Santa Cruz’s Measure O looks headed for double-digit defeat

Yard signs urging a yes vote on Measure O (top) and a no vote on Measure O
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Controversial Measure O — which addresses the fate of a new downtown Santa Cruz library and the location of the farmers market, among other things — was behind by a margin of 16 points.

Election 2022: Santa Cruz County

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In unofficial election returns as of Wednesday in the city of Santa Cruz, the contentious Measure O — which addresses the fate of a new downtown library and the location of the farmers market, among other things — fell behind by a margin of 16 points. As of Wednesday morning, no votes held a lead of 58% to 42%, with about 7,500 votes counted. The results will next be updated on Friday.

“It’s early,” former Santa Cruz mayor and big no on O supporter Cynthia Mathews said after the first numbers were posted, “and things can change a whole lot. But it’s a great way to start.”

The early numbers were the first indication of how this controversial vote might go. In the absence of expensive polling, both sides had little more to go on that hunches.

The two sides had watch parties within steps of each other. The watch party for Yes on O took place at Woodstock’s Pizza on Front Street. The party took over the entire outdoor patio along the street and included about 100 people. No on O activists were right across the street at Abbott Square, with a crowd considerably smaller.

Opponents of Measure O gathered at Abbott Square on Tuesday night.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The mood at the Yes on O party was buoyant, and often defiant in the face of discouraging early numbers. Russell Brutsche, an artist and activist, is a strong Yes on O supporter. He created a miniature model of downtown Santa Cruz that Measure O proponents used as an illustration of what downtown was becoming. Brutsche said, “I don’t think the early returns are going to mean much.” He pointed to UC Santa Cruz students as possible difference-makers if O is defeated. “That was our main concern,” he said, “that [students] might tip the balance against us, even though students are generally more green. But we think overall, we have a much more green proposal.”

“We’re going to stay positive and hopeful,” said Yes on O leader Lira Filippini, “but fundamentally this was about getting the community to the table for incredibly important decisions that quite literally shape our future. Regardless of whether Measure O actually wins or loses, the community did get to actually decide because we put it on the ballot.”

Even before hearing the early results, Rick Longinotti, a central activist behind Measure O, was wistful about what might come after the election. “I’m looking forward to reconciling with the opposition,” he said, “and I think there’s a good chance of that happening. I think a lot of folks who voted against [Measure O] did so because they are interested in affordable housing. Well, we’re interested in affordable housing. So let’s talk.”

An election-night gathering at Woodstock's Pizza on Front Street
Backers of Measure O and of mayoral candidate Joy Schendledecker held their election-night gathering at Woodstock’s Pizza on Front Street.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Indeed, former Santa Cruz mayor Don Lane, one of the leaders of the No on O side, said he and one of the leaders of the Yes on O side are planning to meet after the election.

At the center of the contentious Measure O is the proposed library/mixed-use project that would build an enormous new public library in downtown Santa Cruz, along with 120-plus new affordable housing units and a new parking garage on what is now the parking lot on Cedar Street between Lincoln and Cathcart streets.

From election night through the ongoing vote counts, Election Central directs you to our latest coverage.

The new project would move the public library from its current spot on Church and Center streets and displace the weekly farmers market from Lot 4, where it has been for 20 years, to Lot 7, a couple of blocks away on Front Street.

A yes vote on O is a no vote on the proposed project. It would essentially halt the project and mandate that the city renovate the library on its current site and allow the farmer’s market to remain where it has been for years. A no vote on O is an endorsement of the library/mixed-use project to go forward.

Measure O — tabbed by its supporters as “Our Downtown, Our Future” — has a lot of moving parts and its ramifications are significant, sure to shape at least one part of the downtown for generations to come. There are four primary issues at stake in O: (1) the library, its size and location; (2) where the farmers market will be; (3) much-needed affordable housing units; and (4) the parking garage, whether it’s necessary and whether it’s wise land-use policy.

For months leading up to Election Day, the Measure O debate has been controversial. Supporters of the library project — again, to keep it clear, that would be the No on O vote — say that the measure is a last-ditch effort by a group of activists who didn’t get their way in the open public process for a project that is already well down the road in its planning stages. The measure’s backers say that the library project represents a betrayal of what voters expected when they passed a funding measure for a new library back in 2016.

Though Yes on O conceded that Measure S, a $67 million bond measure for the 10-branch county library system that passed with 70% approval, does allow for the construction of a new downtown library, the campaign’s messaging at the time led many voters to believe they were voting for renovation of the current library, say O supporters.

The battle over Measure O is many things to many people, but at its base, it is an attempt by residents to push through...

Measure O is largely supported by a coalition of various local organizations, each touting a specific part of the measure, including Downtown Commons Advocates, ReImagine Santa Cruz, Don’t Bury the Library, the Campaign for Sustainable Transportation, Youth for Climate Justice and others. Former elected officials supporting Measure O include former county supervisor Gary Patton, city councilmember Sandy Brown and former mayors Chris Krohn, Celia Scott, Jane Weed-Pomerantz, Katherine Beiers, Bruce Van Allen and Tim Fitzmaurice.

Opposition to O comes largely from establishment groups such as the Democratic Party of Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees, the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, the Friends of Santa Cruz Public Libraries and many others. Individuals who have come out against O include Rep. Jimmy Panetta, sitting county supervisors Ryan Coonerty and Bruce McPherson, supervisor candidate Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Santa Cruz Mayor Sonja Brunner, and former mayors Donna Meyers, Martine Watkins, Cynthia Chase, David Terrazas, Emily Reilly, Cynthia Mathews, Don Lane and Mike Rotkin, as well as Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Schools Faris Sabbah.


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