FEB. 13, 2022



County and city plans aim to address climate change

Farmworkers pick berries close to Watsonville

Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Santa Cruz, Watsonville and unincorporated Santa Cruz County, according to city and county reports. (Jacob Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file)

Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Santa Cruz County leaders have three plans in the works to try to limit some expected problems from climate change.

The climate plans try to address events like wildfires, droughts, sea-level rise and destructive storms that are expected with more ferocity in the coming years. The action and adaptation plans also try to harness the purchasing power of Santa Cruz County government and the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville. Some of the plans make pledges to construct all-electric buildings, make most of their vehicle fleets electric and cut spending on natural gas and gasoline.

“We want to really look at adaptation strategies,” said Dave Reid, director of Santa Cruz County’s Office of Response, Recovery and Resilience. “Because we see and feel climate change is happening to our community and to our infrastructure now through things like the CZU (Lightning Complex) Fire and these major rain events,” Reid said.

  • Last year, the Watsonville City Council approved its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan with goals and strategies for the year 2030.

  • Santa Cruz County Supervisors approved a Climate Action Strategy in 2013. An updated version of the plan is expected to be considered by county supervisors in December.

  • Santa Cruz city leaders hope to approve a climate plan by August.

Read Brian Phan’s story


Plans for rail trail from Aptos through Live Oak to be discussed

Segments of the Coastal Rail Trail from Santa Cruz through Aptos will be discussed by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission on Thursday. (Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission)

9 a.m. Thursday Feb. 17 / Online and by phone

At a transportation policy workshop Thursday, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission is expected to hear updates on plans for the Coastal Rail Trail from Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz to Rio Del Mar Boulevard in Aptos. Environmental and engineering studies have started, but a decision on options is not expected Thursday.

The environmental and engineering studies will help leaders eventually choose whether to pursue:

  • An “interim” trail: The rail track would be temporarily removed and a trail would be built on the rail line on an “interim basis,” according to Thursday’s agenda report. The rail bridges would be repurposed.

  • A “single build” approach: The trail would be built next to the rail. New trail bridges would be built next to the existing rail bridges.

Project leaders have proposed an optional “phase” for the trail segment between Rio Del Mar Boulevard and State Park Drive in Aptos. That option includes:

  • Temporary removal of the rail and replacement with the trail.

  • Reuse of the rail bridges as trail bridges.

  • This option is only possible if freight service were formally abandoned, according to the transportation commission staff report. If leaders pursue this option and freight service were to resume, the rail would be rebuilt and the trail would be relocated next to the rail.

Two online public workshops also are planned in mid-March to get input on plans for an interim trail and a single-build approach. Workshop details will be posted online.

—Kara Meyberg Guzman

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 669-900-9128, meeting ID: 856 9577 3402. To comment in advance, email by 9 a.m. Wednesday.


Santa Cruz Local wants your priorities for the June election

In the June 7 primary election, residents in Santa Cruz, the North Coast, Watsonville and surrounding areas will vote for their representative on the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

We want to press the candidates on your priorities. This month, we plan to interview and survey hundreds of residents on a central question: What do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote?

redistricting map for Watsonville

Traditional elections coverage

redistricting map for Watsonville

People-powered elections coverage (Image credit: Hearken)

In our approach to elections coverage, residents drive the discussion, not the candidates. We want to put power in the hands of the people that politicians are supposed to serve. We want to surface everyday issues that matter to you the most.

We invite you to take our online survey and share your priorities. We’ll share the results of our survey and interviews in mid-March.

  • See a list of candidates. The filing deadline for candidates is March 11.

  • We plan to press the candidates on your top issues, then publish our elections guide by early May.

  • Ballots are expected to be mailed May 9.

Share your priorities for the June 7 election


Hotel tax hike, disposable cup tax could be on ballot

chart compares hotel sales taxes in Santa Cruz County

Hotel taxes vary throughout the region. (County of Santa Cruz)

9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 15 / 701 Ocean St. top floor, Santa Cruz. Online or by phone

Santa Cruz County supervisors on Tuesday are expected to consider a hotel tax hike for the June 7 ballot.

  • A tax on hotel stays in unincorporated areas of the county would rise from 11% to 12% and a separate tax on vacation rentals in unincorporated areas would rise from 11% to 14%, according to a county staff report. Some unincorporated areas include Live Oak, Pleasure Point, Aptos and La Selva Beach.

County staff said that if voters approve the tax hikes, they would start in January 2023 and raise $160,000 and $700,000 in the first year, respectively.

Separately, supervisors are expected to consider a June ballot measure to have the county collect half of a 25-cent charge on disposable cups. Supervisors already approved a 25-cent cup charge with money slated to go to the businesses that sell drinks in disposable cups. It starts in July. The charge is intended to promote the use of reusable cups because cups and food containers are a major source of waste in local landfills.

  • A June ballot measure would direct 12.5 cents of every 25-cent cup charge to the county. The county would use the money to “reduce pollution, trash and plastics entering local waters and beaches; protect water quality, public health and marine life; address illegal dumping; help prevent wildfires; clean and maintain parks and public areas; and provide environmental education and other general services,” according to a county staff report. It would bring about $700,000 to the county annually, the report stated.

1:30 p.m.

Mental health care for the unhoused

Supervisors will consider a five-year, $8.6 million plan essentially aimed to better integrate services of health, mental health and housing for unhoused people. The plan tries to provide “universal pathways” to care, wrote Monica Morales, director of the county’s Health Services Agency.

County app helps with syringe disposal

A county cellphone application now lets users report syringe litter. The app already has helped county and city leaders better coordinate and track needle litter, according to a county staff report. County leaders plan to promote the app this spring. It’s part of a broader strategy to collect syringes at kiosks and other places in the county.

Residents can download the My Santa Cruz County app on Google Play or the Apple App Store for free.

—Stephen Baxter

To participate: Join on Zoom or dial 1-669-900-6833, meeting ID 851 6321 0200. To comment ahead of time, email The meeting will also be broadcast on Facebook with no login required.


UC Santa Cruz wins East Meadow housing appeal

UC Santa Cruz leaders have proposed campus housing on a corner of the East Meadow on Hagar Drive shown here as the Hagar site. (UCSC)

A lawsuit to try to block a housing proposal on UC Santa Cruz’s East Meadow was struck down in a state court of appeals on Feb. 4. The court sided with university leaders and essentially upheld a November 2020 ruling that the university’s environmental review was sound.

The East Meadow project is slated to include 140 housing units for students and their families. It is part of a larger campus housing proposal called Student Housing West that also includes campus housing for 2,700 students near Heller Drive.

Scott Hernandez-Jason, a spokesman for UCSC, said that other lawsuits that address Student Housing West continue to delay the start of construction on the East Meadow and near Heller Drive. “These unnecessary delays create cost increases and slow down housing opportunities in ways that create real, negative impacts on a significant number of individuals, especially our students,” Hernandez-Jason wrote in an email.

—Stephen Baxter

Read Jesse Kathan’s recent story on UCSC housing proposals


Meeting on mental health crisis response

Members of the Homeless Persons Health Project talk to a man in Santa Cruz in 2021. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)

Santa Cruz County’s Mental Health Advisory Board will have an online meeting Thursday, Feb. 17 about systems to respond to mental health crises.

The Mental Health Advisory Board is one of many boards and commissions that make recommendations to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. Dr. Kenneth Minkoff, a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, on Thursday is expected to discuss a recent report he co-authored about systems to respond to mental health crises.

Santa Cruz County leaders have discussed potential alternatives to 911 for mental health crises in the wake of two fatal police shootings of people in mental health crises in recent years.

The meeting takes place 3-5 p.m. with the presentation expected to start at 3:30 p.m. Join online on Microsoft Teams or by phone at 916-318-9542, passcode 258498311#. A full meeting agenda is expected to be posted Monday.

Santa Cruz Local has reported extensively on alternatives to 911 and mental health crises.


Santa Cruz, Live Oak and Pleasure Point from the air. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file, flight courtesy of LightHawk)

Your thoughts: What does it mean to be a Santa Cruz County local?

Thank you to everyone who answered last week’s questions: What does it mean to be a “local” in Santa Cruz County? What made you a local here? If you moved here, can you describe how you became a local?

“I was born in Santa Cruz and have lived, learned, and worked here nearly my entire life. But being ‘born-and-raised’ here isn’t everything. I believe you become a local when you fall in love with Santa Cruz and commit to supporting the community any way you can. It’s easy to complain about the challenges we face. Being a local means stepping up, being grateful you live in this incredible place, and doing your part to make it even better. A beach clean up. Befriending a lonely neighbor. Donating to a local nonprofit. Buying local art. Building a small business. Being kind to a stranger in need. However you can pitch in… it all adds up! I’ve seen newcomers immediately become locals when they find ways to lift others up and/or improve the outdoor spaces we’re so fortunate to enjoy!” Scott Farmer

“Like many others, I took the two semester HIST 25 class at Cabrillo College taught by Sandy Lydon. If you opted to take the “Certified Local” test at the end of the second semester and passed, you received an "official" "Certified Local" certificate. In Sandy's words "the primary purpose of the course is to help newcomers and long-timers better understand how this region came to be as we find it here in the 21st century. We will examine the visible and less obvious forces that have shaped the Monterey Bay Region and in doing so help you see where you fit into the region's sometimes bewildering mosaic of neighborhoods and contending factions — through lectures, field trips, tests, research projects and community service.” Lisa Robinson

“I moved to Rio Del Mar when Highway 17 was gravel. 41st Avenue had one stop sign, no overpasses on Highway One. Attending Rio Del Mar grade school and Scotts Valley Junior High and Cabrillo junior college and working for Dean Witter Reynolds downtown as a stockbroker, then moving to Carmel for decades, I still consider myself a local. Local is where your heart is. I wish everyone could experience life in Santa Cruz before it ‘grew up’. Those were the days Capitola had their fireworks display on the Fourth of July. The cement boat was in one piece and the beaches were free of rangers, police and security firms. Camping on the beach with a fire was commonplace. Now that is being local.” Karl Holt

“Moved here for our daughter to attend (a) recommended high school in the 1990s and stayed. Lived for years in temporary rentals, in Capitola Village, downtown Santa Cruz, Bonny Doon, and finally, finally 3 years ago, brought a fixer-upper in Live Oak. All our grandkids have grown up having summers here.” Corrina McFarlane

This week, we ask you to write a valentine to Santa Cruz County: What do you love here? Why?

Share your thoughts

A note from our staff

Santa Cruz Local responds to what you tell us you need. By answering your questions and digging into your story ideas, our work becomes more useful to you.

Our work is free. We want to serve all Santa Cruz County residents, not just those who can pay for it. Support our work with a Santa Cruz Local membership today.


Kara Meyberg Guzman, Stephen Baxter & Natalya Dreszer
Santa Cruz Local

FEB. 13, 2022

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