SANTA CRUZ >> Santa Cruz Local centers its election reporting around the issues that are most important to voters. To understand residents’ priorities for the June 7 election for District 3 Santa Cruz County supervisor, Santa Cruz Local interviewed and surveyed more than 100 District 3 residents in recent weeks.
- What do you want local candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote?
- What do you want local government to do for you and your community? Why is that important to you?
- What help or services do people you know need right now?
We heard from people ages 19 to 85, most of whom said they were registered to vote. District 3 includes Bonny Doon, Davenport, the North Coast and most of the City of Santa Cruz. The District 3 supervisor is Ryan Coonerty. Coonerty is not running for re-election.
We interviewed District 3 residents at:
- Santa Cruz Farmers Market.
- A Barrios Unidos food distribution in Santa Cruz.
- Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup (The Titans of Tech awards show in Santa Cruz).
- Westside Farm and Feed in Santa Cruz.
- A Nueva Vista Community Resources food distribution in Santa Cruz.
- A Davenport Resource Services Center food distribution in Davenport.
- Whale City Bakery Bar & Grill in Davenport.
- Davenport Post Office.
- Arro’s Country Store in Davenport.
We shared our survey in our newsletter and social media channels. A few local organizations also shared our survey with their clients and members:
- Community Bridges.
- Davenport North Coast Association.
- Food Not Bombs.
- Senior Citizen Legal Services.
- Rise Together.
- Santa Cruz Works.
The residents’ priorities below are listed in order of frequency.
The most frequently mentioned priority across all our surveys and interviews in District 3 was a desire for diverse solutions to the housing crisis. Residents said that in-law units, tiny homes and market-rate and affordable housing development were among the solutions.
People said they are frustrated with red tape and delays with permitting for housing. Santa Cruz resident Deborah Lindsay, 55, wants Santa Cruz to make it easier to create more affordable housing by making it easier to build in-law units and implementing rent control. “I know a lot of people who have been long-term residents [in Santa Cruz] and can’t afford to live here,” she said. “That’s including professionals that make decent money — people who can afford a Tesla but not a house.”
Santa Cruz resident Elisabeth Morris, 25, is a designer. She said she wanted a candidate “who has come to terms with the realistic fact that Santa Cruz is growing and we need to handle the population influx with grace, foresight, and efficiency.”
“I want candidates to talk about affordable housing, public transportation and local small businesses. I believe all these issues are hinged together as the future occupants of affordable housing will be the most likely to support our local small business economy if their housing is near those businesses and/or well connected to them by public transportation,” Morris said.
Some people called for more development of housing at various levels, including market-rate. Others didn’t agree.
Santa Cruz resident Alice Tarail, 80, is a real estate agent. She wants Santa Cruz to develop only “low-income housing. No more market-rate new housing. Period.”
A need for rent assistance
A need for rent assistance was the second most-cited priority we heard from District 3 residents.
Santa Cruz resident Estella Espino, 56, works at a Santa Cruz laundromat. She works three days a week and wants more hours. She described a need for rent assistance.
“The rent is too expensive. The salaries are too low,” Espino said in Spanish. She’s able to afford it because she lives with her two daughters who share the cost.
Santa Cruz resident Jeronima Rodriguez, 52, said she works as a house cleaner and has two children. She pays $3,000 for a three-bedroom home and her biggest need is help paying rent.
“Rents are so expensive and they’re rising,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. “The cost of food is also rising. There’s just so much. Our salaries are very little. We don’t have enough.”
Solutions to homelessness
Another top priority among District 3 residents was a desire for progress to address homelessness rather than what they saw as temporary fixes.
Small business owner and registered District 3 voter Al McDaniel, 64, said he wants “more housing for the homeless. It should be homes, not tents.”
McDaniel said he was once homeless. He said he found housing about 12 years ago because of hard work, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and food stamps. He said he’d like to see county supervisors focus more on programs to address drug and alcohol abuse and mental health for people who are homeless.
Residents in District 3 mentioned the need for more coordination for mental health or addiction services in our county community. Many Santa Cruz residents emphasized the need for services for the unhoused.
Many District 3 residents want local job opportunities with wages that reflect the area’s high cost of living.
Santa Cruz resident and marketing consultant Doug Hull is a registered District 3 voter. He said he knows small business owners who need help with payroll and business-related rent or mortgage payments.
“I know that it’s a real issue for a sizable segment of the population and the residents that live here,” Hull said. “Housing has become so expensive that a lot of very intelligent, very creative people cannot afford to live here. And I’d hate for Santa Cruz to turn into Carmel or Los Gatos. It’s the people who often have very creative positions who have difficulty getting enough income to stay here.”
Other survey respondents said they struggle to get by on hourly wages.
Santa Cruz resident Erika Rosales, 23, earns $15 an hour at a restaurant. She said she works part time because she can’t afford child care. She pays $1,500 a month for a studio apartment.
“The rents are just so high. And the jobs, they don’t pay you enough,” Rosales said in Spanish.
“I have my daughter and gasoline and child care are so expensive. What I make, I’m paying for child care and the rent. It’s a lot,” Rosales said.
Beach Flats resident Sonia Escobar works at the Dream Inn and earns $16 an hour. She and her husband pay $4,000 a month in rent. To afford it, she works overtime as much as she can and they sublet a room for $1,000.
“The inflation is really bad right now, but we’re making the same” income, Escobar said in Spanish. When the state’s minimum wage increased in January to $15 for larger employers, she did not get a raise, she said. “The minimum was raised, but not for me,” Escobar said.
Mark Gonzales and his mother, Bernadette Delgado, run Arro’s Country Store in Davenport. They want faster responses from law enforcement. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)
North Coast residents’ priorities
Davenport resident Bernadette Delgado, 44, owns Arro’s Country Store and La Patrona Taqueria in Davenport. She said people camp across the street from her businesses and she wants Sheriff’s deputies to “stay on top of where they set up camp, how long, and what’s going on. There’s no police presence here,” she said. “It takes hours when we call or they don’t come at all. I wind up having to be the neighborhood watch.”
Several North Coast residents described the lack of maintenance of county roads, including Swanton Road, Smith Grade, Marine View Avenue and roads in central Davenport.
Swanton Road resident and registered District 3 voter Susan McCrary-Huff said road conditions were “horrific.” McCrary-Huff is a co-owner of Westside Farm and Feed in Santa Cruz. “The road situation really drives me crazy,” McCrary-Huff said. “I remember when I was a kid every spring they’d mow down Swanton Road and patch holes. They haven’t done anything for years. There’s potholes you’ll break an axle in.”
Registered District 3 voter Jasmine Sanders, 25, is the head baker at Whale City Bakery Bar & Grill in Davenport. She lives in Bonny Doon. She wants improved cellphone service in Bonny Doon for emergencies. “You have no signal there. None at all,” Sanders said. During the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020, she couldn’t communicate with her neighbors.
“That would be nice to have a tower up there. Because I’ve been stranded on the road, just popping a tire. And I can’t communicate and I had to wait for somebody to pull over to help me out,” Sanders said. Sanders added that since the wildfire, her family has been unable to get homeowners insurance for a house.
People who lost their homes in the CZU Fire are struggling to get permits to rebuild. In a Davenport North Coast Association poll shared with Santa Cruz Local, one CZU Fire survivor wrote that the process has been a “headache” and “makes losing our home more painful than need be.” “Why are we having to pay any permit fees for rebuilding if we had a valid permit at the time of the fire? Why isn’t there a special category for rebuilding due to catastrophes, (such) as fire or earthquakes?” they wrote.
Transportation and climate change
Several District 3 residents described a desire for improved bike and walk infrastructure and public transit. “The traffic is frightening,” said Andrea Greenspan at the downtown farmers market. “It’s a conundrum.”
Susan Vavalieri, 70, is a retired nurse and registered District 3 voter. She doesn’t have a car. “I gave it up for the climate. [We need] public transit, separated bike lanes,” she said at the Downtown Santa Cruz farmers market. “If we don’t change the way we live today, we will not have a future. I’m scared for my grandchildren.”
Santa Cruz resident Susan Freeman, 74, is an educator and registered District 3 voter. “We need a fully coordinated, cross-community approach to the climate crisis — water usage, energy resources, transportation, natural disaster response,” Freeman wrote in an online survey. “It’s not enough that a small percentage of residents can afford Teslas and solar panels. We need solutions that are more inclusive and benefit residents in all the county communities.”
A draft for our People’s Agenda
Our questions for the District 3 county supervisor candidates are based on themes we heard from District 3 residents. We call this list our “People’s Agenda.”
- Many District 3 residents told us they or someone they know needed immediate help to pay rent. They can’t wait for an affordable housing project to be developed. What will you do as a county supervisor in your first year to expand rent assistance programs? Where could that money come from?
- A frequent thing we heard from more than 100 District 3 residents was that they want more affordable housing projects in District 3. What’s your plan as a supervisor to bring more affordable housing projects to District 3?
- North Coast residents told us they wanted fixes to poorly-maintained rural roads, more law enforcement, and better cellphone service, especially during emergencies. You would have some authority to fix these issues. What’s your plan to address these issues?
- Many District 3 residents told us they were frustrated about what they saw as temporary fixes to homelessness. They wanted leaders to address root causes and get people off the streets. What could the county do better to address the root causes of homelessness, especially in District 3? What will you do in your first year ?
- Many District 3 residents told us about their frustration and anxiety about their low wages that don’t match the cost of living in Santa Cruz County. Is this a priority for you? What’s your plan to attract and retain employers to create more jobs that pay enough to live here?
- Some District 3 residents were concerned about traffic and climate change. Residents want better bike and walk infrastructure and public transit. What projects related to bike, walk and public transit would you prioritize in District 3? What’s your plan to improve transportation options for District 3 residents?
District 3 residents, what are your thoughts about our People’s Agenda? We invite you to take our online survey. Your feedback will inform our reporting for the Nov. 8 general election.
Below is a summary of the responses we’ve received as of March 11.
Read priorities of District 4 residents for the District 4 Santa Cruz County supervisor race.
Editor’s note: Oscar Rios was Santa Cruz Local’s Spanish interpreter for this story. Co-author Kara Meyberg Guzman is a member of the Rise Together coalition to advance racial equity that participated in survey distribution.