Explainer: Measure M, the Housing for People initiative

A rendering of the proposed hotel at 324 Front St. in Downtown Santa Cruz from an aerial perspective shows the potential building as a similar height as the new Front Pacific Laurel housing development across Front Street.

A six-story hotel proposed at Laurel and Front streets in Downtown Santa Cruz is one of several projects facing pushback because of height and a lack of affordable housing. (BCV Architecture + Interiors)

Measure M will appear on Santa Cruz city voters’ ballots in the March 5 election. Supporters gathered signatures to qualify it for the ballot, and they called the measure Housing for People not Unaffordable Towers. 

If adopted, Measure M would create two new requirements for developers in the City of Santa Cruz: 

  • For housing proposals of 30 units or more, it would increase the required percentage of affordable homes to 25% from 20%.
  • If a proposal includes taller building heights or greater density than city rules allow, it would trigger an election rather than require Santa Cruz City Council approval.

Measure M proponents said that the election requirement would give residents more say over how and where the city grows. They said developers need a push to offer more homes at affordable rents.

Measure M opponents said the changes would deter new development and exacerbate the city’s housing shortage. The city might not meet state housing goals, which would compel the city to accept affordable housing proposals at any scale.

Read Jesse Kathan’s story

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Local candidates respond to voters in Santa Cruz, Aptos, South County

Two headshots, side by side, of Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Joy Schendledecker, who are facing off in the March 5 election for the District 3 Santa Cruz City Council seat.

Joy Schendledecker, right, is running against incumbent Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson in Santa Cruz City Council District 3 in the March 5 election. (Contributed)

Santa Cruz Local interviewed and surveyed a few hundred Santa Cruz County voters this fall about what they wanted the local candidates to address in the March 5 election. 

Voters’ concerns ranged from high housing costs to insufficient addiction services to rough roads. Based on those responses, Santa Cruz Local pressed the candidates on those issues.

Read candidates’ responses in Santa Cruz City Council District 1

Read candidates’ responses in Santa Cruz City Council District 3:

Read candidates’ responses in Santa Cruz County Supervisor District 2:

The candidates’ responses are part of Santa Cruz Local’s March 5 Election Guide. Expect additions to the guide in the coming weeks.

—Stephen Baxter


Feedback wanted on new passenger rail plan

The rail tracks in Capitola near New Brighton State Beach

Electric passenger rail service could run along Park Avenue near New Brighton State Beach.  (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1 / Online and at 275 Main St., Fourth Floor, Watsonville

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission on Feb. 1 will discuss plans for electric passenger rail service on the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line from the Santa Cruz to Pajaro. Transportation commissioners are expected to comment on a preliminary report that outlines the purposes and requirements of rail service. 

Residents can give feedback on the report at two upcoming meetings:

  • 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at Ramsay Park Family Center, 1301 Main St., Watsonville. 
  • 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at Live Oak Grange, 1900 17th Ave., Santa Cruz.

Feedback also can be emailed to [email protected] or submitted online starting Feb. 5.

—Jesse Kathan

To participate in the Feb. 1 meeting: Join on Zoom or call 312-626-6799, meeting ID 895 9717 3447. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] by 9 a.m. Wednesday. The meeting will be streamed on Community TV.


West Cliff survey results expected at Jan. 30 meeting

West Cliff Drive near Woodrow Avenue remains closed to drivers on Jan. 21. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local)

5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30 / Online 

Santa Cruz city staff on Jan. 30 are set to present a summary of community members’ responses for a 50-year vision of West Cliff. The vision could include West Cliff Drive as a one-way road, a two-lane road or a bike and walk path instead of a road, city staff have said.

January 2023 storm surf washed out parts of the West Cliff bike path, and repairs are ongoing. Rain and runoff in recent weeks caused further erosion near the lighthouse at Steamer Lane and on West Cliff between Auburn and Sacramento avenues, city officials said.

—Jesse Kathan

To participate: Join on Zoom


Input wanted on effective homeless services

A March to End Homelessness winds through Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz in April 2023. (Christopher Beale — Contributed)

Input about effective homeless services will be gathered at roundtable meetings in the coming weeks. 

County staff and leaders of the Housing for Health Partnership are preparing a new three-year strategic framework to address homelessness. “The meetings will focus on how to improve access to local housing services and supportive programs, while reducing the number of unsheltered people experiencing homelessness,” Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin wrote in a statement. 

Some topics include: 

  • Increasing personal income with jobs, public benefits and education.
  • Preventing homelessness with rent help.
  • Improving street outreach and tent camp response.
  • Reducing homelessness out of foster care, health care and the criminal justice system.
  • Helping people get into housing more quickly.

Registration is requested online. Participants who register and attend will receive a gift from the Housing for Health Partnership. 

The meetings will take place:

  • 3-5 p.m. Feb. 6 at 5200 Soquel Ave., Sheriff’s Office Community Room, Live Oak.
  • 5-7 p.m. Feb. 7 at 275 Main St. fourth floor community room, Watsonville. 

—Stephen Baxter

Editor’s note: A Jan. 31 roundtable event has been canceled due to expected severe weather, Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin wrote in a Jan. 29 statement.

Santa Cruz Local journalists wrote these briefs and previews for our weekly newsletter. Want to receive these local updates, a preview of recent articles and more in your inbox each Sunday? Sign up for our free newsletter.

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]. Santa Cruz Local is supported by members, major donors, sponsors and grants for the general support of our newsroom. Our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support. Learn more about Santa Cruz Local and how we are funded.

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Reporter / California Local News Fellow

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

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