Monday, October 24, 2022

#298 / Please Vote "Yes" On Measure O


I am feeling pretty "political," nowadays. Not only am I worrying about what is going to happen on the national level, and on the state level, I am worrying about what is going to happen, politically, right here in my own hometown. 
I have already used one of my daily blog postings to provide advice on the Santa Cruz County Third District Supervisor race. In case you missed it, I am strongly and unequivocally urging Third District voters to elect Justin Cummings to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.
I represented the Third Supervisorial District on the Board of Supervisors for twenty years, from 1975 to 1995. The Third District includes most of the City of Santa Cruz (Prospect Heights and Carbonero excluded), most of the UCSC Campus, Bonny Doon, Davenport, and the North Coast. If you are a voter in the Third District, I hope you will take my advice, and vote to elect Justin Cummings to the Board of Supervisors. It would be pretty hard to overstate how strongly I feel about this upcoming supervisorial election. 

My concern about local political issues, however, goes beyond this upcoming vote on the Third District Supervisor seat. I am also urging voters in the City of Santa Cruz to vote "Yes" on Measure O. I am not alone in making this recommendation. The Santa Cruz Sentinel is also asking for a "Yes" vote on Measure O. And so is poet and journalist Stephen Kessler
Measure O is an initiative measure, put on the ballot by city voters. A "Yes" vote on Measure O will reverse a City Council decision to build a parking garage, and then a new library, and then an affordable housing development, and then (most recently) a childcare center on what is called "Parking Lot 4," the current location of the Santa Cruz Farmer's Market, at the intersection of Cedar and Lincoln Streets.
Here is a link to the ballot argument in favor of Measure O, which I have personally signed, along with former Mayor (and former librarian) Katherine Beiers. If you click right here, you can get all the official documents.

The picture I have placed at the top of this blog posting, as far as I am concerned, illuminates one of the main reasons that a "Yes" vote on Measure O is so important.  
The picture shows a city notice, recently posted, announcing that the city has issued a permit to cut down nine heritage trees on "Parking Lot 4," effective October 28, 2022. That means that the City is notifying the public that those trees will be cut down even before the November 8th election, in which the voters have an opportunity to turn down the proposed development on "Parking Lot 4." Of course, if Measure O fails, and the city's plan for a massive new development on that "Parking Lot 4" goes ahead, those trees will certainly be cut down, so saving the trees is certainly one good reason to vote "Yes" on Measure "O." 

Saving those trees, though, isn't really what I am mainly thinking about when I say that the city's recent posting of the tree removal notice "illuminates one of the main reasons to vote 'Yes' on Measure O." My main point is truly a "political" one - it's about how community decisions are currently being made in the City of Santa Cruz, and what we need to do about it. Hang on to the end, and let me address that point last.  Before I do that, however, let me list what might be called some "substantive" reasons to vote "Yes" on Measure O. 
THE LIBRARY: If you would like to have a newly-renovated Main Library located where our current Main Library is located, across the street from City Hall, and kitty-corner from the Civic Auditorium, in what is our current "Civic Center," then you should vote "Yes" on Measure O. This is, incidentally, what voters said they wanted when they voted in 2016 to approve Measure S, a bond measure to renovate and upgrade libraries, throughout the county. That bond measure provided money to renovate our current Main Library, in its current location - the place where our Main Library has been for the last 100 years or so. The funds authorized by that bond measure, to renovate our existing Main Library right where it is, are now being deployed to carry out a new plan, with the current Library abandoned, and a new library being added on to a Parking Garage on "Parking Lot 4." No vote of the people authorized that!

THE PARKING GARAGE: If you don't think the city should be borrowing money for a new parking garage to provide parking spaces for the developers of a proposed luxury hotel on Front Street (largely without any parking at all), or to provide public parking to serve the massive new residential buildings either approved or in the wings that the City is allowing to move ahead without having to provide adequate parking (and in some cases "any" parking) then you should vote "Yes" on Measure O.

THE FARMER'S MARKET / A PUBLIC PLAZA: If you don't want the City to move the existing Farmer's Market from "Parking Lot 4," which is a sunny, south-facing, congenial and successful spot for the Farmer's Market, in order to place the Farmer's Market in a north-facing parking lot on Front Street, which has lots of traffic and access issues, not found at the current location, AND if you would like to have south-facing "Parking Lot 4" officially designated for future public uses, then you should vote "Yes" on Measure O.

FUTURE USE OF THE CURRENT LIBRARY SITE: If you are concerned that the city wants to move the Main Library to "Parking Lot 4," with no plan whatsoever (or no plan that has been disclosed to city residents, at least) about what will happen to that key site, right in the heart of the city's "Civic Center," then you will want to vote "Yes" on Measure O.

FUTURE USE OF OTHER CITY PARKING LOTS: If you want to make sure that the city will be required to use other city parking lots for affordable housing (not luxury hotels or residential towers for mostly wealthy investors) then you should vote "Yes" on Measure O.
SAVING HERITAGE TREES: Of course, if you don't want those heritage trees cut down, you are definitely going to want to vote "Yes" on Measure O.
Now that we have returned to the trees (and that tree removal notice pictured at the top of this posting), let's talk about what I think is perhaps the most important reason to vote "Yes" on Measure O.
Here is the chain of events that has gotten us to where we are: 
#1 - The public voted to renovate the existing library. That was a VOTE, and we put ourselves in debt to raise the money to do the renovations. Suddenly, that money is now proposed to be diverted to a whole new idea, discarding the current library, which has been in the same spot for something like 100 years. But WHY is this suddenly being proposed? It certainly wasn't mentioned when Measure S was passed.
#2 - WHY? Because the City Manager and the Planning Director and the Economic Development Director want a big, new parking structure. Before there was any talk of moving the Main Library, the City Manager had proposed a huge (and perhaps unnecessary) PARKING GARAGE on our "Parking Lot 4" site. THE PARKING GARAGE IS WHERE THIS ALL STARTS. The original proposal was to convert "Parking Lot 4" into a large parking structure, which would allow developers to omit any parking in the buildings they are proposing on our downtown area. BUT... the city needed money to do that, so the City Manager came up with the idea to move the Main Library to "Parking Lot 4," to help build the parking garage for the developers. The PEOPLE voted to renovate the existing library. The city staff came up with the Parking Garage-Library plan. What happened then?
#3 - The public did not much like this Parking Garage - Library plan. So, the city retreated into "study mode," and the City insiders then suddenly decided that adding on an affordable housing proposal might be able to put this Parking Garage, then Library, then Affordable Housing combination over the hump, in terms of political acceptability. That's when the affordable housing got added.

#4 - However, lots of members of the public still didn't like this plan and began work on an initiative measure (the initiative being the way the public could express its own views of what it wants for the future of development downtown). The initiative is not called the "Our Downtown/Our Future" initiative for nothing. That is really what this is all about, in the end - who makes the big decisions about the future of our city.

#5 - The clear signs that city residents were not sold on this Parking Garage + amenities plan did not cause the City Manager, Planning Director, and Economic Development Director to take a pause. Instead, they spent lots of money to do a near final design on the library, as a way of showing those members of the public who don't like the plan that the city bureaucrats are unwilling to wait to hear from the voters. City officials added in a childcare center, too, since both affordable housing and a childcare center are wonderful. Wonderful - but they don't, of course, have to be placed on "Parking Lot 4,"and the Main Library can stay right where it is!

#6 - Let's get back to those signs about the tree removals. Our elected officials did not vote to have the city issue those permits. The city officials who issued those permits, and directed that they be posted, were essentially telling the residents of the city, and specifically city voters, who are right now in the process of deciding whether or not they want this Parking Garage-Library-Affordable Housing conglomeration, that they weren't going to wait for the vote, they were going to allow the developers who are part of the plan to chop down those trees right now. [They won't get to, prior to the vote on Measure O, only because an appeal has or will be filed]. This tells me that what this whole project is ultimately about is who runs this city. Is it the public, the voters, or it is the city bureaucrats, who are responding, as is ever more clear, to the desires of the developers (with the current City Council - Council Members Cummings and Brown excepted - going along for the ride).

#7 - Check out who is funding the "NO" on Measure O campaign. The "NO" campaign is massively funded by wealthy property owners and developers, including the Seaside Company, Barry Swenson Builder, Devcon, the Dream Inn, and Owen Lawlor - the developer of the massive new residential project under construction at the corner of Front and Laurel.
I, personally, think that the opposition of the developers to Measure O is related to those provisions in Measure O that require existing city parking lots to be used for affordable housing projects (because developers would like the city to be able to build projects on our city lands that cater to the high-end market). Whatever the reason, though, it's very clear that a "No" vote on Measure O is a vote in support of city bureaucrats and the developers that are receiving such a warm welcome at City Hall these days. 
Your "Yes" vote on Measure O tells city officials - and specifically including our Mayor and Council Members - that the city needs to get public support for development proposals, before they start allocating time, money, and resources to projects that the public may well not support at all. 
I am strongly recommending your "Yes" vote on Measure O.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Gary! Thanks for supporting Measure O!

    Also note that the City of Santa Cruz is the lead agency for the RTC Rail Trail Segments 8 & 9 Draft Environmental Impact Report that proposes to cut down and remove 381 to 404 trees along 1.6 miles of the rail corridor! This abominable document is deficient in many respects and needs comments from everyone in the county, not just the City.

    Save the trees!


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