Sunday, February 7, 2016

#38 / Selected From My Email Correspondence



That "Sleeping Sovereign" posting yesterday reminded me of some recent correspondence I had with some Santa Cruz City residents who are concerned about the City's apparent desire to turn all of the city's main traffic thoroughfares into high-density, high-rise "corridors." This "Corridors Plan" effort is seen as the best way to accommodate what is taken to be the inevitable future growth of the City of Santa Cruz. The Corridors Plan is not yet finally adopted, and you can get more information on the process by clicking this link. There is still time to get involved.

At any rate, I recently received an email, as part of a larger group that was being alerted to the process by someone who was expressing anguish at both the process and what will likely be the outcome. Here was the email that popped up in my inbox on January 27th: 

Everyone is sending me email who didn't attend the Corridor Committee Meeting last night asking what I thought. I have 6 pages of notes and the meeting was a horrifying disaster. They were not letting people ask questions or comment and instead we had to provide postie-notes and they were gathered. Some were walking out because they couldn't stand to hear the entire meeting. I will gather more thoughts tomorrow.

The traffic study from the Consultants from Gilroy was a joke...to anyone who attended correct me if I am wrong...The traffic study didn't include morning peak traffic, or evening peak traffic, and certainly not summer traffic..(which doubles the population of Santa Cruz from about 65K to 130K) ...The traffic study was done for a few days in October during 12-3 p.m. which is the slowest time of year....All locals know that.

The Parking discussion was truly horrifying...they are proposing "parking benefit districts"....The Consultant didn't really have a good answer where this is done successfully (he mentioned Monterey under his breath)....The parking available inventory was truly misleading...what a surprise....! Absolute numbers rather than relative/ratio numbers was truly disingenuous....The example I gave to someone today was...You have 50,000 cars/day and 5,000 parking spaces...vs. 10,000 cars/day and 2,000 parking spaces...if you are one of the Committee members you would say, Wow there is 3,000 more parking spaces..but the truth is there is 100% less...the ratio is 1 to 10 vs. 1 to 5...It was so insane to see the members react to the data and the Consultant didn't correct them....

This is, of course, a distressing report. I wasn't there, so I am just passing on the observations of someone who was. Here, though, is a response that came back, immediately, from another person who  hadn't attended: 

This is all very concerning. What legal re-course do we have? 

My views were not being specifically solicited, of course; however, when has that ever stopped me from sounding off? Here is what I answered: 

The issues here are not “legal.” They are “political.” Our elected officials have the “legal" right to make decisions about the future shape and character of our communities, and the current planning efforts, in fact, are actually the “implementation” of decisions already made in connection with adoption of the General Plan. How can they do this? We gave them that power when we elected them. The courts will defer to the decisions of elected officials in almost all cases (see my posting on "Deference").
A citywide, organized political effort can change the direction of Santa Cruz politics on these land use matters, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this will mean just firing off a few emails and coming to a few meetings. Development interests now generally get what they want from local government. Community and neighborhood based groups have withered away. Local politics will change when neighborhoods get organized, and get involved. Usually, that means an in-person meeting of a group of from 5-15 persons, one time per week on a continuing, sustained basis; once every other week at the outside. And then work between meetings to carry out the strategy and activities that the meetings decide upon. As I routinely say on my Land Use Report on KUSP Radio, if we want self-government, we have to get involved ourselves! The fact that this works can be seen in the incredibly successful effort by Desal Alternatives to change the direction of the City’s policy on water supply over the past 3-5 years. That is definitely the kind of timeline that is involved. 
Reading the emails, I think there is potential for the kind of political renaissance that is needed, but while our modern communication technologies can assist and facilitate the effort, this isn’t something that happens online!

Wake up!

You are going to have to go to a lot of meetings, if you want to exercise the sovereign prerogatives that "the people" always retain.



Image Credit:
http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/do-women-need-more-sleep-men

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