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Greetings and salutations, Lookout friends! Today is Friday, Feb. 4, and Santa Cruz County has a mostly sunny day ahead, with temperatures heading toward the mid-60s — and a warming trend is forecast for the weekend and beyond.

Santa Cruzans are joining a national movement today, calling for more affordable and environmentally sustainable transit systems. Local group Equity Transit will host a march and event for National Transit Equity Day, kicking off at 2 p.m. at Swift Street and the rail trail; the group plans to march via Bay Street to Lighthouse Point for speeches from local leaders including city council members Justin Cummings of Santa Cruz and Vanessa Quiroz-Carter of Watsonville. Follow Lookout’s Grace Stetson and Kevin Painchaud for live updates, and keep it tuned to Lookout for coverage.

And in case you missed it, federal scientists are turning to wastewater as part of efforts to get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic — and Lookout’s Max Chun has the dirt on how Santa Cruz County is part of that wave.

We’ve got plenty more headlines this morning — including another chapter in the passionate local rail debate, how nearby Woodside is trying to sidestep a new housing law and our Best Bets for weekend fun — so let’s get after it:

Freight abandonment discussion on Felton line stirs passions at RTC

A section of Santa Cruz County rail line
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

An often-passionate discussion regarding the possibility of closing both the Santa Cruz and Felton rail lines to freight elicited hours of comments at Thursday’s Regional Transportation Commission meeting — but no other concrete step. Lookout’s Dan Evans details the proceedings.

PREVIOUSLY: How Santa Cruz’s rail-trail debate created a standoff with Roaring Camp (Lookout)

Flushing COVID away

Drain pipe near the ocean.
The Omicron strain of the coronavirus was detected in California’s wastewater last month, even before the World Health Organization declared it a “variant of concern,” lab data suggest. (Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune) Credit: Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune

Consistent wastewater testing began again this week in Santa Cruz as part of a national effort to know more earlier about local COVID trends. Lookout’s Max Chun explains.

MORE ON THE PROCESS: They’re testing your what? Wastewater plays growing role in search for COVID-19 countywide (Lookout)

Best Bets is ready for the weekend

Valentine's Day-themed sculpture hearts

Pick out a little something for your Valentine amid a bounty of First Friday events, disperse the Omicron mists with some tunes or get virtual with a Merry Prankster. Wallace Baine and Lookout’s Team BOLO have recommendations for things to do this weekend and beyond.

OUR FULL EVENTS CALENDAR: BOLO, your place to go for things to do
AND PLAN WAAAAY AHEAD: Check out Down The Line, Wallace’s expertly curated guide to all the good stuff headed our way

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Wealthy Woodside has a plan to avoid building affordable housing

Mountain lion lunging
Mountain Lion sightings have been a hot topic on social media in Santa Cruz County, but it’s unlikely wildfires have affected their habitat. Credit: U.S. Forest Service

The wealthy Silicon Valley suburb of Woodside is trying to block Senate Bill 9, a new state law allowing duplexes on single-family home lots, by declaring itself a mountain lion habitat. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times dig in.

LOCAL SCENE: Are Santa Cruzans dividing up their lots? A look at SB 9 one month in, as new law gets digested (Lookout)

Apparent beating of 49ers fan was kept secret for days

Traffic streams down Manchester Boulevard outside SoFi Stadium, background, on Wednesday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times) Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

With the Super Bowl approaching, the delay in reporting the incident at last weekend’s 49ers-Rams playoff game puts SoFi Stadium security under the spotlight. More here from the Times.

PREVIOUSLY: 49ers fan in coma after apparent beating outside SoFi Stadium during NFC championship (Los Angeles Times)

California inks sweetheart deal with Kaiser Permanente, jeopardizing Medicaid reforms

Kaiser Permanente's new Watsonville facility, alongside Highway 1, will offer expanded mental health services.
Kaiser Permanente’s new Watsonville facility, alongside Highway 1, will offer expanded mental health services. Credit: Kaiser Permanente

The backroom deal with politically connected Kaiser Permanente, which infuriated other Medi-Cal health plans, allows the health care giant to continue selecting the enrollees it wants. Our partners at Kaiser Health News report on the contract slated to be announced today.

LOCAL PRESENCE: Weighing ‘impact on entire community’: Mixed reviews for Kaiser’s Live Oak project as Koenig solicits feedback (Lookout)


Around the county …

Accused Watsonville child molester ordered held without bail (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
PV Water’s plans, storage boosted during wet winter (The Pajaronian)
Unlawful search lawsuit against Scotts Valley PD officers proceeds (The Press Banner)

OK, you’re all caught up. But there is much more on the way today, including another scoop of Eaters Digest from Lily Belli — so keep tabs throughout the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And you can get breaking news alerts and our other newsletters delivered to you wherever you are by visiting our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center.

What better way to roll into the weekend than supporting local journalism, right? Our content isn’t possible without community support, so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member.

Have a fantastic Friday and a safe, healthy and relaxing weekend!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz

A veteran jack-of-all-trades journalist who is Lookout’s copy editor, writes and compiles Morning Lookout newsletter and produces Lookout’s other editorial newsletters and helps run Lookout’s social...