Volunteers Susan Cavalieri and Pauline Seales wrap a tree at Lot 4 with handmade knitted scarfs.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: The trees of Lot 4, post-Benchlands park reopening and election fare

Hiya, folks! It is Thursday, Nov. 3, and sun is in the forecast for Santa Cruz County, though after a chilly start we’ll see highs in just the 50s and low 60s.

A solo stroll through Lookout’s latest more your speed? I hear ya.
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Trees are first up on the day’s agenda, with Wallace Baine reporting on the brouhaha that has followed the tagging of trees on downtown Santa Cruz’s Lot 4 for removal. With that area already in the spotlight as city voters consider Measure O, the timing has raised some eyebrows.

On the other side of the San Lorenzo River, the clearing of the Benchlands homeless encampment is complete — and the city hopes to reopen the park area to the public by spring, Max Chun reports.

And down the road, voters in the Pajaro Valley Health Care District will elect two board members of the organization that’s now running the Watsonville Community Hospital, and Hillary Ojeda talks to the three candidates and scopes out the challenges ahead.

Thursday’s headlines also include local officials exploring whether they can regulate companies that forcibly take children to “reunification camps” as part of custody battles, so please read along.

Measure O offshoot: The new ruckus over Santa Cruz’s plan to remove Lot 4 trees

One of the Lot 4 trees tagged for removal.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Could the timing have been any worse? As Santa Cruz voters go to the polls Tuesday to vote up or down on the controversial multiuse library/housing/parking structure downtown on Lot 4, all of sudden the trees on the parcel were tagged for removal. Was it all a plot, a clumsy move — or just part of a long-planned process that protestors find objectionable? Wallace Baine digs in.

MORE: A lot of disagreement: Measure O galvanizes competing visions of downtown Santa Cruz (Lookout)

With Benchlands clearing complete, Santa Cruz aims for spring park reopening

The Benchlands area along the San Lorenzo River
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Though just over 30% of evicted Benchlands residents opted for shelter at the armory, the clearing of Santa Cruz County’s largest homeless encampment is now complete, taking only seven phases instead of the anticipated nine or 10. City Homelessness Response Manager Larry Imwalle views the process as successful despite the low rate of uptake. Get the details from Max Chun.

RELATED: Beyond the Benchlands: Under lawsuit threat, Santa Cruz sets plan to clear homeless camp. What happens next? (Lookout)

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That’s a solid start to the day — and there’s more coming from Lookout, including Wallace Baine’s Weekender newsletter, hitting inboxes in mere hours with a recommendation-packed look at Santa Cruz County’s arts and entertainment scene. You can sign up for that, plus all our other newsletters and breaking news alerts, by clicking right here, and it’s also a good plan to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We at Lookout can’t do any of this without community support — so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member. And to all our members, a great big thank-you!

Enjoy what’s looking to be a gorgeous Thursday — catch you back here in the a.m.!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz