Property damaged in the CZU Complex fire in 2020
Damage from the CZU Complex fires
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Latest News

Morning Lookout: Home insurance struggles, Watsonville votes on organic farming, and Lookout trivia night

Hello! I’m Tamsin McMahon, Lookout’s Managing Editor, filling in for Will McCahill, who is enjoying a much-deserved vacation.

It’s Wednesday, June 28 and we’re having another mild day in Santa Cruz. We’re expecting partly cloudy skies and a high of 69F. There will be a light breeze coming from the west at around 5 to 10 mph.

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Fire insurance: Today, Hillary Ojeda brings you a local look at the statewide battle over home insurance in the wake of State Farm’s decision to pull out of writing new policies in California late last month. The company is the largest insurer to stop issuing new policies in the state over the risk of costly wildfires.

In Santa Cruz County, mortgage and insurance professionals say that is likely to leave many homeowners — particularly those living in the mountains — with dwindling options for property insurance. Some may be forced to turn to a state-run program that offers fire insurance as a last resort. But the program can cost many times more than private insurance, raising concerns about how it will affect housing affordability in the region’s most fire-prone communities.

Watsonville embraces organics: Also from Hillary, during their regular Tuesday night meeting, Watsonville council members unanimously approved a resolution to encourage the transition to organic farming on agricultural fields within one mile of the city’s urban limit line.

Wallace Baine hosts Lookouts Trivia Contest in Abbott Square on Tuesday.

Trivia Nights: Sebastopol, Stockton, San Dimas. Wallace Baine focused one set of his first-of-the-season Lookout Trivia Contests Tuesday night on the S’s of California place names. And he threw in, appropriate to the beginning of the season, another aural set of summer-themed song titles. The most familiar song to the crowd was crooned by another S, the apparently timeless Sinatra.

Under a resplendent sky, more than 50 people gathered around Abbott Square tables to form 15 teams. They competed as Wallace tossed out the clues, and his house managers, Lookout’s Jamie Garfield and Ashley Harmon, kept score.

Left to right: Lookout’s Ashley Harmon and Jamie Garfield at Trivia Night in Abbott Square.

Our contests run through the warm season, the fourth Tuesday of each month at Abbott Square, which we thank for hosting and helping. Always free to participate, with signed-in members getting the best tables reserved up front. Sign up for the next ones, including July 25.

Beer Pressure
Members of Team Beer Pressure

Congratulations to the winners, Team Beer Pressure, who correctly guessed the answer to the question: “What Santa Cruz company sent its product on the Apollo 11 moon landing?” (See the answer below.)

The team is made up of Jacob Ingoglia, Mike Ingoglia, Allie McBride, Nick Ingoglio, and Donna Ingoglio. They took home a basket of goodies from Lookout’s Marketing Partners: first place prize tickets to Gilroy Gardens, a Soquel Vineyards tasting voucher, a Pacific Cookie Company cookie tower, and two Spenga classes.

Members of Team Latham, who came in second place in Lookout's first trivia contest of 2023.

Second place went to Team Latham, made up of Elk Latham, Zach Latham and Christy Latham. You met Christy in our pages when the Santa Cruz High Band Director took her 84-person group to Carnegie Hall in March. Christy told us how generous Lookout readers were in raising funds to help with the expenses. “The story just blew up,” she said.

Make sure to RSVP for our next trivia contest to get in on the next fun on July 25.

(*The answer is: Plantronics, whose headset were worn by astronauts on the first moon landing, enabling the transmission of famous lines such as Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”)

Now to Wednesday’s news.

Santa Cruz mountain communities brace for turmoil as home insurers leave California over wildfire risk

A Cal Fire crew member works near the flames of the CZU Lightning Complex fires in August 2020.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As insurance companies like State Farm temporarily stop writing new policies in California over concerns about the cost of wildfires, homeowners in high fire-risk areas, such as the San Lorenzo Valley, can expect to pay higher premiums as they pick from a much smaller pool of property insurers. A state-run insurance program that offers limited fire insurance may become the only option for many in the Santa Cruz Mountains — one that experts warn could be far too expensive for some low-income families.
Hillary Ojeda reports.

MORE: State Farm’s California freeze: Looming insurance apocalypse or political ploy?

California wildfire insurance: Should homeowners pay for climate change?

Devastated by storms and denied by insurance, Lompico residents navigate uncertain recovery

Watsonville City Council adopts resolution supporting transition to organic farming

CORA led a gathering to raise awareness that pesticides are being used next to MacQuiddy Elementary.
A group called CORA led a gathering in early September to raise awareness that harmful pesticides are being used next to MacQuiddy Elementary.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Watsonville city council members unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night encouraging the transition to organic farming on agricultural fields within one mile of the city’s urban limit line. The city will says it will also coordinate with local and private organizations to make that happen.

While the city has no authority to force growers to make the transition, advocates for stricter rules surrounding pesticide use near school say the resolution “puts the city on the record” about their support for the shift to organic. Read more from Hillary Ojeda here.

Solar sprawl is tearing up the Mojave Desert. Is there a better way?

Paleontologist Wayne Thompson holding up the mastodon teeth while collections manager Kathleen Aston looks on.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Researchers have found there’s not nearly enough space on rooftops to supply all U.S. electricity — especially as more people drive electric cars. So corporations are making plans to carpet the desert with dozens of giant solar fields — some of them designed to supply power to California. The Biden administration has fueled that growth, taking steps to encourage solar and wind energy development across vast stretches of public lands in Western states. America needs lots of clean power, fast. But should it go on public lands or on rooftops? Read the full story here.

MORE: California just slashed rooftop solar incentives. What happens next?

Cabrillo College’s new multimillion-dollar solar panels nearing completion


Upcoming events in Santa Cruz County

Midtown Fridays @1111 Soquel Ave.
Embroidery Workshop @Wallflower Santa Cruz
Zayante Fire Fundraiser @Felton Music Hall
Stephen Marley @The Catalyst Club
Bodhi Mojo @Woodhouse Blending & Brewing
Frequency Festival @Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Santa Cruz Elks Oktoberfest @Santa Cruz Elks Lodge
Foodie Fruity Wreath Making Extravaganza @Scotts Valley farmers market
Vegan Italian Cooking & Wine Pairing Class @Flipjack Ranch
Teen Kitchen Project Everett Farm Dinner @Everett Family Farm
Echos Of Empire @Civic Auditorium

For the love of dogs @Chaminade Resort & Spa
41st Santa Cruz Triathlon @Depot Park
Music at the park @Skypark
Jean Dawson @The Catalyst

That’s plenty of content for your inbox but if you’re itching for some more sign up here for that and all of Lookout’s other newsletters, along with breaking news alerts via email and text. We’re on the socials, too, so follow Lookout on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay current with the latest news from Santa Cruz County.

Our content isn’t possible without community support, so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tamsin McMahon
Lookout Santa Cruz