Election 2022

On the Campaign Trail

A mobile voting trailer from the Santa Cruz County Clerk at the downtown farmers market
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Access Democracy sig

Welcome to On the Campaign Trail. We will update this page continuously with the latest news about any and all things election.

For campaigns, send us your news and events. Readers, send us your election questions and any tidbits you pick up from the campaign trail. Send them to us at elections@lookoutlocal.com. You can also get text alerts directly from the Lookout newsroom with the latest Santa Cruz County political news. Click here to sign up.

And remember: Check back through the day for fresh content.




Santa Cruzans holding on to ballots longer than usual

Ballot box

Tricia Webber, the Santa Cruz County Clerk, sees our procrastination.

Santa Cruz County registered voters who cast their ballots by mailing their ballots in or dropping them off, are taking longer than usual to close the deal.

“The vote-by-mails are waiting. It used to be that we would get this huge amount right after we sent them,” said Webber. “And then it would kind of trickle in, and then about one to two weeks before [Election Day] they would shoot up. Now, it’s not shooting up until Sunday or Monday [before Election Day.]”

As of Monday afternoon, the county had about 41,000 vote-by-mail and early in-person voting ballots out of 167,000 registered voters in Santa Cruz County roughly. In other words, just 24.5% of registered voters had submitted early ballots the day before election day.

On Tuesday, as of 4 p.m., Webber said that about 4,200 people had voted in-person across the county, and officials had picked up an additional estimated 10,000 vote-by-mail ballots that had been dropped off.

“I don’t know if it’s because our lives are busier and we just need more time to go over the ballot, if the candidates or contests are becoming more complicated, and we need more time to review them,” Webber said. “Or we’re waiting as a society for the next piece of mail to come, the next radio and the next TV ad to help us form our opinion, but voters are waiting and waiting and waiting.”

The percentage of people that were permanent vote-by-mail voters has consistently been at over 70% of registered voters – a high amount, she said. When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in September last year to require that ballots be mailed to all voters, it only made the option to vote-by-mail easier.

Webber emphasized that actual humans, not machines, have to open the vote-by-mail ballots and verify the signatures – which takes time.

Election officials have 30 days to count the votes and mail-in-ballots postmarked on Election Day can be counted through Nov. 15.

“It’s going to take us at least five to seven days to go through everything that will be turned in [Tuesday],” she said.

On Election night, she said her office will post the “unofficial” results sometime between 8 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. Those results will include all the in-person votes that happened before Tuesday and the vote-by-mails that they have processed.

Following that first result drop, Webber said, they’ll post updates of the in-person voting every 1 ½ hours or so until they get all of Tuesday’s in-person voting done. Then they’ll be done for the night.

“I’m hoping that it’ll be somewhere between midnight and 1 a.m.,” she said. “In June, we didn’t finish until 3:30am. It just depends. You never know. You never know.”




4th District Santa Cruz City Council candidate Hector Marin speaks to his Florida arrest and resolution of the charges

Throughout his campaign, Santa Cruz City Council 4th District candidate Hector Marin has often mentioned justice system reform, particularly when it comes to nonviolent incidents and mental health crises.

Those beliefs are partly inspired by personal experience: In February, Marin was arrested in Palm Beach, Florida, on two charges, one of indecent exposure and one of resisting an officer without violence.

An incident report sent to Lookout by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office states that on the night of Feb. 11, officers on duty received a call regarding a naked male having a verbal dispute with a tow truck driver.

Santa Cruz City Council candidate Hector Marin
Santa Cruz City Council candidate Hector Marin speaks during a Lookout forum last month.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Upon arrival, the responding officer saw a naked Marin with lacerations on his neck and legs, with sand covering his body. He was then handcuffed, but refused to provide his date of birth and correct name, which led to the charge of resisting arrest without violence.

Palm Beach County Court records from May show that the indecent exposure charge was dropped, indicated by the term “nolle prossed,” which means that the judge and/or the prosecutor decided to no longer pursue the case.

The document shows that Marin did plead guilty to resisting an officer without violence, but with the note “adjudication withheld,” meaning Marin was not formally convicted. He was ultimately ordered to pay $373 in court costs.

In an interview with Lookout, Marin said that while he does not remember large portions of the night’s events, he attributes the incident to a “mental health episode” induced by a bad psilocybin mushroom trip. He has no recollection of how he received the lacerations.

Marin says that the incident speaks to the need for community-based teams who can respond to mental health crises and nonviolent incidents. It is also a personal experience he says has further motivated his advocacy for a reimagining of the justice system.

“Within Santa Cruz, there’s been a decriminalization of psychedelic mushrooms, and we need to ensure that when it comes to nonviolent situations, that there’s a peaceful and amenable community-based response,” he said, adding that he believes the officers handled the situation poorly. “I bet you if I was white, I wouldn’t have received that aggressive of a treatment.”

“This is a lived experience, and they don’t lie. Just having one is really telling how we need that reformation of the criminal justice system and that we need to reinvent how policing works,” Marin said. “We need to stop these physically aggressive responses that some, but not all, police officers practice.”

Marin, 25, is a 2021 UC Santa Cruz graduate. While at UCSC, he was elected chair of the UCSC NAACP, and now serves as a member of the Circle on Anti Racism, Economic and Social Justice — an advisory body to the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County.

— Max Chun


Three Cabrillo College trustee candidates withdraw from race, leaving incumbents unopposed

Three candidates running for seats on Cabrillo College’s board of trustees withdrew from their races against three incumbents, leaving those races uncontested.

Incumbents Donna Ziel, Adam Spickler and J. Dan Rothwell are set to remain in their seats after Sara E. Brylowski, Bob Kittle and Mark Hucklebridge, respectively, withdrew. At this point in the race, Brylowski, Kittle and Hucklebridge’s names will all remain on the ballot.

Eight people serve on the board of trustees and each serve four-year terms. The terms for trustees Christina Cuevas, Rachael Spencer, Felipe Hernandez and Steve Trujillo are set to expire in December 2024.

The board also has one student trustee who serves a one-year term. Fellow students recently elected Deviné Hardy.

— Hillary Ojeda


Keeping perspective while doing campaign battle

With one week to go before Election Day, it’s a good time for a reminder from Professor Keeley — the not-so-alternate ego of Santa Cruz mayoral candidate Fred Keeley, who likes to appear quite often while in conversation with reporters.

If Keeley rolls to a historic victory next week as most believe he will, the longtime politics and government lecturer will be bringing his collegial, professorial nature with him to Santa Cruz City Hall. It’s just who he is.

“The day after the election, the other person doesn’t matter,” was a pearl recently dropped by Keeley.

It was in reference to how he feels good, positive battles are being waged by good, positive candidates. He was specifically referencing his contest versus Joy Schendledecker and how Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson are conducting themselves in the fight for 3rd District Santa Cruz County Supervisor.

But he just as easily could’ve been pointing to the above-board battle between Gail Pellerin and Liz Lawler for the state Assembly’s 28th District.

“Why spend a lot of time fighting with the other person because the relationship is between me and the voters and Joy and the voters?” Keeley said. “We’re having the kind of campaign that I think voters like, which is she’s talking about her value system and how it would affect her performance on issues and I’m doing the same thing.”

— Mark Conley




More taxes or budget cutting: Santa Cruz City Council District 4 candidates debate how the city can meet its needs

Lookout’s final forum of the election season was also the one showcasing the lowest level of experience.

None of the three candidates for the District 4 seat on the Santa Cruz City Council — Greg Hyver, Hector Marin and Scott Newsome — has ever held office, and each has quite different ideas for a successful District 4.

Their disparate visions were on full display Monday at Hotel Paradox during a discussion on raising revenue for the city.

Hyver said he thinks that cutting from ineffective programs is the answer, rather than hiking taxes, like Measure F sought to in the June primary.

“I don’t believe in continually taxing people higher and higher and higher. I would really want to focus on trimming some of the bad programs in the budget,” he said. “I’m trying to help the individual have a better life that isn’t so drawn or burdened by the government.”

Newsome, who said he voted yes on Measure F, showcased his pragmatic views by raising the possibility of filling the approximately 15 empty storefronts on Pacific Avenue downtown as a way to stimulate the economy and continue recovery — especially as the district prepares for potentially thousands of new residents.

“I think that’s the best way to generate revenue and provide more jobs going forward,” he said, adding that the extra revenue could help prevent things like the city workers strike. “More funds can stop any contract disputes like that.”

Marin, meanwhile, said he did not cast a vote for Measure F, and sees the issue not of needing more money, but of allocating funds differently — with community input at the forefront.

“We have to ensure that people are properly represented when it comes to having an input on funding allocations,” he said. “We also have to ensure that we have a city budget that answers to all of the people in the community.”

— Max Chun


The path to affordable housing is the defining difference in city council District 6

In the race to be Santa Cruz’s first directly elected city councilmember from the Westside, Sean Maxwell and Renée Golder have named affordable housing as among their top priorities; however, during Monday’s forum, the District 6 candidates put considerable distance between themselves when it comes to their solutions.

The name of the wedge between them? Inclusionary zoning.

Santa Cruz City Council candidates Renée Golder (left) and Sean Maxwell during Monday's forum
Santa Cruz City Council candidates Renée Golder (left) and Sean Maxwell during Monday’s forum.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Maxwell said he sees the city’s existing policy to require 20% of the units in new developments to be set aside for low-income residents as not going far enough. He bristles against the argument that a rate higher than 20% wouldn’t “pencil out for developers.” During the forum, he pushed for a city council that asks how much developer profit is really necessary for housing to be built.

Golder said she believes the 20% inclusionary rate is working as is and stands firmly against raising it. She said in the three years since she became a city councilmember, the council voted to approve hundreds of affordable units.

“What happens [if we increase the rate] is that 30% of nothing is still nothing,” Golder said. “I don’t want to make it so restricted that nothing gets built.”

— Christopher Neely


Lawler, Pellerin show what a classy partisan debate can look like

It was more or less a lighthearted punctuation to their level-headed 60-minute discourse, but that didn’t diminish it as a perfectly poignant summation.

“We’re planning a spa day when this is over,” Gail Pellerin quipped, sitting on the stage next to fellow Assembly District 28 candidate Liz Lawler at the Hotel Paradox on Monday night.

California State Assembly District 28 candidates Liz Lawler (left) and Gail Pellerin share a laugh during Monday's forum
California State Assembly District 28 candidates Liz Lawler (left) and Gail Pellerin share a laugh during Monday’s forum.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

If only Democrats and Republicans could debate serious issues this maturely all the time.

There was Pellerin, the devoutly liberal Democrat who has championed voting rights, same-sex marriage rights and reproductive rights for decades. And there was Lawler, the daughter of a prominent Reagan-era fiscal conservative who is campaigning on more red-meat Republican staples: reform in Sacramento, a better economic climate for business owners and no new taxes.

Together they made the middle ground look plentiful while fielding questions from Lookout’s Jody K. Biehl and assembled audience members trying to parse the Nov. 8 general election options. Biehl helped the cause at the end by asking each to define their competitor (“passionate,” Lawler said of Pellerin … “resilient,” Pellerin said of Lawler).

But she also gave each plenty of rebuttal time to delve deeper on issues where their views differ: reproductive rights, the state of Sacramento politics, climate change solutions.

While Pellerin remains the heavy favorite to oversee the newly drawn district that straddles “the hill,” the only clear winner after Monday night’s clear-headed debate was democracy.

— Mark Conley




Watsonville city council candidates softly clash at forum

Though not exactly a hair-raiser, Wednesday night’s South County candidates forum saw some interesting developments — especially on how the dividing lines on Watsonville’s new city council might take shape.

The four council hopefuls who attended the event — Maria Orozco, vying for the District 3 seat; Kristal Salcido, for District 4; and Nancy Bilicich and Ari Parker, both for District 7 — fell on different sides of the three measures on Watsonville voters’ ballots this November.

Watsonville ballot measures

A look at the propositions facing voters in the city of Watsonville on Nov. 8:

MEASURE Q: Would effectively renew Measure U, originally passed by Watsonville voters in 2002, which limited future residential, industrial and commercial development to within a defined urban limit line (ULL), the boundaries of which could not be changed unless approved by voters. If Measure Q passes, the ULL would not be able to be amended unless approved by voters until Nov. 3, 2040.

MEASURE S: The “Planning for Watsonville’s Future Measure” would, like Measure Q, renew Measure U, but would add exceptions to amending the ULL. If a project proposed outside the ULL meets certain criteria, subject to community input and environmental review, the ULL may be expanded to include it.

MEASURE R: The “Community Investment Tax Measure” would increase Watsonville’s sales tax rate from 9.25% to 9.75%, with new revenues — amounting to $5 million per year in general fund money — diverted toward infrastructure improvements and repairs, new playground equipment in city parks and schools and other community investments. It would also creates a “City Revenue Measure Oversight Committee” to review city spending at least biannually.

Casey Clark, the District 5 candidate, didn’t show.

Orozco and Salcido both said they supported Measure R, saying the new revenues it would generate would fund projects and programs Watsonville voters have long been clamoring for: infrastructure repairs and extracurricular activities for young people. The latter, all candidates agreed, would be vital for chipping away at gang participation in Watsonville.

On the opposite end, Parker and Bilicich said they don’t support Measure R because of the recent property assessment tax Watsonville voters passed on themselves this June to fund the upkeep of the future Pajaro River levee — a massive flood-prevention build with a $400 million price tag. Both said they think that adding a sales tax hike on top of this would introduce too many new costs for District 7 residents.

The same pattern held for Measures Q and S. Salcido and Orozco, both young professionals and political newcomers, both swung for S, saying the measure would give the council needed flexibility to decide where new housing gets put in Watsonville.

“Both [Q and S] maintain the limit line, but one allows a flexibility and reasonable growth into the future based off thoughtful planning and an input from our citizens and one does not,” Salcido said.

Parker and Bilicich, veterans of Watsonville leadership, both supported Q in lieu of S.

“Measure Q will protect the land for 20 years,” Bilicich said. “Measure S will protect for 20 years but gives the council the power to annex as needed. Councils come and go. But the people need to make the decision.”

But this left the only two candidates running against each with few disagreements. One area where they did disagree? How they think the future of downtown Watsonville should take shape. Asked whether each candidate would support a “road diet” that would see the number of lanes on Main Street, Watsonville cut down from four to two to make room for bicycle lanes, Parker said she supports policies that would make downtown Watsonville more pedestrian-friendly.

Bilicich, on the other hand, said this plan doesn’t address the issues of traffic and emergency vehicle access endemic to the city.

“People may walk, people may bike but they are not going to give up their vehicles,” Bilicich said.

— Thomas Sawano


No mention of civil suit during forum; afterward Dutra says he feels support

Anyone who tuned into the District 4 county supervisor portion of Wednesday night’s South County candidate forum seeking discourse on Jimmy Dutra’s legal proceedings was left disappointed. Not a single word was mentioned about the civil suit filed against the Watsonville City Councilmember by Stephen Siefke on Oct. 5.

That, according to event organizer Shaz Roth, CEO of the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce, was very much by design.

“We’re making sure it plays no part in this,” Roth said before the event began. “That’s not what we want people commenting about online as it pertains to this race. And it’s also on live radio.”

Dutra fell only a few percentage points shy of winning the primary election in June, but third-party candidate Ed Acosta complicated matters and Felipe Hernandez was able to push it to a November runoff.

Dutra was believed to have a comfortable lead before the Siefke allegations dropped. Now no one within South County political circles seems to know what to think about how the race will play out.

Asked afterward whether he felt he could weather the storm, Dutra seemed undeterred.

“Oh, absolutely — I’ve been knocking on doors, people are supportive, I’ve been getting a lot of hugs,” he said. “Now we’ve just got to let the courts take over from here. And I’ve got to win a race.”

— Mark Conley


Liz Lawler calls building tagger’s actions ‘disheartening’

Whether those who are scrawling her name and a heart in red spray paint on buildings around Santa Cruz are big fans or not, Liz Lawler says she is no fan of the attention they’re bringing to her campaign for state Assembly District 28.

Liz Lawler graffiti on a building in Santa Cruz.
(Ashley Holmes / Lookout Santa Cruz)

“It’s unbelievable,” she said Wednesday. “It’s not my campaign. I don’t know who it is. We’re urging people to call the authorities. It’s very frustrating.”

After more turned up this week, she even decided it was time to issue a statement to that effect.

“I’ve asked a few people if there might be video footage from some of these businesses because it would be nice to know who it is,” she said. “It’s really disheartening that someone’s doing this and they’re not stopping.”

— Mark Conley




Dutra’s lawyer says allegations ‘false’; no response to other questions

Jimmy Dutra, 4th District Santa Cruz County Supervisor candidate and Watsonville City Councilmember, told media members assembled at his news conference last week that questions should be directed to his attorney. Dutra was defending himself against charges levied by Stephen Siefke a week earlier.

So we assembled a list and sent them to Christopher Panetta of Monterey-based Fenton & Keller. They included much of what we’ve heard others wondering aloud: What is Dutra’s relationship with Stephen Siefke now and what was it then?

What does he remember about his alleged interaction with Stephen that night that would be good for the public to know? What should the public know about the charges they don’t?

When did you learn about the accusation and from whom? What did you do when you heard?

In a short email correspondence, Panetta called the charges “false” and politically motivated — but said he wouldn’t otherwise be answering anything on his client’s behalf at this time.

“The charges against Mr. Dutra are false and we believe were timed to harm Mr. Dutra’s election,” he said. “Because this matter is in litigation, I will not provide you with any additional information beyond what Mr. Dutra provided at his recent press conference.”

If you missed the news conference, where Dutra called the charges about “money, revenge,” here’s my writeup, which includes Kevin Painchaud’s video and visuals of Dutra delivering his statement.

What will Dutra say about any of this at tonight’s candidate forum (more on that below)? Stay tuned.

— Mark Conley



We had some debates at Lookout before our own hosted debate, aka the forum on city of Santa Cruz ballot measures N and O, that we hosted at Hotel Paradox on Monday evening. Together, did they spell NO, highly popular with two of the sides, or ON, a more intriguing and ambiguous combo. In the end, what we saw was a fairly polite donnybrook on each of the two panels. Our correspondents found it difficult to find much the two sides of each question agreed upon.

The second of Lookout’s forums (catch up on the first, held Thursday with Santa Cruz mayoral candidates and 3rd District County Supervisor candidates) attracted a fairly boisterous crowd of about 85, more than the first forum. But our (cash) bartender reported that they drank three times as much as the Thursday crowd (Foppiano chardonnay and Josh Cellars cabernet proved the favorites). Another 43 tuned in via Zoom. And for those who missed the immediate action, we’ll offer the videos, whole and segmented, with later coverage.

Wallace Baine, who had written Lookout’s piece on the complex Measure O, hosted, pitching tough questions, and was able to get the crowd to reduce, if not eliminate, its cheering and finger-snapping.

Below, our correspondents Max Chun and Christopher Neely capture some early highlights of the evening, and we’ll follow up with more coverage on the event.

And be sure to mark your calendar for our third forum, Monday, Oct. 24, featuring Santa Cruz City Council and state Assembly District 28 candidates. Sign up for in-person or Zoom access. Thank you to our forum sponsors Santa Cruz Works and Hotel Paradox for helping bring these events to life.


‘Empty homes’; full disagreement

The two spokespeople for the opposing sides of Santa Cruz city Measure N, the so-called empty home tax, took to the stage at Lookout’s second of three forums. Monday featured debates on the two major city measures on the November ballot, Measure N and Measure O.

And Measure N’s debate contained a host of disagreements.

Planning commission chair and Yes on Measure N campaign manager Cyndi Dawson and Santa Cruz Together No leader Lynn Renshaw agreed on almost nothing. From the measure’s invasiveness to the money it would raise and even the city’s financial impact estimates, the only general common ground was the obvious assertion that there is a need for affordable housing in Santa Cruz.

Renshaw’s main concerns focused on the audits and the misdemeanor penalties the measure would establish. Her main point about the audits: They would require too much personal information.

Dawson said the auditing process would be no different from other taxes, and pointed to Santa Cruz school bond Measures K and L’s literature showing they would establish audits and an oversight committee as well.

Looking to squash concerns, Dawson asked the crowd how many people have been audited by the IRS. Though a few people raised their hands, little did they know that they had given her fodder.

“That’s really interesting that all the people audited by the IRS are all against Measure N,” she said, perhaps hinting at a class difference over the measure, or perhaps something else.

As for the misdemeanor penalties N could put into effect, Renshaw took issue with how broadly she thinks the punishments will be handed out in comparison to other vacancy taxes, arguing that even minor infractions would constitute a criminal penalty.

“Oakland does not have these criminal penalties for their tax,” she said. “This tax states it would be a separate offense for each and every day of which a violation is committed.”

Again, Dawson viewed this as overblown.

“An infraction is not a criminal penalty,” she said. “You’d have to repeatedly ignore the requirements of the ledger.”

Tax revenue was another major disagreement between the two.

Renshaw said she believes the amount the tax would raise, even at the city’s high estimate of $4.1 million, would do little for overall affordable housing needs.

“This might help a few dozen families over a decade, but the other 65,000 residents will be in the same position,” she said. “The revenue coming in compared to the expense to the city is a drop in the bucket.”

Dawson, though, is confident the money can be leveraged through matching grants, and could end up, she said, creating tens of millions of dollars out of the generally modest city estimates.

— Max Chun


Dawson, Renshaw tussle over ideology to round out Measure N debate

In the lively, fairly intense exchange, Lynn Renshaw took a stab at Cyndi Dawson, a self-identifying Democratic Socialist, by sharing something Dawson had said previously, that the empty home tax is part of the longer-term project of “ending capitalism.”

Renshaw found this to be entirely unrealistic.

“This is remarkable, of course, because capitalism is a federal system, and there’s not going to be ending capitalism through city laws,” she said.

Dawson, however, rebutted the jab by saying that she is a property owner, and that political viewpoints are irrelevant in this discussion.

“This is not about politics, this is about making sure that our community is stabilized. It’s about all of us coming together,” she said.

— Max Chun


Measure O’s affordable housing paradox put under examination during Monday night debate

Supporters and rejecters of Measure O packed the Hotel Paradox in a debate that seemed to produce its own paradox: A yes on Measure O, according to its supporters, means a vote for affordable housing, except that it also means a vote against affordable housing.

At the center of Measure O is a downtown library mixed-use project planned for Lot 4, the location of the downtown farmers market that has happened every Wednesday for the past 20 years. The mixed-use project, which goes back a decade and has yet to break ground, includes a new library, a three level parking structure and 124 units of affordable housing.

Former Santa Cruz mayor Don Lane (left) and Lira Filippini talked Measure O.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

A yes vote on Measure O would abandon that library project and its housing, aim to keep the farmers market on Lot 4 as part of a downtown commons vision still in the early conceptual phase, keep the downtown branch library in its existing location, and require, to the “maximum extent feasible,” affordable housing on eight existing city-owned parking lots.

Amid sneers and quiet jeers from the No on O crowd, Lira Filippini, co-chair of the pro-O group Our Downtown, Our Future, focused her arguments on the value of city-owned lots and the vision of that downtown commons concept.

"[If O fails] we lose the absolute best place that we have downtown for a community living room, a place where there is a daily activity, where there is live music, where the farmers market would have a permanent home with big trees,” Filippini said. “Beyond that, we lose the community’s ability to rest assured that we have a clear understanding of the fact that our land will be used for our most crucial needs.”

Representing the anti-O interests, former mayor Don Lane argued that the community has much to lose if Measure O passes, including the diversity of people who are able to live in Santa Cruz.

“The Measure O campaign uses exactly the same language as what a NIMBY uses, which is: ‘We want affordable housing … but, wait, no, not there,’” Lane said in his closing argument. “We cannot do this anymore, we cannot say no to affordable housing. We need to protect the kind of community we want to be: a diverse community that has a variety of people.”

— Christopher Neely


Dutra-Hernandez and council candidates in Watsonville on Wednesday

We’ll hear from the District 4 Santa Cruz County Supervisor and Watsonville City Council candidates Wednesday in a forum hosted by the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and KSCO radio.

Jimmy Dutra and Felipe Hernandez, the 4th District supervisor candidates, will talk about where they differ on issues. And those vying for Watsonville City Council seats — Nancy Bilicich, Ari Parker, Casey Clark, Kristal Salcido and Maria Orozco — will also hold court.

It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at Watsonville Civic Plaza’s Community Room, located at 275 Main St. The best parking option is atop the six-story structure on Rodriguez Street.

The event will also be aired live on KSCO AM 1080 and FM 104.1.

— Mark Conley


Cummings is ‘feeling much better;’ credits vaccine and boosters

Justin Cummings says he’s feeling better — and he told Lookout on Monday morning that it “goes to show you that the vaccines and boosters work.”

After hearing from a few readers wondering if he was vaccinated, we reached back out to Cummings to ask that crucial question, and he was quick to clarify and use it as a public service opportunity.

“Might be worth reminding people that last holiday season we saw the biggest spike in COVID cases,” he said. “With the holidays right around the corner if people haven’t gotten their second booster, it might be a good time to do so.”

This is Cummings’ third bout with COVID, and he said he attributes his vulnerability to his increase in getting back out in the world.

“As a musician, live music is a big part of my life,” he said. “Since being vaccinated I’ve been going to more concerts. On the campaign trail, I have also been at many more large gatherings both indoor and outdoor. By going to these kinds of gatherings, my exposure risk is much higher.”

He said each bout has been less severe.

“The first time I had COVID, I only had the J&J shot and it was pretty intense for about a week,” he said. “Since being boosted, last time it was intense for about three days. And this time — we’ll see — but so far yesterday and last night were the worst and I’m feeling much better today.”

As a lifelong asthmatic and a scientist, Cummings said he is grateful for the protection our country’s quick work has provided him and others.

“Since the beginning of COVID, the goal has been to create a vaccine to minimize the severity and intensity,” he said. “To prevent deaths and not overwhelm our health care system — and make it so we can go back to living our lives as best we can.”

— Mark Conley


Wildfire response top of mind for Kalantari-Johnson

Bonny Doon and Davenport, which were greatly affected by the CZU fire of 2020, would be part of 3rd District Supervisor candidate Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson‘s zone if she were to get past Justin Cummings next month.

But she said those who live in the wildland-urban interface zones of Santa Cruz should be just as concerned for the future.

Which is why, she says, she’s been meeting regularly with leaders of the group Firewise in different parts of the district. Firewise aims to educate and mobilize communities around fire preparedness.

And it’s why DeLaveaga Park, one of the city’s most beloved wildland-urban interface zones, will be the location for a Tuesday town hall. The event will be at DeLaveaga Elementary School at 6:30 p.m. and she’ll co-host it with District 1 Supervisor Manu Koenig and other leaders from the city and Firewise.

While Kalantari-Johnson has much to say about problems that faced those lost homes in the CZU, she says she also wants to look ahead at how the response can be better if and when a “next time” comes along.

“The response was inadequate,” she said. “I think our efforts for fuel mitigation and fire prevention have been spotty, and there’s a lot more to do there.”

She says the county’s contract with Cal Fire needs much closer scrutiny.

“They’re a state agency, so we lose that level of local oversight,” she said. “I want us to look at the Cal Fire contract, look at how other communities like us have done it where there is more transparency, more oversight. A lot of it is outdated and needs to be revised.”

— Mark Conley




Cummings gets socked by COVID-19 for the third time

Third District supervisor candidate Justin Cummings is already facing a formidable challenge in the form of opponent Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson.

Now he’s also battling COVID-19 for the third time. Cummings announced Sunday on Facebook that after an active few days of campaigning at various events, he was feeling bad and decided to take a COVID test. It was positive.

“The pandemic is not over yet,” he wrote. “So be vigilant and if we were in contact over the weekend, you may want to go get tested.”

Cummings also appeared with Kalantari-Johnson at the Hotel Paradox on Thursday night for a forum hosted by Lookout.

Asked Sunday evening to elaborate on how he was feeling and how it might affect a key week of outreach for him, Cummings said he was looking at the bright side of his health situation.

“I’m not feeling all that great at the moment. Chills, fever, aches, runny nose, but my breathing has not been compromised,” he said.

He did say he was worried about those with whom he might have crossed paths in recent days.

“I spent a good portion of the day reaching out to people I had been in contact with over the weekend and posted a message on Facebook so people are aware,” he said. “Sadly, this means I won’t be out in public and am reaching out to scheduled events and forums to see if they can potentially postpone. It also means I won’t be able to join SEIU workers who are going on strike at City Hall tomorrow morning, but will be providing a statement of support.”

— Mark Conley


Keeley doesn’t anticipate running for a second mayoral term if elected, but stops short of commitment

Fred Keeley, one of Santa Cruz’s preeminent local politicos and mayor hopeful, might be looking at only one term as mayor if elected. However, the former state assemblymember and county supervisor would not commit, at this point, to not running again in 2026.

The immediately apparent differences between career politician Fred Keeley and political newcomer Joy Schendledecker...

“I’m 72. If I was elected, I’d leave office when I was 76. I’m not anticipating more than one term,” Keeley said. “Having said that, I’ve been around long enough to know that if you say you’re going to do one term, hard stop, then you’re somewhere between a lame duck and a dead duck the day you get sworn in. So I am not making that pledge.”

The topic of one term came up in conversations with his wife before deciding to run.

“I will say, Barbara and I, our plan for our life together is that I see that as one term to help in this transition from one kind of governance to another,” Keeley said.

— Christopher Neely


Ami Chen Mills endorses Justin Cummings for 3rd District county supervisor

Ami Chen Mills, who split the vote in the 3rd District county supervisor primary election — forcing a runoff in November — is backing Justin Cummings in the general election. The move has been expected after Chen Mills’ 2,436 votes in June meant that neither Cummings nor Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson tallied a majority. Cummings and Chen Mills have typically found themselves taking similar positions as progressives in local politics.

On Friday, Chen Mills cited the reasons for her support.

“Cummings has his own deep understanding of the climate crisis and agreed enthusiastically in our meetings to promote organic and regenerative agriculture countywide, as well as to support and encourage food security throughout the county,” she said. “He also agreed to seriously consider Land Back for Indigenous tribes and ensure that Central Coast Community Energy remains loyal to our community and to promote independence from PG&E grids and blackouts.”

She also said she believes that Cummings is a strong leader who can effectively connect with people he might disagree with.

Chen Mills also endorsed Joy Schendledecker for Santa Cruz mayor.

Max Chun




Mayoral candidates distance themselves on sidewalk camping

Fred Keeley and Joy Schendledecker took quite contrasting stands during a candidates forum hosted by Lookout on Thursday evening. The first of three forums featured the two Santa Cruz mayoral candidates and 3rd District county supervisor candidates Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and Justin Cummings. We’ll have video up of the forum later Friday and additional coverage.

No topic put more distance between the mayoral candidates than that of members of the homeless community camping on sidewalks. Both were asked whether they believed the unhoused had a right to camp on city sidewalks.

“Public spaces belong to everybody, not just one group over another,” Keeley initially said during the forum. When asked again after the forum, he offered a clarifying answer. “No. That’s pretty clear, huh?”

Schendledecker, who referred to the homeless community as “displaced economic refugees,” said people have a right to be in their communities. That includes the sidewalks if they have nowhere else to go.

“Well, where are people going to go? People have to go somewhere. Are they supposed to kill themselves? They have the right to exist,” Schendledecker said. “I don’t want anyone to be sleeping on the sidewalk. Everybody should have safe, secure housing. If they don’t have it, then where do we expect them to go?”

Keeley and Schendledecker did agree that the Benchlands needed to be eventually cleared as a homeless encampment since it is in a dangerous flood zone along the San Lorenzo River. Schendledecker, however, did voice support for slowing the process down until there was enough safe and adequate housing for Benchlands residents to move into.

Keeley again emphasized the distinction he sees between the city’s and county’s role in homeless response, saying the city is responsible for brick-and-mortar services and needed to do more — possibly through a publicly negotiated housing bond — to stand up more facilities, while the county needed to step up in providing more services.

— Christopher Neely




Jimmy Dutra steps down as board chair of Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance

After the Pajaro Valley Unified School District confirmed to Lookout on Tuesday that Jimmy Dutra was no longer employed as a substitute teacher at the district, another organization confirmed Dutra was no longer serving on its board.

On Wednesday, Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance board member Nancy Bilicich told Lookout that Dutra informed the organization the day before that he was stepping down from serving on the board.

Dutra was serving as the board president for PVPSA, an organization that has provided mental health and educational services to families in the Pajaro Valley since 1991. Bilicich, who is running for a seat on the Watsonville City Council, said she would be stepping in as the interim chair of the board.


John Laird, the state measures whisperer

John Laird is now among the elder statesmen in Santa Cruz, elected as state senator in 2020, capping (for now) a career that began in 1983 as (rotating) mayor of the city of Santa Cruz. Given that career, and a good memory, he’s a walking Wikipedia of regional politics. Santa Cruz’s Democratic Women’s Club invited Laird to narrate his views on the most contentious of the measures on the California ballot, their stated purposes, their chances and who’s supporting and opposing them. Here, in an hour-plus-long video, he is doing more play-by-play and color commentary that some voters might find helpful.




Allegations against Dutra show no effects at Watsonville City Council

No one could blame Jimmy Dutra for sweating the campaign heat that has ratcheted up the past five days, but there was little sign of stress on Dutra’s face Tuesday night at a meeting of the Watsonville City Council.

The city council member who is running for 4th District County Supervisor was accused in a civil suit filed last week of sexually assaulting a minor in 2005. Then, on Tuesday, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District confirmed to Lookout that Dutra was no longer employed as a substitute teacher or instructor in the after-school program at Lakeview Middle School.

The alleged victim, Stephen Siefke, who was 12 at the time and is now 29, spoke to me Monday, along with his attorney, in an in-depth exclusive interview. It shed further light on what he says happened, who knew and why he’s coming forth now with those allegations against his onetime family friend, Dutra, who was 30 when the alleged incident occurred.

In the interview, Siefke says that the timing of his announcement was personal in nature, and acknowledges that he was seeking an impact that could interrupt Dutra’s future as a leader in Watsonville.

As he sat in council chambers Tuesday evening, Dutra appeared to be taking the evening’s agenda as business as usual. In a phone call earlier in the day, he told me that he hadn’t been paying much attention to Siefke’s charges or the reaction from his PVUSD employers. He explained that he was helping show the delegation in town from Velas, Portugal — Watsonville’s newest sister city — around the area. When he served as mayor in 2021, he had helped forge that relationship.

At the meeting, after the delegates were awarded a key to the city by Mayor Ari Parker, it was Dutra who spoke about his Portuguese heritage and how pleased he was to be showing the guests around the Pajaro Valley this week.

Parker said a delegation from Watsonville will make the trip to Portugal in April to further the sister-city relations. (In case you were wondering, Watsonville also has sister cities in Japan, China, Croatia, Mexico and El Salvador.)

— Mark Conley


Young progressive and Starbucks union organizer Joe Thompson, now working on Gail Pellerin’s Assembly campaign, finds great value in campaign experience

Fresh off a state Assembly run of their own, Joe Thompson (they/them), the lead organizer of California’s first unionized Starbucks, has joined Gail Pellerin‘s campaign as she vies for the State Assembly District 28 seat.

Though Thompson is an up-and-coming face among the young progressives entering electoral politics, and Pellerin is an old-school Democrat, Thompson said working on campaigns offers skill-building for younger politicians.

“There’s still a lot that young progressives can learn from the older generations,” Thompson said, adding that learning how to run campaigns is important no matter what one’s political affiliation is. “Working with someone that has experience doing so, whether they’re a progressive or a lifelong Democrat, is extremely valuable knowledge.”

Plus, this particular campaign has some good perks.

“I’ve worked on a number of campaigns now, and I always say to Gail, ‘You’re the only one to actually pay me!’” they said.

Credit Pellerin with bringing Thompson, already an accomplished progressive organizer at 20, under her big tent.

— Max Chun




Housing and homelessness bond in 2024?

Where homelessness is concerned, Santa Cruz mayoral candidate Fred Keeley sees responsibilities divided between the county and city: The county delivers services and health care, the city focuses on brick and mortar.

To help fulfill this obligation, Keeley, if elected, wants to publicly negotiate an affordable housing bond to go on the ballot in 2024. The bond, he says, could help finance affordable housing construction and the standing-up of facilities needed for adequate homelessness response. Although he doesn’t foresee an expansion of the armory, Keeley says the Coral Street campus has the potential to become “substantially larger.”

— Christopher Neely


Liz Lawler graffiti spotted in downtown Santa Cruz

The downtown site of the graffiti, outside of Workbench on the corner of Center Street and Walnut Avenue.
(Max Chun / Lookout Santa Cruz)

At the corner of Center Street and Walnut Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz, passersby might have taken note of a familiar name on a wall outside of Workbench.

The name of State Assembly District 28 candidate Liz Lawler can be seen written in bright red paint with a heart in between her first and last names. It appears to have been made with spray paint and a stencil. There had been several other sites with similar graffiti around town, but they seem to have been cleaned up.

Lawler told Lookout she was not aware of the tags, and asked her supporters to refrain from this type of display.

“While I appreciate and thank them for their support, I would prefer if they displayed a yard sign instead, and I am happy to provide them,” she said.

— Max Chun




About that endorsement I gave you guys ...

The mayor of Santa Cruz and the 3rd District County Supervisor inevitably must work together on many issues. So if heavily favored Fred Keeley indeed takes the mayoral reins next month, it will be helpful that he has good relationships with both Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson.

Good enough, in fact, that he didn’t want to choose one or the other when providing an endorsement in the primary. He endorsed both and even held fundraising events for each of the candidates.

After those two advanced to the general election, and Keeley decided to throw his hat into the mayoral ring, it presented a rather odd predicament: He had to tell both he was rescinding his endorsement for the general election.

“I said to both, ‘Hey, we’re buddies. We’ll always be buddies, but I’ve got to do the right thing,’” Keeley said. “They understood and said, ‘Thank you so much for endorsing us in the primary.’ It was all very nice.”

— Mark Conley


Schendledecker wants to prioritize city-owned lots for housing

The question of housing looms large in all local races this fall, especially in the city of Santa Cruz, which will need to plan for more than 3,700 new units by 2031 as part of its state-mandated housing allocation.

Mayoral candidate Joy Schendledecker says she wants to see a paradigm shift when it comes to housing. Instead of leaning on developers’ ability to make a project “pencil out,” she wants to see the city become an active player.

“What we do is prioritize every single city-owned property for affordable housing, that’s No. 1,” Schendledecker said. “Then we use things like the revenue from the empty homes tax (Measure N) and increase the real estate transfer tax. We put that money into an affordable housing fund and we buy properties.”

Schendledecker also wants to see the city move away from a policy of allowing developers to pay a fee in lieu of including onsite affordable housing in their projects.

“We should get rid of that,” Schendledecker said.

Christopher Neely


Santa Cruz mayoral hopefuls split on ballot measures

A sea of differences sits between Santa Cruz mayoral candidates Fred Keeley and Joy Schendledecker, including how they plan to vote on two of the ballot measures in front of Santa Cruzans this election cycle.

Keeley, the former state assemblymember, says he will vote no on Measure O, which seeks to upend the city council-approved downtown mixed-use library project that would put a new library development with affordable housing and parking on the current site of the downtown farmers market. Measure O aims to keep the library’s downtown branch and the downtown farmers market at their existing sites, and block the construction of above-ground parking facilities on eight downtown lots in favor of an attempt to build affordable housing.

Keeley says he supports “affordable housing birds in the hand as opposed to the promise of a hamburger to be paid for on Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Keeley also says he will vote against Measure N, which proposes an annual tax of up to $6,000 on housing units that are occupied only 120 days out of the year. Keeley says the tedious administration of the tax, which places the onus on all property owners throughout Santa Cruz to prove their occupancy, is not worth what he considers to ultimately be a small tax base.

Keeley says he will refrain from publicly endorsing a side on either measure.

Schendledecker, a newcomer to local politics, says she will vote yes on both measures. She came out early in support of Measure N, backing the effort to derive value out of properties that sit vacant for most of the year. Measure O, however, required more thinking. “I was on the fence about it for a really long time,” Schendledecker said. “For a layperson, the language around preserving city lots for affordable housing sounds wishy-washy, but it’s the strictest legal language we could put in there. The city would have to work really hard to come up with a justification for selling [a city lot instead of using it for affordable housing]. That’s what tipped me over.”

— Christopher Neely




Can Dutra return to teaching Monday?

We enter the weekend with the shocking news of a child sexual abuse filing against District 4 County Supervisor candidate Jimmy Dutra.

There are many meetings taking place this weekend and next week between groups that have endorsed or have been associated with Dutra. They are considering what to say about their association with him. That includes those who have endorsed him for District 4 County Supervisor (See item below, “Endorsements a major question for supervisor candidate Jimmy Dutra amid child sex abuse claims”) and other groups.

The Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance (PVPSA), of which Dutra is currently the president, said it is “having an emergency board meeting on Wednesday” to decide what to do.

Lookout has confirmed that Dutra currently works as an English Language Arts substitute teacher at Lakeview Middle School’s after-school program.

Is he welcome to teach Monday?

A Pajaro Valley Unified School District spokesperson previously said the district would not comment on any personnel changes. Lookout is waiting to hear back on whether or not he returns to school.


Endorsements a major question for supervisor candidate Jimmy Dutra amid child sex abuse claims

A child sexual abuse filing against District 4 County Supervisor hopeful Jimmy Dutra is causing political shockwaves across the county that are sure to increase over the next week.

Lookout is continuing to reach out to his endorsers as this story develops. So far, none who have put their names behind Dutra have publicly abandoned the candidate; none have publicly said they are sticking with him, either.

Dutra, a Watsonville City Councilmember and Santa Cruz County Supervisor candidate for District 4, lists 38 personal endorsements on his website, including a bevy of local elected officials such as incoming Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino. Dutra also boasts endorsements from major local organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, HonorPAC, Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee and the California School Employees Association.

The new child sex abuse claims made against Dutra aren’t expected to begin moving through the judicial process until Feb. 3. Whether the claims from the victim — who says Dutra sexually assaulted him in 2005 when he was 12 years old and Dutra was 30 — are valid or a political ploy will not begin to be sorted out by the legal system before the election. Thus, the question of who will stick by Dutra’s side amid the uncertainty becomes an urgent one for Dutra, his endorsers and voters, who will begin receiving mail-in ballots next week.

Christopher Neely


Who votes on the parcel tax measure for the Los Gatos-based Loma Prieta Joint Union Elementary School District?

If you spend time in the city of Santa Cruz, you’ve likely seen proliferating signs on Measure L for the elementary schools and Measure K for the secondary schools, both part of the Santa Cruz City Schools district.

If you take Soquel-San Jose or Summit roads to get over to Santa Clara County, you’ve also likely seen lots of signs — pro and con — on Measure M. Lookout will soon cover that question in some depth, but it got us wondering, as we drove Summit Road, how much of the Loma Prieta Joint Union Elementary School District serves Santa Cruz County and how much it serves Santa Clara County, given that Summit is the dividing line between the two.

It turns out that the Los Gatos-based Loma Prieta school district counts more Santa Cruz County registered voters than those in Santa Clara County. A total of 2,801 Santa Cruz County registered voters compared to 725 Santa Clara registered voters are eligible to vote on Measure M in November. To pass the measure, 66% of voters have to vote in favor.

With two schools — Loma Prieta Elementary School and C.T. English Middle School — located on “the spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains,” the district serves just over 500 students.

— Hillary Ojeda


Surf’s not up for Cummings, but jiujitsu provides the stoke

Justin Cummings vows to get back to jiujitsu, with the purple belt he owns, once the 3rd District County Supervisors’ election has been decided. “I’m going to really need it,” he said.

Though he came to Santa Cruz from Chicago as a skateboarder who loved the area’s connectivity to skate, surf and punk rock history, the martial arts have centered and calmed him more as he tries to balance a ridiculously busy schedule.

As for his forays into the ocean, attempting to channel the energy of the Hawaiian princes who brought surfing to the West Coast here in 1885?

“I’m horrible,” he said. “It’s that whole trying to get under waves and getting pummeled apart. I’m fine once I get to my feet but it’s getting to that point. ... The cold water doesn’t help, either.”

A purple belt is two rungs below black. Is that a goal for him?

“Yeah, I’m going to get back in the gym and start training again,” he said.

— Mark Conley

Santa Cruz City Councilmember and county supervisor candidate Justin Cummings
Santa Cruz City Councilmember and county supervisor candidate Justin Cummings.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)


Don’t miss the Lookout candidate forum on District 3

Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson will take on their agreements — and disagreements — in Lookout’s first candidate forum of the fall. Sign up herefor the Oct. 13 forum at the Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz. It starts at 6 p.m., with light refreshments — and a cash bar. (We’ve offered Shebreh and Justin free drinks.) The forum, moderated by Community Voiceseditor Jody K. Biehl, first features Santa Cruz mayoral hopefuls Fred Keeley and Joy Schendledecker, then the candidates for county supervisor.

It’s free, but best to sign up now here for it, and the next two forums as well.


Kalantari-Johnson implores Santa Cruz to think about Iran

Even as 3rd District County Supervisor candidate and Santa Cruz City Councilmember Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson is pounding the pavement around her Westside neighborhood, her heart is with the women of her native Iran.

She wrote about the need for “an immigrant’s tenacity” previously for Lookout’s Community Voices section.

On Tuesday, she will present a resolution to the Santa Cruz City Council which she says will “shed light on the injustices of the government against the Iranian people and give the council the opportunity to vote and show solidarity with the people of Iran.”

She has also co-authored a resolution with California Democratic leaders and is using every speaking opportunity along the election trail to “bring voice to the ongoing fight for women’s rights and human rights in Iran.”

In an interview Wednesday with Lookout, she elaborated on the deep significance it holds for her, an Iranian citizen by birth whose family fled to America when she was 7.

“I’ve made a commitment to bring this up as often as I can,” she said. “It’s very important to recognize that what’s happening in Iran really is related to what we struggle with here in the United States. Women have had their rights stripped away from them since the revolution. They’ve been forced to wear the hijab, which is not really the way that Islam dictates it, but that’s the way the Islamic Republic of Iran has. And women are dying. People are dying. People are being arrested, people are being severely injured, and it’s time for the rest of the world, including here in Santa Cruz, for us to speak up against it. And for us, to push our federal representatives to speak against it.”

In a recent blog post, Kalantari-Johnson wrote about Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died after sustaining injuries while in police custody for wearing “improper” hijab and died Sept. 16.

Kalantari-Johnson cites the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) as the best resource for staying up to date on the situation in Iran.

— Mark Conley

Picture from Iran via Shebreh




Five Capitola City Council candidates attend election forum

On Tuesday night, five city council candidates gathered at Capitola City Hall to discuss their campaign priorities this election cycle. During a forum moderated by former mayor and council member Mike Termini, candidates answered 11 questions on a variety of topics, ranging from their views on the coastal rail trail project to their strategy for tackling property crime in Capitola.

This election, three Capitola City Council seats are up for grabs. Councilmember Sam Storey, who was elected in 2018 after previously serving on the council from 2006 to 2014, opted to not seek reelection. Councilmember Jacques Bertrand, elected to a second term in 2018, is ineligible to run in 2022. Yvette Brooks is the sole current council member seeking reelection.

The candidates:

  • Yvette Brooks — incumbent, executive director of Your Future is Our Business.
  • Joe Clarke — retired sheriff’s sergeant and eight-year member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Enrique Dolmo Jr. — athletic director, coach and school bus driver.
  • Gerry Jensen — business owner, contractor.
  • Alexander Pedersen — business owner.

A big topic of debate at the event — which came up in reference to questions about housing, transportation infrastructure and the community character of Capitola — were the candidates’ views on the redevelopment of the Capitola Mall. Envisioned to be a nexus of both affordable housing and commerce, the project would see a theater, commercial space and 637 units of new housing constructed on the current site of Sears, the vacant former Takara restaurant space and a 124,936-square-foot swath of the mall core.

Candidates differed in their attitudes toward the project, which awaits an official application from developer Merlone Geier Partners after the Capitola council reviewed early plans in November 2019. Pedersen said he hopes that the project will contain more housing in future iterations, citing Capitola’s ambitious Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers — where state officials say the city of Capitola must construct 1,336 units of new housing by 2031. Clarke, on the other hand, said constructing new housing, especially on Capitola’s busy 41st Avenue corridor, “just isn’t feasible.” He said Capitola’s tight geographic constraints put it in a tough position with respect to the RHNA numbers.

“We really need to take the time to think about [how] everything is going to impact services — for law enforcement, for the city itself,” Clarke said. “Is it gonna bring in enough money to sustain it? Those are questions we need to look at and think about.”

— Thomas Sawano

Capitola City Council forum
From left to right: Alexander Pedersen, Enrique Dolmo Jr., Gerry Jensen, Yvette Brooks and Joe Clarke attend a Capitola City Council candidate forum Tuesday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)


3rd District County Supervisor candidates Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson speak on possible farmers market move, Measure O impacts

In response to news that the Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market’s board is set to vote on whether to move forward with an agreement with the city to relocate the downtown market from Lot 4 to Lot 7, 3rd District County Supervisor hopeful Justin Cummings said the development is “a little shocking,” given the timing of the election and the contentious status of Santa Cruz City Measure O. Measure O aims to stop a long-planned new downtown library branch to be built on Lot 4, the farmers market’s current home, along with new housing and a parking garage.

Further, Cummings said he is worried the move could hold weighty implications for Measure O, should it pass. What exactly would happen, though, is yet to be determined, he said.

“Should they enter a contract, and Measure O passes, what does that do in terms of our bound to the obligations within that contract?” Cummings asked.

Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Cummings’ opponent in the race for county supervisor and a fellow member of the Santa Cruz City Council, said she is happy to see the farmers market plans moving forward but that passing Measure O could throw a wrench into this development.

“This proposed site gives our beloved farmers market a permanent home. These plans have been underway for a while now and I know that the farmers market committee has been working hard on it,” she said. “If Measure O passes, these efforts will need to pause and millions of dollars that have gone into the full library affordable-housing project and the farmers market will be lost.”

Max Chun

An artist rendering depicts a permanent home for the downtown farmers market on Lot 7.
An artist rendering depicts a permanent home for the downtown farmers market on Lot 7.
(Via City of Santa Cruz)


Downtown Commons Advocates, Yes on O campaign art depicts green, utopian farmers market

One Yes on O image shows what the group envisions for downtown Santa Cruz. The image shows lines of trees towering over meandering residents on foot and on bikes as they peruse the multicolored farmers market stands.

Another depiction — which acts as the cover page for a Downtown Commons Advocates brochure — shows a bucolic, nearly utopian version of downtown, free of parking garages and a new library. It’s easy to see the rows of crops along with freely roaming giraffes, monkeys and more. The Downtown Commons Advocates is a broad group of Santa Cruz business owners and community members who advocate for a downtown public commons, including an improved permanent home for the farmers market at the existing Lot 4 location.

Yes on O leader Rick Longinotti said the images represent a vision for what the future of downtown could look like, but are not to be taken literally.

“In writing Measure O, we wanted to not get into detail about what will happen, because that’s up to the community to decide what happens there,” said Longinotti. “We depict Lot 4 as a place with not just the farmers market, but other events as well. That said, we think that should be up to the community and folks who use the space the most.”

Max Chun

An artist depiction of the farmers market in a permanent home.
(Via Rick Longinotti)

The cover art for a Downtown Commons Advocates brochure
The cover art for a Downtown Commons Advocates brochure, depicting a more whimsical, utopian version of a permanent farmers market.
(Via Downtown Commons Advocates)


Montesino says Driscoll’s should invest in its community

Watsonville City Council Member Eduardo Montesino, the District 1 rep who will assume the title of mayor this fall, isn’t one to shy away from tough topics.

True to form, in conversations with Lookout about the electorate-confusing Measures S and Q this week, Montesino offered a few honest pearls on related topics that have to do with the future of Watsonville.

In response to Lookout’s “Seeds of Change” series on the growing pressures against pesticide use in the city, he said: “We need to stop contaminating our community. We have enough technology to entice everyone (to grow organic). The big companies like Driscoll’s can do it easily and invest in the community. Yeah, they’ll grant-fund this and grant-fund that, but that’s like peanuts to me. Where’s the real investment in the people of Watsonville?”

Montesino also talked about the nature of the council, and who serves on it. He pointed to the challenge for full-time workers like himself with a family to afford to serve on the city council — a job that pays $500 a month: “If you look at Santa Cruz, and just about anywhere else, it’s like $2,000 a month and people can work part time and still have enough time to do what amounts to a full-time job.”

The meager compensation hasn’t discouraged a new crop of council candidates, one that could give Watsonville an unprecedented number of women: four. “And we’re going to be young,” he said. “Probably an average age of about 40.”

— Mark Conley

The fields of the Pajaro Valley.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)


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