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Aug 31st
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News briefs: Backyard Bedrooms, Tracking Offenses

SC Planning Commission mulls "granny units." New partnership addresses recidivism in the county

Backyard Bedrooms

Depending on how you look at it, a converted garage might be a progressive step in the right direction or a slap in the face for a quiet neighborhood.

Some say Santa Cruz needs more accessory dwelling units (ADUs), sometimes called “granny units,” to provide affordable rentals. Those folks believe higher housing density reduces everyone’s carbon footprint. Others worry that such units and tenants bring in too much noise and extra traffic.

The Santa Cruz Planning Commission discussed ADUs at its Thursday, April 4 meeting, as planning staff is working to bring many unpermitted ADUs up to code and abate the rest under the rental inspection ordinance passed by city council in 2010. Commissioner Mark Primack voiced concerns about city staff forcing evictions because the property owner doesn’t live onsite instead of working more closely with tenants. The ADUs must also meet other requirements and must, for instance, be a certain distance from other buildings and fences.

Primack suggested recommending “an immediate suspension of other than unsafe dwellings” to the city council. The commission will take up that discussion item at its April 17 meeting.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mark Mesiti-Miller floated the idea of making a map of ADUs in various areas. That way, commissioners could walk the neighborhoods and see how a higher density of ADUs has affected certain neighborhoods differently—if, for instance, they feel more crowded or not.

Mesiti-Miller also suggested incentivizing building ADUs near transit corridors like Mission Street to encourage higher density in the more urban neighborhoods. “We can address the needs of people who desire the less dense, more private single residential neighborhoods,” he said, “and have people who want to have an ADU, and they like the density.”

The planning commission also voted to support a four-story, 94-unit, mixed-use condo complex at 555 Pacific Ave., which should appear before council May 13 for approval. If approved, the 42-foot-high development—currently a vacant lot on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Front Street—will rival the Beach Hill bluff on the other side of the street in height. The first floor would house two restaurant spaces and two commercial spaces. The condos themselves would not be large—starting at just 450 square feet for certain studios and going up to 650 square feet for one-bedroom apartments.

Tracking Offenses

Make no mistake: the new partnership of public and private groups trying to deal with repeat offenders has no interest in regulating homeless offenses such as defecating, urinating or camping in public. Santa Cruz District Attorney Bob Lee made that clear on Monday, April 7.

“We’re interested in people who commit crimes in cases that aren’t anti-homeless crimes,” Lee said, fielding a question from a curious activist in front of O’Neill Surf Shop during the downtown press conference. “We’re talking about people who commit thefts. We’re talking about people who commit battery; people who commit alcohol violations, weapons violations, gang violations—the whole gamut. We’re not talking about status at all.”

The conference announced a new repeat offender accountability program that brings together partners from the county and city, as well as community organizations, to get creative, start discussions and work alongside one another to try to reduce crime among Santa Cruz’s chronic recidivist population. The eight-month pilot program will have offices on Pacific Avenue and measure success by how well it reduces arrests and police contacts among participants. Leaders will also track how well those are directed to the proper services.

Paul M. Marigonda, presiding judge for Santa Cruz Superior Court, said those who deal with the same judges, prosecutors and social workers over a given period of time receive more consistent punishment and treatment and see better outcomes than those who don’t. The idea for the pilot program grew out of the public safety task force recommendations the city council received last December.

“We’re not guaranteeing a safer Santa Cruz,” Lee said. “This a very difficult issue. What we are guaranteeing is [that] we’re all in.”

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The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

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