Santa Cruz, how did your neighborhood vote in these three 2022 races?

A snapshot of the voting data for Measure N.
A snapshot of the voting data for Measure N.
(Blaire Hobbs / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Precinct-level data reveals the disparities and similarities among the voting preferences of Santa Cruz neighborhoods on Measure N and Measure O and in the race for 3rd District county supervisor between Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson.

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After a vote tally that extended weeks, Santa Cruz County officials canvassed and certified of the results of the Nov. 8 general election this week.

Heading into Election Day, much of the energy in the city of Santa Cruz seemed focused on three particular races: Measure O, the ballot measure that proposed scrapping a mixed-use library, parking garage and affordable housing project in favor of locking in city-owned downtown parking lots for future affordable housing development; Measure N, the empty homes tax proposal to install a $6,000 annual tax on homes left vacant for more than eight months out of the year; and the race for District 3 county supervisor between Santa Cruz City Councilmembers Justin Cummings and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson.

Measure O failed in a landslide. Measure N was closer but ultimately fell short by nearly 2,000 votes. Although Kalantari-Johnson led Cummings for a week into ballot counting, Cummings was heavily favored among the mail-in ballots that were counted later. He eventually topped Kalantari-Johnson by just under 600 votes.

We’ve known for weeks how the city of Santa Cruz voted; however, new data mapped by Lookout paints a clearer picture of the voting habits of different neighborhoods in the city. The numbers used in the map come from precinct-level voting data collected by the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s office. The data shows the preferences of voters registered within the precinct boundary. The number of ballots cast by residents in each precinct varies widely, from more than 4,500 in one of the precincts to under 100 in another.

A resounding defeat for Measure O

Nearly 60% of voters gave a thumbs down to Measure O, and the proposal had a hard difficult time finding majority support in any part of the city. The northwest corner of the city, around the UC Santa Cruz campus, came out in the strongest show of support for the measure, but only 76 voters who reside in that area cast ballots in the race. The most resounding rejection of the measure came from the Westside — where more than 6,000 ballots were cast and about 60% opposed the measure — and the northeast corner of the city, where about 64% of the more than 1,100 ballots cast opposed the measure. Residents of downtown, the area that would have most felt the measure’s impact, also came out strongly in opposition.

The jam-packed nature of Measure O, which included fates for parking and a new library to the location of the downtown farmers market and the future of affordable housing, makes it difficult to judge exactly which part of the measure spurred objection in different parts of town. The data shows however that nearly 500 more people voted in the Measure N election than in the Measure O election.

The geographical divides of Measure N

The empty homes tax proposed by Measure N produced a starker geographic divide. The progressive policy aimed at driving affordable housing revenue through a tax on homes that sit mostly vacant throughout the year. Although heavily favored in the UCSC area and downtown Santa Cruz, the measure failed to capture the imagination of Westsiders, where it failed by margins of nearly 17 points. A similar story unfolded in the northeast corner of town, where 7 in 10 voters came out against the measure.

The interesting piece here, says Santa Cruz County Democratic Party Chair Andrew Goldenkranz, is the areas of the city that voted no on Measure O and yes on Measure N.

“In general, the patches that went yes on N and no on O tells me that people want more housing,” Goldenkranz said. “I think that’s the big takeaway.”

Cummings kept it close on the Westside

Measure O confused a lot of people. The line in the sand between progressives and moderates was clearer in the battle over Measure N, which makes for an interesting comparison to the map of support in the District 3 county supervisor’s race between Cummings and Kalantari-Johnson. Between the two, progressives largely got behind Cummings, whereas moderates and supporters of the established Democratic machine backed Kalantari-Johnson.

Where Measure N won, Cummings also won. The inverse, however, was not true. Cummings was able to pull off majority support on the east side of town and the western border of Santa Cruz proper, both areas that strongly opposed Measure N.

The potentially more important factor at the precinct level didn’t turn out to be a win for Cummings as much as underwhelming support for Kalantari-Johnson. A majority of voters in Santa Cruz’s heavily populated Westside neighborhoods, where establishment politics have reigned supreme, went for Kalantari-Johnson. This was expected. However, while Measure N and Measure O both failed dramatically in these neighborhoods, Kalantari-Johnson was able to secure only slim margins — between 4 and 2 percentage points.

Outside of Santa Cruz’s city limits, Kalantari-Johnson was able to secure wide victories along the district’s west coast and Bonny Doon, but her failure to pull off a more convincing win among Westside residents contributed to her ultimate defeat in a big way.


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