Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Jul 31st
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

 

Picture of Health

Santa Cruz just received a high ranking among California counties. But it may be hiding some of the biggest health dangers facing our area

 

In The Time of Leo: Our Creative Efforts

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Time Capsule

Actors age in real time in audacious, mesmerizing ‘Boyhood’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Maharaja

Chef Didar Singh on Royal Taj’s reincarnation as Maharaja

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

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

 

Muns Vineyard Rosé of Pinot Noir

This vivacious cherry-pink Rosé is a simply beautiful summer wine.