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Morning Lookout: Vaccine eligibility expands, reopening day at Boardwalk, Seabright sounds off and more

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, April 1, and it’s not an April Fool’s Joke when I say the National Weather Service expects more warmer-than-usual weather today — though maybe not as hot as originally expected. The high in Santa Cruz is expected to top out at 76, and the hot and dry conditions yesterday might have played a part in a wildfire approaching five acres that broke out in Boulder Creek.

We’re waking up to tragic news out of Orange, California, where four people, including a child, were killed in a shooting at an office complex. Locally, Santa Cruz police revealed new details about a manhunt for an armed suspect that resulted in the closure of downtown streets and shelter-in-place and lockdown orders for nearby residents earlier this week. Officers are also investigating a hate crime after racist graffiti was found painted on a sidewalk on Swift Street.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands more people in Santa Cruz County will be able to get vaccinated starting today and we have a breakdown of all the places offering the life-saving drug to make your search easier. Also on the recovery beat, iconic Santa Cruz businesses are coming back to life — today, it’s the Boardwalk. Our Wallace Baine talks to the top Boardwalk boss about what patrons can expect on reopening day and what lies ahead for the business.

But first, we are hearing from loads of people about an issue we told you about earlier in the week:

Seabright residents sound off in wake of Lookout story about campsites for homeless

The railroad tracks that run along Murray Street lead from downtown to Seabright.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Word that Santa Cruz’s Downtown homeless population might soon be displaced and end up in one of several designated locations across the city — the Seabright neighborhood among them — is stirring a strong reaction among Seabright residents. Our story by Isabella Cueto — who talked to business owners, homeowners and city staff about the issue — further raised awareness and prompted many more to speak out on Wednesday, both in direct letters to Lookout (many of which also were directed to the city council) and via Facebook group comments, which numbered in the hundreds. Read what people are saying here.

Santa Cruz Police Department investigating possible hate crime graffiti

The Santa Cruz Police Department is investigating racist graffiti found on Swift Street as a hate crime, the agency said last night. On the night of March 30, a resident found racial slurs and “hate-based” graffiti painted on a sidewalk which the department is now “actively” investigating as a hate crime. Read more here.

Coming out of hibernation…

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk president Karl Rice.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Reopening Day Q&A: Beach Boardwalk president Karl Rice looks back on a trying year and forward to the future: Unlike any other local business throughout Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk carries a symbolic weight. Often, economically speaking, how things are going at the Boardwalk is how things are going in Santa Cruz generally. Today, the Boardwalk will once again allow revelers to enjoy attractions, including the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster. Our Wallace Baine sat down with Karl Rice, the president and CFO of the Boardwalk’s parent company to talk about what people can expect on reopening day and the future of the Santa Cruz mainstay.

#BOLO: In honor of reopening, Wallace worked with an expert to craft a tough quiz on Boardwalk history that even long-time residents would find challenging. Be On the Lookout on our website for it later today.

People practice yoga in studios for the first time in months after county moves to orange tier
Instructor Jessica Weitzenhoffer teaches 16 yoga students in person while streaming online on March 31, 2021 after Santa Cruz County moved into the orange tier of COVID-19 restrictions.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

PHOTOS | Indoor yoga returns under a fitting reopening-tier color — orange: Another sign of our gradual return to normalcy: the return of our beloved Yoga studios. In Hinduism, the color orange is a sacred color that signifies purity. Often, it is the traditional color of the loincloth worn by gurus of Yoga as they practice the ancient rituals meant to detoxify the body and restore balance. In Santa Cruz County, that same color allowed for the practice of yoga to return yesterday. Lookout’s Kevin Painchaud captured an in-person class yesterday. See the photos here.

#BOLO: Big Rail Trail meeting today

A segment of the old branch rail line in Santa Cruz County.
A segment of the old branch rail line in Santa Cruz County.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The Regional Transportation Commission is expected to consider a business plan for the proposed Rail Trail today that will include a cash flow analysis to show officials how much money would be needed to move the project ahead. It will also lay out the next steps to take and where funds for the project could be pulled from. Be On the Lookout on our website later today for what comes out of the meeting.


How much will rail cost, and is it worth it? Santa Cruz County’s 4 mayors, others weigh in

Rail Trail 101: Everything you need to know about the county’s most controversial transportation project

Rail Trail Q&A: Passionate perspectives from both sides of these tricky Santa Cruz County tracks

Wildfires and climate

A Cal Fire crew member works near the flames of the CZU Lightning Complex fires in August 2020.
A Cal Fire crew member works near the flames of the CZU Lightning Complex fires in August 2020.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Newsom green lights more firefighting resources — What that means for fire-ravaged Santa Cruz County: In the wake of a devastating fire season last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom is allocating close to $81 million in emergency funds to boost firefighting support statewide. For fire-ravaged Santa Cruz County, the funding will augment current staffing levels by adding additional resources to the Watsonville-based California Conservation Crew crew, which will be able to help firefighters with fuel reduction work and fire response efforts. Read more from our Patrick Riley about what the money will pay for here.

Offseason Boulder Creek wildfire, dubbed ‘Fossil Fire,’ is contained after air support brought in: Meanwhile, even as the area is getting more resources to combat wildfires in the peak months from May through October, crews battled a small wildfire in Boulder Creek yesterday evening. Read more here.

Monterey Bay Economic Partnership’s (MBEP) Blue Paper makes recommendations to address water-related barriers to...

Vaccine Watch: Eligibility expands today

Moderna inoculations are organized on a table
Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations at Kedren Community Health Center in South LA. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Newly eligible: Beginning today, those who are age 50 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in California. This is in addition to everyone 16 and older who have disabilities or comorbidities who were previously made eligible. In two weeks, California vaccine eligibility will further expand to all people over the age of 16.

So how do you get vaccinated in Santa Cruz County? The vaccine rollout has been confusing and frustrating for many, as state and local public health officials send mixed, often-changing messages. In an effort to provide Santa Cruz County residents more clarity, Lookout put together a breakdown of all the places a person might go to get vaccinated — along with some other potential resources.

As millions become vaccine eligible, can supply and technology keep up? Today’s expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will be the biggest test yet for California’s vaccine effort, which has stabilized recently but still faces questions about whether supply and appointments can keep pace with demand. At the same time, the state’s portal for vaccine sign-ups has been riddled with glitches and problems. Read more from our partners at the LA Times here.

Vaccine woes: J&J forced to throw out vaccine doses: As vaccinations ramp up, Johnson & Johnson was forced to throw out a large batch of doses after they failed quality standards. This may delay vaccine deliveries in the U.S. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports the company at the center of the problems has a string of citations from U.S. health officials.

Around the county…

Police reveal new details about manhunt that shut down downtown Santa Cruz neighborhoods Tuesday (Lookout Santa Cruz)

Links investigated in Santa Cruz business corridor blazes (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville leaders honored in annual Cesar Chavez awards (The Pajaronian)

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