This is Santa Cruz Local’s newsletter issue for Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. Our newsletter informs Santa Cruz County residents of big decisions in local government and how to get involved.

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In this issue:

  1. Santa Cruz County power outages prompt request for state probe
  2. Santa Cruz council to discuss proposed Pogonip farm
  3. Watsonville City Council candidates emerge
  4. Santa Cruz Local wants to hear from you on homelessness
  5. Scotts Valley garbage rate hike to be considered 
  6. Money sought to repave 41st Avenue in Capitola
  7. Rent help deadline is Thursday in Santa Cruz County
  8. Your thoughts: What keeps you up at night?

1 / SANTA CRUZ COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

Investigation requested into rural power outages

9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m,. Tuesday Sept. 28 / Online, by phone or in person at 701 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, top floor

Pedestrians cross Big Basin Highway at Highway 9 in Boulder Creek

Residents in the San Lorenzo Valley and other areas in Santa Cruz County have endured unexpected power outages this summer. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file)

Santa Cruz County Board Chairman Bruce McPherson is expected to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission that requests an investigation into the overuse of a “fast trip” setting that had brought power outages to thousands of residents in the San Lorenzo Valley, Corralitos, Aptos and rural areas near Watsonville in recent months. 

The “fast trip” setting essentially triggers an outage to reduce the risk of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. equipment causing a wildfire. For instance, a squirrel came in contact with a transformer in the San Lorenzo Valley on Sept. 20. Power was shut down for 5,600 customers in the San Lorenzo Valley including at schools, wrote McPherson and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend, in a county report.

“The outages are more than just an inconvenience; they are a life safety and health issue. Without power, residents who rely on wells can’t pump water or use their sanitation systems,” the supervisors wrote. “Losing power has a profound impact on seniors and others who need reliable power service for medical equipment. Students and workers cannot study or work from home without power and Internet access. Businesses struggle to operate without power, thus causing the loss of revenue that keeps people employed,” they wrote.  

“We would instead encourage PG&E to prioritize hardening the lines in these areas including undergrounding,” they wrote.

1:30 p.m. 

Detailed debris flow study to be presented

A debris-flow study of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire zone is expected to be presented that provides the most detailed, widest look yet at areas prone to slides and areas that might be safer. The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County hired Atkins Engineering Consultants to create the study. 

“The study will provide a much clearer picture of the level of risk for each property owner in the study area,” wrote Paia Levine, Santa Cruz County’s acting planning director, in a county document.

  • The study identifies “primary” debris flow paths and “uncertain” debris flow paths, according to a county staff report. Uncertain areas are flatter, wider, lower in elevation or at the base of drainage areas. 
  • The “uncertain” areas may have avulsion or “abrupt change in flow path due to channel blockage or change in grade that causes the debris flow mass to travel outside of the defined channel,” a county staff report stated. “While this (is) still an area subject to debris flow hazards, the potential for any given structure in this area to be impacted by a flow is lower than in the inundation area because of the many different paths a debris flow could take once it leaves the channel.”
  • County leaders are expected to determine which homes are in the two areas. 
  • The study “provides a basis for geotechnical engineers to evaluate the magnitude of the hazard at individual sites and to design foundations or mitigations accordingly,” Levine wrote. “The data can be used to inform design decisions and to comply with the requirements of the California Building Code.” Geologists also can reference the study to reduce consultant costs on where mud will flow. 

Drought to be acknowledged, 15% water reduction requested

County supervisors are expected to acknowledge the second year of a drought and ask that residents voluntarily reduce water use by 15%. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency on July 8 and asked residents to conserve. 

  • Santa Cruz County received 77% of its average rain in 2020. 
  • The county received 53% of its average rain in 2021. It has been the fourth driest year on record with fewer than 17 inches of rain compared with a 31 inch average. 
  • Water saving tips

 —Stephen Baxter

To participate: Join on Zoom or dial 1-669-900-6833, meeting ID  840 7832 7816. To comment ahead of time, email [email protected] or visit the agenda and click the speech bubble icon next to the agenda item. The meeting will also be broadcast on Facebook with no login required.

2 / SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL

Pogonip farm proposal to be discussed

12:15 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 28 / Online and by phone

map of Pogonip Homeless Garden Project proposed location

A map shows a new location for a proposed farm next to the Pogonip Clubhouse. (Homeless Garden Project)

The Santa Cruz City Council is expected to discuss a schedule, costs and planning of a new location for a proposed farm in Pogonip.

The Homeless Garden Project has planned a farm in a Pogonip meadow near Golf Club Drive for years. Because of lead contamination related to skeet shooting in the lower meadow, project leaders want to relocate the proposed farm to a meadow uphill and closer to the defunct Pogonip Clubhouse. The move would require a change to the Pogonip Master Plan with public hearings and environmental review.

Last month, the city council started a process to change the Pogonip Master Plan. Tuesday, the Santa Cruz City Council is expected to discuss the timeline and costs related to the Pogonip Master Plan.

  • The plan calls for a 9-acre farm, two buildings and two greenhouses on the upper meadow.
  • In recent weeks, dozens of county residents have written to city leaders in support and in opposition of the relocation. Several supporters said the upper meadow would allow the project to give job training to more homeless people. Several opponents expressed concern about impacts to plants and wildlife.
  • City staff expect the environmental review and consultant fees to cost roughly $102,000 from the city’s General Fund. No matter where the farm is in Pogonip, the city is expected to clean up the lead contamination. The cost to clear the lead contamination is not included in that estimate. Cleanup costs will depend on the future use of the land, staff wrote. Farming requires a higher standard for cleanup than open space. If farmed, the cleanup would cost more than $1 million, staff wrote. 

The Homeless Garden Project is a nonprofit group that trains and employs homeless people in farm work. It has a farm on Shaffer Road at Delaware Avenue and a store on Pacific Avenue.

Funding model for local community organizations

For years, many local nonprofit groups and other organizations have received grants from the City of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County for services related to homelessness, youth, health and other areas. Since 2015, about $4 million from the county and $1 million from the city have been available annually.

In 2015, local government leaders began to shift toward a results-based framework for grant allocation. An extension of this shift continued this year with community meetings to understand how the funding process could be more equitable.

Tuesday, the Santa Cruz City Council will discuss possible changes to the funding model and grant structures. The council is not expected to make decisions on which organizations will be funded. A more detailed discussion on the application process is expected at the council’s Nov. 9 meeting.

Rent help for Beach Flats, Lower Ocean residents

Santa Cruz’s Beach Flats neighborhood stretches from Third Street to the San Lorenzo River, east of Younger Way. The Lower Ocean neighborhood is east of the San Lorenzo River, from East Cliff Drive north to Broadway, west of Ocean View Avenue. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file)

Tuesday, as part of its consent agenda, the city council is expected to decide whether to allocate $11,000 annually for rent help for city residents. Funding would end in June 2024. The program aims to help residents of the Beach Flats and Lower Ocean neighborhoods.

Money would come from American Red Cross loan payments to the city related to the disaster relief after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

—Kara Meyberg Guzman

To participate: Watch on Zoom or call 1-833-548-0276, meeting ID 946 8440 1344. To comment before the meeting, email [email protected] by 5 p.m. Tuesday. The meeting will be broadcast live on Comcast channel 25.

3 / WATSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL

Candidates emerge for vacant council seat

6:30 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 28 / Online or by phone

Two candidates have qualified for a Dec. 7 election to replace Watsonville City Councilmember Aurelio Gonzalez. Gonzalez stepped down this month because of a family emergency, he said. 

Frank Barba and Vanessa Quiroz-Carter are the candidates. Quiroz-Carter ran unsuccessfully against Gonzalez in the November 2020 election. Gonzalez was an incumbent.   

Tuesday, the council will discuss a proposed change to city law that would authorize mail-in ballots for special elections to fill council vacancies. The estimated cost to mail ballots to registered voters in District 2 is $14,500 to $19,500. The Watsonville city clerk proposed the change.

District 2 residents will also be able to vote in person 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays starting Nov. 8 at the city clerk’s office, 275 Main St., top floor, in Watsonville. Poll hours the week of the election will be:

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5
  • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 6
  • 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 7

To participate: Join on Zoom or dial 1-669-254-5252, meeting ID 160 466 1504. To comment ahead of the meeting, email: [email protected]. The meeting will also be on Facebook Live, Channel 70 (Charter) and Channel 99 (AT&T).

4 / SOLUTIONS TO HOMELESSNESS SERIES

Santa Cruz Local wants to hear your solutions to homelessness

Brittany Shay, a resident of Camp Paradise in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz resident Brittany Shay, a former sales manager, said she wants to find work so she can be self-sustaining, happy and successful. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

Brittany Shay, 28, wants to get back into sales. She last worked as a supervising sales manager at a cellphone store in Capitola Mall.

“Sales, that’s money. I like commission,” Shay said last week. “That was fun too. Just to be able to get any job, honestly.” Shay said.

Shay lives at “Camp Paradise,” a Santa Cruz homeless camp on the San Lorenzo River next to the Santa Cruz Memorial cemetery. She is one of dozens of homeless people Santa Cruz Local has interviewed in recent weeks as part of a community engagement phase of the project. The project investigates solutions to homelessness in Santa Cruz County.

Shay said she became homeless in Santa Cruz two years ago after her boyfriend had a mental health problem. “We lost our place. So I mean, I couldn’t afford housing anymore. I tried to go to the shelter, but they said they didn’t have a bed for me, that I wasn’t ‘priority,’” Shay said.

Shay said what would help her the most is a connection to a job and rent help. She said the state system stopped her unemployment payments in October 2020 and she needs help accessing those benefits.

When asked what she needed, she said she and others at the camp need survival gear as winter approaches. They need clean water, jackets and other warm clothes, bedding, food, feminine pads and tampons, socks, access to laundry machines and pet resources.

“It’s definitely politics. No one’s really in our corner,” Shay said. “The No. 1 thing is we don’t have a voice, somebody to speak for us. Somebody who’s knowledgeable about what we go through day to day.”

We want to hear from you. What information or resources do you need related to homelessness in Santa Cruz County? How are you impacted by homelessness?

Your feedback will help guide our reporting.

Guide our homelessness coverage

Encuesta sobre personas sin hogar

—Kara Meyberg Guzman

This series is made possible by the support of more than 100 Santa Cruz Local readers. Santa Cruz Local readers gave more than $20,000 in July and August to support this series. Thank you!

5 / SCOTTS VALLEY CITY COUNCIL

Garbage rate increase proposed in special meeting

7 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 29 / Online and by phone

In a special meeting Wednesday, the Scotts Valley City Council is expected to vote on a new contract with San Jose-based hauler GreenWaste Recovery Inc. that would accommodate a state mandate to collect food waste in 2022.

GreenWaste already contracts with Scotts Valley, Capitola and unincorporated Santa Cruz County. SB 1383, a new California law, requires cities and counties to provide organic waste collection to residents and businesses.The law takes effect Jan. 1 and includes penalties for noncompliance.

Scotts Valley residents now pay $15 to $68 monthly for garbage, recycling and yard waste pickup. The new residential rates could be $17 to $77 monthly. The rates would increase each year according to the consumer price index.

The new contract would include:

  • Food waste pickup in new pails provided by GreenWaste
  • New container colors to comply with SB 1383
  • Reporting required by SB 1383

Special study session to plan to recreation programs

Most of Scotts Valley’s recreation programs stopped in spring 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, city leaders hired the consultant firm Management Partners to create a plan to restore those services.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, before the council meeting, the city council will hold a joint study session with the city parks and recreation commission to discuss the Management Partners’ report. The council is not expected to take formal action Wednesday. 

Management Partners’ recommendations for city leaders include:

  • Maintain control of parks and recreation facility rentals and special events
  • Contract with independent providers for child care services at Brook Knoll and Vine Hill elementary schools 
  • Contract with Santa Cruz County, Boulder Creek Recreation and Park District or the Boys and Girls Club to provide aquatic programs at Siltanen Swimming Pool
  • Collaborate with the cities of Capitola or Santa Cruz to provide recreation classes and sports programs for Scotts Valley residents
  • Create a separate nonprofit board to oversee the Scotts Valley Senior Center

Kara Meyberg Guzman

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 669-900-9128, meeting ID 811 5900 4568. To comment ahead of the meeting, email city[email protected] by 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

6 / CAPITOLA CITY COUNCIL

Money sought to repave 41st Avenue in Capitola

Parts of 41st Avenue could be repaved and a sidewalk project on Kennedy Drive could move forward with regional grants, the Capitola City Council decided at its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 23.

  • Repaving 41st Avenue from Clares Street to the Highway 1 bridge would cost $1.5 million. The city will apply for grants to cover half of that cost. How much of the street is repaved will depend on the money it receives, said Public Works Director Steve Jesberg. 
  • A sidewalk project on Kennedy Drive has received $25,000 from the capital improvement program, which has funded initial design work. An additional $150,000 from grants would fund sidewalk construction from Sir Francis to Park avenues.

City staff said other projects that needed money included:

  • Pavement work on Capitola Road from Clares Street to 30th Avenue for about $500,000.
  • New sidewalks on McGregor Drive from Park Avenue to McGregor Park for $750,000 to $1 million. City leaders described it as a difficult project with steep slopes and bridge supports.
  • New sidewalks on Washburn Avenue from Park Avenue to New Brighton Middle School for about $125,000.

Separately on Thursday, the council widened its search for a city planner. 

The council also agreed to offer a $250 incentive for council members, planning commissioners and staff members who receive digital agenda packets rather than printed packets.

Read Jesse Kathan’s story

7 / HOUSING

Deadline Thursday, Sept. 30 to apply for rent help

Santa Cruz County landlords and tenants can apply for a state rent relief program at housing.ca.gov or 833-687-0967. The application deadline is Thursday, Sept. 30.

  • Tenants must meet income limits and have financial hardship related to the pandemic. 
  • For assistance with the application, call Community Bridges’ housing support line at 831-316-1822 or visit Community Bridges’ website.

In-person help with applications will be available:

  • 1:30-2:30 p.m. Sunday Sept. 26 at Holy Cross Church, 210 High St., Santa Cruz
  • 10-11 p.m. Sunday Sept. 26 at Holy Eucharist Catholic Community Church, 527 Corralitos Road, Corralitos
  • 8-9 a.m., 10-11 a.m., 12-1 p.m., 2-3 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. at St. Patrick Parish, 721 Main St., Watsonville

An online workshop on the application will be held 1 p.m. Tuesday Sept. 28 on Zoom.

8/ YOUR THOUGHTS

Your responses to ‘What keeps you up at night?’

Last week we asked: What keeps you up at night?

Some of your responses:

“Knowing there is no 24/7 non-law enforcement mobile crisis response and that our Behavioral Health Services are a hodgepodge of siloed short term, programs rather than a health care system. Knowing that there is ongoing avoidable suffering and deaths being caused by this.” — Jeffrey Arlt

“That we are running out of water. Why are we pushing building so much when the current residents can’t make their water allowance? It seems incredibly insane and makes it hard to do the conservation when the city doesn’t seem to care/practice what they preach. ‘Can you let all your plants die and take short showers while I build an 80-unit apartment complex?’” —Karyn Goldstein

“The gradual decay of our local state parks. In particular Natural Bridges. This is not just due to homeless and RV parking along Delaware. Although that is the majority of the problem, it is also caused by our very own residents on the Westside that pay no heed to the park regulations and let their dogs wander on trails clearly marked no pets. We are losing the wildlife and beauty that make these parks so precious and unique. Each year I see fewer coyotes, rare birds and other wildlife and more and more trash and vandalism. —Glenn E. Seiler

Today’s question: What local shop or business do you feel nostalgic about? Share a memory.

 Share your thoughts in Santa Cruz Local’s quick survey

We’ll share responses in one of our next newsletter issues.

Note from staff

Stephen and Kara dug through 1,607 pages of local government agendas on Friday to produce this newsletter for you. 

We want you to know what’s coming up in local government meetings this week so you can get involved and influence these big decisions.

Support local journalism with a Santa Cruz Local membership today.

Kara Meyberg Guzman, Stephen Baxter and Natalya Dreszer

Santa Cruz Local