Trees at Church Christmas Tree Farms in Royal Oaks
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Honoring homeless lives lost, Xmas trees and climate change & a rescued cub

Greetings, Lookout friends. It is Thursday, Dec. 22, and a partly sunny day with highs in the 50s and 60s is on tap for Santa Cruz County, with some chance of rain as we head toward evening.

Right this way if you’re looking to explore what’s new on Lookout on your own.
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The 137 members of Santa Cruz County’s unhoused community who died this year were memorialized Wednesday at Vets Hall, and Lookout’s Mark Conley and Kevin Painchaud were on hand. “Not enough is being done to prevent these things from happening,” said one worker who sees local homelessness up close. “There are solutions, just not enough implementation and will to overcome obstacles to get it done.”

Climate change is an ever-present threat in our county and beyond, and local Christmas tree farms are no exception. Lookout’s Kate Hull checked in with farmers and scientists and paints a picture of the changing scene.

And in our Community Voices opinion section, advocate and former farmer Sam Earnshaw writes about what’s ahead for Watsonville after city voters passed Measure Q, extending protection of farmland and prioritizing orderly growth.

Help wanted: Lookout is working on an ongoing series exploring working life and we’d love your input. How did you get your job? What do you love most about it? What are the biggest challenges? What do students and recent graduates need to know about how to get into your industry? Share your stories and career advice with us — email us at and put “career advice” in the subject line.

Thursday’s headlines also include the latest on a seemingly orphaned mountain lion cub found in Santa Cruz, so please read along.

‘The world is missing something without him’: Santa Cruz memorializes its unhoused fatalities

a tearful woman speaks at a memorial service
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

COVID wiped out the annual community celebration of homeless lives lost for two straight years. Wednesday marked its return and a packed Vets Hall illustrated the number of others affected by those losses — 137 people who had been unhoused at some point in 2022, 91 of whom lost their lives while deemed officially homeless. What Mark Conley and Kevin Painchaud heard and saw.

PREVIOUSLY: Homeless count shows large increase among veterans, substance users and mentally ill; big decrease for families

How climate change is reshaping the Christmas tree

A sign welcomes visitors to Church Christmas Tree Farms.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As climate change causes extended periods of drought and warm temperatures, even hardy Christmas trees are struggling to thrive. This has spurred some Santa Cruz-area Christmas tree farmers to become more innovative in their approach to growing the trees. It also means your Christmas tree might look a little different in future years. Here’s what Kate Hull found out.

ELSEWHERE IN NATURE: Little fish, big splash: Coho salmon’s Mill Creek debut stuns conservationists


toad fitness group

Santa Cruz County Job Board

Plenty of content for your inbox, to be sure — and if you’d like some more, click here to get Weekender, Wallace Baine’s every-Thursday look at Santa Cruz’s arts and culture scene, and our other newsletters, plus breaking news alerts. Another great way to stay current on local happenings is by following Lookout on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay in the know.

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Have a good day, and I’ll meet you back here Friday a.m.

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz