I remember when Kelly Luker told me she was going to become a private investigator. She had been at Metro Santa Cruz before me, part of what I considered an all-star group of reporters and writers who had made me aspire to work there in the first place. When I came on as the paper’s editor, she took some time to help me figure out how things worked. I didn’t know her except from her writing, and I was already thinking that she seemed like even more of a badass in person than she did in her stories, so when she told me she was thinking about becoming a private investigator, I was not even that surprised—although totally impressed. The idea of being a P.I. was surrounded by a certain mystique, for sure. It was like the ultimate cool job.
In this week’s cover story, Luker talks to Georgia Johnson about that starstruck quality that people like me would get when she told them about her private investigator work. Of course they’d want to hear all about what it was like, and of course they imagined it to be full of all kinds of drama and intrigue. As Luker’s new book Private Eye for the Bad Guy reveals, however, they didn’t know the half of it. In Johnson’s story and in an excerpt from the book, you’ll get a taste of what her P.I. job was really like, and it is eye-opening to say the least.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
Ode to an Artist
Jim Aschbacher (GT, 5/2) was a marvelous, high-spirited artist and arts booster who enriched the visual landscape of Santa Cruz. We shared a love of outré and cult movies and had the privilege of going to the Oscar-watching parties he and Lisa hosted. He will be dearly missed.
Michael and Katie Gant | Aptos
False Choices in UCSC Debate
“We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” There’s still some dispute about whether or not a U.S. army major actually said that during the Vietnam War, but the line is pretty apt when one contemplates what Chancellor Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor Tromp are contemplating for the UCSC campus (GT, 3/22). It’s the destruction of one of the world’s great university settings, and a reversal of a record of environmental protection that is the fruit of long struggles by the people of the North Coast. Take the meadows of our marine terraces. When the owners of Coast Dairies wanted to build luxury homes on the meadows north of town, people organized and defeated them. But no victory is permanent.
For more than 50 years, in accord with its founding landscape design vision and a tradition of care and stewardship, UCSC has kept its meadows open. Now the East Meadow is threatened with 40 pre-fab units spread over 15 acres. Goodbye, then, to that magical prospect when one enters the campus and comes upon the meadows stretching north and east toward the campus in the redwoods. And then there’s the current plan for Student Housing West, near Empire Grade. The plan there includes two 10-story brutalist behemoths, crude and stark since designed to be built on the cheap. For hikers and bikers in Wilder Ranch and Grey Whale, and in the Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument to come, these towers will dominate views to the south and east. They will be the first buildings to tower above the redwood forest (for the next 500 years at least), in a reversal of UCSC’s decades-long design principles. They will be visible from everywhere in town. They will be visible from Monterey County.
The university’s own Environmental Impact Report details alternatives that would preserve the East Meadow and shrink the towers’ height, so let’s recognize the current plans as a choice, not a necessity. Many have suggested that the current plan is driven by the priorities of the developer, in UCSC’s first use of the “public-private partnership.” Who knows? University officials have yet to give reasons for their choice. Proponents argue that housing and childcare needs are so dire—and this is indisputably true—that the need to move forward quickly overrides environmental or design concerns. Housing or environment? This is a false and cynically worded choice. We can have both. Will Chancellor Blumenthal and EVC Tromp make the right choice? This would require asserting UCSC values over those of the corporate partner and its champions in the administration. We’ll see.
University growth is on the ballot again. The fruits of UCSC’s democratic vision—a high quality public education in an exquisite setting—are significant, and we can all be especially proud that we have been able to offer this combination to the more than 40 percent of UCSC undergraduates who are first-generation college students. With vision, imagination and creativity, it might be possible to make this available to more Californians, to grow intelligently, within our environmental constraints, while preserving the campus’s distinctive relationship to its environment. But if university officials persist with current plans, they will have forfeited any claim to be forces for smart and responsible growth. And in that case, university growth should be resisted from here on out, by all available means.
Chris Connery | Santa Cruz