Year in Review 2019
Cover Stories

The Year in Review: 2019

The good, the bad and the weird this year in Santa Cruz County

Our Year in Review issue takes on ninja squirrels, Google money, PG&E blackout madness and more

JANUARY

ARSONIST GYM EMPLOYEE PRACTICES SPRINTING FROM COPS

A 24 Hour Fitness employee was arrested after allegedly starting a fire in the gym early one Tuesday morning. He also threw a fire extinguisher through the window and ran away from responding officers. At a gym as grimy as 24 Hour Fitness, this is actually the most reasonable way to burn calories.

G.O.A.T. AT STOPPING TRAFFIC: GOATS!

january 2There are many annoying causes for traffic jams on Highway 17—reasons like landslides, fallen trees, protesters, and crashes due to Tesla owners zipping around like they’re Dale Earnhardt Jr. on meth. But the cutest reason for backed-up traffic on Santa Cruz County’s mountainous four-lane highway this year was definitely goats, and namely the two that pranced around with their adorable little horns, wooing commuters who spent 15 minutes of their time corralling the fuzzy animals and tying them to a guard rail. Note to protesters: Next time you block traffic in the name of choking off the arteries of capitalism, try bringing a couple goats with you. All the haters will be like, “‘ARRRRR!’ I mean, ‘Awwwww.’”

FEBRUARY

FEDS BUST FRESHMAN FOUNDER OF WORLD’S GROSSEST-SOUNDING APP

february 1A UCSC freshman from Sunnyvale was selling cocaine, meth, shrooms, MDMA, and “special requests” through his Banana Plug mobile app, which was available in Apple’s App Store. Unsure if they had the resources to arrest an 18-year-old on their own, UCSC Police decided to call in Homeland Security officers, who arranged four meetings through the app and on Snapchat to buy cannabis, cocaine and more than 5 grams of methamphetamine. A federal grand jury indicted the student on drug distribution and possession charges. We still don’t know what a banana plug is, nor do we want to.

RECALL NEWS: PLEASE MAKE IT STOP

Mayor Martine Watkins called out fellow councilmembers Drew Glover and Chris Krohn, acknowledging “perceptions” that the two men had been bullying her. Honestly, to anyone who had witnessed the way Krohn and Glover mansplained their way through City Council meetings, this sounded plausible. It helped kickstart an investigation in which Krohn and Glover were each found to have violated the city’s Respectful Workplace Conduct policy, due to complaints from other employees. Watkins’ complaints weren’t substantiated. Regardless, a recall campaign had begun, so a bunch of Glover and Krohn apologists started playing defense by attempting to justify everything that Glover and Krohn had ever done. Recall supporters, for their part, started exaggerating Krohn and Glover’s violations—allegedly spreading outright lies and pretending that the two politicians had committed heinous crimes. After the report on the matter came out, Glover held a meeting with a staffer that escalated quickly and got quite heated. A subsequent memo stated that Glover was no longer allowed to talk to the vast majority of city staffers. Glover violated the city’s conduct policy again in November, and on and on. Why do we get the nagging sense that the recall—no matter its outcome—won’t make Santa Cruz any better off?

MARCH

 THIS IS ‘US’

march 1The shortest-titled hit movie since Oliver Stone’s W. burst into American theaters, and the biggest star (other than the magnificent Lupita Nyong’o) was the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Us, director Jordan Peele’s horror-movie follow-up to his landmark Oscar-winner Get Out, suggested that the Boardwalk was a mysterious nexus of enslaved doppelgangers, at the same time paying subtle tribute to the last movie that portrayed Santa Cruz as a supernaturally creepy place, 1987’s The Lost Boys. Us quickly became the biggest box-office draw in the country, but the Boardwalk had to endure lots of social media buzz, and a feature story or two, declaring that the film would scare tourists away. Turns out, the opposite was true. The film ended up grossing more than $255 million worldwide, the Boardwalk got a big pop-culture boost, and locals learned a valuable lesson: don’t go underneath the Boardwalk, because your Tether doppelgänger is just waiting to pull the ol’ switcheroo on you.

IT’S WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE

Margaret Bruce, who had served on the San Lorenzo Valley Water District board for seven years, resigned after a bizarre controversy the previous month that saw fellow board member Bill Smallman censured for saying that anyone who used glyphosate pesticides “is both really stupid and lazy, and probably gay.” That class of pesticides has been banned by the SLVWD. Bruce publicly criticized Smallman’s homophobic comment, for which he later apologized, saying he had become “addicted” to online debate and would undergo diversity training. Bruce did not indicate whether her resignation was related to Smallman, who also resigned three months later. 

APRIL

ROSS CAMP REIGNITES ‘PUBLIC SAFETY’ CULTURE WARS

For a fleeting moment this spring, it seemed like there might be another path forward on homelessness. After years of shuffling tents from park to park, organizers of a central encampment between the Ross discount store and the mouth of Highway 1 filed a civil rights lawsuit that demanded local officials provide a humane alternative before they dismantled the camp criticized for drug sales and poor sanitation. Finally, an end to reactionary Band-Aids like issuing camping fines to people with no money? Nah. The court injunction passed and occupants were evicted, with witnesses reporting ugly instances of groups in cars throwing rocks at people in the camp.

BACKYARD BEEKEEPERS FLY INTO BUREAUCRACY’S CLUTCHES

april 1At long last, in the spring of 2019, Santa Cruz seized the opportunity to confront the city’s many vexing social issues by cracking down on … backyard beekeepers. In April, Midtown resident Donna Gardner spoke with GT about her ordeal after eight years of maintaining an active hive, when she was suddenly fined around $700 and told she needed some expensive new permits. “I spent at least the first two weeks crying and not sleeping at night,” Gardner said. OK, we’re not sure why she’s so into bees, but we can say that as long as those stingers aren’t terrorizing unassuming passersby, the city would probably be better served by buzzing off.

MAY

WAVE, GOODBYE

Douglass Thorne’s amazing Santa Cruz life came to a close in May at 90 years old. He was an educator who served at all three of Santa Cruz’s high schools, and as a U.S. Navy reservist for 40 years. But the local surf community will forever remember him as one of the last surviving members of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club, the Big Bang of Santa Cruz’s now world-famous surf culture. Thorne was surfing the local breaks as a kid in the years leading up to World War II and spent a significant portion of his life in, on and around the ocean. He was a founding member of the Surfing Club’s Preservation Society—which, among other things, came to the rescue of the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum at Steamer Lane when it was on the verge of closing. At a memorial service on West Cliff Drive, Thorne’s body was driven past his favorite surf spots one final time, per his request.

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

Santa Cruz never had A-listers like Cher or Bono or Madonna, and now we’re not even scraping the bottom of the one-name-celebrity barrel, thanks to the departure of Chip, the longtime executive director of the city’s Downtown Association. In May, the weird guy who everyone had to pretend they wanted to say hi to as he aimlessly wandered the downtown streets every day announced he was leaving his position in Santa Cruz for a similar position in another hipster-friendly college town: Boulder, Colorado. Chip emerged in Santa Cruz 20 years ago from the local theater community, and as head of the DTA, he had been one of Pacific Avenue’s most recognizable faces for a decade, sadly. 

JUNE

THINGS ARE LOOKERING UP

Nerds of Santa Cruz rejoiced in June, when Google announced a 10-figure acquisition of local “business intelligence” startup Looker. What does that even mean? That’s not really for normals to know, but all the hype about Big Data was enough to help drive the price of selling out to Silicon Valley up to $2.6 billion. Another thing the deal inspired among local luddites: anxiety about what the official arrival of Google money—on top of Amazon and others—might mean for non-techies looking to hang onto housing and office space. Oh, and lots of sick burns about man buns.june 1

BOOTS AND REBOOTS

Way up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where pretty much everyone is either unnervingly knowledgeable about crystals or an aspiring Amerciana musician, this summer brought yet another big change to the local entertainment scene. After a weird and expensive stint as steakhouse-meets-music venue Flynn’s Cabaret, the former Don Quixote’s was bought and reopened by longtime Catalyst booker Thomas Cussins and his Ineffable Music Group. The newly rechristened Felton Music Hall is booking a wide range of roots, reggae and rock music at a time when the mountain towns are seeing major growth, thanks to that more affordable, salt-of-the-Earth land.

JULY

GODDAMN CRAZY SQUIRREL IS CRAZIER THAN WE THOUGHT

july 1It was almost cute at first. Almost. The problem was that Emily the squirrel would not stop biting whomever walked past the Maple Street tree she called home. (Is this what Take Back Santa Cruz members mean when they say they don’t feel safe going downtown anymore?) After Emily nipped at six victims, Santa Cruz got fed up and sent two fire engines, an animal-services officer and a wildlife handler to haul her away. The eastern gray squirrel landed in the custody of the Native Animal Rescue, only to chew her way out of her plastic blue box of a jail cell and escape. She ran across 17th Avenue and bolted along fences lining the Live Oak Grange garden. We’re eagerly awaiting Emily’s forthcoming memoir about her travels, which we hope will either be titled On the Rodent or The Electric Kool-Aid Rabid Test.

POTENTIAL PIZZAGATE DEFEATED BY COMMON SENSE AND TASTY MUFFINS

When Whale City Bakery was tagged in a social media post that—without a shred of evidence—accused it of being complicit in a human trafficking scheme, Outrage Twitter immediately went on the attack. But the backlash from supporters was swift, as they pointed out the story had more holes than a box of bagels. Within 48 hours, the controversy had gone stale, and everyone went back to enjoying their eggs Florentine and mimosas. Incredibly, the original tweet received 12,800 likes before the accuser’s Twitter account was justly deleted. 

AUGUST

WE LIKE AFFORDABLE HOUSING; JUST DON’T PUT IT THERE OR THERE OR THERE, OR DEFINITELY NOT HERE!

Santa Cruz City Council’s “liberal” majority took flak for voting down an environmentally friendly process to allow for increased housing density along Santa Cruz’s busiest streets. Councilmember Chris Krohn wrote a letter to GT in which he renamed the plan “Bonzo,” a weird Ronald Reagan reference that we still don’t understand the intended meaning of in this context. Is this where we say “OK, boomer?”

august-meme

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY, WE SWEAR

Some Santa Barbra lawyers filed a draft legal complaint arguing that Santa Cruz’s elections aren’t providing for adequate Latino representation. The evidence was less than overwhelming, but lots of cities have been getting hit with these cases—which are expensive to fight, so city councils often settle quickly. If Santa Cruz had folded, the prosecuting lawyers would have made an easy $30,000 and forced a big election change, without ever having to prove that district elections will make Santa Cruz, its residents or Latinos better off. The lawyers eventually pumped the brakes, though, because their chosen plaintiff, a local Latino “voter,” wasn’t actually registered to vote here.

SEPTEMBER

WE HEAR HE HAS SOME LEADS ON A PLACE THEY COULD MOVE INTO

A “flier bandit” spent months grabbing every home-listing flier that he could from around Santa Cruz, and emptying out brochure boxes in the process. The police got involved in September—not because the man was doing anything illegal, but because the cops actually show up whenever rich people call. The bandit informed authorities that he was in a cult and participating in a contest through the end of October that involved collecting fliers, so that he could win the biggest prize: his very own bride.

WE’RE ONLY WRITING ABOUT INTERNET INFLUENCERS FROM NOW ON

YouTuber Louie Castro put Santa Cruz County on the social-media map, when our Sept. 4 cover story about him became the most popular story of the year on goodtimes.sc. Hey Louie, wanna plug our City Council coverage?

OCTOBER

LOCAL GOOD SAMARITAN FULFILLS JUMP BIKE’S LIFELONG DREAM OF SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS 

october 1They say you can park a Jump Bike anywhere when you’re done with it, but guess where you can’t park it? The ocean! That’s what one woman discovered when she was arrested early in the morning of Oct. 26 on Cliff Drive, after throwing her Jump Bike into the sea. Deandra Perez was booked on a vandalism charge and released on $5,000 bail. The Jump Bike was later recovered after Percy Jackson, son of the Greek god Poseidon, was spotted riding it to a Santa Cruz Warriors game. 

PG&E IS DUMB 

Sure, the “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” in October were a dystopian nightmare, but if there was one good thing that came out of them, it was that after all the criticism Pacific Gas & Electric received, you can rest assured that there won’t be a sudden blackout when you’re typing on your computer and you’ve almost finished your sen

THIS IS NOT THE WORST RASH YOU CAN GET IN COLLEGE

UCSC police announced on Halloween that they were seeking the public’s help in the investigation of a “rash of thefts” that took place from mid-to-late October on campus. The rap sheet included burglaries in the campus facilities parking lot, grand theft from the McHenry Library and a half-dozen other locales, as well as several incidents of petty theft around campus, including the College 8 Dining Hall. Instructors report that for a minute there, “a series of microaggressions against my backpack” briefly eclipsed “my dog ate it” as the number one excuse for not turning in homework. 

NOVEMBER

30 FREE OR IT’S MINUTES

november 1Order those organic edibles and CBD dog treats now, unless you want to—gasp!—drag your ass to a dispensary to buy your own weed accoutrement. In November, California’s Secretary of State jumped into a legal battle between Santa Cruz County and Salinas dispensary East of Eden about whether the company (and others without a local license) should be allowed to deliver their wares to locals who prefer cannabis delivery to in-person shopping. Don’t worry: The internet says that as of now, I can still get that cartridge of Island Sweet Skunk delivered to my door in under an hour. 

DECEMBER

SO IT’S JUST A COINCIDENCE THAT I DO HAVE SEVERAL WARRANTS OUT FOR MY ARREST?

Earlier this month, the Santa Cruz County’s Sheriff’s Office warned residents about a phone scam targeting locals that went something like this: You get a call from someone claiming to be a Sheriff’s deputy telling you that you have several warrants out for your arrest, including a $2,000 fine. No doubt this helpful deputy would love to assist you in taking care of that last item right there on the phone, but at least one smart cookie who reported the scammer to the Sheriff’s Office ended the conversation there and reported the incident instead. When deputies put in a follow-up call to the (local) number given out, they heard a voice message telling them that they had reached the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, but their first clue that that was untrue was the fact that they themselves were calling from the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office. So meta! The VOIP number couldn’t be traced, but all of the deputies want to remind you that they do not call people with warrants and ask for payment or personal information. In other news, you do not have a relative who has had an accident in a foreign country and needs you to wire money immediately; the IRS does not need your social security number, because they already have it; and Nigeria does not have a prince.

december-meme

NO RESIGNATIONS WERE FORTHCOMING

It’s only been 143 years since Santa Cruz swore in its first mayor, and already we have an African American man in the office. If that sounds sarcastic, it’s because it totally was! But Justin Cummings was sworn in at the Dec. 10 meeting of the Santa Cruz City Council, and the discussion leading up to his selection produced our favorite GT tweet of the year, from the previous City Council meeting: “Robert Norse doesn’t like Cummings. Elise Casby says she doesn’t like Meyers or ‘fascism.’ Dave Willis doesn’t like anyone except Drew Glover, who he says should be mayor. He calls on the rest of council to resign. He says he never sees Cummings at cmmty meetings, saw him @ bar once.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Vnes of Santa Cruz

    December 20, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    Wuuuuut?! I’m confused. The Ch!p commentary is off base and surprisingly mean.
    If it was meant to be funny, it missed the mark. It’s the Holidays not April Fool’s.

    Ch!p’s the best boss I’ve ever had. And a very inspiring cat. His contribution to the energy of Downtown Santa Cruz is the whole reason I reached out to the DTA for employment 7 years ago. I miss him waaaaaa! The Downtown Association Rocks! A great team of people who care about Downtown Santa Cruz & Santa Cruz culture.

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