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Cover Stories

2016: The Year in Review

The weirdest local news from the worst year ever, 2016

 

 

January

GODZILLA INVADES SANTA CRUZ, THOUSANDS FLEE IN MILD ANNOYANCE TO CHANGE OUT OF WET SOCKS

year in review memeA Sunday morning storm drenched the coast with rain on Jan. 24, creating waves close to 15 feet high at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, which busted a water main along the pier. Officials from the city’s Department of Irony soon repaired the pipe, as locals splashed around trying to remember what this wet liquid suddenly coming from every direction was called. Alas, despite a couple of impressive storms, the much-hyped “Godzilla El Niño” couldn’t end four years of drought, and the year’s rainfall total ended up pretty average.

SECURITY GUARD FAILS TO ACHIEVE STATE OF ACTUAL COPNESS

On Jan. 26, an off-duty security guard became incensed when the driver in front of him did not pull into traffic quickly enough in the middle of rush hour. During a confrontation at a stop sign, he took out his handcuffs, threatening to arrest the other driver. “Oh, hell no,” said the real police, who showed up to arrest the guard instead.

 

February

WEIRD WESTSIDE HOME SOLD TO ALARMINGLY NORMAL COUPLE

year in review memeA quirky, historic Westside property, locally referred to as the Court of Mysteries, the Yogi Castle, and the House That Was For Sure Built By Aliens, was purchased by an innocuous human-looking “couple” from “San Francisco.” The totally normal non-aliens plan on remodeling the iconic temple-like structure while honoring the original architecture, in accordance with the prophecy in preparation for the Second Coming of Zorp.

BUT IT HAD WALLS AND A ROOF, RIGHT? IS IT STILL AVAILABLE?

Santa Cruz City Councilman Micah Posner was revealed to have been renting out an illegal accessory dwelling unit in his backyard without city approval or permits for seven years, including four while serving as an elected official. The “backyard bedroom,” which Posner rented to a friend for $700 a month, had no bathroom, kitchen, foundation or heating. Posner did not run for re-election, presumably freeing up time to sit in the corner and think about what he did.

 

March

GIVE US ALL YOUR CASH MONEYS AND ALSO THE LUNCH SPECIAL

Two men with sawed-off shotguns—and apparently some hefty appetites—stormed the back of a food truck on year in review memeFreedom Boulevard. They demanded money and fled in a getaway red hatchback down Crestview Drive. As heists go, it was obviously pretty silly. Everyone knows the real money was in the banana stand.

AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A BANANA SLUG PARTY

DEA and Homeland Security investigators busted a UCSC ecstasy ring involving six sorority and frat students, seizing an overseas shipment of more than $100,000 worth of MDMA. What do you think of that, 4,000 East Coast students who accidentally received acceptance letters to UCSC even though you never actually applied? Oh yeah, you wish you were going here now! We ship internationally, bitches! Don’t you know we’re loco?

 

April

THE BURRITO-SIZED HOLE IN OUR HEARTS

How does a Taqueria Vallarta even close down in this town? There are like 25 of them, and they always seem busy. Anyway, one did, and it just happened to be the one right below GT’s downtown office, proving that no story within a 500-foot radius escapes our nose for news. Speaking of noses, we now get the scent of Five Guys peanut oil wafting up into our ventilation system. Thanks for nothing, George Washington Carver.

‘I THOUGHT I DREAMT THAT’ EXCUSE PROBABLY SEEMED LIKE IT MIGHT WORK

After a 20-year-old man was caught on video climbing out of the broken window of a downtown shop, police caught up to him in the wee hours of the morning, sleeping just a few blocks from the scene. “He claimed that he had dreamed about being locked in a store and having to break glass to get out,” SCPD spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke wrote on the Santa Cruz police blog. “The officer advised him it was not a dream.”

 

May

EVERY PUN WE COULD MAKE ABOUT HOW GROSS COWELL BEACH IS

year in review memeNothing but crappy news for Cowell Beach, which still stinks, at least compared to every other beach in California. The water quality by the Santa Cruz Wharf has been pissing off locals for the better part of a decade, ever since test results took a dump in 2009. And nervous city staffers are pooped out after years of trying to answer questions about why e. coli levels are so high and whether or not a sewage pipe was taking a giant leak into the surf. Well, it hit the fan again this year when the results were in the can from the Heal the Bay’s annual list, which Cowell’s topped again. But failure, this time, isn’t a dung deal. Some whiz kids at Stanford studied the issue, and experts have identified the main culprit—poop from pigeons and other animals. Let’s work on that, so that the whole beach doesn’t go to waste.

BECAUSE, LIKE THE PRESIDENT-ELECT SAID, ‘70 PERCENT OF REGULATIONS CAN GO’

Dallas-based Santa Cruz Biotechnology, which employs 150 at its Delaware Avenue research lab, was ordered to cease all operations as of Dec. 31, and pay a fine of $3.5 million—the largest fine ever brought under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act—for maltreatment of goats and rabbits. According to a 2012 study, more than half of the world’s biomedical research labs working with antibodies were acquiring blood and serum from the company. The settlement followed multiple abuse allegations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture dating back to 2005; inspectors found thousands of animals missing from a California facility in February, and photographed goats with massive tumors and untreated open wounds. But while owners John and Brenda Stephenson may have lost their holdings in the billion-dollar antibody industry, they are no doubt exactly the right people for their latest venture, called … Santa Cruz Animal Health.

 

June

POSSIBLY THE NEXT CLOVERFIELD SEQUEL

year in review memeSummer began with a bang when several blasts shook Bonny Doon residents between 1 and 3 p.m. on June 28. The explosions at Lockheed Martin’s Empire Grade facility were “planned,” officials told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and while there was smoke, there was no fire—just some aliens warring with an aerospace and defense company to distract us while the Illuminati spray chemtrails and try to fluoridate our water.

PAST ITS PRIME

After years of flirting with a Santa Cruz expansion, Amazon went on a hiring spree, searching high and low for talented local brainiacs with low enough self esteem that they’d want to work in the company’s notoriously soul-sucking corporate environment. Don’t worry, though, about techies changing the laid-back Santa Cruz vibe and jacking up rent prices—these jobs will probably get replaced by machines in six months, anyway.

July

YOU CAN FIND ME IN DA CLUB, BOTTLE FULL OF PERMIT VIOLATIONS

A DJ, some live bands, colored lights, sofas, tables, an upstairs balcony and a giant banner on the wall that says “End Prohibition.” What else does a nightclub need? Well, a business license, for one, and—since prohibition did year in review memeactually end—an alcohol license, too. But those were about the only two things police didn’t find when they raided a 4,800-square-foot warehouse-turned-underground-nightclub in the Harvey West area on July 9. Five were arrested and officers seized gallons of alcohol, as well as methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and a stolen .38-caliber revolver. As many as 200 people are reported to have visited the nightclub on a single night, and among those who paid the cover charge to get in were undercover police officers.

BOAT MADE MY LUNCH

Monterey Bay is part of the “red triangle,” and we figured that couldn’t be good even before we knew it was about sharks. But about sharks it is (er, sharks it is about?), and one boater a mile off the Capitola Wharf now understands why, after a 15-foot great white lifted his small skiff several feet in the air and left a piece of razor-sharp tooth embedded in its hull. Luckily, he was unhurt. The shark, meanwhile, has 299 other teeth, and should be fine, assuming it signed up for dental this year.

 

August

WHEN UNLIKELY ANIMAL FRIENDS ATTACK

year in review memeSo, there was this Clydesdale horse, right? And apparently he wasn’t all that keen on being locked up in a pen, even though he lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which is basically like the best place you can live if you’re a horse. I mean, it’s really a stable environment. Anyway, he knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a dwarf billy goat. And this billy goat was, like, super gruff. So one day the billy goat just butts the living hell out of the stable gate, and bam! They’re both out, right? Freedom. But then the billy goat’s like, “I can’t live on the outside, man! I’m freakin’ out!” The farmers or whatever show up, and the billy goat creates a diversion and he’s like “Run, buddy! Run for your life!” And the weird thing is, the horse’s name actually was Buddy. Anyway, they find this Clydesdale a few days later, one mile away, hiding in some shrubbery. And they bring him back in, and ever since then, he just walks around with this long face.

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

The 142-acre expanse north of the Summit known as “Holy City” has an absolutely ghastly history: it was founded in 1918 by William E. Riker as a crack-a-lackin compound for extreme racism, peppered with signs that said things like “Asians and Negroes keep out of Holy City until you’ve learned your place.” Riker’s “Perfect Christian Divine Way” required communal living and total abstinence for the 300 followers living there, and he ruled it until he was charged with sedition in 1942 for writing Hitler love letters. But the parcel was sold for $6 million this summer, and finally the surrounding neighbors can relax, knowing there won’t be anything crazy going on under the new owners: two Silicon Valley billionaires who are Scientology’s biggest donors.

September

IT TURNS OUT GOD EXISTS, AND SHE REALLY CAN’T STAND LOMA PRIETA

As if having your name forever attached to the phrase “earthquake” wasn’t enough, Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains was home to another disaster this year. The Loma Fire started on Sept. 26, bringing a terrifying new meaning to the phrase “well, that escalated quickly” as it burned 4,500 acres and 12 homes.

SIXTH-GRADER EXCITED TO VOTE; THOSE WHO ACTUALLY CAN, NOT SO MUCH

year in review memeLike any young American, Sara Bowin was fully prepared to do her civic duty when she received a letter from the Voter Participation Center with instructions on how to register to vote in her first election. Just one little problem: Bowin is 12. However, the future Katniss Everdeen of the Trump Republic wrote a response which caught the eye of Santa Cruz County Clerk Gail Pellerin: “As much as I would love to voice my opinion and make sure our country is under the right leader, I am only 12 years old.” #Futuredaughtergoals

 

October

C’MON, YOU KNOW SHE WAS JUICING

UCSC researchers say an elephant seal named Phyllis set an elephant seal record by swimming 3,700 miles west from the Northern California coast before turning around, for a trip that will total 7,400 miles by the time she arrives home in January. Other elephant seals at the Marine Mammal Center in Pescadero where Phyllis lives expressed surprise at the news, saying Phyllis was generally known to be “super lazy, even for an elephant seal” and that she usually prefers “Netflix and chill” to swimming. Researchers would neither confirm nor deny that Phyllis’ record swim was part of a desperate search for a new name.

INCREDIBLE STEP TOWARD GENDER EQUALITY IN SURFING DEFINITELY NOT MOTIVATED BY THREAT OF NO SURFING

“It’s quite simply the right time,” Brian Waters, COO of Cartel Management, told the Sentinel when asked about his company’s sudden move to add a women’s heat to the annual Titans of Mavericks surfing contest this year. “There was no compelling driver other than it was the time to do it.” In an unrelated story, the California Coastal Commission announced two days later that if organizers had not added the women’s contest, it had planned to deny Cartel a permit for the annual big-wave event. The CCC had ordered Cartel to add a women’s heat in 2015 as a condition of future permits, but the original permit request for this year’s event did not include one. It all goes to prove the old saying, “There are definitely coincidences.”

 

November

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ELECTION COVERAGE IS POST-ELECTION COVERAGE

year in review memeThe painful news that the United States had elected a stale hot Cheeto for president was dulled slightly—at least for some transportation enthusiasts—by the announcement that Measure D had passed in Santa Cruz County with 67.8 percent of the vote. As a matter of fact, every local measure in the county, ranging from pot regulations to fire and school bonds, earned voter approval. Santa Cruz voters elected three women, which will bring the number of women on its City Council to five out of seven seats. But the days after the election were also marked by protests locally, as hundreds of activists clogged the streets, decrying President-elect Donald Trump and trying to work through the five stages of grief.

STILL STANDING IN STANDING ROCK—BUT SERIOUSLY, OW, THAT IS TERRIBLE

Noah-Michael Treanor, a Pajaro Valley High School grad, took a rubber bullet to the head in Standing Rock, North Dakota, while peacefully protesting the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline there, and required medical attention as blood ran down his face. Footage of the incident was seen by more than 100,000 people, as filmed by online media group the Young Turks. Treanor recovered and went back to the front lines the next day.

 

December

HEAVEN IS SALINAS

Larry Hosford, one of the last survivors of a rock ’n’ roll tradition of musicians who became stars within a regional circuit without finding more than cult fame nationally, died Nov. 26 at the age of 73. In the ’60s, Hosford’s garage band the E-Types was to the Monterey Bay what the Sonics were to the Northwest scene and the 13th Floor Elevators were to Texas rock. In 1971, he joined Snail, Santa Cruz’s most almost-famous band, and then in 1974, Hosford landed a solo record deal that led to an album produced by George Harrison. To most local fans, he will be best-remembered for his KPIG-rotated Americana songs, especially “Salinas,” his tribute to his hometown: “Most of the Okies I know/They went to Salinas/That’s where I’m from/I guess I’m an Okie/I was raised among ’em.”

NOT EVEN TIMOTHY LEARY WOULD BE COOL WITH THIS, AND HE KINDA LET A LOT OF STUFF SLIDE

dec-meme-acidWhile LSD was once known in Santa Cruz for expanding consciousness, promising to unlock transcendent states of reality and giving grown men an excuse to drink deliciously refreshing Kool-Aid, this year it’s more likely to be remembered for making jackasses crash their cars and then try to kick their way out of the situation. That’s what the California Highway Patrol says 29-year-old Marki Manojlovic did early on the morning of Dec. 12, driving into 40 (!!!) traffic cones on Highway 17, and then a sign, and then eventually a metal fence. Responding officers said Manojlovic got pretty kicky as they tried to arrest him, and the CHP said Manojlovic was found to be high on LSD after being transported to Dominican Hospital. Somewhere, LSD inventor Albert Hoffman is turning over in his grave, while he continues to ponder how they can be called fingers if they don’t fing.

 

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