Susan Monheit, Frank Barron, and Keresha Durham discuss their petition in downtown Santa Cruz.
Retired environmental scientist Susan Monheit, retired city and county planner Frank Barron and climate activist Keresha Durham discuss their petition in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Downtown height limits, farmworker rights & library project update

Greetings, Lookout friends. It is Tuesday, Sept. 5, and a pleasant day looks to be on tap around Santa Cruz County as we emerge from the long holiday weekend, with mostly sunny skies (eventually) and temperatures in the 70s and 80s.

Plenty from Lookout to sink your teeth into, but if you’ve no time for a tour, some linkage for you.
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We’re headed to downtown Santa Cruz this Tuesday, with Christopher Neely leading off with a group that’s working to put a measure on the March 2024 ballot to allow residents to vote on projects that propose to reach taller than existing height limits. “What it does is it keeps the city from upzoning neighborhoods without citizen participation,” one member of Housing for People says.

Also downtown, the mixed-use library project got a big boost last week in the form of more than $30 million in state funding, Max Chun reports — though Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley says there still are some hurdles to clear before the housing, library and parking components that make up the project are fully funded.

Long-sought repair work to the Pajaro River levee could get a boost from State Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, whose district includes the Pajaro Valley, after Rivas’ overhaul of a bill that’s now aimed at speeding up repair timelines by allowing them to sidestep California Environmental Quality Act requirements. That’s a preview of what you’ll find in In the Public Interest, Christopher Neely’s weekly newsletter covering Santa Cruz County politics and policy — which you can sign up for here.

And in Lookout’s Community Voices opinion section, Ann Lopez of the Center for Farmworker Families writes about California as “a virtual slave state” when it comes to farmworkers and commercial agriculture — “with different rules, regulations, laws, penalties, agricultural exceptionalism and fear tactics backing it up.”

The Tuesday headlines also include Wallace Baine’s look at the use of “soft psychedelic” ketamine and its increasing popularity for treating a variety of conditions — read along.

Urban density is coming to downtown Santa Cruz. This group wants to stop the city from getting taller.

Retired environmental scientist Susan Monheit, retired city and county planner Frank Barron and activist Keresha Durham.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz’s downtown expansion plan is aimed for the lots that currently host Kaiser Permanente Arena, Ace Hardware and Firefly Coffee House. The city has capped building heights in the area at 12 stories. That is still too tall for some. A group called Housing for People is circulating a petition that asks residents whether they want to be able to vote on projects that propose to reach taller than existing height limits on local land. Christopher Neely reports.

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Sign up here for Christopher Neely’s newsletter on local policy and politics

California is its own sort of slave state — we need to enact farmworker rights now

Workers in the fields in Watsonville
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Ann Lopez, the executive director of the Center for Farmworker Families, believes California farmworkers “make up a slave subclass modeled after the slavery model from the South.” Farmworker families experience poverty, live in fear of family separation and are suffering high rates of pediatric cancer, birth defects and pesticide-related illnesses, she says, because they lack rights and government safeguards. In a Community Voices opinion piece, she offers three steps we all can take to help transform the lives of farmworkers in Santa Cruz County.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Make your voice heard and read what Santa Cruzans are saying about local issues


Santa Cruz County Job Board

That should be plenty to get you rolling this abbreviated workweek, but trust me, there is lots more on the way from Lookout. I’ve already mentioned In the Public Interest, Christopher Neely’s dive into Santa Cruz County politics and policy, which is coming in mere hours; also hitting inboxes later in newsletter form is Lily Belli on Food, the latest bits and bites from our local food & drink scene. Click right here to get those and all of Lookout’s other newsletters sent right to your inbox, plus breaking news alerts via text and email. And I haven’t forgotten our weekly high school sports roundup — that’s coming later, too, so keep it tuned to Lookout and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Threads so you don’t miss anything.

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

Courage, folks — you’ve got this!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz