Santa Cruz City Council offers a unanimous ‘no’ on divisive Measure D; Greenway proponents unfazed

A Santa Cruz local enjoys his ride down the new trail rail path.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously for a resolution opposing Measure D at Tuesday’s meeting. That was little surprise to the YES Greenway collective, which says it is pleased the topic will ultimately be decided by voters.

The contentious Measure D — debating between the future of a pedestrian greenway and the potential for a rail and trail across the county — saw the Santa Cruz City Council enter its collective voice to the mix Tuesday.

And the voice said no.

Councilmembers voted unanimously against Measure D, which voters will decide on in the upcoming primary election June 7. The vote reaffirms the council’s support for the continued possibility of passenger train service being adopted along the 32-mile Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line, or a “rail with trail,” spanning from Davenport to Watsonville.

According to city staff, Measure D is bad for equity, mobility and the looming threat of climate change, and is in “direct opposition to the policies and values of the city of Santa Cruz.”

The two groups — YES Greenway and No Way Greenway — have continuously been at odds.

Last week, YES Greenway filed a police report accusing No Way Greenway of vandalizing its campaign signs. No Way Greenway declined any involvement and labeled it a “desperation move” by the opposition.

No Way Greenway campaign co-chair Matt Farrell expressed satisfaction with the city council’s decision.

“The council’s action today reflects that it has been strongly supportive of both rail and trail for decades,” he said. “We were very pleased to see a reaffirmation of that support today.”

Farrell said that there is still work to be done leading up to the primary election.

“We’re going to continue reaching out to voters in communities throughout Santa Cruz and we’ll be present at events throughout the county where we can reach members of the community and inform them about the issue,” he said. “I think this just validates our approach and we’re going to continue on that path.”

Farrell also said that he wants people to thoroughly understand what the measure implies: “This is going to remove the opportunity to have the ability to plan and talk for a rail for our county, and that’s a serious risk.”

YES Greenway spokesperson Jack Brown said he was not bothered.

“We pretty much expected it,” he said. “The council is pretty loaded with No Way Greenway supporters, so it’s not a shock in any sense.”

Brown added that it’s going to come down to the voters.

“We’re very hopeful for it, we got over 13,000 signatures to get the item on the ballot, so I think people will ultimately decide what they want,” he said. “Whatever comes out of it, it’s great that we got this issue before the voters.”

The Greenway initiative involves the removal of existing train tracks in unincorporated areas of the county and the construction of an interim multi-use path with the possibility of rebuilding the tracks in the future. The proposal hinges on the possibility of railbanking, and has been the subject of much local debate.

Measure D will be on the June 7 primary election ballot. If adopted, it would remove all references to railroad maintenance, transit planning and the like from the county’s general plan.

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