COOKING COOKING

Greg, Hector and Scott for District 4: A new face for a quickly changing district

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz City Council’s new District 4 will greet a novice officeholder after November’s election. Greg Hyver, Hector Marin and Scott Newsome bring varying levels of knowledge on the issues, and bring both commonly held and unusual solutions to the table. They will debate as part of Lookout’s next candidate forum, slated for Monday at 6 p.m.

Oct. 20, 2022
6:16 AM
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Editor’s note: Here we offer a look at District 4 Santa City Council member candidates. On Friday, meet the candidates for District. 6. Please send your election-related questions to elections@lookoutlocal.com and check our Community Voices section to hear directly from candidates themselves.

District 4, one of the creations of the city of Santa Cruz’s new embrace of a districted city council, is going to look very different in the not-too-distant future.

The oddly shaped new district with a population of about 10,000 — bounded by High Street to the north, Front Street to the east, Beach Street and the municipal wharf to the south, and a mix of Bay Street and King Street to the west — will be home to not only a new face on the Santa Cruz City Council, but also likely some of the most eye-popping change the city has seen.

The area south of Laurel Street is set for the most drastic. A conglomerate of housing developments that could reach heights of 17 stories complete with added public space and possibly a new Warriors arena, maybe with performing arts perks, would create an entirely new look for the area — and add as many as 1,600 new housing units.

Just a few hundred feet to the north, the rumblings of heavy machinery signify downtown’s rapid makeover, and that’s just the beginning. Six multistory buildings and an activated riverfront could bring thousands of new residents as soon as 2026.

It’s clear that the district’s new councilmember will have a lot going on — a particularly daunting endeavor for an inexperienced elected official.

None of the three District 4 candidates — Greg Hyver, Hector Marin and Scott Newsome — has held elected office before. They all acknowledged they have things to learn and nuances to discover, but each said he will bring his own vision to the new seat.

Hyver, 62, is an approximately 20-year Santa Cruz resident who has worked in property management, real estate and business development. He has first and foremost promoted his direct-democracy, individualism-over-collectivism ideology, though he has recently discovered a newfound passion for the numerous affordable housing debates.

“I represent an alternative voice,” he said. “I’m not a yes man, and I’m not afraid to say things that people don’t necessarily want to hear. I think it’s healthier for Santa Cruz to have those voices.”

Marin, 25, is the youngest candidate on the city ballot this cycle. As a service worker and community activist, Marin says he seeks to give a voice to others like himself — and work toward a more equitable Santa Cruz through increased community engagement.

“I’m the candidate with a grassroots background, and I want to ensure that my skills and assets as an organizer are translated into city office,” he said. “I’m the diverse candidate that’s most for the community and more for an open democracy here in Santa Cruz.”

Newsome, who celebrated his 41st birthday Wednesday, said he feels truly at home after nearly 10 years in the city with his partner, who works as a physician. The two have settled down and now have two young children. He seeks to bring a practical approach informed by his experience as a UC Santa Cruz politics lecturer and economics researcher.

“I’m someone who’s looking to use a pragmatic approach to addressing the issues that face our community, identifying the ways that we can advance on those issues, and getting the ball rolling,” he said.

The three men — who will be part of a candidate forum set for Monday at Hotel Paradox — met with Lookout to discuss their campaigns, city issues and measures, and how to bring Santa Cruzans together with their elected officials and city staff.

Housing and development


The most profound housing questions in this district will, as noted, be seen in the proposed developments south of Laurel and the “Six Blocks” redevelopment along Front Street. The projects aim to revitalize the area while making a dent in the state-mandated 3,736 housing units the city needs to plan by 2031, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) number.

Hyver wasted no time telling Lookout that he opposes the developments, but largely because he has a bone to pick with that target.

“I don’t agree that the city should conform to RHNA, I think it’s an overstep of the state government to force cities to drastically modify or change the city’s landscape,” he said. “The repercussions of these kinds of buildings will be a huge population inflow to the city.”

Hyver also worries about the number of renters who could come to the city.

“The ratio of renters to non-renters is going to go way up, and what that means is that more people will need public services, and much of the city budget is derived from property taxes,” he said. “So you’re bringing in renters and increasing the demand for public services, but your city budget doesn’t increase correspondingly because it’s so dependent on property taxes and owners.”

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As for the Six Blocks project, Marin says he supports a vibrant downtown, but only with a balance.

“We definitely need a vibrant District 4 that generates revenue through tourism, but we need to ensure that affordable housing is prioritized for marginalized communities, disabled folks, seniors, and veterans that live here,” he said. “We need to prioritize that over the development of things like luxury hotels overall.”

Marin also thinks that the 17-story buildings now in the planning stages for south of Laurel Street are too tall, but mostly because of climate-related safety concerns. He says he worries that environmental events, particularly flooding due to climate change, could pose major issues.

“When you build skyscrapers that are 17 stories high, that places downtown in a difficult spot in terms of security and safety,” he said, adding that a lack of affordability remains a major point of concern. “I’ve talked to several residents who are concerned about their safety with these projects, because they would be affected if a natural disaster happened there.”

Further, Marin thinks that the possibility of increased traffic congestion only raises more environmental worries.

“More traffic means more CO2 emissions, and further contribution to the climate emergency,” he said.

Newsome says he sees a lot of good in the projects, but knows that nothing is set in stone.

“They provide much-needed housing in our community and in a way that does not displace a large community in Santa Cruz or close down open spaces, and they will provide good jobs for people in Santa Cruz,” he said. However, he acknowledges the local contention around building heights, and does not anticipate the developments to reach the proposed sizes.

“It’s still in the early stages, obviously, with a long process to go and a good bit of community feedback,” he said. “I’m sure they will be reduced to a lower standard, but I still see a lot of positives here.”

Homelessness

Hyver and Marin are in agreement that if there is not enough shelter for the unhoused population, homeless individuals should not be moved off of public property. Both view this approach as addressing only the symptoms, and not the root cause of the issue.

“It’s my understanding that if you don’t have sufficient shelter, then you can’t move someone off public property,” said Hyver, adding that the context changes for him if there is shelter. “Say you did open more shelter space and then that person rejected it, then you apply the law.”

Hyver says that he feels as though no one is approaching the problem correctly.

“No one actually wants to face the problem. The problem is addiction and other things like mental illness,” he said. “We need resources like better drug rehab programs and more funding in mental health services.”

As for the oversized vehicle ordinance (OVO), Hyver said he is not closely familiar with the ordinance, but believes that people should not “indiscriminately park in private neighborhoods.” That said, they do need somewhere to go.

“We want to keep neighborhoods safe and clean, and I’m not trying to classify these people as criminals, but they should have places to go, because many of them will be in unsafe situations as well,” he said.

Marin opposes both the OVO and the practice of moving people off the streets, and sees both tactics as criminalizing homelessness.

“Not only do they penalize and criminalize houselessness, but there is no ample solution implemented in order to ensure that the unhoused crisis is resolved, or at least alleviated,” he said. “I’m critical of the lack of a positive support system that the city can build, which it has not been doing a great job of.”

Marin brings it back to the issue of safety.

“I want to ensure that there is safety for everyone here in Santa Cruz,” he said. “I’m not saying that camping on streets is a solution — it’s a result of the city’s inadequacy.”

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Newsome preferred to refrain from specific thoughts on OVO, because he feels he has more to learn about the issue.

“I’d rather venture into that question when I have more insight into the ordinance and have had more discussions,” he said. “However, I do look forward to learning more about it and learning more about the issue and working with my colleagues, relevant city departments and community stakeholders to provide solutions moving forward.”

He did, however, say that the unhoused population should be in shelters, not on the streets.

“Having people sleeping on sidewalks and other public grounds isn’t good for the community,” he said. “That said, this is an issue that the city cannot solve on its own. It’s a countywide and nationwide issue, and the state and federal governments need to step in and help with this issue more.”

The ballot measures

Measures O and N have garnered plenty of attention in the leadup to Nov. 8, and the District 4 candidates will each be voting differently on them.

Hyver opposes Measure N, the annual tax of up to $6,000 on residential units occupied for fewer than 120 days in a year, citing his emphasis on individual rights as the main reason for his “no” vote.

“I think we have too much government, and I think there’s a level of intrusion into our private lives that we have to push back on,” he said. “I just don’t like the government telling us exactly how we need to use the interior of our property. I think it’s pretty ludicrous to have to prove that you were living there.”

Measure O is further-reaching than Measure N. It looks to block the council-approved downtown mixed-use library project that would see a new library with affordable housing and parking on Lot 4, the current site of the downtown farmers market. Those in favor of the measure want to keep the downtown library and farmers market where they currently stand, and require permanent affordable housing on eight other city-owned lots downtown to the “maximum extent feasible.”

Hyver is one of those in favor, and says he will vote “yes.” He said he believes that if the people care this much about the library and farmers market, they should be heard.

“If the people said they didn’t give a damn about this farmers market or library, then I’d feel differently,” he said. “But since the people seem to care about it, then it should stay where it is, and it should be made better there.”

Marin says he will vote yes on both measures. He is excited at the prospect of more funds for affordable housing that Measure N seeks to secure.

“Whenever the city looks to build more affordable housing, they see that the city itself doesn’t have enough funds for it,” he said, making clear that he does not wish to deprive homeowners of privacy. “We want to ensure that there is no prying and violation of their First Amendment rights because they deserve that right of privacy.”

He acknowledges that the city’s estimated tax revenue of $2.5-$4.1 million is fairly modest, but similar to the Yes on Measure N campaign, believes that “something is better than nothing.”

Marin’s “yes” stance on Measure O boils down, in large part, to the feeling that the city council should not have turned the library renovation into a new project.

“The community stated that they wanted to renovate the library, and then the city council took that project and converted it into a new project,” he said, adding that he also thinks Lot 4 is the ideal spot for the farmers market. “So I believe the people have a right to say whether they want that project to be built and to be amended as well.”

Newsome says he will vote no on both measures, though he differentiates his own vote from that of his campaign, he said.

He says that the idea behind Measure N is well-intentioned, but structural flaws — particularly the punitive nature of the proposed enforcement procedures — make it difficult for him to support.

“I think that parts are not well-written and will lead to some unintended negative consequences,” said Newsome. “One issue for me as a voter is the possibility of jail time that comes with the enforcement mechanisms.”

As for Measure O, Newsome thinks that the possibility of more affordable units and an updated library facility are too much to give up now — closely mirroring Santa Cruz mayoral candidate Fred Keeley’s take on the issue.

“I realize there are some process concerns with the measure, but I am very much for the 124 units of affordable housing that are much needed,” he said. “I also think the new state-of-the-art library and the child care center will be great for the community and contribute to a thriving downtown.”

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Addressing distrust

A sense of disillusionment has pervaded much of the political landscape as November approaches. Each ballot measure makes the case that city leadership has not adequately addressed dire community needs, most notably affordable housing.

Though Hyver sees the affordable housing debacle differently, his vision for repairing trust is a different one. He advocates for a “transfer of power,” giving residents more decision-making power by developing a “software-based, policymaking platform” that captures direct voices and streamlines them into policy decisions. His website says he aims to have this up and running by 2024-25.

“I want to create a direct pipeline to allow people to make more direct decisions without that political interference,” he said, adding that he feels a lot of distrust toward the government. “When it starts making decisions like ‘should we add 18,000 housing units to the city,’ that’s when distrust begins.”

For Marin, engaging more directly with Santa Cruzans is also the way to go, but instead of Hyver’s idea of introducing a new style of direct democracy, Marin would look to expand public comment, host more community engagement meetings, and make sure that there are multilingual services as well.

“Community should be prioritized first and foremost, because residents pay a lot to stay here in Santa Cruz and should have their voices heard,” he said, adding that he would work closely with the city staff to foster a better understanding of community desires. “The role of city council is to coordinate and answer the will of the community, not the city staff.”

Newsome says that it would be a difficult process, and a long one, too. That said, it boils down to finding ways for better and more transparent information flow between all parties, including the city staff, elected officials and residents.

“I think there probably needs to be more dialogue so everyone understands what is actually taking place,” he said. “People want to know these details, like how much housing is planned at the moment, and how much of that is actually affordable?”

Election 2022

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