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Morning Lookout: First mass vaccinations for farmworkers, evacuation feedback and more

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, Feb. 3. After a rainy couple of days, today will be nicer with some intermittent clouds and a high of 56.

After last week’s intense rain and wind, Santa Cruz County has declared a state of emergency to help pave the way for federal funds to help repair “millions of dollars” in damage — even though no severe mudslides or debris flows hit our county like they did further south. Meanwhile, some 5,000 folks in the San Lorenzo Valley and CZU Lightning Complex burn scar area were ordered to evacuate amid the debris flow threat. Now, the county wants feedback on how the evacuations and prep were handled.

For years, Silicon Valley tech workers have flocked to Santa Cruz County, which some say has resulted in skyrocketing real estate prices and exacerbated the lack of affordable housing. Now, County leaders are asking tech giants Google, Apple and Facebook to chip in. Meanwhile, we’re learning more about the timeline and costs for Santa Cruz’s new downtown public library development.

This afternoon, the first mass vaccination clinic for farm workers will begin in Santa Cruz County with the goal of vaccinating 1,000 people over the next two days. But as farmworkers are finally receiving life-saving doses of the vaccine, South County continues to grapple with the pandemic’s negative impacts. Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout details remain hazy locally as health care systems try to manage expectations amid a dearth of doses.

And of course, we have the latest in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District superintendent saga: days after two trustees said they received death threats, law enforcement officials said they’d not received any reports of threats.

Before we go into more detail about all of the above, we have an event coming up Friday to help you feather your civic-engagement cap:

Meet your four mayors and get in the know

Mayors Brooks (Capitola), Dutra (Watsonville), Timm (Scotts Valley) & Meyers (Santa Cruz)
From clockwise upper left, mayors Yvette Brooks (Capitola), Jimmy Dutra (Watsonville), Derek Timm (Scotts Valley) and Donna Meyers (Santa Cruz) will discuss issues facing their communities during the ‘Four Mayors’ event on Friday, Feb. 5.
(Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerice)

What do our area’s top municipal leaders make of the pandemic, economic recovery, climate change and other issues — and how do those issues affect their constituents and the business community? Capitola Mayor Yvette Brooks, Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra, Santa Cruz Mayor Donna Meyers and Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm will sit down virtually with Lookout and the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce at 1 p.m. on Friday for “a collaborative conversation” on the issues facing their communities. Read more and sign up here.

After the storm

Utility trucks and cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Jan. 25, 2021.
Utility trucks and cars in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Jan. 25, 2021.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

#BOLO: What did people think about last week’s storm evacuations? Local officials plan to find out: In the wake of last week’s storm and the debris flow risks that forced evacuation orders, county and state officials are seeking feedback from those affected. This evening, the county will host the first of two virtual town halls on thie issue. The first is for residents of the San Lorenzo Valley. The second town hall will be held tomorrow evening and will focus on the residents of the Davenport/ Swanton areas. Read more about how you can attend either meeting here and Be On the Lookout on our website for coverage.

County officials declare state of emergency: The county’s Board of Supervisors has declared a “state of local emergency” following the storm, citing millions of dollars in damage to roads and other county property. Read more from our Patrick Riley here.

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Housing and Development

A sample rendering of what the new downtown Santa Cruz library could look like.
A sample rendering of what the new downtown Santa Cruz library could look like. The design of the mixed-use project will be finalized by 2022, according to a recent project timeline.
(Provided by City of Santa Cruz, rendering by Group 4 Architecture, Research + Planning, Inc.)

Timeline for new Santa Cruz library development revealed, but aspects of big project still in flux: Santa Cruz’s new downtown library — part of a larger development that includes affordable housing and a parking garage — could be completed as early as 2025, according to a recently released timeline. The new library will anchor a mixed-use development with at least 50 affordable housing units and a 400-space parking garage. Read more about costs of the development and aspects that are yet undecided in our Isabella Cueto’s story here.

County asks Facebook, Apple, Google to own part of our real estate market’s problem: The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors has unanimously voted to send letters to Silicon Valley giants Facebook, Apple and Google asking them to consider providing financial contributions to affordable housing projects in the county. “While some of these employers have made significant financial contributions to increase the supply of affordable housing in other Bay Area cities, none of these contributions are being made available to developments in our area, despite Santa Cruz having served as a bedroom community for Silicon Valley for decades,” supervisors wrote in a Jan. 29 letter to the tech giants. Our Patrick Riley reached out to the tech companies for response. Read his whole story here.

COVID 2021 Updates

Farmworkers pick strawberries in 2019.
(USDA photo by Lance Cheung)

#BOLO: First mass vaccine clinic for farmworkers today: This afternoon, Dignity Health and Dominican Hospital will hold the first mass vaccination clinic specifically for agricultural workers in Santa Cruz County at Casserly Hall in Watsonville. Dignity, in partnership with the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau and the California Strawberry Commission, aims to administer the vaccine to at least 1,000 farmworkers over the next two days. Be On the Lookout on our website later today for updates on this story.

South County’s COVID struggles: Farmworker vaccinations are no doubt a good thing. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg of the issues we discussed at a recent Lookout community forum about the pandemic. Read our key takeaways about the Pajaro Valley’s COVID Challenges here.

Statewide vaccine mess has local health systems level-setting expectations: As California state health officials continue to struggle with supplying COVID-19 vaccines to Santa Cruzans and others eager to get them, the three major health systems that serve patients here are scrambling to set realistic expectations amid the unreliable supply. Our Mallory Pickett talked to Dignity Health Medical Group-Dominican, Sutter/PAMF and Kaiser Permanente to find out where they stand in vaccinations for the various groups of people in the first phase and tiers. Read what she learned here.

ANOTHER READ: Despite months to prep, why California lags on COVID vaccination (CalMatters)

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Latest from PVUSD

PVUSD trustee Georgia Acosta
(Pajaro Valley Unified School District)

Two trustees cited ‘death threats’ amid Michelle Rodriguez saga. Days later, police say none reported: Two days after Pajaro Valley Unified School District trustees Georgia Acosta and Oscar Soto said they’d received death threats that led them to rescind their votes to fire the district’s superintendent, local law enforcement agencies say they had yet to receive any such reports. Acosta and Soto were among the majority of trustees who voted to fire Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez in a surprise 4-3 vote Wednesday and on Sunday, both said they had received threats against themselves and their families. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

Around the state . . .

Defund or reform UC campus police? Sharp disagreement surfaces: Critics disagreed sharply with University of California officials Tuesday during a symposium, skewering the meeting for lopsidedly focusing on how to improve policing rather than exploring ways to replace it with alternatives. Both the UC Academic Senate Council, composed of faculty leaders at all 10 campuses, and the UC Student Association have called for disarming and substantially defunding campus police, proposing instead that those resources be redirected to support marginalized students and to study and develop other methods of campus safety. Read more from our content partner the LA Times here. Locally, a UCSC doctoral student sued campus police last month, claiming she was battered by officers and left concussed during a demonstration last year. Read that story from our Nick Ibarra here.

Newsom recall backers report raising more than $2.5M: Backers of an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom have raised more than $2.5 million, according to financial disclosures filed with the state through Tuesday. Political analysts say that’s approaching the minimum amount required to gather enough valid signatures to place the matter on the ballot. A veteran Republican attorney said the groups attempting to oust Newsom need to raise a minimum of $3 million to $4 million total to be successful. Read more from our content partner the LA Times here.

Around the county . . .

Santa Cruz County surfing mentor pleads guilty to child sex crime (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville native Marv Marinovich lived for the ‘challenge’ (The Pajaronian)

Santa Cruz quarantine cook off group grows into global community (Good Times)

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

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We’re all about Santa Cruz County, from north to south and in-between.