Vicki Nohrden of Monterey, the Republican candidate in the race for state Assembly District 30, garnered more votes in San Luis Obispo County than Morro Bay’s Dawn Addis in the June primary. But Addis (along with three other Democratic candidates) carried the vote in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties and seems likely to collect the votes of those three other Democrats.
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The new 30th District of the California Assembly evolved out of a coastal perspective — the idea that San Luis Obispo, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties face similar challenges involving issues like land and water use, affordable housing and climate change.
And if Democratic candidate Dawn Addis is to follow up her primary victory over Republican Vicki Nohrden as seems likely — she outpointed Nohrden by 4%, with 24% of the “other” voting going to three Democrats — the Morro Bay teacher and councilmember will rely heavily on the Democratic strongholds in Santa Cruz and Monterey even more so than her home county.
San Luis Obispo makes up 55% of the new district’s voting base, Monterey 25% and Santa Cruz 20%. And SLO gives the district a more conservative nucleus as evidenced by Nohrden, the Monterey-based candidate who has never held public office, beating Addis on her own turf in June by nearly 4 percentage points.
That means it will be essential for Addis to take her big Santa Cruz/Monterey advantages from the primary and grow them before Nov. 8. She nearly doubled Nohrden’s vote in Santa Cruz County (10,462-5,541) and had a 10% advantage in Monterey County (14,214-10,789).
Addis says her dislike of former President Donald Trump’s policies and hate-filled political rhetoric inspired her to run for city council in Morro Bay in 2017. She has made climate change her top priority, telling the San Luis Obispo Tribune’s editorial board recently: “We have a lot of crises going on, with our democracy, with housing, with water. But if we don’t solve the climate crisis, it’s not going to matter.”
Nohrden has put her focus on more conservative issues such as crime, public safety and the general state of California government.
“Sacramento policies have resulted in failing schools, rising crime, business closures and a higher cost of living,” she says in her campaign material. “Politicians and bureaucrats in Sacramento are hurting families, restricting our freedoms, dividing our state and driving out business.”
The new District 30 cuts down the middle of the Pajaro Valley and continues north until it hits a border that runs southeast from the Santa Cruz Harbor, through Live Oak and toward the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. It encompasses all of mid-county, including Capitola, Soquel, Aptos and La Selva Beach.
It forms a complicated puzzle piece for sure. Which makes this tool created by Lookout content partner CalMatters all the more useful.
With all that in mind, we wanted to hear more from both candidates about what they’re seeing and hearing when it comes to the needs of those in the northernmost zone of District 30. Here is what each views as the top three priorities in Santa Cruz County, in their own words.
Infrastructure investment: From highways to water supply to the power grid, we need state money to modernize and improve the infrastructure that plays such a big role in housing in Santa Cruz County. Affordable housing policies set by the state, whether multifamily zoning or legislation around accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is useful only if the infrastructure needed to accommodate those changes is available. It is not enough to trumpet affordable housing — it is imperative to find state funding to invest in the county’s infrastructure to make affordable housing sustainable. Anything less is political pageantry, not meaningful policy reform.
Involuntary homelessness: Santa Cruz County leads the state in per-capita rate of homelessness at 79.3 homeless individuals per 10,000 residents. That’s one of the highest rates per county in California, and that number in the city of Santa Cruz is even more dire. Talking with homelessness care providers in Santa Cruz County, it’s clear they need more state resources for mental health solutions and transition services.
As we seek to address the root causes of involuntary homelessness, we must also address community safety issues. Mental health and substance abuse issues must be addressed to protect individuals involved and the community they live in. Any statewide policy that does not take into consideration the well-being of both the homeless and the community surrounding them is short-sighted. Enabling or accommodating crime is not a solution for homelessness.
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Affordable housing: Santa Cruz ranks as the second-most expensive area in the country for renters, just behind San Francisco. For students, young families and those on fixed incomes, the housing market in Santa Cruz County is grim. No wonder schools are consolidating and the school population has reached a 10-year low in Santa Cruz County.
Families can’t afford to live here, students struggle to find housing, and our homeless population working to transition into a productive life is essentially trapped. Demand in the housing market continues to increase as supply remains stagnant. We need more state solutions from zoning regulations to support for ADUs, but especially if those solutions accompany investment in the infrastructure needed to sustain these innovations.
It is not enough to talk about affordable housing; we need the resources to accommodate that increase in housing and support for developers to undertake projects to accomplish that.
Climate/environment: As a city councilmember in a coastal community, I have experience combatting the climate crisis, including working to increase green energy, build infill housing, conserve open space and prepare for sea-level rise. I have moved forward a resolution declaring a climate emergency and put resources behind solving the climate crisis. As a coastal area, Santa Cruz County is on the front lines of climate change. We need to work regionally across the Central Coast to address this urgent issue.
If elected, I will work to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and strengthen regulations and alternative approaches to advance cleaner engines, cleaner fuels and cleaner energy. I will work to increase incentives and smooth the processes for increasing alternative energy sources, focus on increasing housing in infill areas to reduce carbon emissions from commuting, and increase cycling and walking access as well as public transportation.
I will also be a champion for wild open spaces and migration pathways. Additionally, I will work to reduce wildfires and increase protections for outdoor workers, and continue to focus on creating long-term potable-water access for communities across the Central Coast.
Housing: I am ready to work on behalf of the people of Santa Cruz County and the entire Central Coast to make sure that all are housed with dignity and allowed to live within the communities where they work. I grew up as a renter. My mom was a single parent and my dad struggled with homelessness, incarceration and addiction. We moved often due to affordability issues. Now, as a teacher and councilmember, I serve the Central Coast — one of the places in California where housing is becoming out of reach for too many people.
As a councilmember, I moved forward the first 100% low-income housing in 30 years in my city. I am also a member of the Homeless Services Oversight Council working at the county level to end homelessness. I will work with local leaders to increase housing affordability with solutions from the state that meet the needs of local communities.
This includes expanding low-income housing, increasing the stock of affordable housing units, creating policies and funding that provide permanent housing for unhoused people, and increasing wages and economic development. Additionally, while some people prefer to rent, home ownership is an important facet of lifting families out of poverty, which is why I’ll work to increase home ownership.
Education: As a special education teacher and bilingual educator, I have been working with students on the Central Coast for over two decades. Our schools, children, families, teachers and school staff are our most precious resources and we have to treat them as such. I am honored to be endorsed by the California Teachers Association, the California Faculty Association, California Federation of Teachers and California School Employees Association. I will work with these groups and leaders to address the educational needs across our district.
My top priorities are full and stable funding for our schools, especially for special education, along with increased counseling, mental health and nurse services for all students. I will work to create solutions that draw people from diverse backgrounds into the profession, and address the substitute shortage and lack of training.
I will work to create more investment in public education, from early childhood education through the University of California, California State University and community college systems. This includes moving universal pre-K initiatives forward. Additionally, I will work to lower tuition for UC and CSU students and create free tuition for students whose families cannot afford to pay. The student loan system needs to change so that students cannot be taken advantage of for seeking to better themselves through education.