There are two recall votes happening in the City of Santa Cruz right now. This episode focuses on one of the races, for Councilmember Chris Krohn’s seat.
We hear from Krohn and the candidates vying to replace him: former Santa Cruz mayors Katherine Beiers and Don Lane.
The candidates discuss homelessness, jobs, the environment, housing and discord on the city council. Our questions come from our 10-day listening tour around the community.
Do you live in city limits? You’ll vote in this race.
Listen to the rest of our “Vote March 3” elections series
- Part 1: Voting in Santa Cruz County 101 (Jan. 8, 2020)
- Part 2: The People’s Agenda (Jan. 30, 2020)
- Part 3: The District 2 supervisor race (Feb. 3, 2020)
- Part 4: The District 1 supervisor race (Feb. 6, 2020)
- Part 5: Santa Cruz City Council recall, Drew Glover’s seat (Feb. 9, 2020)
- Part 6: Santa Cruz City Council recall, Chris Krohn’s seat (Feb. 10, 2020)
Editor’s note: Transcripts are usually only for members, but we’re making our “Vote March 3” transcripts available to everyone. We hope this series will encourage more people to get informed about the March 3 local elections.
KARA MEYBERG GUZMAN: This episode is sponsored by Santa Cruz Works — your connection to our area’s thriving tech and business community. With over 5,000 members, Santa Cruz Works gives you access. The largest monthly tech events solutions for your startups and businesses. Connections to the hottest jobs and the latest news about local companies, their stories and best practices. Subscribe free to the Santa Cruz Works weekly newsletter today. Santacruzworks.org/podcast.
STEPHEN BAXTER: I’m Stephen Baxter.
KARA MEYBERG GUZMAN: And I’m Kara Meyberg Guzman.
SB: Welcome to Santa Cruz Local.
[MUSIC FADE OUT]
SB: This episode is part six of our elections series: Vote March 3. Today’s episode: the Santa Cruz City Council, Chris Krohn’s seat. We have two recall votes happening right now in the City of Santa Cruz. In this episode, we’ll just focus on one of those recall votes, for Councilmember Chris Krohn.
We covered the other recall vote, for Councilmember Drew Glover, in the previous episode of this series. We explained what a recall is and why it’s on the ballot. We also went into who’s funding these recall campaigns for Drew Glover and Chris Krohn.
KMG: The group that wants to remove Chris Krohn from office has listed three main reasons. They were listed in the Voter Information Guide and also on the recall petition.
First, they didn’t like that Krohn voted against closing the Ross Camp. That was the unsanctioned homeless camp at Highway 1 and River Street last year. Second, Krohn supported a proposal that would have created new sanctioned homeless camps and allowed overnight RV parking on part of Delaware Avenue. The proposal failed, but the group said that Krohn “acted without regard for public safety or potential damage to local businesses.”
Third, the group said Krohn failed to treat his fellow councilmembers with respect.
Krohn, in his rebuttal, didn’t respond directly to the group’s grounds for the recall. But in previous interviews he has explained his votes on the Ross Camp. He said he wanted to renovate the Ross Camp and manage it responsibly. You’ll hear his stance on addressing homelessness later in this episode.
Something you should know is that last year, the city hired an independent investigator to look into multiple complaints against Krohn.
Only one compliant was substantiated. It was made by a city staffer who said the Krohn laughed, scoffed or snorted during her presentation at city council, after she said something along the lines of “in my professional opinion.”
Krohn says he doesn’t remember the snort. But the staffer’s complaint was corroborated by a councilmember.
We’ve reported extensively on the investigation, the results, as well as the city council’s actions around the Ross Camp. We’ll link to our previous reporting in the transcript of this episode.
Read or listen to some of our related stories:
- Santa Cruz City Council members respond to the recall campaign (July 10, 2019)
- Santa Cruz councilmember faces misconduct complaint (Dec. 15, 2019)
- Santa Cruz City Council members respond to conduct report (Aug. 23, 2019)
- Report highlights conflict within Santa Cruz City Council (Aug. 21, 2019)
- Hearing from homeless people on conditions at the Ross Camp (March 13, 2019)
- Lawsuit fears help derail closure of Ross Camp (April 10, 2019)
SB: Kara, what will voters see on the ballot?
KMG: If you’re a city voter, you’ll see two questions related to this race.
The first question: Should Chris Krohn be removed from office? If you vote yes, that means you want him out of office. If more than half of city voters vote yes, then Chris Krohn would be removed from office.
The second question is, who should replace Chris Krohn if he is removed from office. You get to pick from two candidates: Don Lane or Katherine Beiers. Whoever gets more votes, Lane or Beiers, would replace Krohn should the recall pass.
SB: In this episode, you’ll hear from the candidates. You’ll hear where they stand on the issues.
We have a list of questions we asked all of the candidates. The questions come from a 10-day listening tour we did in January. We interviewed more than 200 people, half of them from the city of Santa Cruz. We asked everyone: What do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote?
We heard the following themes: homelessness, jobs, the environment, housing and discord on the city council. We’ll get to their responses after a quick introduction with the candidates.
KMG: Chris Krohn is 62. He works at UC Santa Cruz as an internship director for the environmental studies department. He was Santa Cruz’s mayor in 2002. He was reelected in 2016. He’s served seven years on the council so far.
I asked Krohn, what keeps you in Santa Cruz?
KROHN: What keeps me here is this like, all you have to do is go a few minutes and you can hike. West Cliff is probably one of the most beautiful – I never get tired of the walks on West Cliff.
KMG: Krohn first served on the city council from 1999 to 2002, when he was mayor. He ran again in 2016. I asked him why.
KROHN: I never thought I’d get back on the city council or run for city council again.
It – back in 2014 and ’15 – the city council made three decisions, big decisions that greatly affected me and our town. The first one out – chronologically, I don’t remember which they were. They approved the Broadway Hyatt Hotel for – what used to be the Unity Temple, place I spent a lot of time at – but it was zoned for multi-family housing and they went out of their way, that council, to zone it for a hotel.
The second thing was the acquisition of a Bearcat tank from Homeland Security – gave them a Bearcat. And that’s a militarized vehicle. And that led – I think that leads to the militarization of the police department.
The third thing was the Beach Flats Community Garden. A lot of people organized around that. We got 60% of it back so that was a major victory, but it’s not secure. And it is on a three-year lease right now.
KMG: What is your dream for the Santa Cruz community?
KROHN: That we have a healthy balance of work – workforce housing, and that the people who actually work here can live here. And that we have a city council that turns its power over to the people and allows their interest and energy to flow through that council.
So, my dream is also, centers on the environment and that we realize how vulnerable we are and that we live in the place that the seas are rising. We know this and our temperatures are going up. But yet we’re allowing folks to build downtown, first floors on, on the street, street-level building. That means people will be living, bedrooms will be on the first floor. Hotels. I think we should change that. I think we should be preparing for the difficulties of when the, you know, the climate continues to go the way it’s going.
KMG: What’s a fun fact about you that people don’t know?
KROHN: That I co-directed a language school in Nicaragua at the end of the Sandinista era.
KMG: Katherine Beiers is 87. She’s a retired UCSC librarian. She’s also a former mayor. She served on the Santa Cruz City Council from 1989 to 2000, and then again, from 2009 to 2012. She was mayor in ’95 and ’98.
You may also know her from her running career. Two years ago, she became the oldest woman to finish the Boston Marathon.
I asked Beiers, what made you want to run for city council again?
BEIERS: Just a lot of people came and asked me. From old friends, new friends, people I hardly knew, and they all called and approached me. I’m very public about my presence, you know. My phone numbers available. My address is available. And I hadn’t given a thought. I mean, I said absolutely not for the first 10 people, the second 10, I said – I’ll think about it, and the third ten, I said: yeah, I’ll do it.
KMG: And what is your dream for the Santa Cruz community?
BEIERS: My dream would be that there would be a majority of progressives because I saw how much got done in a few months. And they’re my issues and every one of them made sense to me.
KMG: Tell me a little bit more.
BEIERS: Well, a small one: filming the planning commission. When I was mayor, we filmed the planning commission. The planning commission is probably the most important commission in the city. Sort of right under the, the council. In fact, they make decisions that go to council – many of them they make themselves. So that was a small one – little tiny one.
But it was huge to me. Because that’s how you get people engaged, when they’re doing a project in their neighborhood or downtown. Nobody ever knows what’s going on. And here was a way to do it. So that was the first thing.
The other ones that just have happened, you know, a little bit lately. I think their motion, or the not a motion — it’s now in: 20% inclusionary. And I believe the direction on that will be flushed out. And I think we’ll see some results because there been no res – results on the 15% for too many years.
KMG: Last question. What’s a fun fact about you that people don’t know?
BEIERS: Well, everyone knows about my running. [Laughs.] My career in running but a fact, maybe… I was born in North Dakota; I go back to North Dakota. Tiny town on the Canadian border. I love North Dakota, will go back in June. My grandkids love North Dakota
KMG: Don Lane is 64. He’s an administrator for the Appleton Foundation. It’s a grantmaking nonprofit in Santa Cruz. He’s also a former Santa Cruz mayor, in 1992, 2012 and 2014. He served 12 years on the city council.
I asked Lane, what keeps you in Santa Cruz.
DON LANE: Well, I’m just lucky to have a nice house and nice home and a lot of family nearby. And that’s really important. And I love downtown Santa Cruz as a place to spend a lot of my time out. And I love West Cliff and Wilder Ranch and just places to be outside.
I love the Nickelodeon and Del Mar Theatres. I think we’re – it’s one of those little things that like I love – the sort of independent movies and for a city of this size to have four screens that show independent film is an amazing benefit.
There’s just a lot of – I think the university being here is an incredible asset, too.
KMG: What local issue affects you that made you want to run for office again?
LANE: I’d have to say homelessness. And it affects me in a funny kind of way that probably doesn’t ring for everybody, but because I’ve worked on that issue for so many years, and so, the state of our work on homelessness as a community affects me every day.
It just affects my own personal work and affects my just, my sense of well-being, for the community to see how the ups and downs of how we’re contending with the issue.
KMG: What’s your dream for our Santa Cruz community?
LANE: I think it contains probably two key things. One, is a sense of connectedness, community, you know, that we really experience ourselves as a single community.
And then probably the other has to do with what I call well-being: that everyone who lives here experiences a sense of well-being.
KMG: And lastly, what’s a fun fact about you that people don’t know?
LANE: I have a tattoo of an ice cream cone on my left shoulder. [Lifts up shirt sleeve]
LANE: So, there it is.
KMG: Oh, cool [still laughing]. Can you describe it for our listening audience?
LANE: So, it’s a, it’s a kind of a sugar cone with mocha chip ice cream on it. And my daughter has exactly the same tattoo on her back. And we got the tattoos together on her 18th birthday.
KMG: [more laughter] That’s sweet.
KMG: OK. Let’s get into the People’s Agenda. OK. Let’s get into the people’s agenda. First question. The majority of the more than 100 city residents we talked to told us homelessness in the city is a top concern.
What is the problem with the way the city has been handling homelessness? And what policy would you push?
For Chris Krohn, the problem is not enough oversight of homelessness policies by the city council. He said the city manager operates too much on his own.
For example, in December, the city manager’s office closed the 1220 River Street Camp without consulting the city council first.
KROHN: When things do come to the council it’s usually for a rubber stamp rather than hey, you know, by saying, hey, we’re doing this. Oh, really? Like, for example, the Armory just opened. Great. Why is 1220 closing? We need both.
And that was a decision in the city manager’s office and the council did not make that decision. We need the Armory and we need 1220.
And I think that the way things are going we have a world being divided in rich and poor, and the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. I’ve never seen Santa Cruz like this. I’ve never seen so many homeless people.
And that’s what happened after Ross Camp closed, people went back into the doorways. They went back into hiding. They went back into creating fires in the Pogonip.
So that was not handled in a way that I believe the council was, was directing.
KMG: Well, I asked the city manager that same question why – why couldn’t you keep both open? And the reason – the, what I got back was at the Salvation Army didn’t have enough staff to manage both at the same time.
KROHN: Come to the council. I think the council would be willing to open up – right now, open up the wallet, our wallets and it’s not our wallets. It’s opening up the General Fund.
We know that we were told that 60% of the resources of the Police Department are going toward homelessness. So, they’re functioning as our homeless services providers. And we know how expensive that is, you know. Each officer is making between $80,000 and $200,000 a year.
They’re equipped. It takes, I don’t know, $80,000 just to outfit people with the car and all the equipment and everything.
So, we’re spending incredible amounts of money when we could be providing social service providers, like the Downtown Streets Team, employing homeless people, or formerly homeless people and in jobs like that. I think that, that works.
KMG: Katherine Beiers, same question. What’s the problem with the way the city’s been handling homelessness? And what policy would you push forth?
BEIERS: I’ve been involved in the homeless since 1988. Threw myself into the issues and for me what finally, after all those years – we’re now, 20 years – the city and county have stepped to the plate.
I think for all those years, they just assumed they go away. You know, pretend they’re not here, they will go away. Well, finally, they’re not going to go away. They recognize they’re not gonna go away. And so, a lot’s going on, and it’s very exciting. Very, very exciting.
I’m optimistic because our police chief got it. He moved to town and he, he instantly understood the issues.
And of course, that major court case in Idaho, you can’t ticket them if you don’t have a place to live, which we’ve been saying for all these years.
I’m not sure it’s one policy. The policy, I guess would be: allocate money, recognize they’re here. They’re not going away. 68% are from Santa Cruz County. And that policy has to translate into dollars because that’s the only way we can get housing.
What we’ve got to do is get Section 8 housing. Help the landlords accept Section 8. And I think the state has just promised a law, you can’t discriminate for Section 8 housing. You know, whether it’s a policy of the city other than, of course, encouraging more affordable housing, eventually that’ll translate.
But I’m talking about today, you know, and tomorrow, you know. We’ve got navigators who read Craigslist at 6 a.m. every morning and they’re out there hustling to find rentals, and then you meet with the landlord. And so, what the city could do for policy would — other than just give money — to be sure that the housing policies they have are conducive to the landlords and everyone else, you know, that they will rent to homeless.
KMG: Don Lane. Same question. What’s the problem with the way the city has been handling homelessness? What policy would you push forth?
LANE: Probably the biggest problem is that we kind of are very reactive and sort of act impulsively at times, and it’s pretty understandable that that happens because there is real, real urgency.
People are being affected every day. And yet, if you do something too quickly thinking you’re addressing the problem, and it backfires, you actually move backwards. You not only don’t solve the problem, but you actually kind of create impediments for future progress.
So, I think that’s really key, is that we move quickly, but not so quickly that we’re not doing stuff that the community can embrace, and, and move forward with.
The other piece that I’d say we’re making progress on, but we have some distance to go, is to really align the city’s efforts with the county’s efforts and with the nonprofit sector’s efforts so that we’re all moving together. We just don’t have enough energy or resources to have any kind of scattered activity here. We’ve got to set priorities together and then move on those priorities together.
KMG: Question two. Many people we spoke to said they have friends or family leaving Santa Cruz County because of the cost of living. Many said they want more jobs and higher wages. Do you agree and how would you address that need?
KROHN: Well we can pass a $15 minimum wage before 2022. In fact, it would have to be about $17 now. It’s $15.25 as we speak, right now in San Jose. That’s one thing.
Another thing is we have three parcels – city-owned parcels – downtown. We can contract with nonprofit housing providers to build I would say upwards to 200 units on those parcels.
Number three, we can continue as we are doing as I just mentioned, working with unions and other organized labor to, you know, raise wages in this town. We did that just now in our lowest paid workers – we gave a 10% over three years increase. Because SEIU, the Service Employees International Union, hadn’t had much of a raised in the last few years.
KMG: Katherine Beiers. Same question. Many people we spoke to said they have friends or family leaving Santa Cruz County because of the cost of living. Many said they want more jobs and higher wages. Do you agree and how would you address that need?
BEIERS: I certainly agree. I’ve always fought for higher wages. Every time it comes up at the university, I was always arguing for higher wages. Because of the low, at the low level. I talked about in the library, the people’s stack the books, you know, check out books, give them a living wage. When you get that, then everyone goes up.
So, I have been very much on the forefront of increasing wages and certainly lost a battle many years ago when we were trying to get a living wage passed in the city, which failed.
Jobs, just keep encouraging companies to come here. You’ve got to visit with those high-tech companies and talk them into. You know, Netflix started here. But they had to leave because they couldn’t get the right engineers. And somehow, I think that will change because people like living here. And the university is turning out computer engineers every year. So, I think the workforce that is needed for higher-level jobs is increasing.
But what the city could do or what I could do is just, if I’m in — you know, go over to those companies, talk to them, you know, talk to LinkedIn, some of the tech companies, and see what they can do to do some recruiting.
KMG: Don Lane. Same question. Many people we talked to said they have friends or family leaving Santa Cruz County because of the cost of living. Many said they want more jobs and higher wages. Do you agree and how would you address that need?
LANE: Yes, I agree. And I think it’s kind of a – but we do need to recognize the dilemma of it. We do have several dilemmas within that.
For instance, one of the great employers in the community, relatively speaking, is the university. They provide some of the better-paying jobs in our community. And yet we’re sort of hesitant about having them grow any more.
So, I’m not, I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. But it’s a kind of dilemma we have.
Another part of that is tourism. It’s a real strength of our economy. It’s something we could build on. And yet, often those jobs are not the best-paying jobs.
So, I think – I think probably a part of the solution is for there to be a higher national minimum wage in the state to continue raising the minimum wage. I think that’s, that is, is valuable.
However, the other side of that equation is we all know the cost of living is partly an income problem, but it’s also an expense problem, and most people spend way too much of their money on housing. And if we can get a handle on that by creating more housing opportunities, I think that will make a big difference.
I think the state’s rent control thing is an important help. It doesn’t solve everything, but it’s important help.
And I think we just need to – it’s probably that we just have to go at it from both sides. We need to try and create, you know, embrace some of the tech industry, the local – especially the homegrown tech industry, so that, that is where some, some better jobs are.
And we need to create more rental housing, especially, because I think that’s what most people can afford at this point.
KMG: Third question. Many of the 100-plus city voters we heard from said they want Santa Cruz to be more of a leader on environmental policy. Some of the things we heard were more bike lanes, composting programs and better public transit. What are two environmental policies you’ll push to get on the city council’s agenda this year?
KROHN: I would like to see number one, a Climate and Biodiversity Commission, and that we have seven commissioners chosen by council members to lead that issue because the environment is one issue that the council takes up. Albeit, it is an extremely important part of council work, but it would be great to recognize that, just like we have a Planning Commission, a Parks and Rec Commission, a Downtown Commission. Surely the environment is equally important as those commissions.
It could be investigating solar, bringing initiatives to the council. And – or looking at stuff before it comes to council and making improvements on it. It could be bringing in all of the people at Ecology Action, that – we have so many environmental consultants in this town, using them as resources, because they do actually want to be a part of the solution too.
We have UCSC, and incredible departments up there, many looking at the environment and climate change. We’d include them in the discussion. This group could actually be the point for a lot of environmental change in Santa Cruz.
The second thing I would do is – which we were moving towards an electric fleet, an all-electric fleet. The city has 800, over 800 vehicles right now. Very few are electric. I think they said 48. We need to move much faster in that
KMG: I asked Katherine Beiers the same question. What two environmental policies would you push to get on the city council’s agenda this year?
She said one, bike safety. She wants the city to spend more money on bike safety programs like education for drivers.
The city has just too many bike accidents, she said.
Her second policy? Pushing for more environmental review. Here’s Beiers on environmental review of projects.
BEIERS: What policies the city can do? They’ve got to do a better job and environmental studies on projects. That is No. 1. And that’s, that’s a game-changer for the city to turn around and say, we have got to look at every one these projects. We’ve got to consider climate change. You know, everything we do is going to fail.
And I think there’s — it’s sort of like the homeless, I swear they thought it would just disappear. The whole issue, it’s not a hoax. Definitely not. So hopefully, I can push more on the climate change pol- things that will affect the climate. No, to bring climate change in the forefront and everything the city does.
You know, the traffic is a good example. Traffic studies that are required in an in-depth environmental review – or you make an, you add a – given this city, I would say you we’ve got to do better job on traffic studies for all development. Not after it’s in and then the mess it’s made. You think we’ve learned from that. So, when I say environmental review, sometimes it’s an attachment, sometimes you can just order. Negative dec is okay, but you’ve got to do a traffic study.
KMG: Here’s Don Lane. Many of the voters we talked to said they want the city to be more of a leader on environmental policy. What two environmental policies will you push to get on the city council agenda this year?
LANE: You know, one that I think is sometimes overlooked as an environmental policy is to build more higher density, affordable housing in the middle of this community, especially downtown.
If we can – and even, you know, in some other places where that where it’s appropriate. Because right now, one of our – everyone knows that our biggest climate produce – or, carbon producer – is all these people driving too much.
And yet, then we have a housing policy that really encourages people to live far away and then drive to jobs in Santa Cruz. So, if we can really make – create more places to live for people who work in Santa Cruz, in Santa Cruz, then we’re going to really have a good impact on our, on carbon, our carbon emissions.
I’d say the other piece is that, in some ways, it’s more – rather than being a specific single policy, it’s about an orientation. Which I think the city has a lot of, but could just elevate even more, is that every policy we have, gauge the climate impact relevance.
And can we in, in whether it’s housing policy or water policy or transportation policy, are we always thinking about: what is – how does that relate to climate change? And, and that’s how we kind of cover all the issues rather than kind of just picking what sort of, oh, that’s the most obvious one, and we should – need to make progress on that.
KMG: Fourth question. The most common concern we heard was about housing. Candidates often say they’re for affordable housing, but we want to know what that means. What types of specific housing developments would you support and where could they be in the city?
KROHN: I just mentioned before that there’s three, at least three sites the city owns currently, the old Tampico site, the thrift center – thrift-store site, and there’s another one near that as well. I forget the – what the name of the property is called. We could put, we can build right now because that’s what costs a lot of money, is land. And that land is owned by the city and that would take away the land cost for a nonprofit housing provider to build many units of housing right there in the downtown near transportation, near the bus center.
KMG: Krohn was part of the council majority that voted to increase the city’s inclusionary rate. The inclusionary rate determines the number of affordable housing units that market-rate developers are required to build. The city council increased that rate from 15% to 20%.
That means that now, with market-rate projects, 20% of the units have to be made affordable to people with lower incomes.
I asked Krohn, would you now support those market-rate projects that meet that 20% requirement?
KROHN: No, I’d worked harder to get the inclusionary farther than 20%. I don’t think we need any more. Market-rate housing and Santa Cruz for now.
If you look at the RHNA numbers, these are numbers that we have to – we’re at like over 150% of market-rate housing. But we’re at 30, below 40% of low and very-low that we produced in the past year.
So, I would tend to want to pursue affordable, you know, as much affordability as we could.
Will there be market-rate housing built? Likely, because you know these folks are saying that they’re going to make a – if you’re going to deal with for-profit developers, they’re going to probably make a profit.
KMG: I asked Krohn, in your view, what’s the best place in the city for those market-rate developments?
KROHN: Definitely downtown, where you have transportation, and where you want to create, I think, major pedestrian zones and have kind of a farmers-market type environment where you could put probably a couple thousand more residents.
KMG: Katherine Beiers. Same question. What specific types of housing developments would you support and where could they be in the city?
BEIERS: The other day I drove around looking at all the, they’re called PDUs. Buildings that were built — or complexes, apartments, maybe triplexes, maybe two stories that got built in the 80s and 90s.
And I’m just so thrilled to see them because they worked. You know, they’re there and they got good landscaping.
Now, granted, they don’t have enough — we need much more and we are going to have to go up the story. You know, we are going to have to go up a story. But I’m so convinced that we can do a development and protect the neighborhood, in part.
A good example is a big building that went on Mission Street — PAMF I think, it’s a medical building. Huge, a huge parking lot. How the neighborhood was protected, you can’t take a right and go into the neighborhood, and that’s where it led built – nobody argued with it. Nobody tried to stop that, because there was a compromise with the neighbors.
So almost every development needs to be reviewed vis a the neighborhood. What’s the impact in the neighborhood? How can we help? And there are ways to do it. And I’m so convinced of it. And I think that’s what I would push for every single time.
KMG: You could support going up another story. So, like, up to three stories?
KMG: In single-family zoned areas?
BEIERS: Not in, no. It would have to be on the corners. I don’t know the – I’m so away from the zoning all over the city. But certainly, where they exist, and on the corridors.
KMG: Don Lane. Same question. What types of specific housing developments would you support and where could they be in the city?
LANE: So, there’s two, maybe three that I’ll mention, of types.
One is, I think we do need, you know, what I call subsidized affordable housing. You know, when it’s a nonprofit developer building 100% affordable units. That’s the gold standard for me. That is something we need to do as much as we can, but we don’t have enough money to do a lot of that. So, we just – that’s a piece.
And then I think a second piece is accessory dwelling units. I think those are generally widely embraced by the community. There’s a lot of opportunity there if we can make it easier for people to do it. And I think we are moving in that direction. Perhaps some more incentives will even move us further in that direction.
And then the third, which is the harder one, I think is that – I do think we just need more affordable – what, I don’t want to say affordable in the sense of controlled, by rent-controlled, affordable. But just less expensive rental housing that can be built, especially downtown and can be built on some of the main streets of the community.
Because if you build smaller units, it’s kind of like “granny units” or ADUs, that, that reaches a certain part of the market. Even if people are not paying particularly good low rents, there’s, it’s still within reach. If you build it smaller and don’t overdo the amenities. It’s what people can just work with.
And right now, we have to just make a shift, a paradigm shift, I think, of thinking about each housing unit sort of being the nicest it can be to being the most functional for our community.
Because the sing- the old model was, oh, let’s have nice single-family homes. Well, yeah, that actually is probably the nicest place to live. But in fact, if that’s not where 90% of our population can afford to live then we need to build stuff that really works for them. And a small apartment might really be just what they need.
And, and we need to start thinking about how we do that and I think a lot of that has to do with smaller size, is keeping the units smaller. That way it’s not something that someone with a lot of money is going to want to rent, right? It’s going to be for a working person who just has average income.
If we’re talking about, you know, we need many hundreds more units of housing, and the nonprofit developers just don’t have the resources or the capacity to build all the housing that we need for our community. So, I think we do have to look to the market.
But we – we shape the market to some extent by the what we tell developers we want and that’s where – why I’m talking about the size, for instance, unit size and amenities. Because if the market – if we – if our regulations say no, we want smaller units, we’re going to we’re going to incentivize smaller units, then that’s how we’ll get what we want and ask for.
KMG: Last question. Several people we spoke to you are frustrated with the division on city council. They see a lack of progress. Can you give an example of when you worked together successfully with someone you didn’t agree with?
KROHN: Martine Watkins, the former mayor and myself are very much into seeing kids thrive and investing in our youth. I imagine that most of the city council, if not all, agree with that. So, we both partnered on working in a subcommittee to raise revenue and we came up with the Sugar Tax. And I thought it was quite ingenious and I thought we stood to probably get $2-4 million a year. And then the state came along and pulled the rug out from under us and said no more sugar taxes until 2032, I think it is.
I think everybody supported, you know, locating a 24-7 shelter. I think everyone supported the green bike lane on Pacific Avenue.
KMG: Katherine Beiers. Last question. Several people we spoke to you are frustrated with the division on city council. They see a lack of progress. Can you give an example of when you worked together successfully with someone you didn’t agree with?
BEIERS: Oh, I know a good example. There was going to be meters at Soquel and Water. Right now, there are no parking meters. Go to Shopper’s Corner, no parking meters.
The city came in to put parking meters and the first meeting it passed. It passed by the council. There are two readings, so the first one. Well, I found out that nobody, all the merchants on Soquel and Water didn’t know about it. Because the le– the postcard goes to the owner of the property, not the tenant.
So anyway, you know, a month later it came back and it was unanimous, no parking meters. But I really had to work across lines on that. Because you know, the argument – the city needs revenue, the store owners want don’t want people to park too long. Well, that was wrong for sure.
I mean, I was a hero. Any business on Soquel, Water, because then – that was a good 10 years ago and there’s never been – this never came up again.
So, I would say that’s a good example where nobody agreed with me at the beginning and then people agreed with me.
KMG: Don Lane. Can you give an example of when you worked together successfully with someone you didn’t agree with?
LANE: So, a few years ago, when I was on the city council, there was a housing project that was proposed along Market Street. And it had within it some Indian burial grounds. And I really wanted that project to go forward. It was housing. And it wasn’t – it was appropriately sited, but there was a lot of opposition because it was going to disrupt some, some Native American burial grounds. And I cared about that, too.
And so, I worked with both the developer and the folks really advocating on behalf of Native Americans to kind of strike a compromise where they – the developer set aside a big piece of land within the development to be preserved as a kind of – the primary burial site and, and a very tasteful fence was built around it to kind of protect it.
And so, then we ended up getting the housing built. But we also honored the Native American culture that was really impacted by this.
And that’s, and I just worked with the developer, I worked with the folks who represented Native American communities, and everybody was fairly content with the outcome.
And I think that’s – we just have to do that over and over again.
KMG: The next segment is a speed round. There were several contentious 4-3 votes on city council last year. And we wanted to see how the candidates would have voted. We also asked the incumbent to explain his vote.
To be clear, we’re not advocating for any particular outcome. We just wanted to see where the candidates stand on recent controversial issues.
A couple quick things to note. We ask about the 190 W. Cliff project. That’s a proposal that calls for 79 market-rate units and 10 affordable units, slated for the Dream Inn parking lot. It passed narrowly by a 4-3 vote at city council last year.
We also ask about the Circle Church. There’s a proposal for a housing project there. It would demolish the church that’s there, and call for one of two proposals: either 12 single-family homes, or 10 single-family homes, six townhomes and several accessory dwelling units.
I also ask the candidates for their stance on plans for the downtown library. The city council is expected to decide on a plan for the downtown library within the next few months. There are two choices. One, a library/garage/housing project where the farmers market is. Or two, a smaller, less ambitious renovation of the current library.
Here’s Chris Krohn.
KMG: You voted no on the 190 West Cliff project. Can you give a short reason why?
KROHN: Because there was many neighbors who were – who brought up great arguments for, you know, digging into – not digging to the cliff, the height was an issue that. You’re going to have this huge development towering over a park, a trailer park.
And I’ve known those folks for 30 years and some people in that – and they had really good reasons as far as setbacks were concerned. So, 190 West Cliff, again, was going to be what I would consider luxury development, the kind that nobody in Santa Cruz would be able to afford right now.
So, they’re going to have to be either be second homes for people or people from over the hill who worked for Apple, Google, Amazon – coming over here.
KMG: Should there be homes where the Circle Church now stands?
KROHN: I would like the neighbors to be involved in that decision. And I think that right now, it’s up in the air. And there’s a, you know, a battle on – between neighbors, and I think they’d like to probably buy the property. Maybe they’d like to see a community center there and there is a church there that’s active, I’m told, that moved into the sanctuary.
So, I think that’s, you know, that should be up to the neighbors and to the community. As far as how much should be developed there, if it is developed, a modest proposal will be nice that fit in with the scale of the, of the neighborhood.
KMG: Which library plan would you support given the information we have at this moment?
KROHN: I would support a renovation of the current library. That seems to me when I read the ballot statement, that’s what the voters voted on.
KMG: Where are appropriate parking lots or areas for people living in their vehicles to sleep?
KROHN: I would, I think church lots are places where people currently our parking RVs. We’ve talked about Dimeo Lane. I support that, right outside the on where our landfill is, but it’s not in the landfill. It is out on along Highway 1. There’s a huge area that we could probably accommodate 30 or 40 vehicles.
KMG: You voted in favor of the motion that killed the Corridor Plan. Can you give a brief explanation why?
KROHN: Exactly because the neighbors didn’t feel like they had any input on it. I believe there were 14 members of the Corridor Committee and no one was from the Eastside. And so, the Eastside made that an issue in the last two elections.
They lobbied candidates got their support to reconsider this Corridor Plan. A majority was reached of people they lobbied and worked with to reconsider it. And now we’re asking staff to reconsider it and take it back and go back to the drawing board, basically.
And why not infill downtown before you start talking about the neighborhoods?
Because people, you know, where do you start, you know – you’re called a NIMBY. But where does anyone start to defend their neighborhood? If it’s going to be – or, it’s going to be where they live and why shouldn’t they raise concerns?
KMG: Yeah, I guess what we’re trying to get at with this question is an understanding of where, like, would you – if you would support development along the city’s busy streets and under what circumstances?
KROHN: Sure, and that would again have to be the neighbors leading, but what I’ve been hearing is two and three stories.
KMG: Katherine Beiers.
KMG: How would you have voted on the 190 West Cliff project?
BEIERS: I would have voted for 100% housing with no commercial, I don’t want commercial creeping up on West Cliff Drive. I would have stepped back from the – from the mobile home park right there. I would have just be sure of the egress and ingress so it wouldn’t be – wouldn’t be affecting people on Bay Street.
But I would have approved it. Absolutely. I think it’s the perfect place for housing. And I would squeeze more housing in there if I could.
KMG: With that level of affordability? That – because that was the sort of contentious thing on the council.
BEIERS: Yes. And now, yes. They had to do the affordability – 15% at that time yes, exactly.
KMG: Should there be homes where the Circle Church now stands?
BEIERS: You know, I’ve got to get up to date on that. It’s such a treasure in the community and it will be, just change that neighborhood.
I would hope that it’s a resolution that would protect the church. And maybe there’s a way of having some housing as well. Not single-family houses, but some kind of density housing carved out of that. But saving the historic church.
KMG: Number three, which library plan would you support given the information we have at this moment?
BEIERS: I would only support keeping the location where it is and rebuilding. I’m a librarian. And I went through two reconstructions at McHenry Library. Yeah. No, I wish the city would take the opportunity to build a new stunning building. Make it the destination, because people are – cities are doing that all over, is seeing their library as a community building. It should get great care and great architecture.
KMG: Just to push back on that briefly. What we heard from Jayson Architects at that, I think it was a December meeting, was that – that making the library a point of civic pride on the current site is just not possible. Like, he present – the plan that they presented was sort of a, I forget what – he didn’t use the term mediocre. But.
BEIERS: You know what, I’d get another architect. I mean, there are great architects.
I would’ve had a competition. Here’s a piece of land. Here’s the money. Submit some plans.
I think it’s – it’s so important. Just because an architect says it’s difficult to do.
KMG: Where are appropriate parking lots or areas for people living in their vehicles to sleep?
BEIERS: Oh, yeah, I think they’re all over town. Absolutely. The churches, the public works building out on Highway 9. I could drive all over town and find them.
And I, and you know, the little bit that was done with churches years ago, they allow currently, allow three, three cars at a church, if the church agrees. And it’s been successful. I – just the, the hysteria around worrying about what those people are going to do just drives me up the wall.
So yes, I would do everything I can to identify a lot of places to park cars.
KMG: How would you have voted on that motion that killed the Corridor Plan?
BEIERS: It was a good motion. I would have voted just the way the majority did. But I liked what they did. You know, they sent it to – they sent it to planning. Sort of what we talked about earlier, you know, and we’re not saying no to development.
That isn’t what that was saying. It was just saying look at it, and consider the neighborhood and consider the traffic. It – that’s all this doing. Just make it a priority, planning department.
KMG: And are you for the recall?
BEIERS: No, I’m against the recall. Recalls are an important tool. Absolutely. But the reason for recall, in this particular case made no sense to me. People got elected, overwhelmingly elected, by the community.
And the first meeting, they’re ready to recall because they didn’t like their policies. Well, you just, you vote them out the next time around.
KMG: Don Lane.
KMG: How would you have voted on the 190 W. Cliff project?
LANE: 190 W. Cliff. I would’ve supported it because they really made an effort to get those very low-income units in it.
KMG: Should there be homes where the Circle Church now stands?
LANE: [PAUSE] Probably. [LAUGHS] But, but – I don’t have any object – I don’t – I think it’s a residential neighborhood. And it’s acceptable. I think if there is something that needs to be done to kind of recognize the importance of that center of that neighborhood.
KMG: Which library plan would you support given the information we have at this moment?
LANE: You know, as long as the affordable housing, the permanent the real, permanent affordable housing that’s been tentatively committed for that, for the new library/parking/housing structure on the parking lot, as long as that housing is really delivered, I’m supportive of moving ahead in that direction. Because I really also believe we can get a much better library out of that deal.
KMG: Where are appropriate parking lots or areas for people living in their vehicles to sleep?
LANE: I think you know, we, we’re sort of – the, the faith community is answering that question really well right now because they’re starting to use parking lots at churches for that purpose. And I think that can expand.
I really love that the police chief made available the parking lot at the police station. There’s probably other public parking lots that we could use that as a model for, especially because we have a program now that kind of supervises, just – and keeps in touch with people sleeping in their vehicle.
So, I think there’s, there’s actually a lot. That’s one of the, I don’t want to say easy, but easier programs because there’s a track record on it. And there’s really good examples of how it can work.
So, I think more and more people will be open to doing that. I just interestingly, I saw that the Homeless Service — or the Housing Matters, the old Homeless Services Center is now allowing a couple people to use their parking lot for some people sleeping in their vehicles. So, I think the parking, you know, just public and private parking lots are all possible.
KMG: How would you have voted on the 4-3 city council vote to kill the Corridor Plan?
LANE: I would not have supported that. Although I would have – I would have been fine with just kind of revamping the Corridor Plan. The part that really – what I objected to was the way it was worded. It basically made single-family neighborhoods a priority over housing.
And I think those two things should be kept equal. The language of that motion very specifically says we’re – we can’t – we’re going to – we’re going to make sure that we take care of neighbors and then we’ll think about how we can do housing. And I think it’s kind of both together.
KMG: Are you for the recall?
LANE: I’m not supporting the recall; I didn’t sign the recall petition. So, I’m, I’m – I’m trying to stay kind of out of it as much as I can, which is really difficult, I have to say [laughs].
But I think you know, I’m trying to run as someone who will bridge two sides and I think for me to kind of plant myself on one side of the recall then will impede my ability to work with both sides later.
KMG: You just heard about an hour of tape. Let’s recap what we heard. Stephen, what are some of the differences you heard between the candidates?
SB: Well, I think they had some interesting differences on the jobs questions. Krohn was more interested in trying to raise the minimum wage, for instance. Whereas Beiers and Lane said they were more interested in going after high-tech jobs.
Lane said we should try to embrace home-grown tech. Try to grow that.
Lane brought up an interesting point, I thought, with UCSC, because it certainly is one of the city and county’s biggest employers. But there’s this push and pull about, you know, a lot of people don’t want UCSC to grow, but it is this big employer, so what do we do about it?
KMG: Right. Lane didn’t take a stance though on whether the university should grow. When we did our interviews in the community, we heard a lot of frustration. Why aren’t there more high-paying jobs in Santa Cruz.
At the same time, the campus is one of the few employers in town where there’s a promise of those relatively higher-paying jobs. Yet many people don’t want the campus to grow, because of its effects on the housing market and traffic.
What did you think about the candidates’ answers on housing?
SB: Well, I think Krohn stood apart a bit, from Beiers and Lane, in that Krohn has said he’s much more interested in building 100% affordable housing. Whereas the other two seemed more open to market-rate housing in general.
I mean, Beiers said she was interested in trying to do, perhaps, duplexes, triplexes on corners and potentially on corridors, like she said.
But she’s also trying to “protect the neighbors.”
KMG: But she also said she’s open to market-rate developments that meet the affordability requirements set by the city. As long as it meets her view of where are appropriate places for businesses to go.
She didn’t like the 190 W. Cliff project because it called for commercial space on the first floor.
The thing to note with Beiers and Krohn is that they really prioritize the concerns of neighbors. The concerns of neighbors will influence their vote on proposed housing projects.
While Lane, on the other hand, said he holds the concerns of neighbors equal to the need for new housing. That’s why he said he didn’t like the motion that killed the Corridor Plan. Because it prioritized neighbors over new housing.
SB: And then Lane was more expansive on his view towards housing. He said yes, of course, do more subsidized affordable housing. But also think more about accessory dwelling units. And think about rental housing, especially downtown.
He doesn’t seem to me to be a, you know, 100% affordable-or-nothing kind of person. He is open to market-rate housing.
KMG: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Lane is more open to more types of housing than the other candidates.
SB: Another key difference between the candidates seemed to be on the library. Lane said he could be supportive of the project with the parking garage. Lane said perhaps we could get a much better library out of that deal if they do it on the bigger site with the parking and all that.
The other two candidates were much more interested in dealing with the current site.
Beiers kind of wants to have it both ways though, because she wants to have a library that is a point of civic pride and is beautiful on the current site. With the constraints we have, that may not be possible.
KMG: Right. When we heard from Jayson Architects last year, that that just isn’t possible, given the budget.
Her response was, well then, find another architect.
SB: So, at this point, you’ve heard from all of the city council candidates, the county supervisor candidates, and you’ve heard from the community about their wants and needs in this election.
Kara, what are some of your takeaways from all this?
KMG: I’ve learned that this is an incredibly labor-intensive process, but I think it’s worth it. I feel like we have really achieved our goal of trying to press the candidates on the issues that are important to the people, not just to us.
And I want to let you know that we’re planning on following up. So, whoever ends up winning these races, we’re going to check. Three months down the line. Six months down the line. Are they following up with these plans that they outlined? Are they staying true to what they told us this month?
SB: Thank you to our Guardian-level members: Elizabeth and David Doolin, Patrick Reilly, Chris Neklason and the Kelley family. If you find our work valuable, sign up for a membership.
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Thanks to Trimpot for the theme music.
I’m Stephen Baxter.
KMG: I’m Kara Meyberg Guzman
SB: Thanks for listening to Santa Cruz Local.
Kara Meyberg Guzman is the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local. Prior to Santa Cruz Local, she served as the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s managing editor. She has a biology degree from Stanford University and lives in Santa Cruz.