Joy Schendledecker, candidate for District 3

Santa Cruz voters will choose a city council member to represent District 3 in the March 5, 2024 election. The district includes parts of the Upper and Lower Westside.

Joy Schendledecker is one of two candidates running for the District 3 seat. The other candidate is Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson.

A headshot of Joy Schendlecker wearing glasses and an indigo shirt.

Joy Schendledecker (Contributed)

Meet Joy Schendledecker

Age: 48.

Residence: Near Escalona Drive and Bay Street.

Occupation: Artist, organizer and teacher.

Experience: Schendledecker has “been involved for more than 20 years in various kinds of community organizing” around issues including waste reduction and homelessness advocacy, she said. She also served on a board of governors at an elementary school in London for two years.

Read about Joy Schendledecker’s positions:

What will you do to make housing more affordable for families in the City of Santa Cruz?

Schendledecker said she wants more construction of affordable housing. “We should use public property for public housing, since we’re not going to get the market to build affordable housing,” she said. She said she supports raising the city’s inclusionary rate, which is the percentage of affordable homes that developers are required to include in large housing projects. The rule now requires 20% of homes in new developments to be affordable. 

In the short term, she said she supports more tenant protections, including resuming the COVID-era eviction moratorium that expired in April 2022. The city should require just-cause evictions and create rules that minimize fees for tenant applications and credit checks, she said. She also supports creating a fund for renters and homeowners at risk of losing their housing, and levying a property transfer tax to fund the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

Would you support more housing density in Santa Cruz City Council District 3? If so, where specifically would you support it and how many stories? 

Schendledecker said she supports additional buildings with housing and shops on Mission Street up to four stories, or higher if they have affordable housing. The city could draw on a 2002 plan for Mission Street, she said. Including setbacks from the street, trees and benches would make public spaces more inviting, she said.

She sympathizes with neighbors concerned about new projects that mostly have market-rate housing. “I have not opposed those projects. I can understand why other people have,” she said, because ultimately they will exclude lower-income people. “I also support a rich and truly participatory consensus-building process with immediate neighbors in co-creating projects that people are not going to fight for years.”

What short- and long-term strategies would you support to address homelessness in your district and across the City of Santa Cruz?

“We need a whole variety of things, and at different scales,” Schendledecker said. “We know that we need more safe places for people to exist, when they don’t have housing, whether that’s smaller managed or semi-managed camps, or safe parking” and supportive housing with wraparound services, she said. City leaders should create long-term funding sources for homeless services that are now paid for by one-time state grants, she said.

Although she said she supported clearing the tent camp from the Benchlands in 2022, she said city leaders could have done more to secure spaces in housing, shelters or other places for people who were removed. “Those people are not better off than they were a year ago.”

Frequent sweeps of homeless encampments or anti-camping laws aren’t effective solutions, she said. “We don’t need expensive, time-consuming and bureaucratic ordinances with new restrictions and penalties for those without housing,” she said. “We need to find safer places for them to be where they are until there’s availability for them” in shelters or housing, she said.

She favors a harm reduction approach for homeless people with drug addictions, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction and needle exchange programs. She is “continually upset” at a neighborhood group’s lawsuit against the privately-run Harm Reduction Coalition of Santa Cruz County, which has recently stopped the coalition from operating a needle-exchange program.

Some District 3 residents said they are upset with crime, drug use and litter in public spaces. What can the city council do to help residents feel safer? 

Schendlecker said she supports non-police crisis response, cooperation with harm reduction groups and more street sanitation. 

“There are a small number of people who create problems,” Schendledecker said. “I think it’s really important that we don’t base our thinking about an entire demographic on the behavior of a select few.”

She added, “I don’t think that we should be falling back on our fears of the ‘other’ and who we think people are, and then from that place of fear block safe camping and parking spaces and block services and shelters and transitional housing,” she said. “Whether people are housed or unhoused, I want everybody to feel safe and to feel like they can talk to each other and hear each other’s experience.”

Some District 3 residents said they want a champion for safer cycling and walking infrastructure, and improved bus service. What will you do on the city council toward those ends? 

“I just have one car in my household that’s shared, so I know how it is to be in these different roles,” she said. “As the driver, how easy it is to speed on many of our roads, and also how unpleasant and unsafe it can feel to walk or bike or wait for the bus in many areas.”

“I think a lot of our streets need traffic calming within our neighborhoods,” she said. She also supports making West Cliff Drive a “linear park” closed to car traffic. “What an amazing asset that would be to our whole community,” she said.

Measure M would create two new requirements for housing 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%.
  • For a developer to construct a building higher or denser than current limits, city voters would have to approve a change to the city’s zoning code. A height or density change could include a specific parcel or a larger area.

Do you support or oppose Measure M, the Housing for People ballot initiative

Schendledecker said she supports the initiative. “Like so many others, I’m really sick of the community being manipulated and blackmailed by the real estate industry, as if we either have to have really quite large mixed-use buildings that are mostly market rate or we get nothing at all.”

Schendledecker added, “All that said, I wasn’t involved with writing this measure. And if I had been, I would have gone in a different direction, I think,” she said. City leaders could “temper the power of out-of-town developers” by supporting a citywide project labor agreement or community workforce agreement. Both agreements are negotiated between unions and construction companies. Workers agree not to hold strikes or lockouts in exchange for guaranteed wages and benefits. The agreements can require builders to hire local workers or create apprenticeship programs. 

“They can also apply to both public and private projects and include non-union local businesses, so nobody needs to be left out,” she said. The city council considered creating a citywide project labor agreement in 2020.

Read why Joy Schendledecker is running for city council

What local issues in your district affect you that make you want to run for office?

Schendledecker has personal connections with some unhoused people, which informs her advocacy, she said. She is also personally invested in alternative transportation. “I ride my bike and walk a lot, so bus service, and the quality of bus shelters, as well as bike lanes and pedestrian access are all important to me,” she said. 

What is your dream for your district?

“My dream for the district and really the whole world is for everybody to have reproductive justice, meaning that we all have the agency and the means by which to live our lives and live our lives well,” Schendledecker said. “So we have good jobs, we have good schools, we have access to public transportation. We have access to health care, including reproductive health care for everyone.”

Schendledecker said city leaders should hold meetings in each city council district to increase public participation. “People can be organizing themselves and feeding their needs and ideas and solutions up to their elected representatives, rather than having a more top-down system, where we’re consulted a little bit and told what’s going to happen,” she said.

Fun fact about Schendledecker

Schendledecker is from the East Coast and is of German heritage, she said. “Thanksgiving is not complete without sauerkraut,” she said.

Campaign finances

See campaign contributions to Joy Schendledecker and all local candidates.


See Joy Schendledecker’s endorsements.