Santa Cruz Good Times

Wednesday
Apr 16th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Taking Action in Downtown Santa Cruz

downtown_SCsThis October has been extraordinary for Downtown Santa Cruz. As the executive director for the Downtown Association, I have had the privilege to host a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. The occasion was certainly a somber remembrance of the community’s losses; lost buildings, many lost businesses, lost jobs and, most tragically, loss of life. It was also, however, an undeniable time for celebration.

As I have been reliving downtown’s devastation of ’89, I have heard hundreds of stories of near misses and irony, stories of awe and adrenaline. Perhaps my favorite recount is of the 4-year- old girl watching Sesame Street, looking up for just a moment to respond to the frightened beckoning of her mother through the falling books and shaking furniture “But mom, I didn’t do it!” And while everyone has their own memory to share, the theme that continues to be retold is the one we all remember of the selfless service that the whole town seemed to gravitate toward. As people assessed the damages to buildings, the displaced businesses, with the very future of downtown in question, a remarkable community united around the idea of helping. Soon the question everyone was asking themselves, and each other, was, “What can I do?”

It wasn’t a time to wait to see how the government would respond. People needed help now and so many people showed up and began asking, “What can I do?”  We learned what to do quickly and we continued to ask that question for many years. There were many victories. By Thanksgiving weekend, 45 displaced businesses opened in their temporary homes in the famous pavilions and countless employees returned to their jobs downtown. Hundreds of people showed up to support the businesses and make certain Downtown Santa Cruz would remain the heart of Santa Cruz.

Twenty years later, Downtown Santa Cruz is a national model for mixed-use districts. Through unusually challenging economic times, downtown businesses are surviving and thriving. The streets host a mix of locals and tourists enjoying the unique shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, and more professionals are locating their offices downtown every day. Earlier this month I had a couple of opportunities to walk through the streets of downtown with Bay Area reporters as they put together their version of the story. Each was more impressed than the last at what our downtown has become. As we passed the many unique sights that I pass every day, seeing them with fresh eyes, it became very clear what makes downtown the jewel that it is. The shops, the restaurants, the neighbors, the professional offices, the trees, the buildings, all important elements, and yet there’s something else. Shortly after the earthquake, Mardi Wormhoudt was quoted as saying, “Downtown isn’t the heart of Santa Cruz, its people are.”

Like any successful mixed-use district, downtown has its share of challenges. Every day, conversations are taking place with people dedicated and committed to managing those challenges, working together to keep downtown clean, safe and vibrant. In the last two years, the city council, working closely with the business community and the area neighbors, has continued to take tremendous steps toward the ongoing management of downtown.

What dug our downtown out of the ashes of Oct. 17, 20 years ago, was not merely what the city council accomplished. What made it possible for downtown to recover was not only the miraculous feat of the temporary pavilions. What made downtown successful was the extraordinary community that came down through the plywood sidewalks and chain link to support the many local businesses, which were committed to reinvesting in downtown and dedicated to rebuilding.

The necessity to plan for the future was never more apparent than it was in the quake’s aftermath. The vision that has informed the community that we live in today was born, first from the question “What do we want?” and finally, “What can I do?”

Now we have an opportunity to build an even stronger downtown. Today’s rebuilding is no longer about building heights and sidewalk widths. Today the planning must be about us. What do we, as a community, want from our downtown? How will downtown affect the way we interact with each other? In what ways can the culture of downtown educate the way we live our lives every day? In this moment we have all of the elements to create a vision for the next 20 years that will nurture our children, protect the environment, stimulate creativity, assist the troubled and inspire the world, but it will not happen only by asking what someone else can do. Ask yourself, “What can I do?”

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.

 

Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.