Christopher Bradford, candidate for District 5

In the March 5 primary election, voters will choose a Santa Cruz County supervisor candidate to represent District 5. The district includes the San Lorenzo Valley, Scotts Valley and areas of the Santa Cruz Mountains. If one candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, the candidate will become supervisor. If not, the top two candidates will square off in the November election.

Christopher Bradford is one of four candidates running for District 5 supervisor. Read about the other candidates: Theresa Ann Bond, Tom Decker and Monica Martinez.

Christopher Bradford is running for District 5 Santa Cruz County supervisor in the March 5 election.

Christopher Bradford (Antoñia Bradford — Contributed)

Meet Christopher Bradford 

Age: 44.

Residence: Boulder Creek.

Occupation: Bradford is a software engineer, co-owner of a gym in Scotts Valley and owner of a photography business.

Experience: Bradford is a CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivor and a board member of the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County. Bradford also has worked for large companies and managed restaurants, which he said taught him about budgets, costs and getting buy-in from employees. “That means selling the ideas that you want. Whether it’s new laws or new policies for the county,” or “getting them involved and on board so that they vote ‘yes’ on the things we need to do to move things forward,” Bradford said.

Read about Christopher Bradford’s positions:

Several District 5 voters said they don’t feel safe because of recent wildfires, floods and power outages. What will you do in your first year as a county supervisor to improve evacuation plans, emergency preparation and cell service in the San Lorenzo Valley?

As treasurer of the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County, Bradford said he is working on wildfire preparedness and funding for home wildfire resilience improvements. “I’m already deeply involved in solving these issues right now,” Bradford said. “I want to be clear, I’m not waiting until I get into the seat to fix the issues that I’m seeing in my community. I’m doing what I can with what I have.”

Bradford added, “The thing about that particular kind of natural disaster, with most of them, is that we’re not powerless. If we have a culture of mitigation in place, and we put our resources to work, you know, we can survive these things without losing so many homes. We just have to, instead of being reactive, be proactive. We have to invest in programs like the brush-buster program we ended up funding, where if folks are elderly, if they can’t clear their own brush and start working on their defensible space, they can reach out to us and we’ll send people to help them.”

Bradford said the Fire Safe Council is also working with large landholders to fund the creation of fire breaks if they have challenges with land management.

He said cellular service is a safety issue. “It’s personal, like I understand why it is we need that coverage.” Bradford said he recently met with County Supervisors Justin Cummings and Manu Koenig and residents to discuss residents’ ideas to solve infrastructure issues. More landlines or ham radio operators could help, Bradford said. He said he also supported Zayante Fire’s effort to expand their alert sirens.

What long-term strategies would you pursue to adapt and prepare District 5 to more frequent disasters fueled by climate change?

Christopher Bradford: Bradford said he wants to create a “culture of mitigation” and a long-term strategy of the county connecting with residents about wildfire safety. That would involve bringing representatives from each neighborhood to connect with organizations like the Fire Safe Council of Santa Cruz County and others. 

“It’s not enough to post some stuff on the county website, right? No one’s reading that,” Bradford said. “It’s not enough to make a post on Facebook, either. We need to have a representative, say two to three families from each neighborhood that we’re connecting with, and we have to connect them with organizations like mine, Fire Safe Santa Cruz County and with organizations like Community Bridges” to create a culture of mitigation,” Bradford said.

“Climate change isn’t going away, but neither are we. And if we have the right culture in place, if we invest in creating community context and organizing, we’ll be able to get there,” Bradford said. 

Some voters told us they are tired of power, heat and communication outages. How would you work toward improved power reliability from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in San Lorenzo Valley? 

Christopher Bradford: Bradford said PG&E doesn’t want bad press from failures, but as a private company, their bottom line is tied to how much the firm invests. While he’d like to see most wires underground to help prevent outages, he recognized that it might not be possible everywhere. 

“Let’s look at putting the most resources to the biggest choke points, in dealing with larger problems. And then from there, we can shut down on the smaller ones as we go along.”

He said that as a supervisor, there’s only so much he could do regarding PG&E, a giant utility that spans most of Central and Northern California. “But what I can do is make us a squeaky wheel. And that’s part of what you have to do as an advocate for the community,” he said, adding he would communicate with the local PG&E representatives about problems residents are experiencing and have conversations with senators and Congress members to encourage utilities to act. 

“You know, there is a positive profit motive there,” Bradford said. “It costs them money every time we’ve ever come out here and fix things. So what can we do to prevent instead of just fixing?”

Several District 5 residents said county road conditions are bad. How can you get more money for road improvements in District 5? What county roads are your top priorities to fix during your four-year term? 

Bradford said he wanted first to understand where the worst roads are. “There may be terrible roads in Felton that I never drive on because I’m not in that particular neighborhood. And the county may not drive on them either. There’s only a certain amount of people working there. If we don’t have the data, we won’t be able to solve the problems,” Bradford said.

Bradford said the County of Santa Cruz should get a greater share of the property taxes it collects. He said he would work with state legislators to try to change the apportionment. 

He added that if more homes are built in Santa Cruz County as outlined in the county’s Housing Element of the General Plan, then more property taxes will be collected to help pay for road repairs and other projects. “So ideally, a lot of the other issues that we’re working on will come together in a synergistic way so we can solve things broadly.”

For CZU Lightning Complex Fire survivors, what will you do differently than the current supervisor to remove obstacles to rebuild? 

Christopher Bradford: “Well, the first thing that I would like to do is for the county to keep its promise to not treat these people like they’re new builds. Why are we requiring there to be a $100,000 septic system for a home that had an old-school redwood septic system that worked just fine for 50 years? One thing I’ve discovered, personally and practically, is that it’s a lot more dangerous to be homeless than it is to have a house that doesn’t have a sprinkler system installed.” 

After his home was destroyed in the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020, Bradford said he had to pay $20,000 to get a sprinkler system installed in his home during its rebuild. The sprinkler money came from loans because he said his insurance did not pay for it. 

“A lot of folks don’t have that money. And the options aren’t there,” he said. “I would remove those obstacles and I’m not concerned with whether that makes other folks uncomfortable, because the same thing wasn’t applied to them. Even if it means that I spent a lot more money than I had to, it doesn’t matter, right, we need to get these people in their homes, we need to find a way to make them whole,” he said. 

“While we can’t do everything for everyone, the county can’t solve every problem — they can stop being the problem. And if we’re making it too hard for people to rebuild, because of our insistence on meeting rules that we don’t have to. A lot of folks say ‘Oh, but you know, the code, the execution of that, that’s from the state, the county doesn’t have power over that.’ And that’s not true. In natural disaster areas — areas have been declared national disasters — the state steps back and the county itself, the local government decides what’s going to be enforced and what isn’t. So they had the choice, and they had the power and they made the wrong one. And I would make a different choice there,” Bradford said.

How can county supervisors help fund and facilitate more affordable housing? Where in your district would you support more density?

Christopher Bradford: “Well, this is going to be unpopular with some people, but it is what it is. I want everywhere in my district to have more density. I think we lost the debate of whether we needed density or not 30 years ago when we created a ‘no-build’ culture in our planning departments and stopped letting people build homes. It’s too late for us to be gentle, right? If we don’t want to start losing generations, older folks having to move out and younger folks having to move away, we have to make changes now. That means increased density everywhere. But I want the right density in the right neighborhoods. In Boulder Creek, the density might mean we take a single-family home plot and allow you to build four tiny homes on this one single-family home plot.” 

Bradford added, “We won’t give you crazy septic requirements. We’ll let you get that done on that parcel. And that way, we’ve turned one home into four homes, we’ll remove the regulations that say, ‘Oh, you have to have a foundation on a tiny home and install a sprinkler system. If your tiny home is in danger of fire, you just hook it up to the truck, you drive away. You’re OK. You don’t need sprinklers, right?”

County rules, permits and construction costs of tiny homes and in-law units make them only tenable for the wealthy, Bradford said, and he questioned why wealthy people would want to build tiny homes. 

“So you end up with [a home] just not being built or being done in an unpermitted way that’s less safe,” he said. 

Bradford said some county land should be used for affordable housing projects. “That way, when the private builder comes, they don’t have to worry about the land portion. Let’s incentivize affordable housing,” he said. “I will also remove the ability for them to pay fines to avoid having to include affordable units.”

Bradford added: “Build public housing on school grounds as well that isn’t being put to work, there’s a ton of things like that.”

Read why Christopher Bradford is running for county supervisor

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

Christopher Bradford: “I survived the CZU Fire with my family. We lost our home, lost everything. And the county’s response to it, while well-meaning at first, it was devastating for my family and our neighborhoods. And I realized that the representation that I needed wasn’t happening. And I needed someone inside that seat, with skin in the game, who understood what it is to deal with government when it isn’t supportive. The county has done a lot of good things. I don’t mean to take away from the things they have accomplished in that area — there’s been definite real progress. But there’s still a ways to go.”

Homes were destroyed on at least 697 properties during the CZU Fire, Santa Cruz County staff said in 2023. Sixty-two homes have been rebuilt and 234 permits to build single-family homes remained in progress as of Feb. 5, 2024, according to county records.

Bradford said that the rebuild rate for people who survived the CZU fires was far too low.

“It’s brutal, and it’s not going to get much better. You know, if someone hasn’t rebuilt in three years, I’m not too sure how much more opportunity they’re going to have, as time continues to pass, to build, to put their life back together. And when this disaster happened, the county had promised us they weren’t going to treat us like new builds. So people invested, people took out loans. And then unfortunately, they reneged on their promises, they made people meet new septic requirements in homes that are current as far as code goes. While that’s beautiful, it makes for a very safe home, it also makes it impossible for a lot of people to get into their home because the cost has been skyrocketing.

“If you’re insulated from what happens when the county makes bad policy, you might not be aware of what’s occurring and how to help people. And I’m not insulated, I am a working class person. I’m here. I experienced directly what can happen to people when that particular ball was dropped. I don’t want that to happen for anyone else.” 

What is your dream for the Santa Cruz County community?

Christopher Bradford: “My dream for the Santa Cruz Community shouldn’t be a big dream, it should just be what is: I want us to have affordable housing. I want when my kids graduate from high school for them to be able to get a job here in Santa Cruz County, to find a place to live if they want to, and not have to rely on living in my garage in order to survive. I want fair and equitable housing for everyone. I want infrastructure that works. I want clean drinking water that’s available for people, and these are the things that are most important to me right now. Cost of living issues are devastating a lot of the people in our communities, and housing is a big part of that. 

“I want people in homes, I want people safe. And I want people in homes that are affordable for them, so that they can say they can invest in their business, they can go to school, you know, instead of just surviving paycheck to paycheck, which is what most of us are having to do, if we’re even doing that. So that’s the dream. I want people to not just survive, but to thrive in our county.”

Fun fact about Bradford

Christopher Bradford: “I’m a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I’m a lifetime martial artist. I own a gym in Scotts Valley with some dear friends of mine called Cajun Martial Arts. I teach kids how to defend themselves and adults the same thing. I get to spend a lot of time invested in that part of the community. It’s very, very enriching. You know, it’s also a way I feel like I can give back. When I was a young person, martial arts really helped me acquire discipline and the ability to work my way out of tough situations, you know, and now I provide that same thing for other people. It’s something I’m very passionate about.”

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