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Morning Lookout: Town-gown tension, SLVUSD superintendent apologizes and more

Good Morning! It’s Monday, April 26, and we’ll see intermittent clouds and a high of 58.

In the latest in a litany of challenges about campus development, a task force led by the Santa Cruz city and county governments is asking residents to sign a petition calling for certain parameters to be applied to UC Santa Cruz as it looks towards expanding enrollment in coming years. On the lighter side of local news, I highly recommend you read Mallory Pickett’s beautifully crafted weekend story about Esperanza Community Farms, a non-profit that aims to help feed and educate farmworkers and their families.

As I hit the send button, there’s some national breaking news: the United States Supreme Court is announcing it will examine the scope of the Second Amendment — the right to keep and bear arms — by agreeing to hear the first case they’ve considered on the subject in more than a decade.

There’s a lot more to report. Let’s dive in:

Town-gown tension: Local governments launch petition calling on UCSC to abide by 5 conditions to add students

A task force led by the Santa Cruz city and county governments is calling on UC Santa Cruz to agree to five binding commitments that would restrict how — and where — the university could build more buildings on campus and increase its enrollment. The petition, discussed as part of a virtual community forum about campus growth late Sunday afternoon, is a response to UCSC’s proposed 2021 Long Range Development Plan, a state-mandated document outlining a framework for campus expansion. Our Nick Ibarra breaks down how the petition might impact the larger campus growth debate here.

The debate over the LRDP applies to future campus growth. But UCSC also is facing opposition to plans for new housing for existing students. A rundown of Nick’s recent stories on that topic:

April 22: UCSC’s Student Housing West hit with second lawsuit as history repeats for long-delayed project

April 15: A coalition of UCSC alumni, faculty and community members sue UC Board of Regents over housing project

March 17: Regents — once again — approve UCSC’s controversial Student Housing West plan after years of delays

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Illuminée Studio and other local businesses are staying strong during the pandemic thanks in part to Santa Cruz County...

SLVUSD putting out call for community to come forward about ‘inappropriate behavior’ allegations

San Lorenzo Valley High in Felton.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

In a new letter, San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District Superintendent Laurie Bruton is apologizing to the community and says her district is “aggressively pursuing” its investigation into a series of misconduct allegations. “Sexual abuse, harassment, intolerance, and discrimination will not be tolerated in our schools. If true, these incidents do not meet our standard for professional conduct by staff, and appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken.” Nick has the latest — including how to contact district leaders and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office — here.

‘We’re coming for you: For public health officials in Santa Cruz County, a year of threats and menace

Santa Cruz County health services director Mimi Hall
Santa Cruz County health services director Mimi Hall remains committed to her job, despite the exhaustion and ongoing intimidation. “It’s not the idea that everything will turn out fine,” she says. “It is that no matter what, you can survive this.”
(Anna Maria Barry-Jester/KHN)

SPECIAL REPORT: Santa Cruz County health officials Gail Newel and Mimi Hall are the focus of a newly released segment on the popular public-radio program “This American Life,” which reveals new information about the threats that both experienced at the height of the pandemic. As reported by Anna Maria Barry-Jester with our partners at Kaiser Health News, the segment includes Newel saying that at one point she was told by the sheriff’s department that they didn’t feel confident they could protect her. Our Wallace Baine summarized the segment, which aired on Saturday. And now you can read Barry-Jester’s full report on which the segment is based here.

IN OTHER COVID NEWS: California, Santa Cruz County greenlight J&J vaccinations to resume immediately: Following a CDC recommendation, the state of California announced vaccine providers can resume administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after federal officials briefly paused rollout following reports of blood clots. With local health officials having final say, Newel joined other Bay Area health officers in approving resumption of the vaccine Sunday. Read more here.

Housing and homelessness

David Pedley, Charles “Stoney” Brook and Chris Cottingham
From left to right: David Pedley, a supervisor for the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building Board of Trustees, Charles “Stoney” Brook, a member of the county’s human services commission, and Chris Cottingham, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building Board of Trustees.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

A tiny-home village for homeless veterans? It’s part of non-profit’s bigger picture — but the clock ticks: The Santa Cruz County Veterans Memorial Building Board of Trustees is on an ambitious quest: Create housing for all Santa Cruz County homeless veterans — and do so before the clock runs out on pandemic-related funding that’s helped shelter veterans amid COVID. Among the solutions being considered, a tiny home village with 400-square-foot units featuring two bedrooms, a living room, shower and bathroom. “Basically full units,” an agency official said. Read more from our Patrick Riley here.

(Via Zillow)

Not bid-ness as usual: Current climate for home-buying in Santa Cruz County ‘hard to wrap your head around’: Real estate prices have soared to record heights in 2021 as bidding wars with all-cash, no-contingency offers have suddenly become the norm. While single family home prices are up nationally, Santa Cruz County is a notable outlier. Nationwide, the median price of single-family homes grew 18.4% year-over-year, while prices in the city of Santa Cruz grew 34% to $1.342 million. Read more from Lookout contributor Maria Guara here.

Who is feeding the farmworkers? Esperanza Farms teaches Pajaro Valley families about healthy eating & living

Mireya Gomez-Contreras, the co-leader of Esperanza Community Farms, planting greens for this year's season.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

Mireya Gomez-Contreras spent much of her early life with her parents, working in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast. She is now the co-leader of Esperanza Community Farms, a non-profit with a mission to localize the food system and address inequality. Esperanza’s two acres of farmland have become a means to not only combat food insecurity, but also to nourish the souls of farmworker families like the one in which she was raised. Read more about the group’s mission and members from our Mallory Pickett here.

Battered, burned but alive: Time will heal Big Basin’s wounds, but it needs big money, too

California State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer leads a media tour in Big Basin Redwoods State Park
California State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer leads a media tour in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Boulder Creek on April 22, 2021. Most of the park burned in 2020’s CZU Complex wildfire. Photo by Max Whittaker courtesy of Save the Redwoods League

State officials and conservationists are attempting a complex and extraordinary Humpty Dumpty project: The reawakening of Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County. The state’s oldest park, Big Basin was nearly erased in last summer’s lightning-caused wildfires. In one day, 97% of it burned, destroying buildings that had been standing for 120 years. In all, it was the most comprehensive destruction ever of a major park in California history. State park officials now have a message to get across: The park needs help — mostly money, but also public support and patience. Read more from our partners at CalMatters here.

FREE EVENT: Top chefs to chop it up with Lookout: Join us for ‘Santa Cruz Eats!’

(Event Santa Cruz)

Enough with those carry-out containers! With a full reopening on the horizon in June, Lookout has assembled a trio of top chefs to discuss their survival skills amid the pandemic and, more importantly, their plans for serving people who are hungry for social interaction, ambiance, and, of course, good food and drink. Damani Thomas, owner and chef at Oswald; Brad Briske, co-owner and chef of HOME in Soquel; and Gema Cruz, chef at Gabriella Cafe, will join Lookout for a virtual conversation.

When: 6 p.m. on May 4
Where: Zoom
Cost: FREE
Click here to register for the event.

Buying locally produced food and goods benefits you and your community in more ways than you think.

Around the county …

UC Santa Cruz researchers secure funding for sleep pattern research (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Dave Poetziner to retire after 28 years of coaching at SLV High (Scotts Valley Press Banner)

Pajaro Valley Chamber aims for first-ever community cookbook (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