BRATTON…Good old Halloween, our Downtown Our Future, film critiques, Live Here Now. GREENSITE…on 130 Center St. KROHN…Police chief exit interview, just the facts ma’am – 2017. STEINBRUNER…Soquel Water tank problem, Airport lawsuit, redistricting notice, Kaiser medical project, Cal Fire follow-up. HAYES…Rain awakes the prairie. PATTON…Visualizing Growth. EAGAN… Subconscious Comics and Deep Cover. QUOTES…”Rain”
DATELINE OCTOBER 25
GOOD OLD HALLOWEEN. Santa Cruz as a community used to celebrate Halloween in a much bigger, happier way. Downtown businesses competed for the best-decorated windows, and gave out super treats to the costumed “haunters”. Pacific Avenue was closed for a few blocks and families, students and everyone shared the happy frights. In 1975 the brand new Good Times started up, and the newly-opened New Catalyst began staging great Halloween parties. All of us at Good Times wanted to have our party at the Pogonip Country Club, but they wouldn’t permit it unless we had a recognized community partner. I was on the board of the Cabrillo Music Festival, and convinced them to co-host. What a blast, what a party. Lee Nation, who was managing Good Times, wrote last week… “Yes, our first Good Times party of any kind was in ’75. Opening band was The Juice aka Blues Juice, second band was a group I was managing Flying Star. We drank the bar at the Pogonip dry, there were a couple of fights, and an overwhelming turnout. Cars lined up from Pogonip down to the freeway where CHP had to direct traffic. Had to find a new venue as we had some damage to the club and they wouldn’t let us book there again. Moved on to Cocoanut Grove at the Boardwalk after that…got bigger every year after”.
OUR DOWNTOWN, OUR FUTURE. Many, many active and concerned Santa Cruzans have worked hard to form on organization that will reunite us with the goal of solving many of our Downtown issues. Go here OurDowntownOurFuture.org to read details on how we all can, and should, get involved. I asked longtime friend Bob Morgan — who’s a big part of all this — to tell us about the ballot and what it will do. He wrote…
“We’re excited to launch the campaign for Our Downtown, Our Future, which will create a November 2022 ballot measure that lets the people decide what our Downtown will look like for decades to come. This measure provides a straightforward, holistic and integrated approach to create a better, environmentally sustainable, future for Downtown, unifying elements of Downtown planning that will strengthen our community, not divide it.
- Prioritizes 100% affordable housing on specific City-owned parking lots downtown, including Front Street’s Parking Lot 7.
- Creates a City of Santa Cruz dedicated funding stream for affordable housing, building housing equity by using parking revenue saved from not building an unnecessary garage. Parking revenue would also supplement Measure S funds for Library renovation and improvements for the Farmers’ Market and community space.
- Preserves the large, sunny and centrally located Parking Lot 4 as a public space that provides a permanent location for the Farmers’ Market, saving 10 Heritage trees, and creating the future potential for a green community space – a Downtown Commons.
- Renovates the City’s Public Library at its historic Civic Center location.
Come join us at 1:00 pm on Friday, October 29th, at Farmers’ Market Lot 4, to celebrate the launch of our ballot initiative. Immediately following, our supporters will join together with students in the Youth for Climate Justice March, calling for urgent action to confront the climate crisis”.
In addition to all of above… Rick Longinotti of Campaign for Sustainable Transportation will present the ballot initiative on Thursday Oct. 28 noon to 1 p.m. Please register to Join Zoom Meeting
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.
GRUDGE. (NETFLIX SINGLE). Istanbul has a new police chief, and the city is full of politics. There’s a murder, and the Chief is involved. This is a fast-paced, well-plotted, adventure film. The twists, suspense, acting and adventure make a great one to watch, go for it.
WHAT HAPPENED BRITTANY MURPHY. (HBO MAX SERIES). A documentary series dealing with the sad truth of young and talented actress Brittany Murphy. She died in 2009, at the age of 32, and had an unusual talent for a woman of that age. I’m not now, and never was, a fan – and only watched part one of this series.
TU ME MANQUES (I MISS YOU). (HBO SINGLE) This takes place in the town of Santa Cruz — in Bolivia. A middle-aged man has a gay son that he’s unable to relate to, and he’s more cruel than we’d believe. The movie explores gay life and goes way deep into visuals. It was too much for me, and I left it ½ way through, but it is poignant.
DUNE. (HBO MAX). This legendary book by Frank Herbert (written in 1965), and the movies based on it, have gone beyond the normal cinema and literary reactions. Because the book was/is so popular everyone has a different opinion of the book sequels, and the remakes of the movie. This movie is only the first half of the story: the second half will be filmed IF this movie is a financial hit. The story/plot is complex and involves warring families, drug influences and great, no, fantastic scenery. Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Issac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Charlotte Rampling all make it good fun, and even thoughtful. Watch it, maybe even twice.
THE ELECTRICAL LIFE OF LOUIS WAIN. (DEL MAR THEATRE). Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy trip through this lighter than air supposed-biography of a man who apparently changed the world’s opinion about house cats. It’s a diverting, odd, and curious near-comedy about a curious person.
MY BROTHER, MY SISTER. (NETFLIX SINGLE). An Italian film about a brother and sister whose father died, leaving them with significant problems. Her son is schizophrenic, and Dad’s will says these fighting family members must live together to inherit his estate. The brother is a windsurfer and generally a low achiever ,and they fight all of the battles that all couples do. Watch it, it’s delicate, well-directed and all too familiar.
THE TRIP. (NETFLIX SINGLE). Noomi Rapace is back into making good films and this Swedish film has a lot going for it. It’s a very bloody but funny film once you catch on to the style of humor involved. She’s half of a couple who go on a vacation with secret plans to kill each other. Their plans change dramatically, but I’d ruin the plot by telling you more. It’s good fun, intelligent, and well worth watching.
THE ANGEL OF AUSCHWITZ. (PRIME SINGLE). You’d think a topic like being the true story of a midwife who worked at Auschwitz would be engrossing. This movie is simply terrible, however, and not worth even peeking at. The acting is zero, the pacing, content, photography are all beneath discussion… and other critics agree.
THE FORGOTTEN BATTLE. (NETFLIX SINGLE). It’s World War 2, and Eastern Europe is fighting back against the Nazi invasion. Canadians, French, the Dutch are facing the enemy and dealing with traitors, very brave locals. A brutal war film. The battle scenes in the trenches are some of the finest and most realistic I’ve seen in years.
IN FOR A MURDER. (NETFLIX SINGLE). A Polish film that loops between a Hitchcock murder mystery and a Three Stooges comedy. A woman is murdered, and a detective is helped and hindered by a frustrated wife (not his). It’s dull, derivative, and poorly acted. Skip it.
SPECIAL NOTE….Don’t forget that when you’re not too sure of a plot or need any info on a movie to go to Wikipedia. It lays out the straight/non hype story plus all the details you’ll need including which server (Netflix, Hulu, PBS) you can find it on. You can also go to Brattononline.com and punch in the movie title and read my take on the much more than 100 movies.
SUCCESSION. (HBO SERIES). This famed series is back and it’s as complex as ever. Logan Roy patterned after Rupert Murdoch of the Fox-like Waystar Royco right wing media empire faces his children again as they work so feverishly to take over his empire. It’s sort of a non- Italian version of the Sopranos. Watch it and probably you too will have to go back in the series to understand and remember what the various plot lines are referring to. Well worth your time and patience.
BERGMAN ISLAND. (DEL MAR THEATRE). (86 RT).There’s an island named Faro near Sweden where Ingmar Bergman lived and filmed many of his great films. It’s been turned into a tourist attraction and a “loving” couple visit the scene. Bergman’s best films are open ended and leave a lot to the audience to fathom. Tim Roth seems out of place as a filmmaker part of the duo. The plot is subtle to the point of vanishing and will leave you trying to remember if Bergman’s films were this illusive. Not a great film but if you like and love Bergman films you simply have to see it.
INTRUSION. (NETFLIX SINGLE). This movie tries to contain suspense but it’s boring and very predictable. The ever lovely Frida Pinto does a good job playing the constantly threatened wife but it’s hackneyed predictable and will remember just how great Hitchcock thrillers are.
SANTA CRUZ CHAMBER PLAYERS. At last they too are returning to a “full” live season!
Their first concert will be: A World Tour of Nationalist Trios with Music by Turina, Piazzolla, Dvorák on Saturday, November 6, 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 7, 3:00 pm. It’ll feature THE VERVE TRIO:Chia-Lin Yang, Concert Director & Piano Learn More
NEW MUSIC WORKS. The New Music Works are back with their 43rd season and their next concert is Saturday, November 13 at 2p.m. in the Heart of Soquel Park and it’s free to the public!!!Phil Collins is the music Director and Tandy Beal is the choreographic Conjurer. They’ll perform Terry Riley’s Minimalist Masterwork. Go to www.newmusicworks.org for necessary details.
OVER TO YOU
Last week I wrote about the 6-story development (above) proposed for 130 Center Street, one of two main access routes to the lower west side and Beach Hill neighborhoods, a stone’s throw from the first roundabout heading towards the beach area and opposite the soccer field. I suggested if you had concerns, to call in to the Planning Commission meeting of 10/21/21. Nobody called in with concerns, save for one person with indoor air quality issues. The rest were in support, including one person who felt that these tiny units were the answer to the “mental health advantages” of not having to live with others.
All 233 units are SRO’s, Single-Room Occupancy units, ranging from 295 square feet to 400 square feet. SRO projects under city law are required to have 20% of units affordable for very-low income (VLI) people, which this project would comply with if it topped at the zoned 36 feet. At over double that height at 75 feet it actually is in violation of our local SRO Ordinance because with 233 units only 15% are VLI. This situation is created by the state’s “density bonus” law: a bonus really for private equity firms since it doesn’t affect an increase in affordable units. The other 199 SRO units are market rate. Given the location and swell amenities they may rent upwards from 3-4 grand a month.
This is just the beginning for Beach/South of Laurel. How you feel about it depends where your heart is, how long you’ve lived here and whether you stand to make money. If like me, you feel a sense of place in the old-time, familiar low-rise buildings and businesses you are jarred when you see them ripped out, replaced by generic buildings as above (Colonial Spanish Architecture…oh dear me).
The 35 or 40 students who will benefit from the VLI units would be better housed on campus. Or maybe UCSC should stop its growth given the impact off-campus. The VLI units are not designed for workers with families so they, mostly Latinx, are out of the frame. The rest, young professionals, will find a spot in the many market rate mixed use 7 story projects already approved or under construction.
It would be better if city staff worked on behalf of the community rather than for developers. When they label a project CEQA exempt despite “unusual circumstances” to the site, omit comprehensive traffic studies required by adopted Plans (B/SOL) next to a summer gridlocked artery, call it Infill at 6 stories when surrounding buildings are 1-story, it is easy to spot the allegiance.
We are fortunate to have two planning commissioners, Cyndi Dawson and Andy Schiffrin, who tried to continue the meeting until the next month to get some basic issues better addressed: such as how come there was no traffic entry in the staff report? How come the Traffic Study was left off the Agenda Report? Where is the justification for staff’s claim of an exemption from CEQA environmental review? Is there a better way to address the state-imposed formula for affordable units? They got the votes for a continuation but in the nick of time the developer offered up 4 additional affordable units, bringing the total to 35 compared to the original 31(out of a total of 233) with the caveat that if the project is appealed to council all bets are off. The vote to approve the project was unanimous.
So what to do? An appeal to council is one option. I was mistaken that this significant project was headed to council. It is not. The Planning Commission was the last stop unless appealed.
If the community cares you should let me know. If you think this is worth appealing, email me at email@example.com. Sure city council could still approve it and if the developer is as good as his threat than 4 VLI units would be taken out and we go back to 31. But just maybe traffic would be properly studied, mitigated and building heights reduced. Even the lighting may be mitigated so as not to glare into the habitat of Neary Lagoon.
Worth the effort, I can hear Al Mitchell saying.
|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.|
Promo for KSQD’s “Talk of the Bay,” Tues. Oct. 26
On this week’s “Talk of the Bay,” “Exit Interview with Police Chief, Andy Mills.” The Santa Cruz Police Chief recently dropped a civic bombshell, he’s leaving within a month to take up the same job in the desert confines of Palm Springs, California. His last day will be October 29th. Mills offered an exclusive interview to Talk of the Bay, (Host Chris Krohn.) We stroll from city hall to Pacific Ave. all the way to the Benchlands homeless camp while discussing his four-year stint as SCPD’s top dog. Mills talks about his sometimes-contentious relationship with city councilmembers, chats about alcohol consumption in Santa Cruz, loud motorcycles, and expounds on the effects the pandemic has had on him personally and on the police department coupled with their low vaccination rate (70%). Mills also offers solutions to Santa Cruz’s extraordinary “unhoused” crisis. And, in a candid moment, he is blunt in allowing for a cut in the police budget in order to fund a much-needed mental health services program in this city. Many of the Chief’s responses may surprise you. This week on Talk of the Bay: SCPD’s Chief Andy Mills gets an exit interview, Tuesday at 5p on Talk of the Bay KSQD 90.7 and KSQD.org
Editor’s (Krohn’s) Note: The following column is being reprinted here. It is from Nov. 1-7, 2017. It offers a window into the old adage, the more things (appear to) change, the more they stay the same.
Just the Facts Ma’am
Sgt. Joe Friday on the old cop show, Dragnet, used to say, “Just the facts ma’am,” which is pretty convenient when you might not want to hear the quilt of stories behind how the facts became facts. But without context, facts are like vacuum cleaners sold to people who don’t have access to electricity, convenient machines, but not very useful without a power source. There’s quite a few “facts” running around Santa Cruz inside the housing, homelessness, and UCSC conversations, but often a context, the stories behind the facts, are lacking. Having stated the obvious, I am going to now put out a bunch of factoids that happened this week and in the interest of time, let you draw your own conclusions.
- Library-garage architects (advocates?) presented three plans recently to the Downtown Library Committee (DLAC). 1) $37.7 million to renovate existing library; 2) $47 million to build a new, one-story library, 3) $49 million to build a new two-story library…but, lo and behold, if it is put inside of a five-story parking garage the price magically comes down to $26 million. BTW, none of these buildings would be “net zero energy,” which is really head-shaking in 2017.
- Just the facts ma’am: Six undergraduate women were evicted by the city this past week from 102-104 Hillcrest Terrace below the University off Highland. They were given 36 hours to vacate and not offered any alternative housing opportunities as far as I’ve been able to ascertain. One of them said to me when I stopped by to see what could be done, “We can kiss tomorrow’s midterm’s goodbye,” said one of the suddenly evicted.
- In the new movie, Mark Felt (Watergate’s Deep Throat character) the main character, FBI second-in-command to J. Edgar Hoover, Mark Felt played by Liam Neeson, goes through a long list of communes where his runaway daughter might be, and he lands on one in Ben Lomond of all places, on Bear Creek Rd. In the next scene, he is retrieving her and bringing her back to Washington, D.C. just in time to see Nixon walk across the tarmac and get on that infamous helicopter just after resigning.
- SC4Bernie member and UCSC student leader, Jeff Stoll talked to City on a Hill Press recently about housing and his comment as one of now 19,000 hill-dwellers bears repeating. “At the end of the day, housing is the issue that unites the campus and the community…it’s an issue related to campus development and the way we want to see the campus expand or not expand in a sustainable way.”
- UCSC Prof. Adam Millard-Ball reported that in the transportation research he is conducting, “traffic sprawl” in the United States peaked in 1994, but not in Atlanta, they seem to still be in “sprawl” mode he said. He also said that car ownership peaked in 2005…interesting.
- The top issues of concern by residents in the Prospect Heights neighborhood voiced at a forum on public safety at DeLaveaga School hosted by SCPD Chief, Andy Mills were: Isolate aggressive transients; form private sector partnerships for patrolling; focus on community safety–wellness and quality of life; make mental health collaborations between city and county, connect crime to campsites; there needs to be more visible patrols–get out of the car and more citizen involvement; use compassion when confronting homeless; police need to be proactive vs. reactive; and finally, we need to find better ways of managing mental illness. Chief Mills also said at the meeting that “80% of the calls for service by PD are for homeless-related issues.”
- Talking Points from Eastside Save Santa Cruz meeting last Thursday night:
- “Anyone here play poker? Well, the Corridors Plan is currently on ‘hold,’ we need the city to ‘fold’ the Corridors Plan.” (Jerry Christianson)
- Farrell’s Donuts vs. Dunkin’ Donuts (corporations certainly know how to vulture local businesses)
- Habit Burger? Where did that come from?
- The goal of developers is to maximize profits…and we get that. The goal of the city council should be to maximize the quality of life for residents, and THEY should get that!
- Is 340 square feet for $1700-$2000 really “affordable by design?”
- “We need housing for people who live here now.” (Dawn Norris)
- City has approved over 500 hotel rooms in the past three years. Where will the wait- staff, gardeners, bartenders, and chefs all live?
- Gary Patton hit it out of the park at the eastside meeting when he said: “Let’s make this city the way we want it to be, not the city someone tells us it should be.” And on the accusation of NIMBY-ism, Patton said, “We have nothing to be ashamed of if we fight for our community…we can’t have self-government if we don’t get involved ourselves.” Patton seemed to lay down the gauntlet when he said if developers really want to build in Santa Cruz they can build 50% market rate and 50% affordable…the crowd went wild!
- Finally, I planted three fruit trees in my backyard this week and they are surrounded by five live oaks…It really felt powerful to plant a tree, and of course I can’t wait for the grand kids to have to come along and figure out how to save them from over-development!
Pictures of the Week from Nov. 1-7, 2017
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Chris at email@example.com
MAJOR WATER STORAGE TANK IN SOQUEL NEARLY RAN DRY, DUE TO RUPTURE AND SENSING EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTION
On October 7, at 9:50pm, a major rupture occurred in a water supply line at Soquel Creek Water District’s Maplethorpe and Victory Lane service area in Soquel, gushing at a rate of 4,800 gallons / minute, and nearly draining two large storage tanks in the area. Staff responded to shut off the main and returned to the office to look at computer radio data reports of the tank levels. Based on the technological sensor data on the computer screen, they believed there was 4′ of water left in the tanks, so everyone went home.
However, this was a big mistake.
When a very-responsible worker paid a visit to the tanks the next morning to visually inspect the actual water levels to compare them with the computer data, he discovered the tanks were nearly dry. Had there been a structure or wildland fire that night, there likely would not have been enough water for suppression.
The ruptured pipeline is the exclusive supply line to the District’s 600,000 gallon Fairway and 115,000 gallon Ironwood storage tanks. The pipeline also serves as a link for the 500,000 gallon Austrian and Fairway tanks to “float” at the same water level.
Apparently, the transducer pipe supplying the radio / computerized Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) data water level input to the District Office computer systems had an air bubble, resulting in an erroneous water level that showed 3 Ft. more water than actual. Lesson learned: Always verify electrical signals, especially when assessing supply quantities.
Read more about this close call and the quick action taken:
This is the same system that the Modified PureWater Soquel Project will rely upon for monitoring contaminants in the treated sewage water to be injected into the aquifer. Does that concern you?
WATSONVILLE PILOTS ASSOCIATION SUES TO PROTECT THE AIRPORT INTEGRITY
Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra cast the lone “no” vote on August 24 in the face an application to convert a steel fabrication business at 547 Airport Boulevard to a 21-unit condominium development, directly across the street from the Watsonville Airport. He was heeding the warnings of the Watsonville Pilots Association of impending legal action if the City approved the project, stating that the city could not legally approve projects so close to the airport without thorough environmental and airport-related impact analysis and reports.
The Watsonville Planning Commission had voted 4-3 to approve the project earlier this year, but the vote failed because it needed a supermajority of five votes. Their concerns stemmed from the project’s one-way-in, one-way-out entrance, limited parking spaces (58, including 16 visitor spots) and potentially toxic soil left from the previous industrial use.
As warned, the Watsonville Pilots Association has recently filed a suit, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), claiming the City did not do adequate analysis of the Project’s impact to the Watsonville Airport. The attorney for the Watsonville Pilots Association has already asked for and was granted a change of judges to hear the case…out goes Judge Timothy Volkmann, and the case will be instead assigned to Judge Paul Marigonda with initial review on January 24, 2022.
It is important to protect the Watsonville Airport from development in the flight paths. History shows that when housing crowds an airport, the residents complain of noise and hazards, and the airport eventually goes away. Santa Cruz County cannot afford to lose the Watsonville Airport, as it is the life-blood connection for emergency services in disasters.
Consider the critical role the Watsonville Airport and Pilots Association played in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
“The centerpiece of the disaster relief was Watsonville Municipal Airport, which became the unsung hero of the Loma Prieta response after damaged roads and bridges isolated the county. “For three or four days it was the only way in and out of the county,” former airport manager Don French said, adding that pilots brought in more than 1 million tons of supplies.”
I am grateful to the Watsonville Pilots Association for continuing to protect the Airport.
REDRAWING THE LINES THAT REPRESENT YOU AND YOUR COMMUNITY
Santa Cruz County Supervisorial District boundaries are changing, due to the 2020 Census data. This Tuesday evening, you have a chance to tell the Board of Supervisors what you think would be a fair way to draw the five Supervisorial District boundaries to offer better representation.
Weigh in with your opinion about whether this makes sense this Tuesday, October 26 at 6:30pm with hybrid in-person Special Board of Supervisor meeting and virtual opportunity at the County Building (701 Ocean Street, 5th floor).
One example of re-drawing political lines that people have requested is to make Scotts Valley all in the same District. Currently, the Highway 17 divides the area between two Supervisorial Districts. Another idea submitted is to group Districts along more geographical lines, so that rural areas receive better representation.
So far, the Redistricting Advisory Committee has determined these two boundary changes are worth pursuing (note that unifying Scotts Valley is not on the list):
District Boundary Proposal A
The first is a change to the western boundary of District 1 to include portions of the East Harbor neighborhoods currently in District. The Committee recommends that this portion be transferred from the Third to the First District. New district boundaries from north to south are Brommer Street Extension to Twin Lakes State Beach, and west to east from the City of Santa Cruz limits to Ninth Avenue. This proposal transfers 613 persons from District 3 to District 1. Table 2 demonstrates the new configuration to each District.
The second change currently proposed by the Committee recognizes a boundary split that existed in a neighborhood in the Apple Hill district in unincorporated Watsonville, which separates residents of Silver Leaf and Green Meadow Drives into two Districts. This proposal cures the split and transfers a population of 491 from the 2nd to the 4th District.
Written and oral public comments will be accepted on proposed district boundaries until a final map is approved by the Board. However, in order to meet the 7-day publishing requirement for proposed maps to be considered by the Board, staff recommends that the Board establish Tuesday, November 2, 2021, as the final day for which a map from the public may be submitted.
WHAT IS THE LATEST CHANGE WITH THE MASSIVE KAISER MEDICAL PROJECT IN LIVE OAK?
Here is your opportunity to ask questions directly of the Kaiser Medical Facility applicants about why a 730-car parking structure adjacent to the proposed massive four-story clinic would be a good idea, and why no bus service at all is planned to be included. to serve this facility at 5940 Soquel Avenue frontage road in Live Oak. You can ask about the traffic study that claims the Project will have no impact on traffic. And what about the existing sewer connection moratorium in effect for that area? Hmmmm……
Make your thoughts known November 3, 6:30pm-8pm at a virtual community meeting.
CAL FIRE CALLED IN THE WORLD TO DEFEND LAST WEEK’S ESTRADA FIRE NEIGHBORHOOD
Last week, I wrote about the Estrada Fire, and how CAL FIRE investigators have in the past assigned blame to outside agencies and individuals in order to add money to clandestine accounts. I was interested in knowing what resources were assigned to the Estrada Fire, so I wrote to CAL FIRE Chief Ian Larkin (who is retiring in a couple of weeks). He responded quickly.
You may be as amazed as I was to learn about the great amount of resources called in to fight that fire:
During the initial response to the Estrada Fire, CAL FIRE had assigned 7 fixed wing aircraft, 1 Air Attack, 6 tankers. In addition we had 4 CAL FIRE helicopter assigned. On Sunday we had 1 Air Attack, 4 tankers but only two dropped retardant, and we had two CAL FIRE helicopters assigned.
As for ground resources, at the peak of the resource count we had the following assigned,
40 engines – 34 of those were type 3 and 4 were type 4.
14 Crews – 13 type 1 crews and 1 type 2 crew
6 Bull Dozers – 4 CAL FIRE and 2 Private hire.
5 Local agency water tenders on Friday 10/15 that were released on Saturday 10/16 and replaced with 6 Private Hire water tenders.
CAL FIRE resources came from different areas of the state as they do in support of growing fires. The most of current fires burning in California are not in CAL FIRE DPA and have limited CAL FIRE resources commitments, so CAL FIRE resources were available to respond to CZU. Initial attack response is a priority so available resources were sent to CZU for the Estrada Fire to rapidly contain the fire. We have release the vast majority of the out of area resources and plan to release the remaining resources today and will staff the fire with CZU resource in a patrol status. Our goal is to be at 100% containment today (October 20)
Will the Estrada family be asked to pay for any of this? No, thanks to Governor Approval October 6 of SB 332, waiving all liability for any control burn project that gets out of control.
Will there be an After Action Review of this incident? We all should be asking CAL FIRE for one. Maybe the burn should have been shut down at noon, when the winds began to increase? Maybe the fuel moistures were drier than usual, having just experienced a couple of hot, windy days? Would it have been safer to wait until the fuel moistures rose a bit with a drizzle? Were the neighbors all informed?
MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE THIS WEEK. WRITE ONE LETTER OR MAKE ONE CALL TO EXPRESS YOUR THOUGHTS AND CONCERNS.
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
RAIN AWAKES THE PRAIRIE
The rain is awakening the prairies; it is also time we awoke to the preciousness of these grassland habitats. Already, enough rain has fallen to wet the ground and trigger seed germination in the local meadows. Perennial flowers and grasses have also quickly flushed with new green shoots. The rains have brought migrating winter wildlife, increasingly threatened because, each year, there are fewer acres of grassland to which to return. It is because native peoples tended prairies that we have any prairies at all in our region. Now, together with indigenous peoples, we are relearning how to restore meadows. With attention and intention, we may one day witness the restoration of healthy populations of badger and burrowing owl living in flowered-filled meadows across the Central Coast. For this to succeed depends on more people sharing more coastal prairie wisdom. With that wisdom, together we can build and pass on new stories to future generations (and new arrivals) so that we might maintain grasslands and their many associated species.
Rain is soaking in, darkening the rich prairie soil with newfound moisture. Green patches of seedlings first appear along trails, on gopher mounds and other areas with less thatch. Soon, seedlings will also emerge from under the thick skeletons of prior years’ dead plants. Inhale the moist, cool air slowly, and you may detect new rainfall-induced scents. The first that strikes me is the pungent smell of mouse pee. Grasslands are thick with rodents and, for six months, mouse urine has been drying and concentrating on the soil surface. Now, that nutrient source has been re-wetted and is being soaked into the root zone, and it smells strongly throughout meadows. Beyond that scent, there is petrichor, the complex ‘fresh rain’ smell made up in part by compounds related to the scent essences of both cedar and beet root. With the new rain, I detect another smell…wet hay. When rain first falls, there’s a strong smell of newly moistened hay, and that scent turns quickly and sharply mushroomy. After a week of the first big rains, if you grab ahold of a thick mat of dead grass and pull- it will easily peel from the soil surface only clinging to a little soil. It will be held together with what look like bright white roots. These are fungal threads, soon to be better evidenced by their more familiar “fruiting bodies” – especially the familiar grassland types…puffballs and other fairy ring mushrooms. As if anticipating the quickly emerging life, new bird species arrived in the meadows just prior to the rains.
The Grassland’s Wet Season Birds
I had travelled a hundred times through one particular and expansive grassland and was startled to be reunited one morning with my favorite grassland bird: the meadowlark! These birds are almost as big as robins and have long stout pointy bills, yellow undersides and have long streaks combining yellow, brown, and black on their upper bodies. Their songs are loud and distinct – a signature noise of grasslands throughout the United States. Meadowlarks nest, eat, and sleep in wide open prairies. The flock I encountered that first day of their return was about 40 birds. Last I counted, three weeks into their winter stay, this tribe remained around that number. My bird guidebook’s range map suggests that western meadowlarks reside year-round around here, but that’s a national map evidently without fine enough scale for our particular situation. This local meadowlark group must nest elsewhere, in the spring and summer. In winter, our meadowlark clans join another very special winter-only prairie bird: the burrowing owl. Burrowing owls don’t dig, but they live in holes. Every winter, they surprise me as they flush from different kinds of holes: ground squirrel burrows, road culverts and agricultural pipes. When UCSC’s Seymour Center rat Terrace Point was still mostly surrounded by open meadows, burrowing owls could easily be seen in ground squirrel burrows on the berms piled up when someone was kind enough to try to hide the buildings. Those berms have been since bulldozed. UCSC also rousted burrowing owls from their last local nesting location when they paved the ‘remote’ parking lots. Given the chance, UCSC will continue paving over the increasingly endangered burrowing owl meadow habitat. Get it while you can, Regents! Your actions will literally pave the way for burrowing owls to become so rare they must be protected as endangered species by the State and Federal governments…saddling private landowners with even more regulatory burden. Meanwhile, we are lucky to have this owl, with tall yellow legs and huge, cute eyes; they can be found in the winter at UCSC and across the North Coast’s grasslands. Look for it vigorously bobbing its whole body while staring at you from quite a distance while it guards its precious sleeping hole.
The recent rains also bring another grassland critter to our attention: newts! Hiking over the freshly greening grass, I glanced into the mouth of a gopher hole: surprise! Looking back at me were the golden cat eyes of a rough skinned newt. Hands forward, this critter is like Dracula awaiting sun set to mosey out of its underground lair. That night, with the rain pattering down, it walked half a mile across the meadow, before sniffing out another unoccupied hole for the next day. Nocturnally travelling with uncanny directionality it joined an increasingly large group of its brethren, creating a river of newts, some of which made it across the road before sliding down the bank into a large breeding pond. Newts love the dry grasslands- that’s where they live most of the time, foraging all summer long in the cool darkness of rodent burrows. We think of them as stream or pond organisms, but mostly they are grassland creatures.
An Abbreviated Grassland Management History
Our local grasslands and their associated wildlife owe their presence to thousands of years of tending by native peoples. Without that tending, there would have been no ‘pasture’ for the invading old world cultures to graze livestock on. Indigenous cultures honed complex management activities to steward grasslands species. They used prescribed fire in small and large patches, at varying times and intensities to favor their desired outcomes. They cultivated plant species without our modern (gross) tractor tools. They enjoyed a legendary favorite prairie feast that we can relate to involving prairie grown greens- salads full of diverse, freshly gathered tasty leaves and flowers especially from clovers. Their meadow tending created new cultivars and species. Plants provided food, medicine, basketry materials, clothing, tools, art, and so much more. Their management activities not only focused on plants but also wildlife management. Many of us would dearly love to have seen those prairie gardens.
After the Fall
After the genocide of the indigenous peoples, ranchers were responsible for maintaining open grasslands. Ranchers still manage many of the grasslands, but many are increasingly owned by public or private open space managers. Most recently, we have been moving towards relearning how to keep our prairies healthy. California native grasslands are one of the top ten most endangered ecosystems in the United States. More coastal prairie (grasslands in the fog belt) have been lost to pavement (‘urbanization’) than any other habitat in the USA. And coastal prairies are the most species-rich grasslands in North America. There are 80 plants species that only live in California’s coastal prairies. One third of all rare plant species in California are found only in grasslands. There are many plant and wildlife species in our local grasslands that are already recognized as endangered, and many more qualify for inclusion on state or federal endangered species lists.
Amah Mutsun stewards are relearning alongside many others how to steward prairies. Far up the North Coast, the Amah Mutsun have been working with State Parks to remove shrubs and trees that have invaded ancient meadows. Elsewhere, State Parks has long had a prescribed fire program to restore prairie habitats. While the City of Santa Cruz effectively destroyed the meadows at Arana Gulch by fragmenting them with roads, City Parks staff are experimenting with prairie management regimes including grazing. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is working hard to restore and maintain the Scotts Valley grasslands at Glenwood Open Space Preserve. For decades, weed warriors with the Ken Moore’s Wildlands Restoration Team, the California Native Plant Society and the Land Trust have been responsible for rescuing meadows from weeds, especially French broom. We are making great progress and learning a lot. Grassland restoration is extremely rewarding because you can so quickly see a positive response. But, we must do more…
Please discuss some of this essay with someone while it’s fresh in your mind, say in the next week. Without more awareness, we will have no grasslands to restore and poor badger and burrowing owl, meadowlark and newt won’t have homes anymore.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bratton Online, which is Bruce Bratton’s Santa Cruz County-specific blog, features lots of community gossip and commentary, political observations, cartoons, film reviews, and whatever else may come over the transom – and Bruce always includes some sort of historic photo at the very top of every issue. Bruce has been publishing Bratton Online since 2003. The photo above is from his October 20-26, 2021, edition.
Those familiar with present-day Santa Cruz, and with West Cliff Drive in particular, will be able appreciate how much this little slice of our local shoreline has changed since 1960, which is when Bruce says this picture was taken. That’s Bay Avenue intersecting West Cliff, to the left side of the photo. Where the hospital was, there is now a big parking lot, and there are lots of condominiums off to the left of Bay. The City Council has actually approved a major development where the parking lot is, but that proposed development (at the time I am writing this) is still on appeal to the California Coastal Commission. Thus, that proposed development hasn’t been built yet. If it is built, it will put a big condominium project right on the corner of Bay and West Cliff.
The big vacant area in the foreground of the photo that Bruce published is where the Dream Inn is now located. Here’s what the Dream Inn looks like today, for those not familiar with Santa Cruz (you can see that parking lot I mentioned, in the background):
As I said earlier, things have changed a lot on that little slice of West Cliff Drive that was featured in that historic photo. More changes are coming to that area, too, if the developers get the go-ahead to fill in that parking lot with a six-story mixed use condominium-commercial development.
Going back to the historic photo Bruce featured, see if you can picture how things look today, as you continue traveling on West Cliff, heading left off the edge of that photo. If you were to head down West Cliff Drive today, off to the left of that photo Bruce published, you would end up finding Lighthouse Field. Here’s how Lighthouse Field looks today, in a photo published by TripAdvisor:
That’s quite a difference from what happened just a few blocks away at the Dream Inn site. In the early 1970’s, after the Dream Inn had been built, the community fought to “Save Lighthouse Field,” a thirty-seven acre piece of land, right on the coast. Lighthouse Field was slated to be developed into a high-rise hotel (just like the Dream Inn), a conference center, a shopping center, a lot of high-end condominiums, and a seven-acre parking lot.
I was personally involved in the fight to “Save Lighthouse Field,” as lots of people were, including Bruce Bratton – though Bruce was also, at just the same time, working with Operation Wilder, a community group fighting to stop a massive development proposal on the North Coast, just past the city limits, on what is now Wilder Ranch State Park.
Two huge development projects were proceeding, simultaneously, right at the time that city residents were able to see just how much the construction of the Dream Inn had changed their community. Both the Lighthouse Field development proposal, and the proposal to develop Wilder Ranch with 10,000 new homes, were decisively rejected by the community, and the elected officials who had advocated for those developments were replaced by elected officials with a whole different point of view.
Looking at the photo of the Dream Inn site, as Bruce featured it in his recent Bratton Online column, made me remember, again, that people often have difficulty envisioning proposed land use changes – until after they happen, and when they can actually see something in the real world. I think it’s fair to say that the Dream Inn, once built, did not get rave reviews from the community. Lots of people saw this as a big mistake. The fact that people could see it in real life helped the community to understand that this was not, in fact, the kind of development they wanted for their community, and that helped lead to the rejection of the proposed development on Lighthouse Field, and to the rejection of the proposed development on Wilder Ranch.
Time has passed (a lot of time has passed), and now it seems, other people are having those development dreams. In that October 20-26, 2021, edition of Bratton Online, there is a picture of one pending proposal (six floors, on one of the main routes to the beach and West Cliff Drive). It’s pictured below. The City’s Planning Department website has provided renderings of a whole lot more proposed developments that look quite a bit like the one featured below.
The kind of development pictured just above, and highlighted in that recent edition of Bratton Online, is typical of developments now making their way through the city’s planning process. Trying to “visualize growth,” before it happens, is actually quite difficult, and the “renderings” provided by developers and their architects often fail to convey the reality of what really happens after developments are approved.
With particular reference to Lighthouse Field, I think that community involvement and concern, and opposition to the proposed Lighthouse Field development, was undoubtedly stimulated by the actual Dream Inn development as a model of what was being proposed for Lighthouse Field. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that the actual construction of some of the recently-proposed developments in the city (like the mixed-use development now under construction at the corner of Pacific and Front Street) will make lots of people a lot more wary of what those nice looking “renderings” actually mean, in real life.
If that turns out to be true, as I think happened in the case of the Dream Inn, a small group of committed individuals can make the political changes necessary to head the city in a different direction. It is my understanding that Margaret Mead said something like that. From my experience, as shown in the case of the Save Lighthouse Point Association, she was right on target.
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 email@example.com
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.
“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow”.
~Gilbert K. Chesterton
“There’s always a period of curious fear between the first sweet-smelling breeze and the time when the rain comes cracking down”.
“One can find so many pains when the rain is falling”.
“If man doesn’t learn to treat the oceans and the rain forest with respect, man will become extinct”.
Pandas! This is kind of clever 🙂
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