A homeless encampment along the side of Cabrillo Highway in Santa Cruz. The area must be cleared out by April.
The homeless encampment along the side of Cabrillo Highway (Highway 1) in Santa Cruz on Feb. 11, 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Newsom continues to get earful, this time from county leaders, on what to do with Highway 1 homeless camp

Following suit with the city of Santa Cruz, county leaders on Tuesday signed off on applying more pressure to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking him to authorize state transportation officials to clear a homeless encampment near the intersection of Highways 1 and 9.

With a major Highway 1 widening project set to begin in April, Santa Cruz County supervisors unanimously voted to direct Chair Bruce McPherson to pen a letter to the governor — similar to one written last week by Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers and co-signed by McPherson and Supervisor Ryan Coonerty — about the matter.

“The public health and safety situation at the intersections of Highways 1 and 9 really is unacceptable,” McPherson said. “And we’re requesting the governor to give his approval for CalTrans to work with the city to close the camp and clean the property.

“Local governments cannot bear this burden alone,” he continued. “And the state’s help here is really critical. We will continue working with the city to prevent these large encampments from forming. And it’s going to require a collaborative effort of both our social services systems and our law enforcement partners. So I want to thank the city for this cooperative effort. And I hope we can address and clean up this encampment very quickly.”

Although the busy intersection is in the city of Santa Cruz limits, the highways and inhabited right-of-way are state property.

As the planned start date for the project’s construction looms, city, county and state officials have been struggling to come to an agreement over who should foot the bill for clearing out the camp and relocating the people who live there.

According to the board memo put together by McPherson and Coonerty, the county would in its letter also ask state officials to cover the city of Santa Cruz’s trash removal costs accrued to date, in addition to future expenses at the site.

Multiple requests for comment to Newsom’s office since the weekend haven’t been returned.