Quick Take:

Most middle school children in Watsonville have benefited from a visit to the Watsonville Wetlands. It’s a non-profit...

Good Morning! It’s Monday, March 29, and you can expect some clouds and a high of 67. You also might want to consider anchoring your planters and deck furniture as winds are expected to pick up, with a wind advisory in place starting 8 p.m. in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Meanwhile, two things signify to me that spring is here: pollen sniffles and the Hindu festival of colors. So Happy Holi everyone, and keep in mind that tree and grass pollen counts are high and will be for the next couple days.

Some nation and world news to start your day: The trial for the ex-cop accused in George Floyd’s gruesome death last year has begun this morning, and you can watch it live on C-SPAN here. Meanwhile, at a global level, the much-memed ship that was stuck in the Suez Canal for days has finally been freed, a sigh of relief for international trade. And in an Associated Press exclusive, a joint World Health Organization-China study says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely.”

Locally, the county is trying to get unsheltered people into more stable housing as emergency funding mobilized during the COVID-19 pandemic is ending. Meanwhile, those left rebuilding after the devastating summer wildfires are seeing some early success in the streamlined process of getting permits.

We also have a peek into the new Staff of Life store opening in Watsonville tomorrow and details about a small plane crash near Pajaro Valley High School yesterday afternoon, but let’s start with an event all teachers and parents should attend:

Free Lookout school reopenings event coming up tomorrow in English and Spanish

Lookout event flyer

GET YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Two top Santa Cruz County Office of Education officials — Superintendent Faris Sabbah and Director of School Safety Jennifer Buesing — will join Lookout education correspondent Nick Ibarra tomorrow evening in talking all things education as students are now returning to classrooms. The event will include simultaneous Spanish translation. Register to attend and submit your questions ahead of time here.

Among some of the questions attendees have submitted to date:

  • With teachers now vaccinated and the transmission of the virus shown to be low among children, will social distancing remain in effect and for how long?
  • What’s been the experience of your own family in the shutdown?
  • What are the plans for school in the fall? What safety measures will there be? Is it a sure thing that in-school learning will happen?

When: 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 30
Where: Zoom
Cost: FREE
Again, here’s the registration link.

The housing beat

Tents and bikes at a homeless encampment by the San Lorenzo River
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

With COVID-related funding to end, county allots $8 million for ‘rehousing wave,’ but not without questions: Santa Cruz County is trying to ramp up efforts to help unhoused people with county supervisors allocating about $8 million to help with a transition from emergency shelters into more stable housing. But the non-unanimous vote on the matter appeared to highlight disagreements in the approach to the issue. Read more from our Patrick Riley here.

THIS WEEK: Meanwhile tomorrow, a federal judge might weigh in on a proposal from the city of Santa Cruz to move the contentious San Lorenzo Park homeless encampment to the Benchlands. Read more about the proposal from our Isabella Cueto here.

‘Very good experience’: Streamlined permitting process shows early success for CZU fire home rebuilders: For survivors of the CZU Lightning Complex fires looking to rebuild homes in the Santa Cruz Mountains, victories haven’t come easy. But the early returns on getting permits: Big win. The first re-building permit went to Chuck and Debbie Teixeria for the replacement of their home in Bonny Doon. “I went into it kind of skeptical, but the (recovery planners) did exactly what they said they were going to do,” said Jesse Nickell, a longtime friend of the Teixeiras who is acting as their contractor for the rebuild. Read more from Lookout contributor Maria Gaura here.

‘To some I’ll never be seen as a local’: Hundreds gather to honor Atlanta victims, support AAPI cause

Hundreds showed up Saturday afternoon to support the AAPI community.
Hundreds showed up Saturday afternoon to support the AAPI community. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

Hundreds of members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and allies gathered in front of the county administration building over the weekend to honor the victims of the shootings in Atlanta and other hate crime victims across the country. About half a dozen women shared emotional stories of being targeted by hatred and racism in Santa Cruz, both before and after the pandemic — which many of them shared has exacerbated racism with terms like “Kung Flu,” proliferating. Read more from our Mallory Pickett who attended the rally over the weekend.


After attacks on Asian Americans, California lawmakers push to expand hate crime laws (CalMatters)

‘I don’t deserve to be called that’: Asian American teens in Santa Cruz County talk race, identity, pain (Mark Conley)

The Hashimoto doctrine: Keep vigilant against racism and stand up for civil rights for Asian Americans (Wallace Baine)

Finally, another ‘Staff’ is born: Watsonville store expected to anchor a South County ‘mini downtown’

Gary Josephson, seeing big things for his new store.
Gary Josephson, seeing big things for his new store. Credit: Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

For more than 50 years, Staff of Life has been among the most familiar and popular health-foods grocery stores in the Monterey Bay region. And, for more than 50 years, there has only been one of them. Tomorrow, that math changes dramatically, when Staff officially opens its new store in East Lake Village Shopping Center in Watsonville. The new Watsonville store could revive, if not transform, the South County economy, at least for its devoted clientele and others looking for alternative products and organic produce. Read more from our Wallace Baine here.

Vaccine eligibility is expanding throughout California. So what do you do in Santa Cruz County?

The drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.
The drive-thru vaccination clinic at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Later this week, California is opening the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults, but the timing of scheduling an appointment remains in flux. Residents who are at least 50 years old can get vaccines starting April 1, and all Californians 16 and older will be eligible beginning April 15. But the vaccine rollout has been confusing and frustrating for many, as state and local public health officials send mixed, often-changing messages. In an effort to provide you with more clarity, here’s a breakdown of all the places you can go to get vaccinated in our county.

READ ALSO: Nursing home workers rally to seek higher wages, better treatment, citing workload during the pandemic

Around the state…

Crews work on the Hanford Viaduct, part of California's bullet train project.
Crews work on the Hanford Viaduct in Kings County, part of the construction for the California high-speed rail project, in August 2020. (California High-Speed Rail Authority)

Bullet train contractor warns of further two-year delay as state struggles to secure land: A major construction team on the California bullet train project notified the state rail authority this month that it will not complete a 65-mile section of the future route until at least 2025 — nearly two years after the date that the state included in a business plan adopted Thursday. The project’s rising price tag has forced the state to repeatedly scale it back and delay indefinitely a goal to have the train running from Los Angeles to San Francisco — at speeds of up to 220 mph. Read more from the LA Times here.

LOCAL RAIL TRAIL UPDATE: Santa Cruz receives funding for another portion of trail along coastal corridor (Isabella Cueto)

All the ways California’s election rules could make a Newsom recall a wild ride: There is very little set in stone for a recall election in which voters could remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office beyond the ballot’s basic question of whether the governor should keep his job. Of the 55 attempts in California history to qualify a gubernatorial recall, only one, the dismissal of then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2003, has made it to the ballot. That is likely to change by year’s end. Read more from the LA Times here.

Around the county…

Small plane crashes near Pajaro Valley High School after striking power lines (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz Fire Department investigating suspicious structure fire (KION-TV)

Popular Watsonville eatery expands to Aptos (The Pajaronian)

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.