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Morning Lookout: Big developments in Rail Trail, USCS growth, mountain lion concerns and more

Good Morning! It’s Monday, Jan. 11. Expect intermittent clouds and a high of 60 today.

We’re waking up to new photos and video of dramatic scenes at Santa Cruz Harbor yesterday afternoon when surfers and first responders jumped into action to rescue 12 children after their small boats capsized amid large waves and crushing whitewater. Boaters and surfers continue to take heed: A coastal flood advisory from the National Weather Service is in effect until 3 p.m. today.

Locally, we have two big developments regarding two big development stories in Santa Cruz: the Rail Trail and UC Santa Cruz’s long-range campus development plan. We also explore recent concerns sparked by mountain lion sightings in residential developments and urban settings. Statewide, California legislators get back to work today in Sacramento in the wake of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget address. In national news, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says that the House is ready to move to impeach President Donald Trump for the second time if Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet don’t remove him under the 25th Amendment.

Wait a minute, isn’t there a global pandemic going on? Countywide COVID-19 statistics from over the weekend are expected to be released today. And we’ve got a big event planned for Jan. 21 to answer your questions about the coronavirus as part of our COVID 2021 initiative.

Let’s dive in.

Big Rail Trail hearing ahead Thursday: How to make your voice heard

A Santa Cruz local enjoys his ride down the new trail rail path.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Later this week, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission will consider community input about the controversial Rail Trail project in advance of a key February vote. Some form of electrical passenger rail that could co-exist alongside a recreation path has been identified as the No. 1 option for the 32-mile coastal corridor from Watsonville to Davenport, but a vocal contingent of Santa Cruzans says that’s too pie-in-the-sky. You can submit written public comments to the RTC by noon Wednesday. Read more on how to do that in this story from our Patrick Riley.

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UCSC releases campus plan, staking out ambitious vision of growth by 2040

UC Santa Cruz has released a draft of its plan to guide campus development over the next two decades, laying out a vision of how to prepare the campus for projected enrollment growth of about 44% by the year 2040. The 2021 Long-Range Development Plan envisions a more compact campus core ringed by student housing, along with an extension of Meyer Drive and more. Even before its release, the plan has drawn criticism — and threats of legal action — from a wide community of locals leery of further campus growth. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

Mounting mountain lion questions: Are cats getting sicker, are they more in our midst?

In the past several weeks, there have been multiple sightings of mountain lions around the Santa Cruz area, including one rescued from a downtown Santa Cruz apartment complex on New Year’s Eve. The frequency of the cat sightings, some unhealthy looking, have caused concern for the big-cat population — and public safety — especially after the CZU fire. So are there really more mountain lions in our midst, and are they getting sicker? Our Mallory Pickett answers those questions here.

COVID 2021: People in the Pandemic

“My savings ran out. I had two rents, two sets of bills,” said Pleasuer Point tattoo artist Kelly McMurray.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Have ink, will travel: Why one Santa Cruz tattoo artist hit the road to keep herself afloat

As part of our COVID 2021 initiative, we’re profiling how Santa Cruzans are soldiering on. Kelly McMurray is one of them. She runs a small shop in Pleasure Point called Good Luck Tattoo. Like all commercial tattooists in California, her livelihood absorbed a huge blow in 2020, thanks to the restrictions brought on by the spread of COVID-19. So last summer, with her business in the deep freeze, the 35-year-old mom of two purchased a travel trailer and hit the road. Read more about what happened next in this story by our Wallace Baine.

Join us for ‘COVID 2021: The Experts Answer Your Questions’ event in English and Spanish

Lookout Santa Cruz and Event Santa Cruz are teaming up to connect residents with health experts and get your questions answered. At 6 p.m. on Jan. 21, County Health Officer Gail Newel, UC Santa Cruz infectious disease expert Marm Kilpatrick and Erica Padilla-Chavez, CEO of Pajaro Valley Prevention & Student Assistance will headline this free virtual conversation about the health impacts of the pandemic. The best part? For the first time at a Lookout event, we’ll offer simultaneous Spanish interpretation, through a separate Zoom audio channel so the hardest-hit Hispanic/Latino communities aren’t excluded from the conversation about public health and safety. Submit your COVID-19 questions for our panelists and register for the event here.

More COVID reads:

COVID-19 vaccine rollout painfully slow to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities (LA Times)

Hospitals seek relaxed rules for nursing, patient discharge (CalMatters)

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Pelosi: House to vote on impeachment if Pence does not act to remove Trump

Citing President Trump’s “assault on our democracy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday for the first time that the House would move to impeach him in the wake of last week’s ransacking of the U.S. Capitol, unless Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet agree to remove him under the 25th Amendment. Pelosi’s plan, disclosed in a letter to colleagues, came as a second Republican senator called on Trump to resign over his incitement of the mob that attacked the seat of Congress on Wednesday, marking an intensifying push by lawmakers to force Trump from power before his term ends at noon on Jan. 20. Read more from our partner, the LA Times, here.

Meanwhile, last week, two Santa Cruz County-area representatives — Rep. Jimmy Panetta and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo — have demanded President Donald Trump be ousted following riots at the United States Capitol this week. Read the story by our Isa Cueto and Nick Ibarra here.

Around the county…

County Board of Education addresses Governor Newsom’s safe schools for all plan (San Lorenzo Valley Post)

Watsonville police investigating 2nd fatal shooting in 3 days (The Pajaronian)

SC’s Haley Jones leads No. 1 Stanford past No. 11 Oregon (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

That’s it for today. If you’re enjoying our coverage, please tell your family and friends about our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, where they can sign up for our newsletters and COVID Text Alerts. You can also keep tabs on everything we’re publishing through the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

To ensure you’re staying informed about all the goings-on in Santa Cruz, consider becoming a Lookout member. We won’t be free forever!

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor