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Dec 22nd
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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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Local News

Anatomy of a Budget

Anatomy of a Budget

GT sits down with the city manager to check the city’s fiscal pulse
City Manager Martin Bernal inherited a less than favorable budget situation when he took over the position in 2010.

In 2009, then-City Manager Richard Wilson told Good Times that, in his three decades at our fiscal helm, he had seen “nothing even close” to the financial crisis the city was facing. The last time the city even hoped to break even was in 2001, he added, and budgeting should be tough for some time to come. Having served as assistant city manager under Wilson for 13 years, Bernal knew what he was in for when he succeeded him—but that hasn’t made it any less hectic.

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Local News

Marking History

Marking History

The Blue Plaque Program piques fresh curiosity about Santa Cruz County’s ever-present past
On Saturday, May 7, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) will be holding the 38th Annual Blue Plaque Program (BPP) awards to honor local sites of architectural and historical significance. The plaques themselves, though, are just a hint—a tip-of-the-iceberg insinuation—of the surprising, entertaining, and sometimes shocking stories about these sites that would otherwise stay obscured by the opacity of time.

“It’s really meant to highlight historical structures in town both for architectural and historic reasons,” says Amy Dunning, archivist at the MAH, as she walks slowly between the graves and mausoleums of the Old Holy Cross Cemetery. “It’s the story of our community, it’s beginnings, [and] an understanding of our own neighborhoods and downtown areas throughout the county.”

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Town Hall

Town Hall with Congressman Sam Farr

Town Hall with Congressman Sam Farr

Planned Parenthood Mar Monte has chosen to honor you as one of their 2011 “Voices for Change”—dubbing you the “Voice for Freedom.” What are the biggest obstacles facing Panned Parenthood today, and how are you working to address them?

I am honored and humbled to be recognized by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, and I am equally proud of the work we have done to protect issues of women’s health. But as the last few weeks have shown us, there is still much work to do.

Hidden behind straw man arguments, Republicans have launched a full-on assault on Planned Parenthood and women’s health. They have armed themselves with misguided rhetoric and false information—citing the opposition to the use of federal funds for abortions as the base for cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood. But in reality, not one penny of federal funding is used for abortions. For that reason, I voiced strong opposition to Republican attempts to drag Planned Parenthood and women’s health into a debate about fiscal responsibility.

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Environment

Bus System Blues

Bus System Blues

Metro faces widespread changes to close budget gap
Rubi Cuevas rides Metro buses almost every day. She works the late shift at the Capitola McDonald’s, and, until last year, she took the 68N home every night just five minutes after finishing her shift. However, after Metro cut 10 percent of their service last year, Cuevas was forced to take another less convenient bus home.

“Sometimes I have to wait 40 minutes for a bus,” she says. And while she occasionally can leave work before her shift is over and catch an earlier bus, she often has to stay until the end of her shift, which means a long wait. “I don’t have a car because gas is expensive, but there are no buses either,” she says.

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Local News

21st Century Slugs

21st Century Slugs

A look at UCSC’s new robotics major and how it came to be
The past several years have been full of bad budget news for UC Santa Cruz. Thanks to a Golden State that isn’t so golden these days, the school has had to make more than $50 million in permanent budget reductions since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, resulting in the elimination of 300 staff and 110 teaching assistant positions, a 16 percent reduction in faculty positions, and a 15 percent decrease in academic funding. UCSC officials are currently grappling with $19 million in cuts as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011 budget, which included $500 in cuts to the UCs (even worse news: this amount could deepen later this year depending on how the state’s budget pans out).

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Town Hall

Assemblyman Bill Monning

Assemblyman Bill Monning

What options does the legislature have in terms of the state’s budget now that the June ballot measure has faded as a possibility?
In January, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a budget to address the estimated $25.8 billion deficit with $12.5 billion in extremely difficult cuts and a five year revenue package that would require voter approval in a special election this June. In order to place this revenue extension on the June ballot, a two-third vote of the legislature was required by the end of March.

My Democratic colleagues and I have been supporting the governor’s efforts to let the voters decide if revenues should be part of a budget deficit solution. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues were unwilling to work with the governor to place this issue before the voters. 

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Environment

From Trash to Fuel

From Trash to Fuel

New technology provides leap forward for local organization focused on ocean cleanup
The ocean is littered with plastic.

In the Pacific Ocean, it floats near the surface of the water and swirls around in a massive vortex of currents, creating a sort of polluted soup commonly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Because of the dynamic nature of the currents, the size and scope of the pollution has proved difficult to measure. Some say the garbage patch is approximately the size of Texas while others claim it covers an area larger than the continental United States. As hard as it is to measure the garbage patch, it is equally as challenging to fit it with a solution.

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Environment

The Secret Life of Plastic

The Secret Life of Plastic

One GT reporter tracks the journey of plastic bottles through the recycling system
Forty-one Earth Days after the recycling movement of 1970 birthed the three R’s—“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”—Good Times set out to trace the journey of a metaphorical bottle as it makes its way through the modern recycling process.

The pursuit of this symbolic plastic bottle uncovers the challenges and goals of the recycling system, and what role the City of Santa Cruz’s roughly 60,000 residents, and their 949 pounds of waster per person, per year (according to the 2010 Community Assessment Project Report), play in the process.

Read more...
 
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Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
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