Monica Martinez, 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.

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

Monica Martinez is running for District 5 Santa Cruz County supervisor in the March 5 election.

Monica Martinez (Joop Rubens — Contributed)

Meet Monica Martinez 

Age: 41.

Residence: Felton.

Occupation: CEO of Encompass Community Services.

Experience: Martinez provided housing for homeless women as the senior director of programs and community education at the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles until 2010. That year, Martinez became the Executive Director of the Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz. The center became Housing Matters and it continues to provide services for unhoused people. 

In 2024, Martinez was hired as CEO of the Encompass. It provides behavioral health services, early childhood development and housing support services in Santa Cruz County. “We provide services to thousands of people every year and we use both federal, state and local county funding to do that. So I’m extremely familiar with how public funding is intended to serve communities, and the strengths and weaknesses of local governments. I’ve been navigating that through my entire career and I’m eager to use that experience to help address some of the major challenges that the Fifth District and our county is facing.”

Read about Monica Martinez’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?

Martinez said the county should invest more in early warning systems such as evacuation sirens in canyons like on Zayante Road

“I completely relate to the feeling of vulnerability and being unsafe at times up here in the San Lorenzo Valley.” Martinez said. “We often don’t have power,” she said, “so that creates safety issues.” 

Martinez said utilities, not county government, control cellular coverage. She said she would encourage utilities to build more cell towers, potentially on county land, and partner with state and federal representatives to expand cell service.

Martinez said the county needs to make sure evacuation routes in District 5 and other parts of the county are clear, open and accessible. Those roads should be prioritized for repairs and improvements, she said.

She added that she’s seen the value of community-based organizations stepping up to help those in need in the San Lorenzo Valley and Pajaro Valley. She wants to work more closely with those organizations.

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

Martinez said she would apply for a state grant to support communities in developing infrastructure around the preparedness for and response to disasters.”

She said Santa Cruz County could compete for the competitive grant because it has had three federally-declared disasters in three years. She said she would encourage county staff to “put together a really strong application for this type of funding.”

Martinez said, “It would allow us year-round to build a workforce that supports preparedness for climate-related disasters. It also creates the infrastructure to mobilize when a disaster happens. So it’s a really cool way of leveraging state funds to prepare a community, and that’s something that I would be pushing really hard as county supervisor.”

There should be more investment in sustainable vegetation management programs, and residents should get more help to create defensible space. Free chipping and green waste removal should be available, and there should be more Firewise communities and youth education about defensible space. She wants to see the county be more  energy efficient and invest in climate resilient infrastructure built to withstand the impacts of wildfires and storms.

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? 

Monica Martinez:  “It’s been rough, and it doesn’t seem like it’s getting better. I think that we need to be holding PG&E accountable,” Martinez said. “The California Public Utilities Commission regulates them so we need to be advocating to them, and with our state and federal representatives, to encourage PG&E to do better.” 

She said she wants PG&E staff to attend town hall meetings, have more frequent communication and better understand the local impacts of their decisions. “As a supervisor, you can count on me to be a very loud voice towards PG&E to demand something better,” Martinez said. “We need to engage with them to ensure that they’re providing our residents with as much notice as possible when they know that there’s going to be a power outage.”

Martinez added that she would support incentives and rebates for residents to get auto-start generators.

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? 

Martinez said she knows firsthand what happens when roads close and trips to school and work are impeded. She said road improvement is a public safety issue.

“It’s a complex picture. Many of the main corridors here in the San Lorenzo Valley are state highways, right? Highway 9 is a state highway. So I would ensure open lines of communication with Caltrans and with our state representatives to make sure our voice is being heard at that level,” Martinez said. She said she would explore state and federal grants for road repair.

In terms of road repair priorities, she said evacuation routes should come first and then the roads in the worst condition.

“Everybody’s road is important, right? If you live on the road, that’s the most important road. And so that’s where I say, talking about evacuation routes, our main arteries, main corridors, those are critical,” Martinez said.

She said she would advocate for District 5 to get its fair share of County Public Works dollars. “For some of our roads, improving them now will save us from a much more expensive fix down the road. We need to really be thinking about the return on investment on some of our fixes that are needed, and prioritize in that way.”

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

“The current rate of rebuilding is completely unacceptable,” Martinez said. 

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.

Martinez said she would tally who plans to rebuild so supervisors have a number to be accountable to and can ask where they are in their process. “Then we can start workshopping them and figuring out what the roadblocks are, and start removing those roadblocks.”

She said she wants to better understand state versus local regulations when it comes to building requirements. “If there’s anything within local control related to our own code compliance issues, we should be removing those barriers. We need to make it as easy as possible,” she said. “If something is a challenge at the state level, if it’s state regulation holding people up, we need to know that so that way we can advocate with our state representatives to try to loosen those regs.”

Martinez also wants to allow for more flexibility with graywater systems, composting toilets and septic requirements. She wants to see faster and more consistent permit review processes and allow applicants to hire third-party permit reviewers to expedite the process.

“Folks shouldn’t be waiting in the queue. We want people in their homes as soon as possible, so we need to be expediting that,” she said. “I think that we have a long-standing culture in our county around, you know, ‘That’s the way it is. Sorry, I wish I could help.’ And I think that we can do better.”

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

I see every day the impact of the cost of living in this community, and the lack of affordable housing. Many, many people can’t afford to live here. People are leaving our community. As a CEO of a large nonprofit, I have trouble recruiting and retaining my workforce because folks can’t afford to live here. I know that’s the same for the county’s public sector workforce. And so it’s critical to explore multiple avenues of subsidizing affordable housing, and building affordable housing, so we can ensure that this community continues to be livable,” Martinez said.

Martinez said she would look at options that include using county money to fund affordable housing developments — like a project she’s working on in Watsonville — direct budget appropriations and looking at public-private partnerships, state and federal grants and tax increases on the wealthiest residents in the county.

“Right now, I’m working with MidPen housing to develop 72 units of affordable housing right next to a residential behavioral health treatment program that I’m building through Encompass,” she said. 

She also would look at what appropriate county-owned parcels might be available for affordable housing development.

The county’s newest Housing Element “really focuses on higher density, multifamily for transit-oriented corridors where we can continue to invest in affordable housing. And of course, I support all of that, for our countywide initiatives,” Martinez said. 

“It’s difficult with the infrastructure that we have to imagine any major affordable housing development happening in the mountains, for example. It’s not the appropriate place,” she said. “However, where there is space for [accessory dwelling units] or higher density, particularly along our transit corridors or in our downtown corridors, I’d be certainly open to exploring that. Because every district needs to do their part to ensure that we’re meeting the housing stock shortage that we have in this community that’s contributing to our affordability challenges,” Martinez said.

Read why Monica Martinez is running for county supervisor

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

“In 2020 like many others, I had to evacuate my home due to the CZU Fire,” Martinez said. “The way that climate-related disasters impact this community is more extreme and severe, and it’s so important that we have a voice in positions of leadership to advocate for our unique needs,” she said. 

“Being a parent during these difficult years with a pandemic, it really inspired me to step up and try to lead from a different perspective and to bring my lived experience to the role to try to improve our community.” Martinez said. “I’m ready to represent the needs of the San Lorenzo Valley, as well as the broader Fifth District in general, with a fresh voice.”

Martinez said that as a woman, LGBTQ+ community member and a mom, these voices aren’t represented on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors and she wants to bring that representation. Ellen Pirie was the last woman to serve on the board of supervisors in 2012.

“We’ve never had an openly LGBTQ+ supervisor in the history of our county. And so I’m really eager to help bring a more diverse voice to the seat and to county leadership.”

What is your dream for the Santa Cruz County community? 

“I want my children, my neighbors, my community to live in a healthy and thriving environment. I want to have a community where we can all afford to live here,” Martinez said. “I’m hoping to, No. 1, ensure that our community gets access to the basic needs we deserve to have, but also to try to bring more opportunities for economic development and positive activities for families and youth.”

Fun fact about Martinez

Martinez ran marathons and competed in Ironman competitions in her 20s and early 30s. “Committing to hard challenges is not something that is new to me, I often take on really hard goals because I love a challenge and I love to work hard,” Martinez said.

Campaign finances

See campaign contributions to Monica Martinez and all local candidates.


See Monica Martinez’s endorsements.

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