The exterior of Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: A real estate dip, a taste of Venus Beachside and a gas-tax hike

Good morning and welcome to a new month, dear readers! Today is Friday, July 1, and the marine layer should give way to mostly sunny skies around Santa Cruz County as we head into the holiday weekend, with highs ranging from the 60s to the low 80s.

Here’s something we haven’t seen around here in a while: falling real estate prices. You read that right: After 11 upward years, home prices are trending down, and Max Chun talked to local real estate agents about what that means and how long it might last.

One thing that is still trending upward is the fine-dining scene in Aptos, and Lily Belli took on the enviable task of sampling the menu at Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside, where the Westside distillery has injected new life into Rio Del Mar standby Café Rio.

And with summer sessions in full swing at Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz, Hillary Ojeda takes us inside what Cabrillo president Matt Wetstein called “a bridge to some new normal.”

We’ve also got details on Big Basin Redwoods State Park reopening, recommendations for Fourth of July weekend activities and much more — to the headlines!

After 11 years of rising Santa Cruz home prices, ‘we’re in a dip at the moment’

Home prices in Santa Cruz County have flattened and even begun to drop in recent months, as they have across the country. Will it last? Experienced realtors say it’s too early to say. Here’s what they told Max Chun.

FROM MAY: ‘Not everybody really gets to live in a beach town’: Realtors on what’s ‘getting worse’ in Santa Cruz real estate (Lookout)

Venus Beachside: A creative, nuanced addition to the traditional comforts of Rio Del Mar

Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside opened last week in Rio Del Mar.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Sand dabs, lobster and tastes of the low country. The second Venus brings a bit of Westside panache to Aptos’ Rio Del Mar area as mid-county grows its fine dining scene. Lily Belli reviews the new kid on the block.

MORE FROM LILY: All of Lookout’s food & drink coverage in one place

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‘We’re on a bridge to some new normal’: Cabrillo, UCSC summer sessions in full swing

Art instructor Tobin Keller helps a student in a beginning drawing course at Cabrillo College.
(Hillary Ojeda / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Summer school at Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz kicked off in June, and with the COVID pandemic entering a new phase, officials are rebalancing in-person and remote learning, opening up new opportunities for both continuing students and high schoolers. Hillary Ojeda reports.

MORE ON UCSC AND CABRILLO: All of Lookout’s higher ed coverage in one place

Big Basin Redwoods State Park partially reopens to visitors July 22

California State Parks' Chris Spohrer talks to reporters at Big Basin Redwoods State Park
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz )

For the first time since the CZU Complex fire devastated Big Basin Redwoods State Park in 2020, visitors can explore a limited part of the park again starting July 22. Officials will limit the number of visitors to ensure their safety in the forest and provide a good visitor experience. Get the update here.

MORE: Reimagining Big Basin: Following CZU fire devastation, what should the park become? (Lookout)

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON STUDENT ACCESS

Weekender: A quintessential Santa Cruz day, B9 fetes the Fourth and clockspotting

The woodies were back at the wharf last weekend.
(Wallace Baine / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Wallace Baine looks back at Woodies on the Wharf and the Pleasure Point Street Fair, ahead to Fourth of July weekend, and challenges you to find a timeless timepiece in his latest newsletter. Peruse it here.

LOOKOUT’S FULL EVENTS CALENDAR: BOLO, your place to go for things to do

When are we going to outgrow fireworks?

Fireworks over Aptos
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As we head into another Fourth of July celebration and with memories still fresh of the traumatic CZU fires that ravaged Santa Cruz County in 2020, we’re revisiting Wallace’s column from last year’s holiday weekend. Can we celebrate the nation’s birthday without “bombs bursting in air?” he asks. Read it here.

MORE FIRE WORRIES: California company to shut off public access to forestland due to wildfire concerns (Los Angeles Times)

New California gas tax hits today, bringing higher pump prices — here’s what you should know

Mario Beccera fills up his gas tank at a Mobil gas station in April.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Gas prices in California will go up about 3 cents on July 1 due to the state’s excise tax on gasoline, which is adjusted each year. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times explain.

MORE FROM SACRAMENTO: Nation’s most sweeping law to phase out single-use plastics approved by California lawmakers (Los Angeles Times)

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California climate rules won’t be undercut by Supreme Court’s ruling, experts say

Sunset behind electrical lines outside of Bay Point
(Anne Wernikoff / CalMatters)

The Supreme Court’s decision to limit federal environmental protection rules will have little to no effect on California’s carbon-reduction policies, according to experts — and state leaders say they are doubling down on their climate commitment. Our partners at CalMatters report.

A TUMULTUOUS SCOTUS SESSION: Find all our coverage of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and local reaction

Around the county ...

Real-world scare briefly halts Scotts Valley ‘active shooter’ drill (The Press Banner)
Council split on Watsonville’s deal for Measure U extension, asks for own measure (The Pajaronian)
Prosecutors: ‘Tiger King’ star trafficked endangered animals, including some from Monterey Zoo (KSBW-TV)
Warriors already ruled out of Kevin Durant trade sweepstakes (SFGate)

Now that is a fully stocked cupboard with a three-day weekend ahead. But if you still need more food for thought, Lookout has you covered. Bookmark our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to score another helping of Lily Belli’s Eaters Digest, coming along later today, and click over to our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center to sign up for all the newsletters and alerts we offer.

And July Fourth is a(nother) good time to remind ourselves how crucial independent local journalism is to this democratic experiment of ours. All this content isn’t possible without community support, so please consider becoming a Lookout member (if you’re not already, of course).

Have a chill Friday and a safe, relaxing holiday weekend! I shall see you back here Tuesday morning.

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz