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Opinion: October 2, 2019

Plus letters to the editor

Tony Alva makes a cameo at this year's Santa Cruz Film Festival

Editor's Note

Steve Palopoli Profile Photo

Last year’s Santa Cruz Film Festival made me feel all the feels.

Over the course of the Saturday night program at the Tannery, for instance, I got to see the fantastic Wax Trax music documentary Industrial Accident, and then after the Q&A I met one of my punk heroes, Jello Biafra, who was just hanging out, talking to the crowd as we filed out. My friend and I who went to high school in San Luis Obispo even got to ask him about the legendary riot during a Dead Kennedys show at the Vet’s Hall there.

Then I met Bill McCarthy, the former lead singer of the Augustines whose early history in Santa Cruz is documented in the film Rise. I had written a story about Bill, who is pretty much the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, and he greeted me with the biggest hug ever. He was so excited about the film and the festival and the night that he just had the place crackling with his energy.

More than a couple of film screenings, the whole night just felt like a huge community gathering, and that’s the best thing a film festival in Santa Cruz can be. So I’m really looking forward to the events this year—the festival runs Oct. 8-13, and I’m expecting another huge community gathering at the M.A.P.S. event in connection with the new documentary Dosed, which I wrote about this week. Wallace Baine wrote about another must-see film, General Magic, and we’ve got our top picks for the festival. Check them out, and I’ll see you there!

Letters to the Editor

Bedtime For Bonzo 

Re: Nuz (GT, 9/25) (With no apologies to Ronald Reagan): Yes, the Bonzo, aka the Corridors Plan, was community-unfriendly and not ready for prime time. It was not going to produce the kind of affordable housing Santa Cruz needs, but rather would result in a give-away plan to market-rate housing developers. Face it Nuz, we need much more affordable housing than the Corridors Plan contemplated, a paltry 15% that would later be reduced to 10% from each project. That’s a mere 10-15 apartments out of every 100 built, pretty good math if you’re a developer. That still leaves us with 85-90% unaffordable units for tech workers from over-the-hill and second-home buyers, and also a helluva a lot more traffic, less water, and a significantly greater carbon footprint than before. Yes, the term affordable housing is the lynchpin in this ultimate Bonzo scheme. Moreover, another constituency, local business owners, were rather perturbed when they found out that a whole lot of on-street parking would be eliminated per the plan.

Bonzo was a years-old effort by a small group of people, but it was defeated by an electorate that put its foot down and said, “Uh, uh, talk to us first, let’s work together.” Justin Cummings, Drew Glover, Sandy Brown, and Chris Krohn did not single-handedly “kill” the Corridors Plan, the voters did. Yes, the Corridors Plan would “transform Santa Cruz” into Silicon Beach and not into any community most residents envision. What also rankled both neighbors and affordable housing advocates were the recent city council decisions not to enforce the 15% affordable rule for rentals on two downtown Swenson projects: 94 units at 555 Pacific Avenue and 79 condo rentals at 1547 Pacific Avenue. At least there’s a handful of Housing Authority units at 555 Pacific, but zero affordability inside the 1547 rental project.

There is no housing crisis, but there is an affordable housing crisis. The Corridors plan was hotly debated and was only “tossed” after candidates campaigned for and against. In fact, most all candidates in 2018 said at the various candidate forums that they opposed the Corridors Plan as written.

The Corridors Plan was not only “unpopular,” it was a give-away, a bait and switch to those who advocate for affordable housing, and it did not include the residents who would ultimately have to shoulder more traffic, less water, and years of construction with no appreciable affordability forthcoming. But, there is hope. Part of the motion to put Bonzo to bed was directing our planning staff to sit down with neighbors, past planning commissioners, Save Santa Cruz, and the Branciforte Action Committee “to seek agreement on possible changes to the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance that can achieve broad community support and that will allow the Council to achieve its objectives,” i.e. more affordable housing.

Housing and its related appendage, homelessness, are still my top priorities, sorry Nuz. I support building 100% affordable housing by HUD standards, at the three downtown sites the city currently owns: the old Thrift Center land on Front Street behind Chianti’s; the old Tampico’s site on Pacific Avenue; and the NYAC building site between Front and Pacific next to Metro Center. I would prefer the city to stay on as owners of the housing, or at least share it with a nonprofit housing provider so that all units built would stay affordable in perpetuity. Together, this could be 300-500 units of housing for many downtown service workers, families, teachers, and some of the “low-tech” employees too. I believe this is the council that can get this done and I hope GT will support it.

CHRIS KROHN | SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCILMEMBER

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