Quick Take:

Measure O is deceptive and its proponents have peddled in untruths to gain community support, write Janis O’Driscoll, Edward Estrada and Matt Farrell. They laud the City of Santa Cruz’s new library/housing project and insist Measure O, if passed, would torpedo the community’s chance to get a cutting-edge library and 124 affordable housing units in the heart of downtown. They unpack what they consider Measure O’s untruths here and explain why no is the best vote.

Lookout has asked us to write a “strongly worded, factually accurate” commentary.

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Community Voices Election 2022

Community Voices is bringing you the direct voices of the candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot, those who want to represent you. We will also bring you the voices of those supporting and opposing local ballot initiatives.

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We’ll have no difficulty being factually accurate.

We’ve spent months correcting the factual errors that Measure O activists have made. As you can see from our backgrounds on the issues of affordable housing, libraries and parking, we are knowledgeable on the key topics associated with Measure O.

Unfortunately, Measure O supporters continue to disseminate significantly inaccurate “facts” and we keep pointing them out.

For instance, the Measure O petition was sold to potential petition signers as a way to “save the farmers’ market.” As has been reported right here in Lookout, the farmers market leadership has completely disavowed any relationship with this measure and has not taken a position in favor of it. If this ballot measure was needed to save the market, the market would be actively supporting it.

It isn’t.

Next, Measure O advocates have spent months desperately trying to sell the measure as a contributor to our community’s affordable housing efforts. They haven’t succeeded because their measure offers only the hollow promise of purportedly better housing sites. But their sites are either infeasible for affordable housing or less productive than promised.

This is not just our opinion. One of California’s leading experts on affordable housing, Keyser Marston, has put this in writing in great detail for all to see.

Worse than hollow promises, Measure O actually kills 124 rent-restricted apartments for lower-income families. It’s no wonder all of the key local groups that focus on affordable housing are opposed to Measure O, including the Housing Authority, Affordable Housing Now, Housing Matters, Housing Santa Cruz County and Santa Cruz YIMBY.

Measure O’s claims about a preferred library renovation are similarly hollow.

Measure O mandates taking an older, undistinguished building and refurbishing it to meet basic safety and functionality standards, resulting in reduced library space and a commitment to a heating system that runs on fossil fuels. And the renovation will cost more than construction of the new library.

The architect who designed both the new library on Cedar Street and the renovated alternative has said unequivocally (here on page 24) that the new library will be significantly better. He called the Measure O library “low-to-medium quality” because of the limitations of using such a poor original building.

He also noted that the renovated library will be a lot smaller than even our current library.

This is among the many reasons why Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, a beloved local volunteer organization, has been leading the fight against Measure O.

Our downtown library is not simply a collection of books. It’s a learning center for our kids, a positive gathering place for teens, a place of internet connection for people who don’t have that at home and a place for special collections that are housed nowhere else.

An updated rendering of the downtown mixed-use library project
An updated rendering of the downtown mixed-use library project. Credit: Via City of Santa Cruz

We need a great library.

The proponents of Measure O continue to use old and incorrect numbers to talk about parking.

They fail to mention that the project they are trying to block has more spaces for bicycles than for cars. They describe climate impacts of project elements that no longer exist. (For instance, there is no underground parking in the current project.)

Two weeks ago, a woman came to our campaign to sign up to knock on doors to fight Measure O. She said a Yes on O campaigner had just come to her door and told her that Measure O was going to stop a 600-car parking garage and save the farmers market.

She replied that she was familiar with Measure O — and that he was incorrect.

She knew the parking number was much smaller (243 spaces) — only enough parking to partially replace parking being lost downtown due to housing construction and parklets created during the pandemic.

The Measure O campaigner was taken aback and he simply replied that she should do more research on Measure O. She did not take his advice — because she had already done her research. She knew he was providing false information and she decided she was going to walk door to door in her neighborhood and share correct information.

This has been the challenge of the No on O campaign.

We spend much time simply chasing down the latest Yes on O misinformation and correcting it.

It’s tiresome but necessary. Just because a campaign’s intentions are good does not mean advocates can be given free rein to make up new arguments every week as their old arguments are debunked.

A couple of weeks ago, Measure O advocates invented a connection between a hotel and Measure O. This has already been debunked — but they started spreading the word and now we have to spend your time and ours explaining their misleading campaign statements.

After we read the Yes on O article that will be published in tandem with this one, we will again need to point out the misinformation they have repeated.

Measure O comes from well-intentioned advocates who have created a measure to fight an old project that no longer exists.

Now we are left with Measure O’s messy 13-page revision of city policies that are deficient in terms of affordable housing, library excellence, and a successful downtown. All this just so a paved parking lot can be preserved and a bunch of money can be spent to maintain a mediocre, carbon-burning library.

Janis O’Driscoll is a 30-year Santa Cruz Public Libraries professional and retired assistant director.

Edward Estrada, SSVF Housing Navigator at Housing Matters, works to assist very-low-income veterans in finding affordable apartments.

Matt Farrell has 30 years’ professional experience in parking and transportation alternatives.