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Morning Lookout | BREAKING: O’Neill Sea Odyssey ‘racism, misogyny’ allegations, Rail Trail re-do

Good Morning! It’s Thursday, April 29, and it’ll be mostly sunny with a high of 75.

We’re waking up to a big, developing story this morning: The executive director of the O’Neill Sea Odyssey — the environmental education organization that carries on the legacy of late, legendary inventor of the wetsuit Jack O’Neill — has resigned, saying her efforts to improve equity within the organization were thwarted.

In other local news, the Rail Trail debate is again heating up in advance of another big vote next week, and the San Lorenzo Park homeless encampment is clearing out.

On the lighter — dare we say fun — side, we’re giving you a chance to attend an exclusive 25-seat Taylor Rae concert next week. More on that below.

Let’s get to the headlines:

BREAKING: O’Neill Sea Odyssey chief resigns, citing ‘racism, misogyny and privilege’ within organization

Rachel Kippen in January 2019, when she was named executive director of O'Neill Sea Odyssey.
(O’Neill Sea Odyssey )

Rachel Kippen wrote that while she has enjoyed “working with our dedicated staff, collaborative partners, and generous donors” since getting the top job at the environmental education organization in January 2019, “[w]hat I have not appreciated is the institutional racism, misogyny, and privilege that the board is unwilling to confront and address.” She also says the group’s eight board members — seven of whom are white men — rejected grant money that would have helped promote equity issues, but that those funds were returned “on the pretext that the organization could not use the funds to address race equity issues due to the COVID pandemic.” Read more here.

Rail Trail coming to a head: Rail supporters make push to keep train on track heading into key vote next week

Making their train statement.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz)

The decades-long Rail Trail debate is headed into a second battle next week, as the county Regional Transportation Commission decides whether to approve a business plan for passenger rail or shelve that proposal for a trail-only option for the old Santa Cruz Rail Branch Line. In a last-ditch effort to get momentum back on track, rail proponents rallied yesterday in Aptos. Earlier this week, Santa Cruz City Council approved a resolution in support of the business plan, but during a similar move in the Watsonville City Council, city leaders sparred over it. Read more from our Isabella Cueto and Patrick Riley here.

A one-way West Cliff Drive? Remove iceplant? Inside the plan to fix Santa Cruz’s iconic, eroding street

West Cliff Drive view from a drone.
West Cliff Drive view from a drone.
(Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz )

West Cliff Drive, the iconic coastal stretch in Santa Cruz, is feeling the effects of climate change — and those impacts are only expected to worsen in coming decades. In response, the city council has approved an environmental “adaptation plan” for the 3-mile corridor. Read more about what was proposed in the newly approved plan — and what it might cost — from Isabella here.

Cleanup of San Lorenzo Park to begin Friday as homeless camp moves next door to Benchlands

Santa Cruz city employee Megan Bunch helps set up new tents
Santa Cruz city employee Megan Bunch helps set up new tents at the city’s new homeless encampment in the Benchlands earlier this week.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The upper part of San Lorenzo Park will close on Friday, as the city finishes clearing out a longstanding homeless encampment that will move a short distance away, to the Benchlands area closer to the San Lorenzo River. Read more from Isabella here.

Removal of 100-year-old dam in Santa Cruz Mountains a ‘win-win’ for coho salmon and Davenport residents

The Mill Creek dam near Bonny Doon.
(Courtesy Ian Bornarth)

The Sempervirens Fund has secured a grant to remove a defunct dam in the mountains above Davenport. The removal will benefit coho salmon spawning grounds in Mill Creek, as well as improve water quality for residents downstream. “One of the key features and benefits of removing the dam is the release of that sediment into the creek bed, which is going to generate really prime spawning habitat,” said a Sempervirens Fund spokesperson. Read more from our Cypress Hansen here.

COVID 2021

The New York Times COVID-19 tracker appears to show an April surge in Santa Cruz.
(The New York Times)

EXPLAINER: Why are the New York Times and others showing COVID case spikes in Santa Cruz? It comes down to fax machines: Many Santa Cruz County residents and Lookout readers have noticed a strange discrepancy in recent weeks: County health data has shown COVID-19 cases remaining at record lows here, but popular trackers from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are appearing to show a significant spike. In fact, according to NYT, Santa Cruz is the third worst county in the state in terms of per capita cases. The explanation for the discrepancy is simple and comes down to old-school technology and a quirk in data reporting. Read more from our Mallory Pickett here.

ANOTHER COVID READ: When do I still need to wear a mask and when can I go without? A guide to staying safe (LA Times)

A little Lookout fun … and a chance to attend an exclusive concert

Singer, songwriter and Santa Cruz native Taylor Rae
(Courtesy of Taylor Rae)

Want to attend our exclusive Taylor Rae concert next week? Here’s how: As Santa Cruz comes out of pandemic hibernation, we’re excited to launch our newest Lookout membership benefit: SC Insiders – specially curated events, concerts, tours, and more, only for Lookout members! The first of our monthly SC Insiders events will happen on Monday, May 3 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — an exclusive 25-seat (socially-distanced and masked) concert with Santa Cruz’s own singer and songwriter Taylor Rae. We are reserving five seats at this exclusive event for the first five new Lookout members who sign up before midnight Saturday, May 1. To learn more about how you can be entered into this drawing click here.

And by the way, if you’re already a Lookout member, we have only three spots left so send me an email at tulsi@lookoutlocal.com to reserve your spot which will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

State and Nation …

President Joe Biden applauds Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi
President Joe Biden applauds Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker Nancy Pelosi during his address to Congress on April 28, 2021.
(from President Joe Biden’s Twitter)

6 takeaways from President Biden’s address to Congress: The president closed out his first 100 days in office urging a pandemic-fatigued nation to remain vigilant, but also underscoring how far it has come since he moved into the White House, in his first joint session of Congress last night. Now, the most challenging part is going to be using that honeymoon period as a springboard for the rest of a costly, contentious agenda Biden vows would heal the nation. Many critics have deep reservations about those plans. Read the six key takeaways from Biden’s speech in this analysis from the LA Times.

City of Alameda body cam footage.
(Via Alameda PD)

Outrage grows as new video shows Latino man dying after Bay Area police pin him for 4 minutes: Authorities in Alameda are facing growing outrage after a body-camera video released this week showed an officer appearing to put a knee on the back of a 25-year-old Latino man for more than four minutes, with the man pleading and gasping for air before dying. The video immediately drew a comparison from Gonzalez’s family and friends to George Floyd’s killing last summer. Some law enforcement experts said the video raises serious questions about police tactics. Read more from the LA Times here.

Around the county …

Repairs to close Swanton Road through May 14 (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

How Equal Access Santa Cruz is bridging the digital divide (Good Times)

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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