District 2 residents will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate to replace Zach Friend, who is not running for re-election.
Santa Cruz Local heard from residents ages 11 to 86 from August to October. The survey was not intended to be a scientific study, but rather a straw poll of issues important to voters. We asked:
- What is your biggest need from local government?
- What personal experience makes you care about this issue?
- What do you want candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote?
District 2 residents were interviewed at:
- The Santa Cruz County Fair.
- Aptos Village.
- Watsonville Hangar.
- Grey Bears food distribution in Live Oak.
- Watsonville Strawberry Festival.
An online survey also was offered in Santa Cruz Local’s weekly newsletter and on social media channels.
Residents’ most common concerns, in order, were:
- Road conditions.
- Traffic relief.
- Affordable housing.
- Help with rent.
- Addiction services.
Road conditions and traffic
Road conditions and traffic were the most frequently mentioned issues among the District 2 residents we interviewed and surveyed. Residents said they want potholes fixed, more functional public transportation and improved safety for cycling and walking.
Corralitos resident Jon Blackwell, 32, said he hit a pothole on a Corralitos road and his truck’s exhaust fell. Blackwell said many roads needed work.
Corralitos resident Timothy Lorenzen, 81, says the road he lives on has potholes and other damage from a lack of maintenance in the past 30 years. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)
La Selva Beach resident Nora Clow, 69, said she wanted Santa Cruz County leaders to address traffic between North County and South County. “Adding a lane is not going to solve traffic issues,” she said, “we need public transportation like the rail trail.” She wants the county to “make it easier for people to commute.” Clow loves living in South County because the community feels more diverse to her than North County.
Former Watsonville mayor and Freedom resident Lowell Hurst, 75, said he wants Santa Cruz County leaders to “support employment and transportation needs for South County residents,” including “job creation close to where people live.”
District 2 resident Danny Keith says he has to plan his daily schedule around traffic. He wants county leaders to invest in infrastructure that would make it safe to travel across Santa Cruz County by electric bike. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)
Affordable housing and help with rent were the next most mentioned issues across District 2. Residents said they needed help finding affordable housing. Many residents said they needed help with rent.
Vanessa Tamayo, 39, said she wanted more housing in Watsonville and Freedom. She lives in Freedom and works for a child care and social services program called Migrant and Seasonal Head Start. Of the 41 families she provides services to, she said about 30 families need housing.
“There’s no housing,” Tamayo said. While families search for housing they “either live in hotels or in a house with like six to seven families. It’s like 15 to 20 people living in a two- or three-bedroom house.”
Freedom resident Aaliyah Ayala, 21, said she wanted local government leaders to help people access rental assistance and food resources such as CalFresh. She also wanted to see higher paying jobs in Freedom because of inflation and housing costs. “It just keeps you stuck, like, low,” Ayala said.
Ayala works as a barista, a caregiver and a cook. After paying $1,700 in rent, she estimated she had about $200 left each month, “just for, like, food and gas.” She said she began living on her own when she was 18. “It’s super frickin’ expensive,” she said. “It’s almost like drowning.”
Ayala said she would pursue a culinary degree if she was able to afford it. “That’s what my passion is,” she said. “Yeah, unfortunately I can’t.”
Many District 2 residents said that addiction services were top of mind. Corralitos resident Julie Mendoza, 35, said her husband “struggles with addiction.” He is in a 13-month, faith-based rehabilitation program.“So as long as you’re willing to get into the Bible, it’s a good place to be,” Mendoza said. She said she is not religious and wanted more rehab options.
Mendoza added that she wanted more resources for family and friends of those struggling with addiction in Santa Cruz County.
“I personally need more education on drug addiction. When a loved one is suffering from any type of addiction I think it’s important for the families to understand why this happens and what the addict is going through,” Mendoza said.
Corralitos resident Julie Mendoza, 35, says her priority is her 5-month-old daughter. She wants more activities that will encourage child development in English and Spanish. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)
Corralitos resident Rich D’Amore, 57, wants Santa Cruz County to invest in rehabilitation services and methadone clinics. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)
Several residents mentioned a need for diverse homeless services alongside accessible addiction services.
Corralitos resident Rich D’Amore, 57, said he was in high school in Santa Cruz County when he joined a punk band with older kids and was introduced to heroin. “I was 16 living in a chicken coop that I repurposed,” he said. His girlfriend became pregnant, and that pushed him to quit heroin.
Years later, D’Amore said, “My daughter struggled with addiction but I helped her through it.” He said he wants more addiction services in Santa Cruz County, “but you have to want to get sober.” D’Amore said he wanted county leaders to focus on rehabilitation services and methadone clinics rather than needle exchange services.
He said he goes to homeless camps regularly to give food to people. If people want to help, they should donate to local clinics and food programs.
Child care, safety and other issues
After 18 months on a waitlist, affordable child care has greatly benefitted 27-year-old parent Shadaye Cruz. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)
Shadaye Cruz is a 27-year-old who lives in Corralitos. She is a parent and freelance photographer. She said she wants more information about government resources.
Cruz said she went four months without access to CalFresh despite being eligible, because her income was miscalculated by staff at the county’s Human Services Department. “You have to go through hoops and loops and then you’re on the phone with them for like three hours on hold,” she said. “I actually had to be diligent enough to go through an appeal and sit before a judge.”
Cruz said she earned a bachelor’s degree and wanted to be a therapist, but could not afford more than $30,000 to earn a master’s degree. She wanted more resources such as grants and scholarships for higher education.
Cruz could not afford private child care and was on a waitlist for Cabrillo College’s child care program for 18 months. Cruz worked at a restaurant at night and at farmers markets on the weekends. “I was working five jobs trying to fit in one-hour, two-hour jobs in between child care,” she said.
After her son was accepted to Cabrillo College’s Children’s Center and Lab School, she was able to focus on her career.
Corralitos mother of two, Natalie Miller, 28, says she struggled mentally for several months after the birth of each of her children. Miller says she felt like she was failing. She wants new mothers in Santa Cruz County to have more support. “Everyone needs a doula,” she said. For six weeks after child birth, “All you should have to do is take care of yourself and your baby,” Miller said. She said it helped having other women’s support. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local)
Freedom resident Destiny Rodriguez holds her son, J.J., at the Watsonville Strawberry Festival on Aug. 6. Rodriguez says she wants her Santa Cruz County supervisor to prioritize sheriff’s patrols near Freedom Boulevard. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)
Freedom resident Destiny Rodriguez, 26, said she lives in a trailer park near Freedom Boulevard with her partner and 3-year-old son. Rodriguez, a homemaker, said she did not feel safe at home because of trespassers and frequent vehicle break-ins. She said her truck was broken into every night for a week. Someone also tried to take the battery of her Ford Expedition, she said.
Rodriguez said she wanted more law enforcement patrols and follow-up from sheriff’s deputies. When she reports the break-ins, “I feel like we’re not taken seriously,” Rodriguez said.
Santa Cruz Local has heard from dozens of residents that more affordable child care is needed across Santa Cruz County, especially in in San Lorenzo Valley.
A draft for our People’s Agenda
Santa Cruz Local’s questions for the District 2 county supervisor candidates are based on themes we heard from District 2 residents. These questions are called our “People’s Agenda.”
- Many District 2 residents said county road conditions are bad. How can you get more money for road improvements in District 2? What county roads are your top priorities to fix during your four-year term?
- Many District 2 residents told us they want traffic relief. What can the county supervisors do to reduce traffic and facilitate cycling and walking for District 2 residents?
- Affordable housing: How can the county supervisors help fund and facilitate more affordable housing? Where in your district would you support more density?
- Affordable housing: Should the county supervisors help current residents with rent stabilization or rent help? If so, how?
- Some District 2 residents said people should have better access to addiction services. How could the county improve its response to people struggling with addiction?
District 2 residents, what are your thoughts about our People’s Agenda? We invite you to take our online survey. Feedback collected through 2024 will inform our reporting for the Nov. 5, 2024 general election.