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Opinion: December 5, 2018

Plus letters to the editor

Editor's Note

Steve Palopoli Profile Photo

One of the things I’ve always liked about writing for an alt-weekly instead of a daily newspaper is the way stories develop over time. Many of the cover stories you see each week were actually conceived months earlier, and sometimes originally slated to run at an earlier date. But once they secure a spot on the editorial calendar, they become part of an ongoing conversation. The writer’s vision for the story can change radically over the course of a few weeks or even months as they dig deeper and deeper into the research on it.

But sometimes it’s not so much that their vision changes as it intensifies. Everyone who writes for an alt-weekly like GT is here because they want to tell stories and reveal truths, and all of us take it very seriously. Sometimes we get downright obsessed with a story as we track it over time. I think you’ll see what I’m talking about when you read Maria Grusauskas’ profile of Martha Hudson this week. This story has been on the editorial calendar for most of the year, and over that time I’ve watched Maria follow Hudson closely and gain a more and more comprehensive understanding of her lifestyle. I think it adds immeasurably to the final result. Notice the level of detail in her descriptions while you read, the way smaller points accrete into larger ones, from the culture of car living to the challenges of DIY entrepreneurism to Santa Cruz’s lack of affordability to body image issues. It’s a good example of why I love what we do here, and how we do it.

STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Letters to the Editor

Re: “Façade Crumbles” (GT, 11/14):

Dear conservatives: You say you believe in jobs. But jobs require affordable housing. Jobs can’t be created unless (1) employers can afford business accommodation, and (2) workers can afford housing within reach of their jobs, on wages that their employers can pay!

Dear employers: Did you get that? Lower rents make it easier for you to pay your workers enough to live on.

Dear retailers: Lower rents mean your customers have more money left over to spend at your store.

Dear home owners: Sure, you like high prices when you sell. But then you have to buy again! And then your kids have to get into the market without the benefit of a previous sale. And what if you have a misfortune that sends you back to square one? As a home owner-occupant, you are both landlord and tenant, and while the establishment wants you to think and vote solely as an owner, your interests as owner are probably outweighed by your interests as occupant.

Dear renters: Sure, rent control might protect you against being forced out by rising rents. But if you need to move out for any other reason, you won’t be able to get another rent-controlled dwelling, because investors won’t build new housing unless it’s exempt from rent control. What you really need is not protection from the market, but a reduction in “market” rents.

Dear developers: You say the solution is to build more housing. But are you really going to build so fast that you reduce rents and prices, and therefore reduce your profits? Of course not—unless something forces your hand!

SOLUTION: Put a punitive tax on vacant lots and unoccupied buildings (except properties waiting for permits), so that the owners can’t afford not to build accommodation and seek tenants. A vacancy tax, by increasing supply and reducing owners’ ability to tolerate vacancies, strengthens the bargaining position of tenants and therefore reduces rents (and forces landlords to expedite any necessary repairs in order to attract tenants). It yields both an immediate benefit, by pushing existing dwellings onto the rental market, and a long-term benefit, by encouraging construction.

Dear politicians: The need to avoid the vacancy tax would initiate economic activity, which would expand the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of the city/state/country would get a tax cut. Can you sell a tax cut? In California, a peculiarity of the state constitution means that a local vacancy tax requires a 2/3 popular vote. Impossible? No! In Oakland, in the 2018 midterms, the proposed vacancy tax got the necessary votes. What’s your excuse?

Gavin R. Putland
Melbourne, Australia

Re: Housing Measures

“Measure H is what we all agreed upon,” Singleton says. No, he must be working in an echo chamber. Despite outspending opponents 100 to 1, Measure H lost by well over 10 percent.

If Singleton had read your story in August, he’d know that proponents got this on the ballot even though two polls showed that it would fail. Our county must pay the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a doomed election. What a hasty waste of public funds by the Board of Supervisors.

The precinct-by-precinct returns show that Measure H got closest to two-thirds in the City of Santa Cruz. Since Pogonip Park is closed as of yesterday, why not put a $140 million affordable housing project at the end of Golf Club Drive? And call it Keeley Lane. It could house the same folks living there already.

— Bruce Holloway

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