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Morning Lookout: TOLO to go, Maddy Middleton’s killer pleads guilty and more

Good Morning! It’s Wednesday, April 14, and we will see intermittent clouds and a high of 62.

It was a big day in local government yesterday that stretched deep into the night. The highlight? After weeks of community outrage, the Santa Cruz City Council took an apologetic tone and announced it will rescind and redo the controversial “temporary outdoor living ordinance” that aimed to restrict where homeless people can camp. Meanwhile, the council also approved several other proposed changes including water restrictions for the city amid a drought year, a rate hike in parking meter fares in the Main Beach area and more. Santa Cruz County, however, chose to pause a parking permit program along the Live Oak coastline amid state concerns about fees and equity. Meanwhile, an infusion of federal pandemic-related cash means thousands of county employees will no longer have to face repeated furloughs.

There’s a lot more to cover, but first …

Reminder No. 1: Tonight, Wallace Baine and I will be talking to leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry, which bolsters the Santa Cruz County economy. From hotels to the Boardwalk to museums recovering after a tough year, everything is on the table. We’d love for you to join us and be a part of the discussion. If you’d like to join our FREE virtual event tonight at 6 p.m., you can register here.

Reminder No. 2: Our complete coverage of big news events (along with this newsletter) is made possible by Lookout members. Today, and every day, you’ll see a depth and breadth of Santa Cruz County reporting you won’t find anywhere else, so we encourage you to become a member to keep this quality journalism coming and expand it going forward.

With that, let’s dive in:

Local government

Around 100 people gathered in front of City Hall to listen to speakers talk about homeless issues
Around 100 people gathered in front of City Hall to listen to speakers talk about homeless issues

TOLO TO GO | Santa Cruz City Council to rescind, rewrite unpopular homeless camping law: The Santa Cruz City Council decided Tuesday night it will rescind a widely unpopular law passed last month that would’ve left only a few areas in the city for homeless people to camp overnight. Since the law was passed in the wee hours of March 10, burgeoning community outrage became apparent with numerous letters, comments and community events in neighborhoods like Seabright and Westside, where residents feared homeless people would potentially migrate. Now, it’s back to the drawing board. Read more from our Isabella Cueto here.

Besides TOLO, the council moved ahead on several other key issues. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Water restrictions: To respond to the bad water year, the city’s water commission recommended water use restrictions.
  • Louden Nelson sites: The council voted to work on renaming landmarks and sites honoring London Nelson, and “pursue a more accurate depiction” of Nelson, an important figure in Santa Cruz History
  • Main Beach parking rate hike: Parking meter rates will be increased from $1.80 per hour to $2.25 per hour — a 25% increase — by the summer.

That’s just a start. Isa has more about each issue and what was discussed and approved 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...

For first time in years, summer parking to be free along Live Oak coast: Santa Cruz County supervisors have hit the pause button on a longstanding parking permit program that covers coastal neighborhoods in Live Oak after a state commission that advocates for equal access to the coast raised concerns about the fees that motorists would have to pay. As a result, county supervisors unanimously voted yesterday to not move forward with the Live Oak Parking Program for the 2021 season. Read more about what that means for you here.

No more county government furloughs as supervisors OK federal aid spending plan: With a financial shot in the arm coming Santa Cruz County’s way via close to $53 million in pandemic-related federal aid, county supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a multi-year plan to fund the county’s ongoing COVID-19 response, recover revenue losses brought on by the pandemic and roll back staff furloughs. More than 2,300 employees are now being furloughed — taking unpaid days off — for between 5% and 10% of their work schedules. Read more from our Patrick Riley here.

Adrian Gonzalez pleads guilty to killing 8-year-old Madyson Middleton, but he could walk free in 4 years

Madyson Middleton
(Santa Cruz Police Department)

Adrian Jerry Gonzalez on Tuesday pleaded guilty to killing 8-year-old Madyson Middleton nearly six years ago, setting the stage for him to be eligible to walk free at age 25 because of a recent California Supreme Court ruling that sent his case back to juvenile court. Prosecutors had originally sought to try Gonzalez, who was 15 at the time of the crime, as an adult. Had he pleaded guilty after being charged as an adult, Gonzalez — now 21 — would have faced life in prison. Under current law, Gonzalez would be released at age 25 unless the Department of Juvenile Justice determines he continues to present a serious threat to public safety. Read more from our Nick Ibarra here.

Vaccine Watch

Augustine Fuentes gets the Pfizer vaccine shot

‘We should be fine’: Even with J&J on pause, Santa Cruz on track to vaccinate entire county by mid-July: Despite the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being put on pause indefinitely while health officials investigate reports of blood clots in patients, Santa Cruz County deputy health officer Dr. David Ghilarducci told Lookout that Santa Cruz County is on track to offer a vaccine to everyone 16 and over in Santa Cruz County by late July. “By the end of summer, even without the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, if we can continue at the same pace we should be fine,” Ghilarducci said. Read more from our Mallory Pickett here.

Vaccine eligibility expands to 16 and older tomorrow. So what should you do to get a shot? All Californians 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations on Thursday. But so far, vaccine rollout in California has been dogged with spotty supply issues and a confusing and convoluted process to book appointments. State officials said recently that residents could go through their doctor’s office to begin booking their shots, so long as the appointments are on or after the day they become eligible. But, at least for now, it appears that most health systems and pharmacies are not allowing sign-ups in advance of the April 15 date for people ages 16 to 49. To help y’all find a vaccine, Lookout is breaking down all the places a person might go to get vaccinated — along with some other potential resources. Read it all here.

#BOLO: This afternoon, Santa Cruz County’s public health officials will hold a press conference to discuss the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccine rollout as the county prepares to expand the rollout in accordance with state guidelines on Thursday and more. At noon, Be On the Lookout on our website for a livestream of the news conference and for a story summarizing what we learned later in the evening.

TONIGHT: Let’s talk reopening, tourism — and dare we say ‘fun’ — in Santa Cruz and beyond

Riders enjoy the Double Shot ride at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Between its beaches, the Boardwalk, museums, recreation, live music and more, tourism typically is a $1 billion a year industry in Santa Cruz County and the No. 1 driver of the city of Santa Cruz’s economy. Now, after a year that saw the industry’s decline, it’s about to open up again. So what does that mean for jobs and the economy, not to mention the fun that’s in store for you, your family and tourists alike? Wallace and I will be talking to an all-star panel about those questions and more. Read more about the panelists here.

When: 6 p.m. (Tonight)
Where: Zoom
To register, click here.

Around the county …

Santa Cruz sets timeline for City Manager search (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Watsonville man injured in honey oil lab explosion (The Pajaronian)

Police: Santa Cruz repeat offender uses bystander as shield during arrest attempt (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.

Have a great day!

Tulsi Kamath
Managing Editor

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