers of Americans and experimentally test their reactions to messages and ads.

But it was a tweet that changed his career. During the protests after the killing of George Floyd, Shor, who had few followers at the time, tweeted, “Post-MLK-assassination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2 percent, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon.” Nonviolent protests, he noted, tended to help Democrats electorally. The numbers came from Omar Wasow, a political scientist who now teaches at Pomona College. But online activists responded with fury to Shor’s interjection of electoral strategy into a moment of grief and rage, and he was summarily fired by his employer, Civis Analytics, a progressive data science firm.

For Shor, cancellation, traumatic though it was, turned him into a star. His personal story became proof of his political theory: The Democratic Party was trapped in an echo chamber of Twitter activists and woke staff members. It had lost touch with the working-class voters of all races that it needs to win elections, and even progressive institutions dedicated to data analysis were refusing to face the hard facts of public opinion and electoral geography (emphasis added) ….

Klein’s description of Shor’s bottom line recommendation reads this way: 

Shor believes the party has become too unrepresentative at its elite levels to continue being representative at the mass level. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people we’ve lost are likely to be low-socioeconomic-status people,” he said. “If you look inside the Democratic Party, there are three times more moderate or conservative non-white people than very liberal white people, but very liberal white people are infinitely more represented. That’s morally bad, but it also means eventually they’ll leave.” The only way out of this, he said, is to “care more and cater to the preference of our low-socioeconomic-status supporters” (emphasis added).

Maybe that message is one that the Democratic Party leadership “doesn’t want to hear,” but if there’s a problem (and there certainly is) it might be that the problem lies in thinking that “messages” about policies and priorities should be designed by those at the top of the party hierarchy and then handed down to the membership.

Actually, it seems to me, the “messages” should be coming from the opposite direction, and that those on the “bottom,” the ordinary members of the Democratic Party, should be the ones sending the messages (not the ones receiving them). Party members, if things are working right, should be telling the putative “leaders” what the members think, and making clear the direction that the members say they want to go. 

Call it “analytics,” if you want to. Or “democracy.” That’s really what I’m talking about. 

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

    DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

“Why can’t we move the clocks ahead to Friday afternoon around 4:00?”
~Internet meme 

“A guide to turning your clocks back in November:
* Smartphone: Leave it alone to do its magic
* Sundial: Move one house to the left
* Oven: You’ll need a Masters in Electronic Engineering, or a hammer
* Car radio: Not worth it, wait six months”

~Author unknown 

“You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe “Daylight Saving Time.”
~Dave Barry

“Daylight time, a monstrosity in timekeeping.”
~Harry S. Truman

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Here’s a cute Jimmy Kimmel clip that will warm anyone’s heart 🙂


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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