Santa Cruz Local newsletter briefs for the week of March 10, 2024

  1. Santa Cruz County election outcomes hold steady
  2. Proposal for cannabis shop at Emily’s Bakery advances
  3. Comments on West Cliff vision due Sunday, March 10
  4. Santa Cruz City Council to consider appeal of RV law
  5. Petition to tighten fishing rules in Santa Cruz County
  6. Rail-trail environmental report released for Live Oak, Capitola

MARCH 5 ELECTION

Election outcomes hold steady

Ballots are removed from envelopes at the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office on March 5. (Natalya Dreszer –  Santa Cruz Local)

Election results updated Friday, March 8 showed no lead changes in local races. 

Measure M – City of Santa Cruz Housing For People – needs more than 50% to pass

  • Yes: 5,993 votes (39.53%)
  • No: 9,169 votes (60.47%)

Measure N – Pajaro Valley Health Care District Bond – needs 66.67% to pass

  • Yes: 8,091 votes (68.59%)
  • No: 3,705 votes (31.41%)

About 63,000 ballots have been processed as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office. More than 12,000 ballots remain to be processed in all Santa Cruz County races.

  • Manu Koenig maintained a lead for District 1 Santa Cruz County Supervisor. 
  • Kristen Brown and Kim De Serpa remained the top two vote-getters for District 2 Santa Cruz County Supervisor.
  • Monica Martinez and Christopher Bradford remained the top two vote-getters for District 5 Santa Cruz County Supervisor.
  • In Santa Cruz City Council races, leads held for Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Susie O’Hara, Gabriela Trigueiro and Sonja Brunner.

View all updated election results

—Stephen Baxter

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HEALTH

Proposal for cannabis shop advances

Emily’s Bakery at 1129 Mission St. in Santa Cruz closed in July 2023 after more than 40 years in business. (Stephen Baxter – Santa Cruz Local)

The Santa Cruz Planning Commission on March 7 approved an application for the cannabis dispensary The Hook Outlet to open a new location at the former storefront of Emily’s Bakery at 1129 Mission St. The Hook Outlet operates dispensaries in Capitola and Watsonville. The business would use one of the city’s five cannabis retail licenses. 

Santa Cruz City Schools Superintendent Kris Munro argued against the application and said the site is too close to Santa Cruz High School and Mission Hill Middle School. Santa Cruz High is about four blocks from the site and Mission Hill is farther. Cannabis use and related mental health problems have increased among Santa Cruz students, Munro said. 

“Kids need to be in school and learning and growing, not in our emergency rooms,” Munro said. She said students could easily buy fake IDs to enter the dispensary.

Bryce Berryessa, founder of The Hook Outlet and Treehouse Dispensary on Soquel Drive, said staff thoroughly checks all IDs. After operating dispensaries for a decade, “I’ve never received a citation or a violation from any government agency for our operations,” Berryessa said. “Our record is impeccable.” 

In a letter that opposed the application, Munro cited a Monterey County assessment that scores the public health risk of a potential dispensary site. The assessment assigns greater risk to sites within 2,000 feet of youth-serving facilities like dance studios, public libraries or skate parks, or within 2,000 feet of alternative high schools. It does not explicitly assign greater risk to sites near traditional schools. Monterey and Santa Cruz counties require that dispensaries be at least 600 feet from schools. The proposed site is 850 feet from Santa Cruz High School and 1,360 feet from Mission Hill Middle School. 

Santa Cruz Police Lt. Carter Jones said the city has not received any calls about fake IDs at dispensaries in the past four years. “This isn’t just a matter of, oh yeah, you’ve got a fake ID that some bouncer’s gonna look at at the front door,” he said. “There’s multiple verification processes that are state law.”

In response to community concerns, Beryessa said the dispensary would:

  • Make exterior windows on the storefront opaque.
  • Have minimal exterior signs and no cannabis leaf symbols.
  • Not sell to anyone 19 years or younger, even with a medical card. 

A city regulation that requires a 600-foot buffer between dispensaries means that there are very few allowable sites for new cannabis stores, he said. 

Santa Cruz Planning Commissioner Pete Kennedy said the city should abide by the cannabis rules adopted by city council in 2017, which allow for the Mission Street location. The rules were created “as a community, as a process, because we felt it was important to make medicine available to people— acknowledging that there’s risks,” he said. “This is the balance. So I don’t think we should adjust that boundary that’s been set.”

Commissioner Michael Polhamus said that the location could give students easier access to high-potency vapes and other cannabis products. “I would approve it right next door to my house,” he said of the dispensary. “I am not going to support a motion for approval right next to Santa Cruz High School, I’m just not.”

The commission voted 5-2 to approve the dispensary. Chair Julie Conway and commissioners Rachel Dann, Timerie Gordon, Matthew Thompson and Kennedy voted yes. Vice Chair Michael Polhamus and commissioner John McKelvey voted no.  

If the planning commission’s decision is appealed, the application would head to the city council.

—Jesse Kathan

ENVIRONMENT

Comments due on West Cliff vision

A 50-year vision for West Cliff includes potential one-way vehicle traffic. (Fehr & Peers)

Comments are due Sunday, March 10 on a draft 50-year Vision for West Cliff in Santa Cruz. The 33-page document outlines values developed with community input to guide planning decisions, policies and projects, said Santa Cruz city spokeswoman Erika Smart.

The vision is based on community meetings and input for the past several months. Parts of the vision include:

  • Converting West Cliff Drive to a one-way, westbound street.
  • Separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians. 
  • Limiting hard armoring like boulders and concrete along the coast. 
  • Employing nature-based solutions to replenish beaches. 
  • Considering the purchase of privately owned land to maintain coastal access.

“Prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle use by reducing vehicle access along West Cliff will preserve access while providing physical space to accommodate future changes to the coast due to the impacts of climate change,” Santa Cruz City Manager Matt Huffaker wrote in the document’s introduction. 

—Stephen Baxter

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SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL

RV parking rules face appeal

RVs and other vehicles line Delaware Avenue.

RVs and other vehicles line Delaware Avenue near Swanton Boulevard in Santa Cruz in November. (Jesse Kathan — Santa Cruz Local)

1:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 12 / Online and at 809 Center St., Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz City Council on March 12 is set to consider an appeal of the Oversized Vehicle Ordinance, which bans overnight parking of RVs and other large vehicles without a permit. 

In 2023, the California Coastal Commission granted a permit for the city to enforce the law in the Coastal Zone, which includes the lower Westside, for a year. Santa Cruz Police began enforcing the law in December.

In February, the Santa Cruz Planning Commission approved an effort to extend the Coastal Commission permit for five more years. Community group Santa Cruz Cares, along with American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and national nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates, appealed the permit. They argued that the permit extension is premature, and that more time is needed to study the effects of enforcement. They also wrote that the ban unfairly criminalizes homelessness, contradicts the city’s General Plan and restricts access to the coast. 

City staff wrote that the law helps prevent illegal dumping and littering and keeps roads clear for cyclists and pedestrians. City staff also noted that the city’s Safe Parking Program provides free overnight parking for oversized vehicles downtown and offers a waitlist for 24-hour spots at the National Guard Armory near DeLaveaga Golf Course.

If the city council denies the appeal to the RV law Tuesday, then the Coastal Commission will consider a 5-year permit extension to continue to allow enforcement. 

—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.

TRANSPORTATION

Rail-trail environmental report released

Segment 11 of the rail-trail project includes Capitola and its trestle bridge over Soquel Creek. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file) 

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission has released a final environmental report for Segments 10 and 11 of the Santa Cruz Rail Trail. The segments stretch from 17th Avenue in Live Oak to State Park Drive in Seacliff. 

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is set to consider the document at its March 26 meeting.

The report includes options for:

Segment 11 includes the Capitola Trestle over Soquel Creek. In 2018, Capitola voters approved Measure L, which prohibits the city from funding a trail that detours from the trestle onto city streets or sidewalks. In the environmental report, transportation commission staff argued that the route through Capitola Village is not a detour, and that the city is not contributing money for the project.

The trestle cannot support train tracks and a trail, the report stated. A separate bridge with a trail likely wouldn’t fit in the corridor, it said.  If the train tracks remain, pedestrians and bikers would be routed through Capitola Village. 

—Jesse Kathan

ENVIRONMENT

Petition to tighten fishing rules

County and city staff oppose a petition to limit fishing. (Nik Altenberg — Santa Cruz Local file)

In separate meetings March 12, the Santa Cruz City Council and Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors are expected to consider a petition from two environmental groups to expand no-fishing zones to try to improve the health of kelp forests. City and county staff have expressed opposition to the petition.

Environment California and Azul, an organization that works with Latinos to preserve marine resources, presented the petition to the California Fish and Game Commission. 

The petition aims to expand state marine protected areas that ban or restrict fishing. In Santa Cruz County, the petition could:

  • Create a new no-fishing zone near Pleasure Point.
  • Expand the Natural Bridges State Marine Reserve that now bans fishing within 200 feet of shore between Natural Bridges State Beach and  Four Mile Beach.

Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley authored a letter in support of the petition in November. Now Keeley, Vice Mayor Renee Golder and councilmember Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson have proposed that the council oppose the petition. They wrote that the petition authors did not provide enough scientific evidence to show that expanding the marine sanctuary would help kelp forests. 

They also wrote that they opposed the removal of the navigational Mile Buoy off the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf.

—Jesse Kathan

To participate: The Santa Cruz City Council will meet on Zoom or by phone at 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. The Santa Cruz County Supervisors will meet at 701 Ocean St., top floor, Santa Cruz. The meeting will be broadcast on Facebook

Santa Cruz Local journalists wrote these briefs and previews for our weekly newsletter. Want to receive these local updates, a preview of all our most recent articles and more, straight to your inbox each Sunday? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest.

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