Quick Take:

Wild Poppies – a small local olive oil business – was created by two sisters, Kim Null and Jamie de Sieyes. Their...

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, March 17, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The chilly weather continues with near-freezing temperatures in the early morning and a mostly sunny day with a high of 56.

It’s going to be a busy day for Lookout correspondents. The battle between homeless advocates and the city over the San Lorenzo Park encampment will head back to court later this morning. And a deeply contentious student housing project at UC Santa Cruz that’s been in the works for years is headed back to UC regents. Then in the evening, the Scotts Valley City Council is expected to consider a plan to increase mobility within the city. Also today, “Recall Newsom” backers have to submit 1.5 million valid voter signatures to force the issue on a ballot in November, something that Newsom finally acknowledged as likely yesterday.

If major developments on any of these and other stories happen, we can deliver them directly to your phone if you sign up for Lookout’s Breaking News Text Alerts. You can sign up for the free text alerts here or just text the word BREAKING to (831) 265-0158.

Here are your headlines:

180-member parents’ group calls for clearer path to full reopening of Santa Cruz County schools

Yard duty monitors check the temperatures of students arriving at Encinal Elementary School in Atherton on Dec. 17, 2020. The Menlo Park City School District is among the few districts that kept schools open this fall during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group
Yard duty monitors check the temperatures of students arriving at Encinal Elementary School in Atherton on Dec. 17, 2020. The Menlo Park City School District is among the few districts that kept schools open this fall during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

NEW THIS MORNING: Even as some Santa Cruz County elementary students are back in schools, some parents are growing increasingly concerned about when a wider reopening will finally come. A newly formed advocacy group, Families for Santa Cruz County Schools, is now calling on districts to solidify their plans for the fall — and to do more to ensure families’ voices are heard. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

RELATED: Upon further review, no COVID testing will be necessary for football, county school officials determine

March #BOLO Madness

Be On the Lookout on our website later today for updates on all these happenings today:

Hearing for San Lorenzo Park homeless encampment lawsuit: The issue of whether a large homeless encampment in San Lorenzo Park in downtown Santa Cruz can stay put will head to court at 9:30 a.m. The city of Santa Cruz and attorney Anthony Prince, who represents homeless residents of the park, will go before Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen, who might decide whether to reverse an injunction she granted in late January, letting the camp stay in place due to the threat of COVID-19.

UC Santa Cruz’s Student Housing West to go back before UC regents: After a lawsuit delayed construction, a controversial, 3,000-bed student housing project in the works since 2017 is heading back to UC regents for reconsideration today. The project is across two sites, with a smaller development proposed on UCSC’s East Meadow at the center of contention.

Scotts Valley City Council to consider plan to boost bike and pedestrian trails: Councilmembers will decide during a meeting tonight whether to adopt an Active Transportation Plan city staff have crafted to increase mobility around the city. The plan, if adopted, will set a roadmap for how the city can expand and improve its network of bicycle and pedestrian trails. The city council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and you can watch it here.

Watsonville Community Hospital suffered financial losses, ‘could have been in trouble’

Watsonville Community Hospital.
Watsonville Community Hospital. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Watsonville Community Hospital has been a money-losing venture “for the last couple of years” and “could have been in trouble,” but the hospital’s interim management company says it is steadying the ship at the No. 2 medical center in Santa Cruz County and is hinting at a more permanent role in the future. During a meeting of Santa Cruz County’s Emergency Medical Care Commission, Prospect Medical Holdings officials said “the previous group managing Watsonville hospital defaulted on their payments to” an investment firm that owns the hospital building and land. Read more from our Patrick Riley and Mallory Pickett here.

READ PAST COVERAGE: Watsonville Community Hospital under new management, but veil of secrecy surrounds who’s really in charge

How Jon Barclay has ridden back from the brink on his beloved unicycle

Jon Barclay on a visit to his favorite riding destination, West Cliff Drive.
Jon Barclay on a visit to his favorite riding destination, West Cliff Drive. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

PEOPLE IN THE PANDEMIC: In spring 2020, Jon Barclay was fighting a long battle with depression and anxiety, made worse by the crippling worldwide pandemic. Less than a year later, at 32, the Santa Cruz native is buoyed by clarity and brimming with purpose. And the instrument of his deliverance from darkness is an unusual conveyance that, for somewhat mysterious reasons, many people find slightly ridiculous. Jon Barclay was saved by a unicycle. Now, he plans on circumnavigating the globe on it. Wallace Baine talked with Barclay about the tough things and his plans for the future in his The Here & Now column. Read it here.

County meets orange tier criteria, must stay at similar levels for two more weeks: Santa Cruz County met the criteria for the orange tier in all three necessary categories in the state’s latest guidelines for reopening the economy. Counties must meet the tier criteria for three consecutive weeks before advancing to this less restrictive tier. Read more about what orange tier restrictions would mean for you here.

Another COVID Read: Moderna begins testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children as young as 6 months

Rising seas, worsening wildfires endanger California parks like devastated Big Basin

A redwood tree burns near Big Basin Redwoods State Park Headquarters & Visitor Center
Fire smolders in a tree bole at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Aug. 20, 2020. Photo by Randy Vazquez, Bay Area News Group

Big Basin, nearly wiped out by the August CZU Lightning Complex fires, remains closed as the state struggles to protect nearly 300 parks from climate change. The price tag for climate-resilience projects has not been calculated. But experts say if the money isn’t spent now, the damage and costs will multiply. Read more from our partners at CalMatters here.

READ ALSO: With world’s major kelp forests in jeopardy, sea otters coming to the rescue in Monterey Bay (Lookout Santa Cruz and Inside Climate News)

HAPPENING TODAY: With final signatures due today, Newsom acknowledges recall is likely to qualify for the ballot

Recall Newsom volunteer Pat Miller holds up a sign
Recall Newsom volunteer Pat Miller holds up a sign during petition-signing event at SaveMart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Credit: Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

The backers of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom have to submit 1.5 million valid California voters’ signatures today. Yesterday, Newsom said he expects the Republican-led effort to qualify for the ballot and amplified his attacks against the campaign’s lead proponents, accusing them of being associated with white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy theorists and Trump supporters. Read more from the LA Times here.

Around the county . . .

Deadline nears for written fire regulation comments (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Lawsuit over in-custody killing of German Carillo advances (Good Times)

The ghost train and hidden tunnels in the Santa Cruz Mountains (San Lorenzo Valley Post)

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

To ensure you’re staying informed about all the goings-on in Santa Cruz, consider becoming a Lookout member. Our content isn’t possible without community support.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

Follow Tulsi Kamath on: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. Tulsi Kamath was the originator of Lookout Santa Cruz’s flagship Morning Lookout newsletter and its original Managing Editor.