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NUZ: Santa Cruz Leaders Don’t Care About Your Silly Housing Crisis

Council may leave Santa Cruz in violation of the Housing Crisis Act of 2019

Last week, Nuz called out neighborhood activists for using the idea of transitional encampments to fuel a recall effort against city councilmembers Drew Glover and Chris Krohn.

Those same recallers have, of course, not suggested any better ideas to address homeless issues. But zooming out, there are bigger themes at play here. It is time for this town to stop arguing and start fixing its problems. Santa Cruz’s failure to do that is a pandemic that stretches beyond a conservative coalition of anti-Krohn groups. 

You need look no further than Krohn himself.

Take for example the Santa Cruz City Council’s short-sighted move last month to unceremoniously ax the Corridor Zoning Update, a years-old effort that aimed to plan for smarter housing growth—much of it affordable—on Santa Cruz’s four busiest streets. Although Krohn and Glover have not gotten much heat for it, they both voted to kill that plan, in spite of all the ranting and raving the two of them do about the “housing crisis” and “struggling” renters. They did so because—their own grandstanding aside—a huge part of their political coalition is privileged NIMBY single-family homeowners, some of whom happen to live a couple blocks from the busy streets where we really should be upzoning for denser housing. Though it was good policy, the plan was a work in progress. It was on the backburner, while staff focused on implementing the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee recommendations. But in a surprise 4-3 vote, the council’s super-liberal majority pulled off a political stunt to toss the corridor plan out quickly, without any real public input. Planning staff will now have to do the council’s busywork involved in putting the corridor plan to bed, instead of the actually important work of making housing cheaper.

Since the vote, Krohn has argued that there are other important progressive values besides housing affordability. Like “quality of life,” although—let’s be honest—that’s really just rich-people-speak for “no new buildings over two stories tall.”

It seems like an odd principle to stick to—especially considering that corridor development would be along busy bus routes, which is where California communities should be growing if we’re serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Development along the corridors would reduce the spread of sprawling suburbanism across the region and make it easier for commuters to live without cars.

And this is where, when you look at it closely, Krohn’s world view starts falling apart.

Take his antics on the City Council, for instance. Whenever Krohn sees his more moderate colleagues declining to back him on the tenant protections he supports, he interrogates the other councilmembers, asking why they don’t care about renters. He hunts for rabid applause from supporters who show up to cheer him on. And given the current housing shortage, the sense of urgency is palpable. The truth is that protecting renters is great, but honestly—when you’re in a housing shortage—the best way to stop average rents from continuing to soar is to build housing. (At the very least, you could stand up for both types of solutions, if you truly cared.) 

And yet, Krohn spent three years weaponizing his divisive rhetoric to undermine corridor upzoning. He then helped hammer the final nail into the corridor coffin on Aug. 27. After finally accomplishing his goal, Krohn flipped his logic on the housing crisis’ urgency. He’s found a new way to argue that he’s still the most “progressive” guy in the room, in spite of constantly finding unique reasons over the years to vote against housing projects and plans. He has conveniently come to discover a list of considerations to ponder besides housing. Like protecting the “livability” of homeowners, in this case.

Krohn defends his point of view by saying the corridor plan was unpopular, anyway. And maybe he’s got a point there. It’s almost like someone’s been campaigning against it!

Looking ahead, Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 any day now. And when he does, last month’s anti-corridor vote will leave Santa Cruz in violation of state housing law.

Now, that is a development that won’t make Santa Cruz look too progressive.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Reggie Meisler

    September 30, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    John, you say we need “housing of all kinds”? Based on what? I just told you, this is not my crisis. This is a crisis for those making near the area median income, e.g. the majority of residents.

    If what you say is true, that “all housing is good housing”, I would love for your support in asking city council to request a vacancy rate from newly constructed/renovated units of housing like 555 Pacific and Hilltop.

    • John McKelvey

      October 8, 2019 at 8:10 am

      Reggie,

      We need all kinds of new housing, along with, as I said, means-testing. No one should be subsidizing people that don’t need it. And you didn’t address my question about your personal choice to work over the hill, live here, and by doing so increasing harm to both the environment and the community’s housing affordability. So what’s your view on that?

    • John McKelvey

      October 8, 2019 at 8:29 am

      Reggie,

      To be clear, I’m not saying it is your problem. I’m saying you are part of the cause of everyone else’s problem. That’s why I’m asking for your view on it.

  2. Pat Colby

    September 26, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    The high corridor plan would not have addressed the lack of housing for the lower socioeconomic class. They would have filled an already over taxed infrastructure of road with majority of luxury units which we don’y need. Also we don’t have the water resources for more people who work over the hill to fill the luxury units.

    A friend verified that the big monstery 555 Pacific still not full. It time for Santa Cruz to build to accommodate the people that are already here: that means real affordable and low income apartment units. The solution to housing crisis is meeting the requirement of real affordable/low income apartment. Only this range will ease the housing crisis and help homeless to get housing. SC has long been out of compliance for poor people in all facets. A city depends on all different ranges of housing to meet it different wage levels! SC needs to step to do the right thing!

    • Pat Colby

      September 27, 2019 at 11:23 pm

      why won’t you approve my post? Censorship?!

    • John McKelvey

      October 8, 2019 at 8:21 am

      Pat,

      The corridors plan would have provided more affordable homes than have been built here in our community in the past 30 years combined. We have never come close to the densities prescribed in decades of our own General Plans/amendments. Our infrastructure is inadequate because it has been consciously designed that way in order to limit development. Unsurprisingly, our population has continued to grow. Krohnr, Glover, and their supporters, many of whom are the biggest NIMBYs in our community, continue to pretend that we can pursue failed policies like rent control, refuse to build housing, and somehow improve affordability. It’s a picture that only looks right in the funhouse mirrors of the circus that is our current city council.

  3. Craig

    September 26, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Homeless is just a consequence of joblessness, which in my mind is the root issue, not being addressed here. UCSC provides more problems that jobs, was a nice crown jewel at first, but now is a vampire. 1. Why can’t they be stopped? 2. Let’s just expand the city out another mile heading north. Purchase the property, move the city limits, build some shit = creating more jobs, 3 bring in some tech business, plus build us some low income units, slap some high story buildings in there, up against the mountains, aand some nice condos back from the eroding cliff, etc. Still plenty of space to ride your electric mountain bike, or hike or run. Every community has issues but at least we can push city limits. Meanwhile let churches house some of these people and offer some credit systems that intice, enhance and motivate those with good behavior., Oh yeah and blow up the homeless garden, where volunteers, jobless, and get trained and fed for their labors…that’s my vote!

  4. Dl

    September 26, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    You nailed it.^^^^Tell em.

  5. robyn marx

    September 26, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    What? You don’t think the lower Ocean/Broadway corridor NEEDED a high dollar luxury hotel complex? This town has been going to hell since the “vision Santa Cruz” folks sold out to the developers to turn Pacific Garden Mall into Pacific Concrete Canyon back in 1990.

  6. dbc

    September 26, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Id hate to think your trying to manipulate the conversation by blocking dissenting views

  7. C. Brown

    September 25, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    Sadly you have bought into “smart growth”is going to solve the affordable housing crisis. Upzoning drives up land costs, above 3-4 stories is more expensive to build…and the latest research that Mariam Greenberg has cited in her The Green City – The Affordable Housing Crisis Conference, shows that those that live in these expensive dense units are not inclined to take a bus and typically have 2 to 3 cars…

    We are a built out City so the Corridor Plan was proposing 5 to 7 story buildings (with the density bonus) and less inclusionary affordable housing than our own Measure O ordinance. Did you know the City changed the ordinance which is in our charter without the vote of the people..that is what the 100 Laurel lawsuit is about The City staff got the previous majority Council to go from 15 to 10% if not Downtown….We are talking about the Corridor Plan…$$$$.

    And the primary areas of HIGHEST density considered were the most vibrant Community “nodes” such as Seabright and Branciforte….

    To get bus transit lanes or protected lanes would remove all parking on Soquel which had serious issues for many small businesses..which cannot exist in the Corridor Plan….on Soquel allow the Ebert owner estimated 45 to 50 buildings impacted. The parcels are narrow so to maximize would create a Wall for miles…

    I am surprised you are buying so much into the YIMBY rhetoric.

    • Nancy Krusoe

      October 1, 2019 at 2:14 am

      C Brown: Very informative-thank you!

  8. dbc

    September 25, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    More tripe. You dont like it go somewhere else. Living in SC isnt a right, its a privilege that comes at a high cost. The homeowners in SC have fought tooth and nail and most have spent every damn dime to be here.
    You can hold UCSC responsible for bringing in more and more wealthy students every year that can tough out high rents for a few years and hols that group accountable for providing housing on that hill full of prime real estate.
    No one that has invested their life here wants to see high rise apartments. If you want that go to San Jose and drive over 17 every day. Otherwise, get your stuff together and make living here a priority like the rest of us.
    Im tired of people coming out of nowhere demanding their rights to live here.

    • robyn marx

      September 26, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Yes, exactly this! Maybe a new law requiring home owners to actually live here instead of tying up real estate for “vacation” rentals would help too?

  9. CM

    September 25, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for speaking sense on this issue.

  10. shawn

    September 25, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    finally we agree on something nuz!
    i knew we could

  11. Chris

    September 25, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Santa Cruz is not as liberal as one may think. It is driven by the mighty dollar. Just try to build a house in this area.

  12. Reggie

    September 25, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    This article has good intentions, but is ultimately misguided.

    The Corridor plan would used up a lot of our remaining density zoned land, while not having done much to actually help house the people most affected by the affordable housing crisis. At a time when the area median income (AMI) is unable to afford a studio apt in these new luxury apartments, it makes no sense to spend what little land we have, especially land zoned for density, to build 85+% of units that the majority of people can’t afford to live in. I am a programmer who works over the hill. This housing crisis is not “my crisis”, and I do not represent the income of a majority of people in Santa Cruz, much less people who work in the city and don’t make even 1/3 of what tech commuters are making; and yet, all new housing seems to pretend like only the very poor can’t afford their rent.

    Krohn and the progressive councilmembers were right to kill the Corridor plan, that was entirely divorced from the actual housing needs of the community. If we want real action on housing in Santa Cruz, help the people who actually need the help with projects that actually serve them. Not another trickle down economics, gentrification trap, that increases everyone else’s rents due to density bonuses for developers.

    Inclusionary zoning is an unsustainable policy that washes subsidies down on for-profit developers in exchange for a tiny pittance of truly affordable housing units– many of which are provided as ever-shrinking SROs and SOUs, moving us closer and closer to a Hong Kong-esque housing policy of “cage-home affordability”.

    If we are serious about affordable housing, look to what we’ve always done, what’s always worked, and what is needed today. We need more Tannery projects; public housing using the Low Income Tax Credit (The last vestige of federal public housing dollars). We need to rehabilitate existing affordable housing in partnership with a Community Land Trust, like La Bahia, rather than continuing our negligent policy of selling off valuable land and assets to hotel projects. We need to be using eminent domain to open up more opportunities for housing projects, instead of wasting money using eminent domain to widen roads, like we almost did with the Highway 1/9 intersection.

    There are numerous opportunities to do the right thing, but none of them involve making a deal with the rapacious for-profit developers, who take so much from us.

    • John McKelvey

      September 29, 2019 at 12:08 am

      You mention some things that have merit; certain forms of land trusts, projects similar to (but not the same as) the Tannery, the LITC (a vehicle that is regularly used by non-profits).

      Unfortunately, every other point you make is completely false. The nogressives’ failure to support the corridors plan, the mixed-use project on Pacific, the Ocean Street Extension project, as well as their almost-certain rejection of. The Bay/West Cliff project are pure NIMBYism. We need housing of all kinds to address our affordability challenges, including deed-restricted, means-tested affordable homes.

      And while there are too many to address, if I can just point out one piece of pure hypocrisy in your screed; You say you work in a well-compensated job in Silicon Valley, and that you bring your comparatively higher income to Santa Cruz, increasing both commuter traffic and housing costs for everyone else. Tell me why all the people who have figured out a way to work and live in the same place which is an infinitely more sustainable model than yours, should bear the burden of your profligacy. Why don’t you relocate closer to where you work, in order to lessen the burden that your elevated price floor places on lower-income people here in our community, as well as the environmental costs of your wholly voluntary commute?

  13. GT

    September 24, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    This is the truth I wish I could share but fear Krohn will come after me.

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