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Morning Lookout: Honoring COVID victims, housing crisis updates, ‘Recall Newsom’ efforts ramp up and more

Good Morning! It’s Monday, Feb. 15, and we’re expecting a rainy day with a high of 59. I expect many of you have the day off for Presidents Day, but in case you’re like us and have to go to work, expect some wet roads during your morning commute from overnight rain.

This will likely be the last Presidents Day that a bust of George Washington sits in Watsonville City Plaza, but could it be replaced by a permanent, public memorial to honor residents who have died of COVID-19? More on that below.

Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County is setting a goal of getting homeless families with children off the streets by the end of the year, even as a homeless encampment near the intersection of Highways 1 and 9 is about to get upended by a key road widening project.

It certainly isn’t a happy Presidents Day for Gov. Gavin Newsom: National Republicans have donated a quarter of a million towards the mounting “Recall Newsom” effort. And while Newsom feigns nonchalance, he has ramped up public appearances around the state at various mass vaccination sites, including one at Levi’s Stadium last week.

Speaking of Presidents Day, where to put the apostrophe; is it Presidents Day, Presidents’ Day or President’s Day? Read till the end for the grammatical analysis, but, first, your headlines:

‘Devastated’ Watsonville looks to create monument honoring lives lost to COVID-19

Although only 18% of Santa Cruz County residents live in Watsonville, the city has seen 52% of all COVID-19 cases in the county, prompting an effort to create a memorial to residents who lost their lives because of the virus. The project is still in the early planning stages, but Mayor Jimmy Dutra says he envisions “definitely something physical,” such as a mural or sculpture. Our Isabella Cueto has much more here.

Our suggestion: Last week, just days before Presidents Day, the city chose to move a bust of George Washington from the Watsonville City Plaza to the city’s library, where it will have a bilingual plaque that explains a more comprehensive history of the nation’s first president, including his slave ownership. Why not replace the bust with the COVID memorial? Do you agree or have a different idea? Send me a note and tell me what you think.

Three local nonprofits - Homeless Garden Project, Save Our Shores, and Teen Kitchen Project - are working hard to...

On the homelessness and housing beat . . .

Santa Cruz County sets goal of getting all homeless families sheltered by end of year: In the fight against homelessness, Santa Cruz County is setting an ambitious goal of wanting to find shelter or housing for all its homeless families with children by year’s end — a move some hope will spark momentum in the county’s battle to protect some of its most vulnerable residents. Read more about how the county plans to achieve this from our Patrick Riley here.

Before Hwy. 1 widening can start, large Santa Cruz homeless camp must move. But where will it go? Meanwhile, even as the county is eying the lofty goal of getting kids off the streets, local and state government officials have just weeks to figure out where dozens of unsheltered people living in tents near Highways 1 and 9 will go because of a key road widening project that is set to begin in April. Complicating matters is that the intersection, one of the busiest and most congested in Santa Cruz, is in and of itself an intersection of local, county and state government. Isa and Pat have more here.

An above-garage ADU.
(Courtesy Santa Cruz County Planning Office)

Home prices rise significantly amid pandemic, with Santa Cruz median price topping $1 million: Santa Cruz County’s median home sale price increased 9.9% — to nearly $800,000 — from December 2019 to December 2020, reflecting a pandemic housing boom nationwide. In Santa Cruz proper, there were 76 sales — with the median price increasing 18.8%, to just over $1 million — from the year before. That’s the highest median price countywide. How much did prices change in your community? Find out here.

The ADU equation: Are relaxed ‘granny unit’ rules helping solve Santa Cruz County’s housing crisis? Few issues divide people like so-called “granny flats” — the backyard cottages bureaucratically known as Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. Even in an area like Santa Cruz County where the housing and affordability crunch is top of mind, creative ways to add units to available lots via ADUs spark fierce debate. But love ‘em or hate ‘em, Californians and Santa Cruzans are going to be seeing a lot more ADUs in the coming years. Read more from Lookout contributor Maria Gaura here.

ANOTHER HOUSING READ: Battle over 418 Pennsylvania Ave. rental development in Seabright ends with project approval (Isa Cueto / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Recall roundup

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference outside of Levi's Stadium
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference outside of Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

National Republicans donate $250,000: In another sign of the issue drawing attention from across the country, national Republicans donated a quarter-million dollars to the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, a notable injection of funds as the campaign enters the final month to gather enough valid signatures to put the matter on the ballot. To make the ballot, recall proponents must submit 1.5 million verified signatures by mid-March. Read more from our content partner the LA Times here.

ON THE FLIP SIDE: Biden opposes effort to recall Newsom, White House says (LA Times)

Newsom polishes image as recall drive escalates: Meanwhile, after months of press conferences via webcast, Newsom has taken to orchestrating outdoor COVID press conferences in the past few weeks — a move that coincides with the escalating recall campaign. Tellingly, the events feature testimonials from local officials as to Newsom’s governing prowess. Read more from our partners at CalMatters here.

EXPLAINED: ‘Recall Gavin Newsom’: Everything to know about who’s behind it, what’s next (CalMatters)

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services exists to improve the quality of life for children with cancer and...

Around the county . . .

Man in critical condition after another shooting near levee (The Pajaronian)

Big thrills, dangerous spills: Bay Area nonprofits provide treatment options for surfers who suffer brain injuries (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Volunteers needed to help landscape new Ramsay Park pumptrack (Good Times)

Where to put that apostrophe

Is it Presidents Day, Presidents’ Day or President’s Day? The reason editors and advertising copywriters can’t agree on where, if anywhere, to place that roving apostrophe is that none of the “President” appellations is officially correct, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

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Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor