ENVIRONMENT

Coastal Commission to weigh Rio Del Mar beach access fine

Rio Del Mar viewed from Seacliff State Beach in 2022. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

Dec. 13-15 / Online, by phone and at The Dream Inn, 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

The California Coastal Commission on Dec. 14 is expected to consider a $4.78 million fine for the Rio Del Mar Beach Island Homeowners Association. 

Coastal Commission staff alleged that the association has long blocked access to a quarter mile of public walkway along the beach and has not completed habitat restoration it agreed to do in 1980. Most houses in the neighborhood are vacation homes, the report stated. 

Commissioners are also set to consider a $500,000 fine for owners of a house next to the homeowner’s association. The home allegedly blocked access to a walkway and included an unpermitted seawall, according to the report.

—Jesse Kathan

Coastal Commission to consider updates to city, county coastal plans

On Dec. 15, the California Coastal Commission is set to consider changes that Santa Cruz city leaders proposed to the city’s Local Coastal Plan. The changes to the Downtown Plan, approved by the Santa Cruz City Council in October, increase height limits and allow rooftops bars, pools and gardens. The amendments also pave the way for a proposed six-story hotel on Front Street. Coastal Commission staff have recommended approval of the changes, according to a staff report. 

Separately, the commission is set to decide on changes to Santa Cruz County’s Local Coastal Plan. The proposed changes align with the county’s Sustainability Update, which would allow for more housing in Live Oak and other urbanized areas of the county outside of cities. Commission staff proposed some amendments to the proposed changes, which would then go to Santa Cruz County leaders for approval.

—Jesse Kathan

To participate: The meeting will be held at The Dream Inn, 175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. It will also be streamed online and by phone at 415-904-5202. View meeting times on the Coastal Commission website.

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GOVERNMENT

Pajaro flood survivors advocate and win more direct aid

Neighbors and volunteers help Pajaro resident Patricia Medrano haul furniture from her flooded home on March 27. (Tyler Maldonado — Santa Cruz Local file)

Pajaro flood survivors soon will be able to apply for money from a $20 million state grant secured by Monterey County leaders.

On Dec. 6, Monterey County supervisors decided that $10 million of a $20 million state grant would go to individual residents and business leaders who suffered losses in the March 11 Pajaro River flood. The application process has not yet been outlined. 

The remaining $10 million will help pay for other projects that include:

  • Grants to community organizations that serve Pajaro: $2 million.
  • Pajaro Library community space and elevator: $3.5 million.
  • Street safety and a Pajaro community sign: $2 million.
  • Pajaro parks: $1.2 million.

In community meetings this fall, many Pajaro residents and business owners demanded more direct aid from the $20 million grant. The original county staff proposal was $6 million in direct aid. About 40 Pajaro residents attended the Dec. 6 supervisors meeting and many pushed for a larger share. 

—Fidel M. Soto

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SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL

Santa Cruz council to consider final plan for new homes

A 65-unit apartment complex at 525 Cedar St. in Santa Cruz is expected to open in February. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local)

12 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 / Online and at 809 Center St., Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz City Council on Dec. 12 is set to discuss the final draft of the city’s Housing Element.

The Housing Element of the city’s General Plan locates where more homes will be allowed. City leaders must satisfy state-mandated, housing production targets in the next eight years. City staff have submitted versions of the plan to state authorities since May. State officials have indicated that they will approve the plan after the city formally submits it, city staff said.

The final plan includes changes from the original draft, including locations where developers could build homes for “extremely low income” residents as defined by state income limits. The latest draft does not include anticipated new student housing at UC Santa Cruz because of state feedback that dorms don’t count towards the city’s housing goals.

—Jesse Kathan

License plate cameras up for approval

The Santa Cruz City Council on Dec. 12 is slated to reconsider a request for grant money to install 14 license plate readers on city streets to help police investigations. 

The cameras would check license plates against a “hot list” of vehicles that are stolen or otherwise associated with a crime, police said. Many other cities including Watsonville have similar cameras.

The city council on Nov. 28 delayed a decision on whether to lease the cameras because of some residents’ concerns. Council members pledged to work with Santa Cruz police leaders to refine rules on how the cameras would be used. 

—Jesse Kathan

Council to weigh request for 908 Ocean St. environmental report

A proposed development at 908 Ocean St. could include more than 350 homes, shops and a parking garage. (BDE Architecture)

The Santa Cruz City Council on Dec. 12 is expected to discuss whether to order an environmental impact report for a proposed development with more than 350 homes at 908 Ocean St.

The proposed four-acre development could include two three-story buildings and a five-story building. Studios, apartments and commercial space are proposed.

—Jesse Kathan

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 833-548-0276, meeting ID 946 8440 1344. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday. The meeting will be streamed on Community TV.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY SUPERVISORS

Money expected for mental-health crisis team

Public Health Nurses Marie DelRosario, left, and Suzanne Samson of the Homeless Persons’ Health Project talk to a man during a visit to a homeless camp on Dakota Avenue in Santa Cruz in April. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file) 

9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 /  Online and at Room 525, 701 Ocean St., Santa Cruz

State authorities have approved a $4.5 million grant to fund Santa Cruz County’s proposed mental-health crisis response program. 

The county approved a grant application for the program in June. At its Dec. 12 meeting, the supervisors are expected to decide whether to use the money to fund the Crisis Now program for three years. 

The program would expand the county’s Mobile Emergency Response Team that deploys mental health professionals to people in crisis. It also would enable a 988 mental health emergency call center to directly send teams to emergencies without law enforcement. The money also would help create a facility for youths in mental health emergencies. 

The county would pay the nonprofit group Recovery Innovations International to consult on the development of the program.

—Jesse Kathan

Felton pump track agreement

A map shows the proposed location of a pump track at the Felton Covered Bridge Park. The track occupies the east end of the park.

The proposed pump track would replace a volleyball court and part of a lawn at Felton Covered Bridge County Park. (Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship)

The Santa Cruz County supervisors on Dec. 12 will consider a county agreement with the nonprofit Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Stewardship to design and build an asphalt pump track at Felton Covered Bridge County Park. The nonprofit would pay for the design and construction of the pump track and the county would maintain it, according to the agreement. 

The proposed track would replace a volleyball court and part of a lawn. The project is exempt from a state law requiring environmental study of new construction, according to a county staff report. 

—Jesse Kathan

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 669-900-6833, meeting ID 8 899 4924 0497. The meeting also will be streamed on Facebook. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday. 

WATSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL

Ramsay Park remodel on tap

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12 / 275 Main St., top floor, Watsonville

The Watsonville City Council on Dec. 12  is expected to consider whether to put out bids for $27 million in additions to Ramsay Park. 

Projects would level and restore a soccer field and build a playground and a dog park. A softball field is expected to be converted to a multi-use field with artificial turf and lights,  and the parking lot will be repaved, according to a city staff report.

Construction could start as soon as April, city staff wrote.

A $7 million state grant is expected to help pay for the project, as well as about $4.3 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, $2.6 million from the city budget, city sales taxes and other sources. 

—Nik Altenberg

To participate: Attend the meeting at 275 Main St. or watch on the city’s website. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] or comment online on the agenda.

MARCH ELECTION

Santa Cruz Local candidate forum Jan. 10

Signs point to a polling place on Swift Street in Santa Cruz in 2020. (Natalya Dreszer — Santa Cruz Local file) 

The March 5, 2024 election is just around the corner. 

Save the date for a Jan. 10 forum for candidates in the District 2 Santa Cruz County Supervisors race. District 2 includes Aptos, Freedom, Corralitos and parts of Watsonville and Capitola. The seat is now held by Zach Friend, who is not running for reelection. 

Santa Cruz Local will host the event and ask the candidates questions from our People’s Agenda

The event will take place:

  • 5:15-6:30 p.m., Jan. 10. 
  • Watsonville Public Library, 275 Main St., Watsonville.

The event is free and also will be broadcast online. More information will be provided in the coming weeks. We look forward to seeing you.

SANTA CRUZ LOCAL

What is Santa Cruz Local’s impact?

Santa Cruz Local CEO Kara Meyberg Guzman speaks to Santa Cruz Local members at an event at Abbott Square in Santa Cruz in February. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

This is your last chance to respond to Santa Cruz Local’s impact survey! Will you take a few minutes to complete it?  

We have received dozens of detailed responses so far. Your responses help make Santa Cruz Local’s reporting more relevant and useful.  

  • Do Santa Cruz Local stories help you feel more informed and engaged with Santa Cruz County’s biggest issues?
  • What more can Santa Cruz Local do to earn your trust?
  • Is Santa Cruz Local upholding its mission to hold power to account?

Respond to the survey by noon Monday, Dec. 11, and you will be entered in a drawing for $50 in Downtown Dollars to use at participating Downtown Santa Cruz stores.

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Reporter / California Local News Fellow | + posts

Jesse Kathan is a staff reporter for Santa Cruz Local through the California Local News Fellowship. Kathan holds a master's degree in science communications from UC Santa Cruz.

Website | + posts

Nik is a copy editor and fact checker for Santa Cruz Local.