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Morning Lookout: Colossal PVUSD reversal, vacation rental rules and more

Good Morning! It’s Monday, Feb. 1. Today, we’ll see intermittent showers and a high of 58. More to come on the weather in a bit.

It’s the first day of Black History Month, and I thought I’d open this newsletter with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to reach space: “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” With those wise words, how can we not have an inspiring day?

The big headline this morning is the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board of trustees’ stunning reversal late last night of their controversial removal of Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez. Meanwhile, our Patrick Riley breaks down the latest on Santa Cruz County vacation rental rules and efforts to ease the affordability crisis by potentially creating a permit process for tiny homes. Also, JUST IN to our newsroom, a Santa Cruz music staple is changing ownership. #BOLO for more on that story today.

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in:

Another cold front will bring rain, wind to area

Cold front to arrive in Santa Cruz on Feb. 1, 2021.
Cold front to arrive in Santa Cruz on Feb. 1, 2021.
(National Weather Service)

The topsy-turvy winter weather continues. The National Weather Service forecasts a cold front to sweep through the Bay Area and Central Coast between midday today and late tomorrow. Meteorologists are also expecting light to moderate rainfall with about an inch expected in urban areas that will be “considerably less than what fell during the recent atmospheric river event.” Some gusty winds are expected today and tonight, and the cold front is expected to pass by Tuesday night. Stay on top of the latest in your community with Lookout’s weather center.

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In one-two punch, PVUSD trustees reinstate fired superintendent, remove board president

PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez (L) and ousted board of trustee president Georgia Acosta (R)
Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez (L) and ousted board of trustee president Georgia Acosta (R)
(Pajaro Valley Unified School District)

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District board of trustees reinstated Michelle Rodriguez as superintendent yesterday after she was abruptly removed from her role last week. Rodriguez’s removal was met with severe backlash from the community, with hundreds of people submitting public comments in her defense, including a video message from actor Edward James Olmos. In another sign of the backlash the board has faced, trustees on Sunday also unanimously unseated the board’s president and vice president — both of whom had backed Rodriguez’s dismissal. Read full coverage of the dramatic chain of events in this story by our Nick Ibarra.

Inching closer: County’s revised vacation rental rules with more teeth close to finish line

Santa Cruz County is moving closer to enacting more stringent requirements on coastal vacation rentals — an initiative that began more than a year ago due to complaints of loud parties, parking concerns and lack of responsiveness by some property owners. The proposed rules would change how many vacation rentals are allowed in three designated Santa Cruz County beach neighborhoods. They also would allow for ways to hold bad actors accountable, officials say. Read more about where officials are in the process of adopting the new, stricter guidelines and see which areas in the county it would apply to here,

County honing in on tiny houses as a fix for big affordability issues

A tiny house.
(Wasington Department of Veterans Affairs)

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County is considering joining other California counties by updating zoning and planning codes to include tiny homes. The proposal by supervisors Manu Koenig and Bruce McPherson aims to pave the way for more tiny homes, including ones on wheels, to tackle housing affordability. Read more about this from our Patrick Riley here.

Moe’s Alley, a Santa Cruz music staple, changing ownership

Bill Welch, longtime owner of Moe's Alley.
Bill Welch, longtime owner of Moe’s Alley.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

JUST IN: Moe’s Alley, one of Santa Cruz County’s most popular music venues, is changing ownership. The business announced on Twitter this morning that Bill Welch is selling the nearly 30-year-old venue to Lisa Norelli and Brian Ziel. Read more of this developing story here.

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Newsom under fire from Democrats over COVID-19 response as he faces GOP-led recall campaign: There’s an unspoken rule in politics: Don’t publicly criticize your party’s leader. But more California Democratic lawmakers and allies of Gov. Gavin Newsom are beginning to break it as frustration grows nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more from our content partner, the LA Times, about Newsom’s plight here.

How wildfires became ripe areas for right-wing conspiracy theories: If you were on Twitter this weekend, you might have wondered why the term “Jewish Laser Beams” was trending. Newly elected Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), known for supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory and making anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments, said the deadly 2018 Camp Fire in California that left 85 dead, was a result of a blaze that might have started by a laser beam in space. Read more from the LA Times in Lookout here.

Uh…what? Sea lions are dying from a mysterious cancer caused by herpes and DDT

Necropsy manager Barbie Halaska and lab assistant Jackie Isbell carefully measure a sea lion with cancer.
Barbie Halaska, right, necropsy manager at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, and lab assistant Jackie Isbell measure a California sea lion that was euthanized due to untreatable cancer. (Bill Hunnewell / Marine Mammal Center)

An all-star team of marine mammal pathologists, virology experts, chemists and geneticists say they’ve connected two surprising culprits for the sudden deaths of sea lions: Herpes and toxic chemicals, like DDT and PCBs, which poisoned the California coast decades ago. The ocean is clearly hurting, researchers say, and this mysterious cancer in so many sea lions carries a troubling warning for humans. Lookout has the LA Times’ deep dive on sea lion death here.

Around the area . . .

Cabrillo College in process of eradicating Legionella anisa outbreak (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Staff of Life set to open Watsonville location on March 30 (Good Times)

Watsonville man arrested for allegedly vandalizing park mural, building (KION-TV)

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 all the newsletters and alerts we offer. 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.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor