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Jul 28th
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Environment

A Green Blueprint

A Green Blueprint

New 25-year conservation plan looks at the county’s ecological future
A long history of environmental protection in Santa Cruz County has helped spare much of its land from development. More than a century ago, Big Basin—the first state park in California—was founded in the Santa Cruz Mountains, saving a large number of old-growth redwoods from logging. Today, 27 percent of the county’s land is in parks, public land, or is otherwise protected through conservation easements.

Nevertheless, many in Santa Cruz see the natural environment as under threat. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, a local environmental nonprofit established in 1978, estimates that by 2035, the population in the Monterey Bay region will increase by 146,000, 35,000 of which will be in Santa Cruz County. More people means increased urban and rural development—more houses, more roads, and greater stress on already taxed natural resources. Add to this the unknowns of climate change, and Santa Cruz County could be facing a challenging future.

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Environment

Shuttering State Parks

Shuttering State Parks

Come September, Castle Rock, Twin Lakes, Portola Redwoods and Mission Park will be closed
The bad news Californians were expecting was finally released by California State Parks on Friday May 13, when they announced the list of 70 state parks scheduled for closure next fiscal year. The closures result from the $11 million cut to the Park Department’s operating budget, which was adopted by the legislature and signed by the governor in March. Regional state parks scheduled for closure in September include Castle Rock State Park, a favorite of rock climbers and hikers up on Skyline Drive, Twin Lakes State Beach, which means the state will no longer be providing lifeguards, Portola Redwoods, and Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.

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Town Hall

Town Hall with Assemblymember Bill Monning

Town Hall with Assemblymember Bill Monning

What were some of the positive and negative items contained in the governor’s May Revise of the 2011-12 State Budget?

One positive in the governor’s May Revise is that state revenues received this year exceed prior projections.

In January, California’s estimated budget deficit was $27 billion. In March we made $14 billion in extremely difficult cuts, leaving a $13 billion deficit to be resolved by June 15.  The increased revenues have reduced the anticipated debt during the 2011-12 Fiscal Year from $13 billion to $9.6 billion. While these revenue increases are an indicator of California’s slow economic recovery, we should not look at them as being sufficient to address the state’s ongoing debt and funding needs. 

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Business

Worker Worries

Worker Worries

AFSCME workers wonder how UC budget cuts will further impact their jobs
Budget cuts have meant cutbacks for nearly every area of the UC Santa Cruz campus, impacting students, faculty and staff alike. For some workers the reality of just how deep the past several years of cuts have been has never been more obvious or unnerving than now. Along with furloughs and increased costs for everything from healthcare to retirement, some UCSC workers are also facing the dual pressure of an increased workload and the fear of losing their job in the next round of layoffs.

One UCSC employee of more than 20 years, who wishes to remain nameless, says she has watched her work as a custodian become increasingly more difficult over the past few years. She is now required to clean twice the number of areas she would have cleaned two years ago in the same amount of time.

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Local News

Holistic Holdup

Holistic Holdup

California nutritionists’ ongoing fight to maintain legal legitimacy
What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian? This may sound like an menial question to some, but ambivalence about this distinction sent holistic health professionals across California into a flurry of phone calls, letters, and public consternation regarding a piece of recently proposed legislation know as Assembly Bill 575.

Due to sizable disapproval over the written logistics of AB575, which was proposed by Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward), it was tabled on May 4 for revisions. However, the debate it sparked brings to light an ongoing controversy in the world of nutritional healthcare.

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Town Hall

Town Hall with Supervisor Ellen Pirie

Town Hall with Supervisor Ellen Pirie

After several recent hearings, the Board has established requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries in the county, and will establish a working group to review other issues, including whether testing of marijuana should be required. With these decisions in mind, what is the Board’s long-term vision for medical marijuana business in Santa Cruz County?
While there is no cap on the number of medical marijuana outlets allowed in the unincorporated county, they must operate as nonprofits. Advertising, labeling, and record-keeping will be regulated. Further, an 800-foot buffer is required between two dispensaries, and dispensaries must be located at least 600 feet from schools.
Once established, a medical marijuana cooperative must meet certain performance standards. Doctors or other medical professionals will not be allowed to write recommendations on-site, and on-site use of the medical marijuana products is prohibited. A working group will be established to consider testing and other issues for possible addition to the regulations at some future time.

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Local News

Santa Cruz’s Idol Returns

Santa Cruz’s Idol Returns

Thousands gather to welcome back James Durbin with open arms

Judging by the surging crowd and the number of squeals heard outside Louden Nelson Community Center Saturday afternoon, tourists might have thought Justin Bieber was in town.

But every local knew—Saturday was Durbin Day.

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Local News

Border Crossings

Border Crossings

A long journey from undocumented immigrant to legal resident
When Samuel Garcia first came to the United States in 1999, he paid a “coyote” to help him sneak over the U.S.-Mexico border. In the middle of the night, he crossed the Sonora Desert into Arizona with hopes of finding better paying work than was available in his hometown in Oaxaca.

On April 19 of this year, Garcia became a legal U.S. resident. He lives in Santa Cruz with his wife and 1-year-old daughter—both U.S. citizens. However, Garcia’s path from undocumented immigrant to legal resident has been difficult and complicated, not unlike the experience of many other immigrants to California.

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Environment

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece

Santa Cruz looks at filling the last remaining hole left downtown by the Loma Prieta Earthquake
It’s been 22 years since one of the most destructive earthquakes in our nation’s history rocked the foundations of Santa Cruz. Nowhere, perhaps, was that devastation more acutely felt than downtown on Pacific Avenue, where the collapse of the historic Pacific Garden Mall killed three of the six people who lost their lives in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Though the 6.9 magnitude quake lasted only 10 to 15 seconds, the destruction it wreaked can still be seen today. Destruction is fast—it’s recovery that takes time. But despite the recent economic downturn in our country and state, the final touch to restoring the face of Pacific Avenue is starting to get under way.
“It’s been 20 years since the earthquake,” says Mayor Ryan Coonerty. “We’ve worked hard to rebuild and that’s the last piece left.”
The piece of land that Coonerty refers to is the lot at the north end of Pacific Avenue, at 1547-49 Pacific Ave. and 1110 Cedar St. The lot is mostly vacant, the last remnant of downtown vacancy that is a direct result of the Loma Prieta quake.
A centrally located spot, the lot has housed several companies, including Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company, Kelly’s Bakery, Asian Rose, and Oswald’s. All of these companies relocated to other parts of the city, and all (with the exception of Asian Rose, which moved in with its sister establishment, Malabar) are still in operation.
Coonerty remembers when Bookshop, his family’s business, was located on the site, as well as when it was destroyed in the earthquake. Though the owners had insurance, the rebuild never happened and the bookstore moved to its current location close by on Pacific Avenue. Since then, the city has been trying to rebuild on the optimal piece of real estate but has faced several obstacles.
On Thursday, May 5 the Planning Commission recommended that the city
council adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration (meaning that they would agree that there is no apparent evidence to suggest a negative impact on the environment as a result of construction) and approve a Development Agreement based on findings to continue consideration of Design and Planned Development Permits for a building in that spot. While this may not seem like a huge step forward, it is a start, and in the downtown area of Santa Cruz that’s saying something.  The building, now in the beginning final stages of planning as a five-story residential/retail unit, was originally approved as a seven-story building with upscale senior residences upstairs and retail downstairs.

“As soon as we approved it [the first time] the housing market collapsed,” says Coonerty. “Now we’ve been through a couple iterations and are ready to move forward.”
In addition to the financial challenges facing construction downtown there are also aesthetic and structural guidelines that must be strictly adhered to. The Downtown Recovery Plan (DRP) that was adopted in 1991 to address the reconstruction of downtown states:
“As a result of the earthquake, much of downtown will be rebuilt in a single generation. This puts a particular burden on the Recovery Plan and its design guidelines to maintain the unique townscape character and to avoid the creation of monolithic ‘projects’ that destroy the human scale and pedestrian quality of the downtown.”
Part of these guidelines include an ordinance stating buildings may not exceeding five stories, or 50 feet high, as to not cast Pacific Avenue’s popular promenade in perpetual shade. The DRP also requires new buildings in the neighborhood to use architectural styles that “emphasize a human scale and warmth that provides a common vocabulary,” an ambiguously poetic bit of building code that could be interpreted in any number of ways by those opposed to a project.
It has been a long time coming, but the first (of many, admittedly) hoops have been jumped through and in a town with a very vocal and civically minded populace the new five-story project is uniquely unopposed. The building itself will be comprised of 66 to 70 condominium units above a total of 4,510 square feet of commercial retail space and a parking area with 66 spaces.
“They call this one the missing tooth in the smile of Downtown Santa Cruz,” says William Brooks, president and CEO of Brooks Properties who is representing owners of the lot, Park Pacific LLC, with Norman Schwartz. “I’m trying to fill that hole so we can finish up the last build that was a consequence of the earthquake.”
The building has changed since its first imagining, scaling down in height and reducing the number of units proposed to better fit a troubled city budget. The upside of this is that the units themselves will be more affordable than was originally thought.
“We redesigned the units so they’re a little smaller than the previous units, will make economic sense, and will service the rank and file type of folks,” says Brooks. “It will have a lower price point whereas the old building would have had a much higher price point.”
However, former city councilmember Mike Rotkin counters that making the new housing cheaper isn’t necessarily a benefit for downtown. “It no longer guarantees to bring lots of discretionary income to downtown,” as the high-end senior living would have, he writes to GT via email. “Almost all of the housing we have built downtown after the earthquake—and there was quite a bit—was for low-income residents who have little in the way of discretionary income.”
He does, however, agree that the changes to the project have made it less contentious. Part of the success of this proposal so far no doubt lies in the benignity of the space. Unlike the five-story parking garage once proposed for Cathcart and Cedar streets that would have displaced the beloved farmers’ market, this building faces no such obstacle. Also, by creating more housing downtown, the city is promoting a greener Santa Cruz by further centralizing the populace, if only by a small degree.
Also, while it’s been 22 years in the making, it would mean that Downtown Santa Cruz would finally mend the scars left by the ’89 quake.

Local News

We All Scream for Cycling

We All Scream for Cycling

XTERRA triathlon comes to Santa Cruz
After two years of working with the Department of Economic Development on special projects, such as bringing the Amgen Tour to Santa Cruz, Jennifer Karno wanted to do more to promote Santa Cruz as a destination for natural beauty and year-round outdoor adventure.

“Some people move to Santa Cruz because it’s a place where you can work hard and play hard, but we're not known for promoting it, so many don't realize that we have one of the biggest bike industries really in the country,” Karno says. "I'm passionate about bringing off- season tourism here in a sustainable way, because in that time between October and June our economy suffers.”

After a year and a half of consideration, an upcoming event that marks a public-private collaboration between XTERRA and the City of Santa Cruz, state parks and Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks aims to do just that. Santa Cruz's own Wilder Ranch State Park will host the 2011 XTERRA triathlon Pacific Championship, including one of six regional championship races in XTERRA's America Tour.

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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

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

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.