HOUSING AND AFFORDABILITY
Santa Cruz County should be a role model county on all the issues that face us. This does not mean that we can solve them all immediately, but that we should be moving quickly toward carbon drawdown, community resiliency, all forms of shelter for those without shelter, as well as treatment options for those who are ready. We should be open to new solutions for the housing crisis for both middle and low income residents of our beautiful county.
A lot of market rate (read: expensive) housing developments have been recently approved in the City
of Santa Cruz. The County and our Cities must prioritize middle and low income developments so that working people can stay in Santa Cruz County.
We are in the midst of a bona fide housing emergency. Many of our local workers, families and students are sleeping in their cars and/or one step from homelessness. It has broken my heart to speak with so many students and residents who are fearful for their futures here.
As for homelessness, we need innovative stop gap measures to get folks out of tents and off of city streets and into areas where both they and others feel safe. The county must provide its fair share of land for this. But we also need “workforce” housing for folks who live and work here, in our schools, in our restaurants, as social workers, as health care providers and simply as human beings who love our County.
County land is very, very valuable—we must get maximum benefit for our community from these lands—whether ecological benefit, or for housing. We cannot sell off land to private developers (as the current City Council is proposing through a New-York-developer hotel planned for Front Street). With all public lands, we must ensure solid low income and workforce housing covenants.
I support the Empty Home Tax, a proposed ballot measure that would create more rentals in the City of Santa Cruz and help protect against outside investor speculation in our housing market, as well as provide needed revenues toward affordable housing and sanitation. Please note: There is huge amount of disinformation circulating now about this measure.
I support further legislation that would keep global and national hedge funds and outside speculators from making our community more expensive than it already is for our very own family members, essential workers, students, and others.
We must continue to work with non-profit developers and Housing Santa Cruz County and re-look at zoning densities in several areas of the County. We must also plan for affordable housing along transportation corridors—and that includes proactively changing the Housing Element in the County’s General Plan so we are “pre-planning,” rather than “reaction,” or “spot planning” for development that supports neighborhood income diversity and housing for less-than-median-wage earners.
Finally, we must declare a HOUSING EMERGENCY at the County level and engage the community in looking closely at immediate solutions like the Empty Homes Tax, a county-wide bond measure toward rent relief and affordable housing, rapid pension-fund investment in “workforce” housing, and a very specific sales tax to support services within very low income (permanent supportive housing) complexes.
My position on the Our Downtown Our Future measure, and/or the mixed-used library proposition:
For the last six years, I have been a deeply concerned climate activist and advocate. I have probably marched five times to the current downtown Farmer’s Market site with hundreds if not thousands of youth and students to protest the initial building of a 600-car parking garage and library at that site, taking down several heritage Magnolia trees. Every time, the youth were ignored. (See Stephen Kessler essay on this, here)
The City finally amended the proposal, adding bells and whistles (and needed housing) to make it what it is today. But the choice here is not: low income housing or not. Ground has not been broken, and funds are still not at hand to build this massive multi-use, window-intensive complex, during a time of global window/glass shortage, actually.
Our Downtown Our Future secures several city lots for low income housing, and also approves simply building housing on the Farmer’s Market lot, along with a downtown commons. With so many new and very large buildings going up downtown and more on the docket, keeping open space and trees somewhere, to me, seems essential.
Additionally, there is concern that the new parking garage is meant to also be used for the proposed hotel development, in planning process, which will require the sale of two city lots to be built—we cannot afford to lose any city land that could be used for affordable housing.
Please note that as a County Supervisor, I will not be deciding on any of this. It is up to the City to vote on these multiple projects. My jurisdiction will include unincorporated areas of the County, not the City of Santa Cruz, but certainly I can weigh in.
Because I am a candidate, I am expected to share my position. At this time, I support increased UCSC-located student housing, and will not oppose the project now cleared for the East Meadow. But UCSC must cap enrollment until we can get housing sorted out and ensure local sustainability regarding water. I would pressure the UC regents to invest in campuses that are under-enrolled and could use attention and resources, rather than inflame the multiple and overlapping crises we are already struggling with here.