Voters line up on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020, at the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office in Santa Cruz. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)

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The Santa Cruz City Council race has nine candidates vying for four seats. The four candidates with the most votes win.

The following unofficial results are from the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office. New vote tallies are expected this week. The election must be certified by Dec. 1.

Last county update: 12/1/2020 7:38:00 PM

City of Santa Cruz Councilmember (Vote for 4)

CandidateTotal
SONJA BRUNNER14860 (14.66%)
MARTINE WATKINS14616 (14.42%)
SANDY BROWN14465 (14.27%)
SHEBREH KALANTARI-JOHNSON13157 (12.98%)
KAYLA KUMAR11680 (11.53%)
MARIA CADENAS10397 (10.26%)
KELSEY HILL9513 (9.39%)
ELIZABETH CONLAN6802 (6.71%)
ALICIA KUHL5422 (5.35%)

Santa Cruz Local interviewed and surveyed more than 120 Santa Cruz city residents about what issues they want the candidates to address.

The top priorities of surveyed voters were:

  • Affordable housing development
  • Addressing homelessness
  • Help with high rents
  • Police reform
  • Improving bike infrastructure and public transit
  • Higher-paying jobs and more job options.

Here is where the top vote getters stand on the issues, based on the candidates voting records, our candidate forums, interviews and questionnaires.

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Sonja Brunner

  • Brunner said she wants to create a city economic recovery task force and work on an economic recovery plan.
  • Brunner said she wants to create more unemployment benefits for low-wage workers and support for small businesses, such as federal grants, technical support to pivot to online, mentorship, recruiting and training.
  • Brunner said she wants the city council to work with the Santa Cruz County Housing Authority and do what it can to expand the housing authority’s programs and retain existing affordable units. She serves on the housing authority’s board of commissioners.

Martine Watkins

  • Watkins said she supports the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee recommendations from June 2018. That included streamlining production of accessory dwelling units and ecouraging the production of smaller units downtown through changes to the Downtown Plan. 
  • Voted in favor of a market-rate housing project that included affordable units at 190 W. Cliff Drive, in the parking lot of the Dream Inn. The council voted 4-3 in favor.
  • She also wants to work with the county’s workforce development board and examine how they are creating pathways to green jobs.

Sandy Brown

  • Brown said that city-owned land downtown such as surface parking lots should be used for 100% affordable housing projects.
  • Voted against a market-rate housing project that included affordable units at 190 W. Cliff Drive.
  • On job creation, Brown said she wants to attract Silicon Valley tech companies — all sectors, including light manufacturing — to Santa Cruz. She said industrial zones on the city’s Westside have potential to be used more.

Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson

  • Kalantari-Johnson wants to align with the city’s housing element with a 2018 Housing Blueprint council committee report.
  • Kalantari-Johnson said she wants to partner with UC Santa Cruz to try to build more housing on campus. She said she wants to aggressively search for state and federal housing funding.
  • Kalantari-Johnson said she would prioritize homeless services for young people and those aging out of the foster care system.

Kayla Kumar

  • Kumar said she would prioritize homelessness prevention programs such as rental assistance.
  • Use more federal funding for rental assistance
  • Kumar said she plans to look at Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers from the state and regional government in terms of housing needs for people with low, very low and extremely low incomes. She would look at “those levels who are experiencing this housing crisis the most, and start developing units that meet those specific needs and work from there,” she said.

Maria Cadenas

  • Cadenas said that on housing, she wants to change zoning of some single-family home areas to allow more duplexes.
  • On homelessness, “The priority in my mind in the short term is public health — sanitation, portable toilets, showers, and then and quite frankly, finding safe space for our unhoused neighbors to sleep,” Cadenas said.
  • On jobs: Look to add small and medium-sized manufacturing companies.

Kelsey Hill

  • Hill said she wants to approve projects that have deep affordability for low, very low and moderate income levels. She said she’d push for 100% affordable housing on city-owned land.
  • Hill said in city budget decisions she would prioritize homeless services over consultant fees. She would also prioritize funding for nonprofits that serve homeless people. 
  • On job creation, Hill said she wants to expand the microloan program that the city council created in April. She also favors a tax on second homes that would fund job creation projects.

Elizabeth Conlan

  • Conlan said she wants more opportunities for deed-restricted affordable housing on city land downtown.
  • Conlan wants to rezone parts of the city to allow more duplexes and fourplexes.
  • On homelessness, Conlan said she would prioritize bathrooms and sanitation.

Alicia Kuhl

  • Kuhl’s top priorities are housing, tenant protections and an eviction moratorium.
  • On homelessness, Kuhl said she knows the impact of homelessness firsthand. 
  • She supports an increase in public health and sanitation services. She also wants to establish a mobile crisis unit so that trained mental health staff could respond to crises instead of police.

Read Santa Cruz Local’s reporting on the Santa Cruz City Council race:



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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.