Blog Archives

November 24 – 30, 2021

Highlights this week:

BRATTON…Justin Cummings Kickoff, musings on Washington, D.C., movie critiques, Here Live Now. GREENSITE…on Lining Front Street: Lining Pockets. KROHN…The High Stakes, UN COP26 climate Conference. STEINBRUNER…Soquel Creek Water treatment plant plans, County measure J units, Rail Trail live Oaks, Aptos. SC City council and increased water rates, County district lines, tiny homes regulations. HAYES…Manzanita Chaparral, critters. PATTON…Streets without cars. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Homeless”

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SOQUEL GRAMMAR SCHOOL, 1890.This grand “grade school” was built in 1890, and stood on the west side of Porter Street with a 25 foot flag pole. Both were demolished in 1934.                                                        

photo credit: Covello & Covello Historical photo collection.

Additional information always welcome: email bratton@cruzio.com

DATELINE November 22 

EXUBERANT KICKOFF FOR JUSTIN CUMMINGS.
It seemed like years since I’d been to a gathering as big as the Justin Cummings for Third District County Supervisor kickoff last Saturday (11/20). Most of us were wearing masks at the Seabright Brewery patio, so the name tags were an added plus. It had also been a while since I’d seen as broad a spread of skin tones. One of the speakers used the phrase “once progressive, now Moderate Santa Cruz” and there were a broad spread of politicos there for sure. Best crowd estimates came in at 125 supporters. With the help from some friends, I gathered a list of some of the attendees (and if I left your name out please get in touch and I’ll “print” more of them).

City Councilperson Sandy Brown gave a rousing opening speech, former third District County Supervisor Gary Patton spoke and endorsed too, Joy Flynn and Ray Cancino (CEO Community Bridges) were speakers, and Taj Leahy was the DJ.

Also attending and enjoying a great food array were…Paul Elerick, Bruce Jaffee, Fred Keeley, Bella Bonner, Brian Murtha, Leslie Steiner, Bruce Van Allen, Tony Russomano, Lira Fillipini, Sheila Malone,  Jane Weed, Ron Pomerantz, Meghann Finn, Kelsey Hill, Barry Scott, Gail Page, Felipe Hernandez, Cyndi Dawson, Stephen Zunes, Denise Elerick, Leslie Steiner, Katherine Beiers, Sonja Brunner, Nanlouise Wolf plus more. Endorsements were signed, pledges were made, and now’s the time to go to CummingsForSupervisor.com There’ll be vast sums of development money spent to defeat Justin — and buy Shebreh’s way into the third district — so do some quick thinking about it…and get involved.

MUSINGS ON WASHINGTON, D.C.
Longtime friend, and former owner of the Shirt Factory in the Sashmill, Dale Matlock sent us a fine piece of news…

“The Wall Street Journal has revealed that the Trump Organization is negotiating to sell the federal lease to its luxury hotel in the Old Post Office Building to a Miami-based group. The CGI Merchant Group has signed a lease, with the stipulation that the hidden cameras installed in all 263 rooms by the Russian GRU Intelligence agency be removed, with subsequent bug-sweeping by a U.S. government approved consultant.

Email and text intercepts from Vladimir Putin to Palm Beach, Florida reveal a disgruntled premier seeking a refund on a ‘worthless investment’ which failed to even come close to the value of the unseen hotel room tapes made surreptitiously during the time of a Moscow beauty pageant several years ago.

In Trump family circles, Don Jr. was heard to grouse to his brother and sister, “Cameras? Oh, no!! Dad never tells us anything”. It is unclear whether the $71 million dollar loss occurring during Donald Trump’s time in office is related to the management style of the three siblings, if indeed, they were in charge, or if a group headed by Rudy Giuliani, Four Seasons Total Landscaping and Coifs, had undue and negative influence related to their clientele. Early on, Postmaster Louis DeJoy had expressed interest in renting the spacious ballroom for storage of dismantled mail sorting machines and the uprooted mail drop boxes during his blitz to destroy the USPS, a plan that fell short as Donald Trump failed to overturn the 2020 election.

Melania Trump applauded the upcoming disposition of the property, saying, “Well, at least that’s one less hideout that won’t concern me again!”   

-D.M. 

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.

KING RICHARD. (HBO MAX SINGLE). (76.6 IMDB). Will Smith is at his very best as he plays the stubborn, dictatorial father of Venus and Serena Williams during their rise to tennis stardom. Dad was driven by mysterious forces to coach both Venus and Serena way beyond any normal lives into being world conquerors. Many, many surprises in their childhood. It’s an excellent film, don’t miss it: I predict Will Smith will get an Oscar for his part.

THE CLUB. (NETFLIX SERIES).(8.0 IMDB). It’s the 1950’s in Istanbul, and a mother works and suffers to raise her daughter while she works in a nightclub. After being in prison for 17 years, the story of her connecting with her very strong daughter is touching, heartbreaking, and well-acted. The actors sing, dance and perform surprisingly well and it’s a fine series. 

AMINA. (NETFLIX SINGLE) (3.9 IMDB) A very sad attempt to tell the story of a woman in 16th century Nigeria, and how she became the leader of her kingdom. Poorly acted, shamefully filmed, and no reason to watch.  

PASSING. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.6 IMDB). A very stylized story about two Black women in 1920’s New York City, and the differing ways they spend their lives passing for white. Neither actress could pass for white which makes it hard to learn anything or to enjoy watching this forced drama. For extra effects it was filmed in Black and white…to no avail.

THE SHRINK NEXT DOOR. (APPLE SERIES). This movie is listed as a “comedy drama”, though I don’t think it deserves either category. Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd are the leads, Ferrell being the guy who needs therapy and Rudd the psychiatrist. Ferrell has money and runs a business and Rudd works to squeeze money from him. Not my cup of tea AND it’s based on a true story!

YOU. (NETFLIX SERIES). (91RT) (7.7 IMDB). A genuine deep drama about a seemingly nice guy who is, among other things, a stalker. He manages a book store and has secrets in his basement that I won’t reveal. Lots of book/author dialogue and well-crafted suspense. Well worth watching and cringing over. 

MONTFORD. (NETFLIX SINGLE). (6.7 IMDB). An excellent “western” and the true story of Montford Johnson, a member of the Chickasaw Indian nation who spent his life fighting against the Yankees after the Civil War — as he meanwhile struggled to raise a family and help his Indian brothers. Super movie, one of the best cowboy westerns I’ve seen.

SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, or PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.  

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 though 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 the getting DNA samples from huge groups of citizens. The courts 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. 

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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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November 22

LINING FRONT STREET: LINING POCKETS

The sketch above depicts new projects either approved or in the works for downtown Santa Cruz. It is a view looking east with the San Lorenzo River in the background and Laurel St. on the far right. This is Front St.  The open feel is an illusion. Buildings of similar height and mass will line the other side of Front St. so a wind tunnel effect and little sunlight are to be expected… for us. The new residents and hotel visitors will have both sun and views. Construction of the buildings on the LHS is due to start shortly.

The building on the RHS is the proposed new 6-story hotel for downtown. You can just make out the trees on the rooftop pool and bar. I wrote about this project two weeks ago. This past week the developers, Owen Lawler, Manager SCFS Ventures, Stephen Chan, Eagle Point Hotel Partners and other members of the “team” including the city planner for the project, held the required public meeting via zoom to hear community input and answer questions. 

To say that the meeting was a sham is an understatement. After the various “team” presentations on what a wonderful asset this hotel will be for Santa Cruz it was the public’s turn. There were apparently 20 members of the public on the zoom however few asked questions. There was no Chat function and no one except the “team” was visible. The public was limited to Q&A with Lawler cherry-picking the questions. I tried four times to get my question answered about their plans under our Heritage Tree Ordinance for saving the two red-flowering gum trees on Laurel St: the last survivors of the avenue of stunning Corymbias that lined Front and Laurel before the city Parks Department cut them down 30 years ago. 

The first three attempts with my question went no-where. Finally I wrote that they were not answering the question but deflecting it to talk about their landscaping plans for the levee: that I was very disappointed in the process. That got their attention and their landscape architect said she would take another look at the Corymbia issue. Of course the trees may not survive the rows of tents with piles of wood and debris covering the root zones, due to the Food Not Bombs campsite in that parking lot. It’s against the Heritage Tree Ordinance to injure heritage trees in this fashion but as I suggested before, this is likely deliberate neglect on the part of the city so that upscale developments appear in a more favorable light.

The unintended joke for the meeting was Lawler’s justification for the provision of a mere 15 parking spaces for a 228- room hotel plus staff. He described that choice as “forward-looking”. In future, he claimed, people will not drive their own cars but will use ride-share. Hardly. In future, people with money will drive electric cars and service workers will…well who cares. Suddenly, the rationale for a new Lot 4 parking garage at public expense became clearer.  

During the initial presentation from the city planner for the project, I caught a brief, quiet sentence that was most concerning.  “We are checking to see if the project is CEQA exempt,” was all he said. That caught my attention as if he had used a loud speaker. 

Along with a handful of other hardy souls, or masochists, I attended most if not all of the Planning Commission meetings, pre-Covid, where decisions were made regarding raising the height limits downtown from an average of 3 stories, chosen post-earthquake after lengthy community input, to the current 6 and 7 stories. Unlike the previous process, this time the public was ignored. 

During those many meetings, when comments on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the re- zoning and massing for new downtown buildings were brushed aside, the assurance from the city Planning Departments was, “don’t worry! this is a Program EIR. It is a general document. As each project comes up for environmental review it will have a Project EIR and that is where your specific comments will be addressed” fast forward and the city is trying its best to get a CEQA Exemption so there will be no Project EIR for this hotel and probably for all the other projects that will be imposed on this town in the near future, including the Downtown Extension Plan for south of Laurel. 

The hotel project is on the fast track to the Planning Commission and then to council. With a CEQA Exemption likely, with the city strapped for cash or so they say, although there seems to be no bottom to the barrel for consultants’ fees and newly hired upper management, there will be few bumps in the road for the hotel “team.”   

The public’s voice has been reduced to the squeak of a stepped upon mouse compared to what was once the roar of a lion demanding public accountability. 

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 22

THE STAKES ARE HIGH 

Fecklessness, worthlessness due to being feeble and ineffectual

Global Meets Local: Climate Disruption and Santa Cruz Values

How effective are our democratic and capitalist institutions?
The preeminent environmental journalist, Elizabeth Kolbert called America’s actions at the recently concluded UN Cop26 Climate conference as ones shrouded in “fecklessness.” She writes, “you have to go all the way back to the conference that preceded all these bad Cops — the so-called Earth Summit, in 1992. At that meeting, in Rio de Janeiro, President George H.W. Bush signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which committed the world to preventing ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’ At the United States’ insistence, the convention included no timetable or specific targets for action.” Kolbert goes on to describe the ineffective nature at all of these international gatherings. For example, Bill Clinton agreed to lower the US annual output of greenhouse gases by 7% at Cop3. It was known as the Kyoto Protocol, but it was never ratified by the US Senate and eventually cancelled altogether by Bush, jr. Not only did emissions not go down by 7%, they rose. Enter Biden, who says the US will now commit to lowering those greenhouse gases by a whopping 50%, which Kolbert says would put the US “barely on track to meet its old, more modest [Cop21, 2015] Paris target.” But, was anything actually done to combat global warming at the recent Glasgow Conference of the Parties (Cop26)?

Accomplishments in Cop26?
The journal, Nature, would like to would like to write glowingly about the results of the conference, but it’s with a jaundiced eye on Cop history that they trumpet recent steps forward in the war against a warming planet. Nature’s extensive reporting on the climate summit lists some of the agreements, but there is also an overall stomach churning yawn as everyone knows these agreements have no real teeth and basically rely on the kindness of,  stranger-countries. How much will the developed, less-reliant-on-coal, countries actually contribute in real dollars to those countries, now dubbed LMICs, or “low- and middle-income countries,” struggling to be free of carbon emitting coal and natural gas? Nature says the final 11-page document, Glasgow Climate Pact, calls for a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions “from 2010 levels by 2030 for global warming to be maintained at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.” In addition, more than 400 global financial sector companies said they would be moving trillions of dollars of investments into firms that are committed to net-zero emissions.”

Of Course, the Devil is in the Details
As the Climate Summit moved into its second week there was news out of Brazil and China of the sort that would dishearten even the most hardened climate skeptic. While there’s a commitment to end deforestation among many countries present at Cop26, including Brazil, the reality eclipsed all that good will as Jair Bolsonaro’s actual policies belie what his government agreed to in Glasgow. It was a bad October for the rainforest. In addition, China is burning more coal than ever before and as BrattonOnLine goes to press, schools and colleges in Delhi, India remain under a lockdown as pollution levels soar. India is another country in need of that “adaptation finance” that was much discussed at the Summit. In the United States, fossil fuels account for the largest share of US energy production and consumption. Clearly, we have a long way to go, but perhaps Cop26 was another attempt by a time-traveling minor’s canary to alert all planetary citizens that enough is enough and we must find a better way out of our fossil fuel addiction.

What Else Happened at Cop26?
Some breakthroughs were also seen on “adaptation finance,” abolishing the use of coal, lowering the amount of methane used, and the increase in renewables within the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

  • Glasgow Climate Pact includes a commitment to double ‘adaptation finance’ — funding to help the lowest-income countries improve climate resilience — to $40 billion by 2025. 
  • –Coal is being priced out. A record number of US coal-fired power plants will be retired this year, even relatively new ones. In October, the World Bank declined to finance a 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Kosovo — the last coal project in the bank’s pipeline. For the first time in a COP text, nations agreed to begin reducing coal-fired power (without carbon capture) and to start to eliminate subsidies on other fossil fuels.
  • The Global Methane Pledge announced at COP26 in Glasgow, UK, commits signatories [105 countries] to reducing their overall emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, compared with 2020 levels. The “US Methane Emissions Action Plan” can be accessed here.
  • “Over the past decade, the costs of generating solar energy have plummeted by 80%. Morocco, Mexico, Chile and Egypt are producing solar power for 3 US cents or less per kilowatt hour — cheaper than natural gas.”
  • Also of note, following objections from China and India, a promise in earlier drafts of the text to “phase out” coal was changed to “phase down” the use of coal.

Further Reading on How We Arrived at the Cop26 Moment
Writers Bill McKibben (1989) and Elizabeth Kolbert (2005) went on record long ago about the impending climate crisis we now find ourselves ensconced in today. Gloom and doom existential-type literature has perhaps a smaller audience than the more apocalyptic zombie-culture movies. The ladder seems to put forward a more cynical view of the future, an unempowering one. But the Harold and Maude duality credo has survived among many and has yielded up both young and old with a feeling of empowerment. Is it enough to actually mitigate the unfolding climate crisis and dial us back to the 1.5 C benchmark so fervently discussed at Cop26? The devil again, is in the details.

What can Santa Cruz Do?
Turns out, Santa Cruz can do a tremendous amount in the fight to sequester carbon and actually lead as a small, but vibrant and engaged participant on both the municipal, and potentially global stage. We can set upon a path that distinguished us, perhaps from other coastal cities like us, and in a state that is supposed to be leading, but whose governor reportedly stayed away from Cop26 to accompany his children trick-or-treating. Great that he’s spending more time with his family, but there is likely another story behind Gov. Gavin Newsom’s absence from Glasgow. Without his presence, and leadership, he’s perhaps left the trick on Californians while a larger treat goes to the fracking industry.

Next Week: “Part II, how Can Santa Cruz Set itself on a carbon neutral path now and not wait for 2050, or even 2030?” Will it take a complete overhaul of our local governance structure? How might district elections, ranked choice voting, and direct election of the mayor change the way local government can influence the county and state’s climate policy impacts? I argue, a great deal. Find out next week in BrattonOnLine.com

What did we just pass in #BuildBackBetter???

  • Universal Pre-K 
  • Lower US Climate Emissions 
  • Medicare + Hearing

Some of Team AOC’s Inclusions:

  • High Speed Rail + Transit
  • Creation of Civilian Climate Corps (300k jobs!)
  • NYCHA Repair+ Faircloth Repeal  (Nov. 19)

Top to bottom:
Corner of Laurel and Pacific Ave.

County workers helping to push for Climate action on the steps of the county building.

With the environment in peril, the climate crisis not yielding easily, and world leaders feverishly negotiating agreements to lower greenhouse gases, isn’t it time for Santa Cruz to reconsider its climate policies and the current council-majority’s ‘build-baby-build’ priorities? Why the hell-bent pursuit of building 205 units of luxury condos at the corner of Pacific and Laurel; 233 studios on Center Street; and an unnecessary high-end hotel on Front Street?

Let’s take a climate agenda into the next election-cycle. When we support labor, the environment, and real affordable housing for all, WE WIN! Yes on the Empty Homes Tax and YES on Our Downtown, Our Future’s initiative to leave the Farmer’s Market where it is.

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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 21

SOQUEL CREEK WATER DISTRICT PLANS TO BUILD LARGE TREATMENT PLANT IN SEASCAPE RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD
A large treatment plant will be going into the Baltrusol Drive residential neighborhood in Seascape, and here is why those folks, and the parents of Rio del Mar Elementary School nearby, need to speak up before the public comment period ends on November 29. 

Hazardous chlorine chemicals will be transported to, used and stored on the site, which is near the School.  What is the emergency plan for handling this and any other possible hazardous chemicals in the school and residential zone?  By law, the District must notify the School in writing 30 days in advance of adopting the Project’s CEQA final action.  Has the District done this???

Sadly, you will not find any announcement of this CEQA action and the 15-day Public Comment Period on the District’s main website home page.

However, if you magically knew to look for it in the November 16 Board agenda public hearing documents, you would see that written comments must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 29, 2021.  Please address comments to: 

Michael Wilson, P.E., Associate Engineer
5180 Soquel Drive
Soquel, CA 95073  or by email to: michaelw@soquelcreekwater.org  

Country Club Well | Soquel Creek Water District, CA

Soquel Creek Water District will use dynamite to demolish an existing well at 251 Baltrusol Drive in Seascape, but did not disclose this to residents or other public members in the environmental analysis for the new Water Treatment Plant and new well planned for the site.  

What will be the seismic impacts to homes immediately adjacent? How will this affect the nearby residents who have swimming pools?  Will the District be liable for cracks that cause the pools to leak and require expensive repairs?

Drilling the new well will require 24/7 equipment operation, with bright lights and LOTS of noise that will exceed the County’s noise limits day and night, but the District seemingly does not plan to construct sound walls to help block off the very loud noise for the residents directly adjacent. 

The District did this at the insistence of residents on Willowbrook Avenue, and also Monterey Avenue when similar work was done (well, at least the sides visible from the street, but the apartment building residents in the back had no sound buffer!!).  No mention of sound walls buffering noise for the Baltrusol Drive neighborhood.  

People need to demand that sound walls be constructed on all four sides of the site.

The District also offered off-site accommodations for the Monterey Avenue residents, and are offering it (as a hard-to-find mitigation) in the environmental analysis.  However, it remains to be seen if the people actually affected will even know that this mitigation is available.

This project will remove carcinogenic 1,2,3-TCP from the water proposed to be supplied by the new well in the same location as the old existing Country Club Well is located.  The District had for many years pumped water from this site, knowing that the levels of 1-2-3 TCP carcinogen were high.  District Board Chair at the time, Bruce Daniels, wrote me that the District had too much money invested in the well to abandon it, so continued to pump and sell the contaminated water to the Seascape area customers, and simply dilute it.

In March, 2021, the District accepted an undisclosed settlement from Dow Chemical Co., manufacturer of the soil fumigant used in the agricultural area nearby and thought to be the source of the contamination, as part of a class action suit.

Why not abandon the contaminated well site, and develop a new well in a different location NOT PLAGUED by contamination?

Nope, Soquel Creek Water District likes to do things in the most expensive manner possible…drill a new well in the same contaminated place, and build an expensive treatment plant to remove the contaminants (hopefully).  Does this make sense to you???

See page 157 from last December’s $600,000 contract with Rincon to evaluate the proposed project

Rincon, who got the expanded bid award for the Project (of course, they found the Project feasible), will be starting construction next spring, and upon completion of the CEQA Public Comment Period.

Here is the link to the proposed Project.

Take a look at this large building: pages 15 and 26 and imagine a six-foot high metal wrought iron fence all around the perimeter. 

If you look at the massive structure shown on page 26, imagine how the winter sunlight will be blocked for the residents immediately adjacent.  Santa Cruz County Code requires a December 21 shade study be conducted for all multi-story developments, and that winter sunlight for existing residences cannot  be blocked by no more than 10% between the hours of 10am and 2pm.  (Santa Cruz County Code 12.28.050 (B)(4).    However, this analysis was not done.  

Chapter 12.28 SOLAR ACCESS PROTECTION

The 10-year tree screen shown on page 17 is not the oak tree that is planned for the landscape and may not provide that level of screening in 10 years, depending on what size trees are planted.

Page 35 includes discussion that there are two solitary bat species of concern that very likely would be roosting in the heritage trees the District plans to chop down.  If the District begins construction at the time of year proposed, these bats will be in winter torpor, so if disturbed, they will die.

The District needs to do find an alternative site that would not require removal of large heritage trees, and cause lethal disturbance to the bats and nesting song birds that rely on the trees for shelter.

See page 92 about the curious measurement of noise impact.  Why weren’t the two noise measurement sites next to the property lines of the neighbor’s houses and backyards?  Instead, the theoretical readings were taken from the street.  

Page 97: The well drilling that must occur 24/7 and will last for three weeks exceeds both day and night time noise limits.

Page 98: Five large exhaust fans would operate intermittently 7am to 7pm with an individual exhaust fan producing a sound power level of 66 dBA (that is near the County’s noise limit).

page 100: Offer hotel accommodations for all residents within 100 feet of the project site for the duration of 24-hour well drilling activities

Please pass this information along to anyone you know in the Seascape area.  This is a very short public comment window!

COUNTY’S MEASURE J AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS FOR SALE
In 1979, when Santa Cruz County was the second-fastest growing county in the State, voters passed Measure J to limit the growth rate and require 15% of all new development be deed-restricted as affordable housing.  These Measure J units come for sale once in a while…and some are up for sale now:

Units For Sale

Maybe you know of someone who can qualify for these affordable units and be able to live in Santa Cruz County.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER ABOUT THE RAIL TRAIL BETWEEN LIVE OAK AND APTOS?
What are the important environmental concerns you think need to be analyzed for the proposed 4.5-long  Rail Trail between 17th Avenue in Live Oak and State Park Drive in Aptos, known as Segments 10 and 11?

The County of Santa Cruz hosted a public scoping meeting on November 17 to gather input on potential environmental issues and project alternatives to be evaluated in the environmental review process, not the merits of the project itself or the project design. I was unable to participate, but here is better information about the Project.

Responses are due no later than Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 5:00 PM.

Submit Comments to:

County of Santa Cruz Project website                  

or

Rob Tidmore, Project Manager
County of Santa Cruz, Department of Public Works
701 Ocean Street, Room 410
Santa Cruz, California 95060

RailTrail@santacruzcounty.us

SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL WILL CONSIDER PROPOSED WATER RATE INCREASES 
This Tuesday, November 23, the Santa Cruz City Council will consider approving proposed water rate increases that would begin in 2022, with increases of up to 18% in the near future.

The issue in on the 6pm agenda.

Here is a link to the November 10 webinar explaining the proposal.

SOME BAY AREA WATER CUSTOMERS CAN EXPECT A “DROUGHT FEE”
Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a plan allowing San Jose Water Company to impose a “drought surcharge” immediately on single family home customers if their water use is not 15% less than what they used in 2019. A report in the San Jose Mercury News reported all single-family residential customers will be affected immediately.

San Jose Water is a private company that provides drinking water to 1 million people in San Jose, Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno.

The Company set a monthly allotment — a water budget — with surcharges for those who use more than their allotted amount.

Residential customers are required to cut water use 15% from 2019 levels or pay $7.13 in surcharges for each unit of water above that amount.

Each unit of water is 100 cubic feet (or 1 CCF), which is 748 gallons — the standard measurement on most water bills.

The company says its rules reward people already conserving by setting a minimum monthly amount. If customers use the minimum amount or less, they won’t be required to cut 15% and won’t face surcharges. The minimum amount varies by month, from 6 CCF in April to 13 CCF in September, reflecting the need for different levels of landscape watering in different seasons. The full table is here.

In September, water use was reduced by only 7%-9% of the 2019 water use levels, so the “drought surcharge” was adopted as a means of enforcing conservation.

CENTRAL FIRE DISTRICT ASKS YOUR HELP IN DRAWING DISTRICT LINES FOR REPRESENTATION
Last Thursday (11/18), the Central Fire Protection District Board held the first of four public hearings to begin drawing lines for future district-based elections. Currently, the Board is elected by at-large representation.  The demographics of this large District are interesting, and anyone in the County may participate and submit maps suggesting boundaries.  General locations of residence for existing Board members will be shown on proposed maps that the consultant will present to the Board during future public hearings:

  • December 2, 2021 at 1:00 PM, 
  • January 13, 2022 at 9:00 AM, and 
  • February 10, 2022 at 9:00 AM.

Unlike the County’s Re-Districting rules, Central Fire District is not required by law to hold any evening public hearings.

Here is a link to the November 18 Board meeting wherein Dr. Douglas Johnson, President of National Demographics Corporation presented an overview of districting, and a brief report on the demographics of the District.  

Get involved now, as the preliminary lines are drawn that will determine who represents you in matters of fire and public safety.

YOU’RE INVITED! COMMUNITY MEETINGS 12/1, 12/7, 12/9: TINY HOMES
WHAT: Community meetings to discuss Santa Cruz County Tiny Home regulations

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 6:00-7:30 PMSpecial focus on coastal urban area
To participate via computer or mobile app: Click here to join the meeting. To participate via phone: +1 916-318-9542, Phone Conference ID: 772 527 750#
 
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 6:00-7:30 PMSpecial focus on rural concerns
To participate via computer or mobile app: Click here to join the meeting. To participate via phone: +1 916-318-9542, Phone Conference ID: 358 258 277#
 
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 6:00-7:30 PMSpecial focus on south county
To participate via computer or mobile app: Click here to join the meeting. To participate via phone: +1 916-318-9542, Phone Conference ID: 667 185 385#

WHY: The Board of Supervisors directed the Planning Department to begin preparation of regulations to allow and encourage “tiny homes” on wheels or foundations (for more information, please see the January 26 Board of Supervisors meeting agenda item 12 and March 9 Board of Supervisors meeting agenda item 10). Tiny homes present a relatively affordable alternative housing option that has gained in popularity recently, but regulations need to be considered in order to address potential issues. 

KEY TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION:

  • Are tiny homes appropriate in all areas of Santa Cruz County? 
  • Where should tiny homes be located on a property?
  • What development standards should be required for tiny homes? 
  • What kind of permits are appropriate? 
  • What utility hook ups should be required?
  • Real property vs. personal property ownership

Stay tuned for additional opportunities to participate in the preparation of tiny homes regulations at Commission and Board of Supervisors hearings as they are scheduled. More information will be posted soon on the Planning Department website: https://www.sccoplanning.com/.

Questions?
For more information about the community meetings or to provide comments via email, contact Daisy Allen, Senior Planner, 831-454-2801, via email at daisy.allen@santacruzcounty.us. 

MAKE ONE CALL OR WRITE ONE LETTER.  YOU CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE!

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving, 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 22

BRITTLE-LEAVED MANZANITA CHAPARRAL

The rains bring alive chaparral, so this is the beginning of a series featuring local types of “hard chaparral.” The term chaparral is confusing, so I use the term ‘hard chaparral’ to denote chaparral dominated by manzanitas, chamise, and ceanothus. Hard chaparral is so thick and dense and strong as to tear the clothes off of you if you are strong enough to try to walk through it. Rarely, you might crawl beneath the hard chaparral canopy. Nothing grows in the understory – there is only a light dusting of leaves – but you must squinch low while crawling…to 1 ½ feet… and wiggle down on the ground in tight spots; wearing a hat helps so that your hair doesn’t get caught and pulled out by manzanita’s stiff twigs. 

Hard chaparral is different than ‘soft chaparral’ – also known as coastal scrub – which is dominated at first by coyote bush, then, later in life, poison oak, monkeyflower, and sagebrush. Soft chaparral generally grows on richer soils, closer to the coast. Hard chaparral grows on the poorest of soils, often with no discernable soil at all. Ridgelines and steep slopes mostly away from the immediate coast are home to hard chaparral. 

In hard chaparral, along with the manzanitas you will find many other shrubs and an overstory of pines. Sometimes sparse, sometimes dense, knob cone pines are the more common pine, but there’s a Monterey pines overstory near Año Nuevo. Oaks and Douglas firs slowly invade brittle-leaved manzanita chaparral until you eventually get a few forlorn dying shrubs or even just old barely recognizable skeletons that tell you the chaparral is gone, for now (awaiting fire!).

Brittle-leaved manzanita chaparral
Brittle-leaved manzanita is the dominant species of most of Santa Cruz’ hard chaparral. Smooth maroon skin with sinewy muscle-like ripples down thick, strong stems – that’s what most people remember about brittle leaved manzanitas, but the flowers and burls also give them away.

If they aren’t already in bloom, they will be soon. They have clusters of pure white to pink jewel flowers – upside down urns with windows to capture and magnify light, so the flowers glow on even foggy-cloudy days. Bopping from one cluster of flowers to the next…hundreds of bumble bees delight in the winter nectar feast. Hummingbirds, too, zip around sipping from the flowers. On warm days in December and January, brittle leaved chaparral smells strongly of honey, a scent which enchantingly wafts far afield, down into the woody canyons below.

Burly Shrubbies
Of the nine taxa of manzanitas found in Santa Cruz County, brittle leaved manzanita (Arctostaphylos crustacea subspecies crustacea) is the most common and one of only two that have ‘basal burls’ or lignotubers. The other burly manzanita is a different subspecies of the same species (Arctostaphylos crustacea subspecies crinita), that is mostly found at the top of Ben Lomond Mountain, from the Bonny Doon Airport north to Lockheed. To see burls on these manzanitas, look at the base of the stems for a swelling, sometimes quite large, of lumpy wood. These are very easy to see after a fire, because that’s where these manzanitas sprout new shoots. That’s their magic: the ability to get hotly scorched, fire removing all of the branches, and still live. Up pop the shoots as soon as the rains come…and three years later, there’s a Big Shrub once again where the last one stood. 

Locations and Co-Occurring Treats
The tops of our parks are great places to visit this type of chaparral. The top of Wilder Ranch State Park, in what used to be known as Gray Whale Ranch, and into upper UCSC, has patches of brittle leaved manzanita chaparral. The top of Nisene Marks State Park also has stands of this chaparral type. Other places include Mount Madonna County Park, as well as Big Basin and Castle Rock State Parks. From the edges of trails, a wintertime treat will also be Indian warrior, a bright maroon perennial wildflower which forms large mats. Shooting stars and various rein orchids also sprout trailside in clear patches of this type of chaparral.

Another thing about wintertime chaparral visits that is intriguing are the lichens, mosses, and liverworts that color and texture the chaparral. Liverworts, in this dry habitat?? Yes! Get off your bike and kneel at that bare-soiled edge adjacent to the chaparral…look carefully…and you’ll see liverworts (and hornworts!) hugging the ground in between mosses and ground-hugging lichens. The intrepid will get to see more and more species by counting the number of different types of tiny things in those patches, which are kept bare by the golden crowned sparrows who retreated when you came their way.

Critters
Sure, chaparral is for the birds, and that’s not a bad thing. And yet, it’s not just for birds. Wrentits are the quintessential shrub habitat bird, and I also like watching the large-curved billed California thrasher. Wrentits bop around below the canopy, mostly, but pop up out on a branch to make their subtle descending ping-pong ball bouncing song. California thrashers, also understory creepers, sometimes jet out onto a high point in a chaparral patch and sing their hearts out with operatic glory.

The San Francisco Dusky Footed Woodrat makes homes on the outer periphery of brittle leaved chaparral patches. It seems this packrat likes oaks and coffee berry more than manzanitas, but manzanitas keep coyote at bay, so having that habitat at their backs is a preferred location. Rattlesnakes like wood rats…and the summer heat of chaparral…so, that’s a good snake species to associate with hard chaparral. Rats and rattlesnakes….?

What Good Is It?
Brittle-leaved chaparral is good for lots, but unfortunately it is getting destroyed very quickly nowadays. Nutrient poor soils lost their nutrients because they are well drained. Well drained soils are important for recharging the groundwater, keeping our streams flowing and drenching our thirst. Because this hard chaparral can thrive in nutrient poor soils, it is responsible for keeping those slopes from washing into the creeks and for keeping our groundwater infiltration areas infiltrating. Those sprouting burls…they send roots out on steep slopes after fire, preventing landslides and debris flows from destroying homes and roads. 

Mowing It Down
Despite ostensibly being protected, brittle leaved manzanita chaparral is getting hacked up at an alarming rate. Now that fire has our attention, bulldozers are hard at work ripping up manzanita burls to make ‘fire safe’ areas. Crushers, masticators, and saws whittle away manzanitas as if they were enemies. When asked, County Planners have said that they have policies to protect this habitat type- they don’t allow development activities within it. The California Coastal Commission also ostensibly protects this type of ‘maritime chaparral’ as an endangered ecosystem, disallowing any destruction. And yet, even from Highway 1, you can see vast patches of chaparral being destroyed on the ridges above Watsonville. Parks organizations are mowing it down even on conservation lands to be doing ‘their part’ with fire safety. From Southern California, we have learned that treating chaparral this way isn’t a solution to wildfire: it generally grows up patches of weeds, which are even more flammable, less able to hold slopes in place, and no replacement for the habitat value of hard chaparral. 

What I hope for is more people showing others how to live safely, and sustainably, alongside manzanita chaparral that is well cared for. If you know of any places, please let me know.

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 16

#320 / Streets Without Cars
 

A scene from my neighborhood is pictured above. As I looked from the street to that cute little cottage-style house, something about this picture seemed to whisper in my ear, “Wouldn’t that be a really great picture if the car weren’t there?” 

Think about it. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our streets without cars? Not only would the aesthetics of our world improve, air quality would, too. And we wouldn’t be contributing nearly as much to the global warming crisis. One estimate says that 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in California come from the transportation sector. Fewer cars would mean fewer accidents and deaths, too. Though I didn’t know her personally, I was terribly distressed to learn that a member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Wilma Chan, was killed by an automobile as she was walking her dog, on a recent morning, in her own neighborhood. County Supervisors, and former County Supervisors, and all of us, are constantly at risk.

One global warming solution currently being advanced is to transition our gasoline-burning vehicles into electric ones. Definitely better, but scenes like the one below wouldn’t change much, and there would still be a car in front of that cute little cottage-style house. 

Is there any alternative? It seems to me there is. However, the alternative requires a “collective” as opposed to an “individual” approach to personal transportation. What about sharing, in other words? Suppose that no one had an individual vehicle (usually parked on the public street in front of their home). How would we all get around?

Well, what about a public service, employing the kind of modern technologies utilized by Lyft and Uber? Any person, anywhere, could use their omnipresent cell phone to indicate that they needed a ride from where they then were, to where they wanted to go. A shared vehicle could be there very quickly, routed by those famous algorithms we know about, and would get us to where we want to go even faster than the old way. You don’t believe that? How long does it take to park? How many times do you get into traffic snarls like the one shown above (that’s every day, in Santa Cruz County)? Almost every vehicle shown is carrying ONE person. If the vehicles on this stretch of Highway One were each carrying four, or six, or eight, or ten persons, they would all be zooming along. 

Of course, there would also be those inevitable cost savings, if we would only rearrange our transportation expenditures from “individual mode” to “collective mode.” The average cost of owning and driving a personal vehicle is on the order of $5,000 per year. If everyone who is currently undertaking that $5,000 per year expenditure for a personal vehicle could get effective shared transportation at half the cost – which I think is probably a pretty good estimate – each person who traded into the new, shared system would have an extra $2,500 per year for her or his personal priorities. 

Interestingly, right after I wrote out this blog posting, I opened up The Wall Street Journal, and I discovered that the idea that I have just outlined above is something that The Wall Street Journal is suggesting, too. According to The Journal, moving to a shared transportation system both could, and should, revolutionize how we get around.  There will be a “paywall” problem for many, of course, but if you can penetrate the paywall you’ll be able to read “What A Commute In A Car-Free City Might Be Like.”  According to The Journal, that commute would be pretty much like what I have outlined here.

Sharing! What a concept! It could actually work!

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

    Homeless

“Seven out of 10 Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless”.
~Pras Michel

“You can spend the money on new housing for poor people and the homeless, or you can spend it on a football stadium or a golf course”. 
~Jello Biafra

“Migrant workers have helped build our roads, homes and offices. We cannot stand and watch them be homeless”.   
~Sonu Sood

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Samantha Bee is great. Her show, Full Frontal, does pieces on all sorts of interesting things. This one is on police procedurals and bad forensic science.


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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