Santa Cruz City Council candidates for District 6: Is our council doing well or does it need to change?

Santa Cruz City Council candidates Renee Golder (left) and Sean Maxwell
Santa Cruz City Council District 6 candidates Renée Golder (left) and Sean Maxwell.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz’s two District 6 city council candidates are Renée Golder and Sean Maxwell. Both are parents who want to see the creation of a Westside business organization. Both support clearing the Benchlands homeless encampment and a version of an oversized vehicle ordinance. Golder, the incumbent, is against Measures N and O. Maxwell is for both. Maxwell wants to shake up the city council, while Golder thinks it’s headed in the right direction. Here, each briefly answers two Lookout questions to help voters understand them better.

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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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Overview: District 6 is an oddly shaped district. It encompasses the west side of UC Santa Cruz, cuts Meder Street in half and stretches down Western Drive, spreading out through most of the lower Westside, west of the Circles.

The candidates

Renée Golder is principal at Bay View Elementary School and Maxwell is a builder and carpenter. Golder is a lifelong Santa Cruz resident who has been on the Santa Cruz City Council almost three years. Sean Maxwell has been on the city’s planning commission for two years and has lived in Santa Cruz for 13 years.

Renée Golder

Santa Cruz City Council candidate Renée Golder
Santa Cruz City Council District 4 candidate and incumbent Renée Golder.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Please tell readers why they should vote for you. What specifically sets you apart from your competitors?

As a mother, working professional and Santa Cruz native, I am committed to serving our community to shape a more vibrant and healthy Santa Cruz for this generation and the next. I serve as a member of the Santa Cruz City Council and have the experience working alongside my six council colleagues and community stakeholders to strengthen our neighborhoods. As your councilmember, I will continue to work with diverse groups, listen to neighbors and take action for successful results to shape a community we can all be proud of.

In my professional work, I’ve spent more than 20 years as a bilingual elementary school teacher and currently serve as the principal at Bay View Elementary School. Every day, I help students demonstrate kindness, respect and diversity through their actions. I have firsthand knowledge of the issues facing working parents. My community values — to encourage collaboration and unity — define my service professionally and my work on the city council.

I believe my public service, experience and professional background make me uniquely qualified to help our community build a sustainable future and to address our biggest challenges. Santa Cruz is embedded in my heart and soul and that’s why I work tirelessly to make it better.

Please focus on the single most important issue facing your city and how, if elected, you will address it. Be as specific as space allows.

Answer: Not one “single important issue.”

I’ve been in public service my entire life. I earned a master’s degree in leadership and served on numerous public service projects for local kids, including: school bond initiatives, board service on the Santa Cruz Junior Guards booster club and as a member of the Mission Hill Middle School and Santa Cruz High School site councils and PTAs. Additionally, I was appointed by the mayor to serve on the Santa Cruz Public Safety Citizen Task Force, a yearlong effort that examined city- and county-wide public safety priorities.

Through my service, I have learned that there is not one “single important issue” facing our city. Instead, I learned firsthand that the fabric of local government is interconnected and interdependent on the working relations among community stakeholders, nonprofits, local jurisdictions and our neighborhoods.

Leading efforts to find common ground and listening to each other is critical to successful results. Additionally, it is clear that making our community safe and environmentally healthy for our children and for future generations is a critical priority.

Those who know me know I care deeply about Santa Cruz’s youth.

As your councilmember, and if I’m fortunate to be reelected, I will remain committed to prioritize the environmental health of our open spaces, parks and beaches, addressing homelessness, preventing wildfires and planning for climate change. I’m also keen to work on affordable housing, transportation and infrastructure projects, while stewarding our San Lorenzo River watershed.

I will continue supporting local businesses to build our tax base/general fund and ensure city workers make a fair wage. It takes a broad understanding and interdepartmental collaboration to solve all these “issues.” This requires experience and the ability to make tough decisions regarding complex community problems.

I am serious about this work, and, as a councilmember, will remain focused on the long-term health and prosperity of our city, not just what “the most important issue” is today.

Sean Maxwell

Santa Cruz City Council candidate Sean Maxwell
Santa Cruz City Council District 6 candidate Sean Maxwell.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Please tell readers why they should vote for you. What specifically sets you apart from your competitors?

I’m running because I, like many Santa Cruzans, am concerned about the direction of our city. I’ve raised my family here and seen many friends and neighbors pushed out. I understand the struggles of people in this community because I’ve experienced them, too.

I’m committed to transparency and fiscal responsibility.

I will work in the public interest to address our most pressing challenges and to rebuild trust between our local government and the community. I will engage with diverse community voices and bring people into decision making about policy and budget priorities. I will push back on overbuilding of luxury housing and commercial space.

While city leaders argue that their vision benefits our local economy, the costs are enormous — socially in the form of gentrification and displacement, and fiscally (just think about how much the city spends on consultants and legal fees to push its agenda forward).

As a planning commissioner for the past two years, I have been fighting for policies to increase and preserve affordable housing. My support comes from working families, not real estate and developer interests. I’ll show up for neighborhood integrity and affordable housing — it is possible to have both.

Please focus on the single most important issue facing your city and how, if elected, you will address it. Be as specific as space allows.

Answer: Affordable housing.

Affordable housing is our biggest challenge. It cuts across issues of community health, safety and quality of life. It is key to ensuring cultural diversity and economic stability.

Our community thrives because of its people — those who do the work to teach our children, provide us with health care, pick up our garbage, keep our drinking water clean and so on. Our development agenda must reflect and address their/our needs, rather than developers’ profit margins.

Watching friends, co-workers and neighbors struggle to find and keep stable, affordable housing (and experiencing housing insecurity myself) motivated me to join the Santa Cruz City Planning Commission in 2020. Since then, affordable housing has become my passion.

I believe building and preserving deed-restricted, low-income housing stock is key to navigating our affordable-housing crisis. As a planning commissioner, I have supported numerous recommendations to increase low-income housing percentages in new development, through mechanisms like the inclusionary zoning ordinance, objective standards and downtown expansion. Unfortunately, the current council majority has voted against even considering these recommendations.

I believe we need a multipronged approach to the affordability crisis. As a council member I would work to:

  • Increase the percentage of affordable units for projects receiving large density bonuses, which allow them to build well beyond current zoning limits.
  • Incorporate affordability into the city’s Objective Standards for Housing Development, which is one of the few mechanisms available to us to shape future development projects.
  • Work to include meaningful affordable housing recommendations as part of the city’s General Plan Housing Element process.
  • Create dedicated revenue sources for low-income housing development (which means housing that is affordable to people earning under $87,000 per year these days).
  • Leverage existing city-owned properties and pursue state surplus lands to dedicate to affordable projects, as land costs are a major barrier.

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