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Aug 27th
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News - 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.

News - 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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News - 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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News - 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.

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News - Environment

Desal Deliberations

Desal Deliberations

With desalination on the horizon, the debate deepens
When it comes to the debate over desalination, there isn’t much of a middle ground.


While opponents to the plan for a 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant stand by the idea of increasing conservation and cutbacks and exploring other alternatives (like maximizing use of existing water sources), city and water department officials unfailingly revert back to their matter-of-fact claim that “conservation and curtailment simply isn’t enough,” and that desalination has proven to be the only feasible route to augment the water supply. Representatives from scwd2, the joint agency formed by the Santa Cruz Water Department and the Soquel Creek Water District to pursue the project, claim there are no significant marine impacts. Opponents say there are. Scwd2 says the resulting water won’t be any different than normal drinking water; critics agreee it will be safe, but point out inherent differences.

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News - Environment

When It Rains, It Pours

When It Rains, It Pours

How ready are you for a flood?
Marilee French’s family has owned a vacation home in Capitola for 67 years. During that time, the house never flooded. But the downpour of torrential rain on Saturday, March 26, caused a pipe in Noble Gulch Creek to burst and a flash flood sent French frantically arranging for the transportation of her immobile 92-year-old mother, Eleanor, away from a rapidly flooding house.

“My mom and I came down for a nice quiet weekend at the beach to get away from the snow and we end up in a flood,” French says with an ironic laugh, noting thankfully that, despite property damages, all turned out well in the greater scheme of things. “This isn’t New Orleans for crying out loud—and it’s not Haiti, and it’s not Japan—so we’re grateful in a lot of ways, but sad for those who have had losses.”

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News - Environment

Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?

Will Hunters Have to Bite the Bullet?

New findings out of UCSC shed light on lead poisoning among condors

Almost all of the 100 free-flying condors in California have suffered from severe lead poisoning at least once. Treatment is expensive and stressful for the birds, as they must be removed from the wild and sent to zoos and veterinary hospitals. After re-release, many get sick again and find themselves back in captivity.

Now, researchers from UC Santa Cruz have confirmed that lead ammunition is the most plausible source of exposure, and demonstrated that lead causes chronic, long-term effects as well as acute poisonings. The findings were presented at the March 6 – 10 annual Society of Toxicology meeting in Washington D.C., and may help spark conversation about a more stringent lead bullet ban.

Myra Finkelstein and her colleagues from UCSC analyzed 70 blood samples taken from 49 condors. Using a technique called lead isotopic composition analysis, the researchers identified the chemical fingerprint of the lead found in condor blood. They compared this to the lead signatures of 71 different ammunition samples—most collected in the field.

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News - Environment

An Opportunity to Give

An Opportunity to Give

Ways for locals to help the people of Japan
The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan has left thousands of Japanese citizens dead while tens of thousands are still missing. Although the problems caused by the damaged infrastructure and the unfolding nuclear crisis have made recovery difficult, there are many ways local residents can help Japan recover.
The United Way, which operates a chapter in Santa Cruz, has set up a website where people can donate. Funds will be given to the Central Community Chest of Japan, which is helping to address the immediate needs of those affected by the disaster. Donate at liveunited.org/japan.

The American Red Cross is also accepting donations for the victims of the Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami. Donate at redcross.org.
Several local businesses are helping out as well. Many local wineries, including Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, and Silver Mountain Vineyards have committed to donating tasting fees collected this weekend to the Red Cross.

Students at UC Santa Cruz can support the Japanese Student Association, which will be selling T-shirts at the beginning of next quarter as part of its fundraising effort.
Please leave any other ideas in the comment section below.

News - Environment

Water to Share

Water to Share

Desalination is in the spotlight, but whatever happened to a regional water exchange?
Jan Bentley worked for the City of Santa Cruz Water Department for 15 years. For 14 of those years, from 1994 until he retired in 2008, Bentley served as the city’s Water Production Manager. Among his duties, Bentley was responsible for monitoring water intake, treatment and distribution. As such, he came to know the ins and outs of the Santa Cruz water supply—how much was available, from which sources, and how much was used.

The city relies solely on surface water and is heavily dependent on rainfall. But in the winters, Bentley says he would watch as millions of gallons went unused each day. “They [the city] do maximize summer use, but they don’t maximize winter use,” he says. “There’s a lot of excess water to be had in the winter.”

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News - Environment

A Natural Step

A Natural Step

GT chats with John Laird about his new post as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency
From his 23 years experience as an elected official, beginning with the Santa Cruz City Council in 1981, John Laird has earned a statewide reputation as a progressive yet pragmatic politician, with a mastery of both process and details of legislative compromise.

Before arriving in Sacramento, Laird was a UC Santa Cruz graduate (1972) and former Santa Cruz City Council member (1981-90) with two stints as the city’s mayor.  He went on to serve the maximum three terms as State Assembly Member (D-27th District, 2002-2008), during which time he was appointed chair of the Assembly’s Budget Committee (2006).

Over the summer of 2010, in a hotly contested, off-cycle special election, Laird lost the race for the 15th District State Senate seat, vacated by Abel Maldonado’s appointment as lieutenant governor, by a slim margin to Republican Sam Blakeslee. But, as the saying goes, when one door closes, another opens: On Jan. 5, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Laird’s appointment as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency.

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Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
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Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

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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

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.