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Morning Lookout | PVUSD trustees vote to not pay $16K legal fees, relaxing tiny home rules and more

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, March 11. The National Weather Service says more snow came down in the highest elevations of the Santa Cruz Mountains overnight and Lookout member Claudia Webster shared the photos of snow in Bonny Doon this morning. For today, we’re expecting a partly sunny day with intermittent showers and a high of 56.

After another late night, our Nick Ibarra reports that the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board of trustees voted against paying $16,000-plus in legal fees authorized by former board president Georgia Acosta without approval from the board. In local government updates, county supervisors continue to work on efforts to make building ADUs and tiny homes easier. In Watsonville, city council members voted to raise utility rates for residents over the next five years — a move that can be contested by residents.

And as we look to recovery, California is set to get a massive infusion of unexpected cash — $26 billion — from the stimulus package that President Joe Biden is expected to sign this week. While plans for distributing that money both locally and statewide remain unclear, our partners at CalMatters report one aspect of the deal could help cut childhood poverty in the state in half.

Let’s start with the school district drama:

PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board's president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board’s president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
(PVUSD and Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

PVUSD voted last night against paying $16,000 in legal fees accrued during the brief ouster of Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez in late January. The fees were authorized by former board president Georgia Acosta without approval from the rest of the board. All the trustees, barring Acosta who was absent from the meeting, voted against paying the fees after an at-times emotional discussion. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

Presented by Santa Cruz County Bank

Wild Poppies – a small local olive oil business – was created by two sisters, Kim Null and Jamie de Sieyes. Their...

The ADU, tiny home push: Concept of pre-approved plans, ’30-minute’ permit process move forward unanimously

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

With an eye toward trying to make housing more affordable for more people, Santa Cruz County leaders this week moved forward with measures intended to allow for more tiny homes and speed up the permitting process for so-called accessory dwelling units, or ADUs. The latter could include making preapproved ADU plans available for residents via the county’s planning department website this summer. Could the county’s moves reduce ADU construction costs? Our Patrick Riley has the latest here.

Watsonville advances utility rate hikes, setting up protest window for ratepayers

The Watsonville City Council unanimously approved a proposal to raise rates for its water, sewage and solid waste utilities over the next five years — funds city officials say are needed for infrastructure upgrades that are already overdue. Before the changes take effect, however, ratepayers have a chance to object. Protests from a majority of ratepayers would block the increases. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

Sheriff spreads word about credit card skimmers after three found across Santa Cruz County

A credit card skimmer after announcing the seizure of three such devices this week.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office posted this image of a credit card skimmer after announcing the seizure of three such devices this week.
(Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office via Facebook)

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office is warning people to be on the lookout for credit card skimming devices after three devices were found around the county. Sheriff’s deputies were alerted to a skimmer attached to a Bank of America ATM in the Aptos area Tuesday. They then found two additional skimmers at Bank of America ATMs in Watsonville and Felton. Read more about the devices and how to protect yourself here.

Reopening and recovery

Busser Rocio Rameno pours customer Mayra Almanza a cup of fresh brewed coffee at Silver Spur Restaurant.
Busser Rocio Rameno pours customer Mayra Almanza a cup of fresh brewed coffee at Silver Spur Restaurant.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

‘We’ve been waiting for this’: Santa Cruz County returns to red tier: From gyms to restaurants and hair salons, more parts of Santa Cruz County came alive yesterday after several dormant months. Though not able to reopen at 100%, many business owners are happy to be able to reopen at all. Our Kevin Painchaud drove around town capturing what it looks like for a county to slowly come back to life. See his cool photos here.

California’s robust budget will get another $26 billion from new COVID-19 stimulus: California’s state budget, already poised to be flush with higher-than-expected tax revenues, will receive an additional cash infusion of $26 billion under the COVID-19 relief bill that President Joe Biden is expected to sign this week. State budget officials said yesterday they were still reviewing the rules governing how the $26 billion can be spent, but the early view is that California officials will have wide discretion over how to use the cash. Read more from our content partners at the LA Times here.

‘Revolutionary’ federal stimulus bill could cut California child poverty by half: The mammoth stimulus package also has the potential to reduce child poverty in the Golden State by half, CalMatters reports. Economists and progressives are hailing as “revolutionary” a provision to send periodic cash to most families with children through a one-year expansion of the existing child tax credit. When combined with the state’s new stimulus aid, the payments could lift millions of Californians out of poverty this year, particularly immigrant households that have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s health and economic effects. Read more from our partner CalMatters here.

#BOLO: Lookout is seeking answers about where and how much of the $26 billion cash infusion headed to California will come to Santa Cruz County. Be On the Lookout for that story as soon as details become clear.

#BOLO PART 2: Also, this afternoon, Santa Cruz County public health leaders will hold their weekly press conference at 2 p.m. to give people an update on COVID-19, vaccine progress, recovery and more. Be On the Lookout on our website today for a livestream of the press conference and the details of what we learned.

Around the county . . .

Was your home damaged in CZU fires? Non-profit affiliated with county wants to hear from you (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz’s Riverfront project appealed, faces Coastal Commission Friday (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Rally held at PVUSD to protest cuts for programs (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

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