Bright Ideas for 2013

coverwebMost of us have experienced times in our lives when we have had the thought: “You know, if I had my way, I would have circumstances look like this—or that—but not that, which is this.” Follow along. When I first envisioned this issue, I was having a mood swing about traffic. (Usually, it’s about calories or relationships so I considered this wonderful personal growth.) Why, I wondered, in a city as creative and forward-thinking as Santa Cruz, does it take 30 minutes to drive from one end of town to the other, down a major thoroughfare going approximately 10 miles per hour the entire time? I felt trapped inside one of those word problems that befuddled me in third grade math class: If a man is in a car and has to only go two miles down the road, how long would it take him if … 

Well, my imagination soared and I began to picture the folks who first created the framework of the roads here—especially that über-effective Water Street to Soquel Avenue interchange—being smacked across the head by the late Esther Abbott, for without whom we would not have the unique, thriving, picturesque storefronts occupying Pacific Avenue today. Later, when I returned to the GT lair in Downtown Santa Cruz, I parked in the upper level of a parking garage, got out of my car and noticed that the heads of the fishermen on top of the Palomar Inn looked as if a giant ape had urinated on top of them. Why, I mused, wasn’t this historic building being properly maintained? Months passed. My mood swings continued. (It’s OK—the in-between times were fun.) Surely, I thought, I wasn’t the only person around here curious about some of the things that exist in our otherwise idyllic little hamlet. I began to imagine a GT cover story filled with innovative and creative ideas; ideas that, hopefully, could spark conversation among locals. Because serving the community at large has been and will always be paramount to GT, I thought it might be best to avoid rants—sticking out one’s tongue and moping around never really solved many problems, after all. Instead, we thought it would be best to open up the idea to the voices within the community. As such, the “We” we are referring to here is a collective “We” yet the views are strictly those of the author of each of the 25 ideas presented (18 here, 7 more online), and not of the newspaper at large. We invite your feedback—and your own ideas, too. Thank you for reading. Onward we go. “If we had our way, we would … “ | Greg Archer, Editor-in-Chief

cover 1A few years ago, when the idea to retool La Bahia Apartments into a hotel morphed into a heated battle between the City of Santa Cruz and the Coastal Commission, an opportunity was lost when the Coastal Commission shot down the idea. Some blame commissioner Mark Stone for incinerating the concept.

Regardless, an estimated $10 million in spending and $725,000 in taxes would have been funneled into the area annually. (Oops!) So, now that that idea has been pummeled with no hope of proper bandaging, perhaps it’s best to set sights closer to Downtown Santa Cruz. Enter: The Palomar Inn. As many already know, the historic building houses the popular El Palomar Restaurant and Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting. Up above: low-income housing. Few would argue the importance of low-income housing. Yes, it’s vital. But is the Palomar Inn the best use for such a thing today? Maybe not. The city and other politicos often fuss about the lack of funds—although, this is Northern California, so, really, what you think, you become (it’s a no-brainer), but I digress. Built in 1928 as Hotel Palomar—it was reportedly the first building to be more than three stories high at the time—real estate maverick Andy Balich was the original owner. In its heyday, the hotel was a prime spot for visitors—from families visiting the area to those attending conventions. Flashforward a few deed holders, and into the late ’80s, and Isaac Baumelgruen became the owner. According to the City of Santa Cruz, Baumelgruen received authorization to provide affordable housing in the building from 1987 through 2010. The funding came from the California Disaster Assistance Program. (This was prior to the 1989 earthquake.) Imagine what could happen if, the Palomar Inn returned to its previous luster—but in a new way. Its second-story ballroom still attracts crowds, as do the restaurant, coffeehouse and businesses on street level.

Imagine a building that didn’t look rundown, one whose exterior motif was cleaned of all the stains it now possesses. Imagine a downtown hotel that thrived, welcomed visitors from near and far; one that held conferences and boasted other social events. More importantly, the hotel would help boost the local economy. Imagine having a powerful, beating force in the heart of downtown and then imagine the positive ripple effects that that could create. Imagine. What’s the action plan? Well, should the building’s current owner choose to sell—or some other entity come forth with an offer to buy—Downtown Santa Cruz, as festive as it is, may continue to be on the receiving end of the entity’s current vibe—a building that, by all accounts, looks and feels neglected; a portal in which low-income is the norm and the slow stroll toward mediocrity is not only accepted but, perhaps, celebrated. Maybe there’s a better option?  | GA

Step One:
create four geographic districts and elect one council member from each district. In true Santa Cruz style, we’ll probably have to endure some agonizingly inefficient citizens’ commission to draw up the boundaries—from Westside and Downtown/Beach Flats/Ocean Street Corridor to Seabright/Eastside. Each council member serves a four-year term with possible re-election to a second four-year term. After eight years, a termed-out councilmember could then run for another term. Never.  

Step Two: Create a fifth at-large council seat to be filled by a popularly elected mayor with the same term limits as the other council members. The mayor would serve in the same capacity as the mayor does today, as the “chairman of the board” of the council, with day-to-day executive power remaining with the city manager.

Why is this structure better? First, a mayor should have the ability to set a broad vision for the city and to push a broad agenda to achieve that vision. You can’t do that during a one-year term. Whether you want to be the Pro-Business Mayor, the Pro-Environment Mayor, or the Pro-Whatever Mayor, a one-year term ensures that you will be, in practical terms, the Nothing Mayor. Furthermore, shouldn’t the voters get to pick who they want as their mayor and what strategic vision she/he pursues? Under our current system, I may strongly support a candidate’s agenda, but I have no idea if that candidate will end up in a position to drive that agenda. This much is certain: Our fair city is at a crossroads and we need a leader who has the political mandate and the time she/he needs, in fact, to lead.  

Second, when is the last time we elected a councilmember from anywhere east of the San Lorenzo River? Or south of Laurel/Broadway? Westsiders have played an outsized role on the city council over the years. Sure, that’s where the money is.  But that’s not, by and large, where the problems are. And it’s not where a great many of the opportunities are, either. Electing councilmembers from geographic districts means that we all get represented. And popularly electing a mayor to a four-year terms means that we can advance a collective vision for who we are as a community and what we hope to be in the future. Leaders need a chance to lead. Let’s give them that chance. | Jeremy Neuner, CEO, NextSpace

cover 2gardenAt Love Apple Farms, we teach folks how to grow their own food. In my gardening classes, I point out that probably the best sunlight to achieve this is smack dab in the middle of their front or back lawn. In fact, I urge them to take it out altogether. They’ll get more use out of it by installing some garden beds and growing vegetables. But people say they need the lawn for their kids or dogs to play; that the lawn is more attractive than their garden would be.  

But they should read the emails I get from students who take the leap and have removed their lawns. One of my most heartfelt messages was from a student who told me how surprised she was by an unexpected perk of growing her own vegetables—the community and togetherness that it engendered. All of a sudden, the kids wanted to know what was going on out there. “Look at that pepper! How do we cook these carrots, Mom?” And, “Wouldn’t Uncle Ted love to have some cherry tomatoes?”

It didn’t stop there, either. All of her visiting guests ended up out in the garden, admiring the lettuce and helping pick fresh herbs for dinner. It didn’t take a lawn for her vegetable garden to be the natural gathering place of her home. It stunned her that what she expected to be a solo pursuit brought so many people together.

I believe we have a primal drive to grow our own food. Our very survival over the ages has hinged on whether we can coax something from the soil to sustain us. Many of us have lost the skills that our ancestors acquired to keep us nurtured. It’s no wonder that when we use our precious plots of land to feed ourselves, our families, and our neighbors, that we reconnect in primal ways to those around us. No lawn, no matter how pretty, can achieve that. | Cynthia Sandberg, Love Apple Farms

No matter where I go, from South Korea to Silicon Valley or our nation’s capital, I run into people who have a deep affection for our town and products that members of our community have invented, discovered or brought to market. When we think about innovation in Santa Cruz, typically we first think about Jack O’Neill’s wetsuits or Santa Cruz skateboards. However, there’s another industry that we’ve had an oversized impact on: food.

Stretching back more than 30 years to the founding of the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and the birth of California Certified Organic Farmers and New Leaf Markets (and later Odwalla) this little coastal town has been at the forefront of how the nation thinks about organics, food policy and sustainability, and it’s time for us to raise awareness of this by starting our own, locally grown, foodie version of the TED Conference.

Think about it: Santa Cruz is at the intersection of technology and innovation of the Silicon Valley and the food production of the Pajaro and Salinas valleys. Add in the wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains and one of the best-managed marine reserves in the world and we are ground zero for the future of food. This Food 2.0 Conference would not be a stuffy affair of one presentation after another. Participants could go out into the fields to see the latest organic techniques first-hand; they could visit wineries or go out on the O’Neill Sea Odyssey to learn about the relationship between healthy oceans and a sustainable food supply.  Of course, they would also get to experience our amazing restaurants and shops—injecting our hotels, small businesses and government coffers with much-needed off-season revenue. Eventually, this conference could develop into an institute that could leverage world-class research at UCSC and the skills being taught at Cabrillo College to support innovative local food producers, processors, restaurants and retailers.

Conferences need a couple of things to be sustainable, industry champions and great presenters. We are already home to Newman’s Own Organics, SunOpta, Martinelli’s, Driscoll’s and Santa Cruz Nutritionals and we’ve got A-list speakers who wouldn’t even have to commute to be part of this event. What other county can boast having Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards, John Robbins of “Diet for a New America,” Danny Keith of Grind Out Hunger,  blogger Chez Pim, and Julie Packard of the Monterey Bay Aquarium all within a few miles of each other?

This kind of event has the potential to create community around an issue that matters to everyone, no matter where they call home or what kind of politics they might have. Add to that the jobs that these industries create, the tourism that they support and the community spirit they help foster, and you’ve got an event that can help everyone be just a little more proud of the place that they call home. So let’s get this together and celebrate all the fields, farms, fisheries and vineyards that Santa Cruz offers while we solve one of the most pressing and fun issues of the day—the future of food. | Ryan Coonerty, co-founder, NextSpace, former Santa Cruz Mayor and longtime city council member

The Pajaro River is currently having the bench excavated as a short-term solution for flooding. This took much work between the state, federal, and private parties involved. However, with an eye on a long-term solution, I seek to have construction approved for a system-wide overhaul of the Pajaro River Levee System. This would have a two-fold effect. It would bring in prevailing wage jobs, and it would provide South Santa Cruz County with safety against flooding.

In 1995 a flood destroyed large segments of the Pajaro Valley and cost Santa Cruz County millions in damages.  In the tradition of Roosevelt and given south county’s weak economy, it would be a great achievement to get federal permission to rebuild the levee because it could bring in between $180-$250 million  (depending which version of the project is approved). This would lead to construction contracts that pay at a prevailing wage.

More importantly, it would provide safety to the community and prevent life- altering destruction due to flooding. FEMA charges local seniors about $1,000 per year in mandatory flood insurance. The insurance is required of those who live by the levee and have a mortgage. If the levee project is completed, those residents would not have to pay the insurance premium and thus it would help seniors with strapped budgets.

This project would be a benefit to seniors, job seekers, farmers, and county government. If one thing could assist the county as a whole, this would be it. | Greg Caput, Fourth District Supervisor

If we had our way … Great question. I thought about this while riding my bike to and from work and meetings—with images of levee improvements, better bike lanes, safer school routes for kids and innovative marketing to grow enthusiastic for bicycle commuting. Then, at the Diversity Center’s annual holiday cover 3pajaroparty, I was asked if I thought Santa Cruz might ever have a gay bar in town again. I do miss having a one-stop clubhouse for local gayborhood nightlife in town. And, I’ll admit, after lighting candles on the first night of Hanukkah, I asked my partner, “What if we had a real, authentic, kosher Jewish deli in town? That would be a cool idea, right?” Clearly, I am just trying to make Santa Cruz a better place for my taste buds in this scenario.

But when I think about making Santa Cruz an even better place than it already is (and it is already incredibly great in so many ways), socio-economic justice, the divides between north and south county and helping the next generation bridge those divides are key for me. With this in mind, here is one small idea that could, perhaps, help break down cultural divides in the future. I would love to see the development and implementation of a four- to six-week-long education program, funded and operated outside of, but run in collaboration with, the public school system. It would include two or three separate developmentally and age-appropriate, in-class curriculum components, as well as several integrated field trips, for fourth to 12th graders. It would be an engaging, hands-on, culturally competent, socially forward and bridge-building course on the history and the current landscapes of the Pajaro Valley. It would cover the history of agriculture, labor, farming, immigration, the current cultures and the community needs. It would be free, with full programs in every school in Santa Cruz County, with the main goal of having every kid in our area grow up with a meaningful understanding and connection to the Pajaro Valley. 

If I had to pick just one thing, I think that’s what I’d do. Or, maybe a Jewish deli in a gay bar in Watsonville that everyone would bike to. | Adam Spickler, President, Board of Directors, The Diversity Center

When the gargantuan E.C. Rittenhouse Building debuted in 2008, it was symbolic of the city’s long and labored recovery from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which ravaged Downtown Santa Cruz and left gaping holes in its cover 4landscape. The construction of an ambitious (albeit a tad gaudy) neoclassical structure on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Church Street meant the dawn of a new, shiny day for downtown. But, as we all know, that’s not quite how it worked out. More than four years later, the corner that was once home to a long-lived empty lot is now perpetually vacant.

At first, no one could really complain: The 65,000-ish-square-foot building was victim to unfortunate timing, opening right as the economic recession reared its ugly head. But as time went on, and signs of slow economic recovery sprung up elsewhere in town, the downtown landmark remained vacant—continually confusing tourists and frustrating residents. Although the Top of the Ritt has proved to be a creative, beautiful and useful event space, and the first floor windows have had some interesting displays, more than four years later, it’s mostly a hard-to-miss, four-story reminder of the hard times our city faced and a statement on what Santa Cruz isn’t, and can’t do or be, instead of what is possible. When it’s filled, perhaps economic recovery will feel more real in Santa Cruz.

While it’s sort of late in the game to be too picky about what tenants end up occupying the retail and office spaces, it would be nice to feature local businesses. (Although, Santa Cruz has long been in need of an Apple store … ) Bottom line: Get some tenants in The Rittenhouse. | Elizabeth Limbach

Let’s decrease summer traffic, ease tensions between locals and visitors and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by creating programs, incentives and public transportation infrastructure that encourage tourists to lay off of driving once they’re here. | EL

A lot of motorists find bicycles concerning and annoying. Not many of us want to ride a bike in the rain.  But what would happen if we became more bicycle friendly? What if we were more like the Netherlands, where bicycles account for nearly 30 percent of all urban trips? Not only does every city in the country have bike lanes and trails, but cyclists are also given many advantages over motorists. Cyclists are permitted, for example, to move out before cars at many traffic lights. In 2007, Amsterdam became the first major city in the industrialized Western world where more trips were taken by bicycle than by car. Is it a coincidence that, adjusted for population size, the rate of obesity in the Netherlands is less than a third what it is in the United States?

Riding a bike is good cardiovascular and aerobic exercise. It’s kind to your joints. It builds strength in your legs. It strengthens the muscles in and around your body’s core. It reduces air pollution and traffic congestion, while fighting global warming.

Public policy decisions make some environments far more bike friendly than others. Here are three cities we could learn from:

Davis, Calif., is a lot like Santa Cruz—a university town with great bike weather. Unlike us, though, Davis has bike-friendly policies. As a result, nearly 20 percent of the city’s 65,000 residents commute to work on bikes. So many school kids walk or bike to school that there is no need for school buses. The city recently spent $2 million building a tunnel under a surface street, just for bikes. Now that’s showing respect for cyclists! The city actually has more bikes than cars.

Boulder, Colo., doesn’t enjoy the mild weather of Northern California. But by ensuring that 90 percent of arterial roads have bike lanes, they have greatly reduced traffic congestion and air pollution. Portland, Ore., gets a lot of rain. Yet the city has built more bike paths than any other city in the United States and has given bikes, helmets, lights, locks, and other essentials to low-income adults in order to increase their ability to enter the workforce.

Of course there are safety concerns. In areas with inadequate cycling infrastructure, cyclists are at higher risk. This is why we need to not only build more bike paths and bike lanes, but also to be sure they are safe.  

A recent independent study in the journal Preventive Medicine looked at 14 cities with bike plans. “The combined evidence indicates that the health benefits of bicycling far exceed the health risks from traffic injuries, contradicting the widespread misperception that bicycling is a dangerous activity,” the study found. “Moreover, as bicycling levels increase, injury rates fall, making bicycling safer and providing even larger net health benefits.”

Sometimes drivers get annoyed by bicyclists.  But the next time you’re driving and feel annoyed by a cyclist, remember that they are doing a lot more to address global warming, and contributing a lot more to clean air, than even Prius drivers. And slow down.  It’s good for your blood pressure. It’s good for your mental health. And it’s good for our community. | John Robbins, author, “No Happy Cows,” “Food Revolution,” “Diet For A New America”

Like most surfers who grow up in Santa Cruz, I stood up on my first wave at Cowells Beach. Around that time my mom started the first homeless teen center in Santa Cruz, and on rainy nights she would take me along to give out sleeping bags to people who needed them. Experiences like this helped me realize that, although our society rarely looks homeless people straight in the eye, they are still people who have personalities, and histories, and dreams, just like us. And they have problems that, for one reason or another, have caused them to be in a situation without a roof over their head. Recently Cowells Beach has been the place where many of these homeless people choose to spend their time and sleep at night. Unfortunately, some big problems have started to arise as a result.

Mountains of trash were found piled behind the rocks on Cowells and hypodermic needles were found along the shoreline. Junior Guard instructor Tyler Conroy called the far end of the beach a ‘homeless hotel.’ I understand that homeless people need a place to go but I also believe that Cowells can’t be it.

The goal: To get homeless people off the beach as well as provide them a viable alternative. The idea: Install parking meters along the top of Cowells and allocate all money generated to directly fund housing at nearby homeless shelters as well as pay for a security guard to keep watch on the beach at night to direct homeless people to the shelters. The residents who live along the top of Cowells could have permits that would allow them to park for free.

I would feel way better about paying a couple of bucks to a meter if I knew the money was going directly to cleaning up Cowells and keeping it safe. I also like the fact that we would be solving the problem from the very place it originated. Most of the coin parking meters downtown were recently replaced with credit card machines, so the city could potentially use the old parking meters for this new installment. Santa Cruz has the energy, wisdom, and resources to solve this issue. If you find this idea helpful, please contact local nonprofits like Save The Waves and rally with them to clean up Cowells. | Kyle Thiermann, Surfing For Change

Think of the possibilities. For starters, the local buses, many of which seem too large and hardly filled to the brim, would avoid zipping into the heart of Downtown via Front Street only to deposit souls—some lovely, some wayward; some beyond wayward—into an area (south of Cathcart) which has, for years, generated criticism for its lack of aesthetic. A trolley was introduced into the Downtown Santa Cruz area a few years back. If we’re still so jazzed about that idea, the trolley could, possibly, be used to transport individuals back and forth to the new terminal—if, say, walking a few blocks became a big issue. This could alleviate some sketchy traffic issues and more. | GA

There are only a few ways in and out of Santa Cruz, and the major thoroughfare leading into the town is Ocean Street. This is what people see when they first arrive here from Highways 1 and 17. This, technically, is our “Welcome To Santa Cruz” boulevard and, like it or not, it makes a statement about who we are as a people. Is it a true reflection of the hotbed of creativity and unique culture found here? Not yet. As is, it smacks of an unwanted ’70s stepchild—unkempt, disorganized, lacking vision. I first addressed this issue more than a decade ago. I wondered why The City, its leaders, its people et al, wouldn’t want to have a more inviting avenue that both tourists and locals could not only appreciate but truly be proud of. The good news is that some change is happening, chief among them has been the launch of Hotel Paradox, the lush new hotel/reboot of The University Inn.

Other changes are in the works, too. According to the Ocean Street Concept, a vision created by city’s planning department, “by the year 2030, Ocean Street will become a beautiful, multifaceted gateway to  Santa Cruz that reflects the city’s unique and diverse character.” To that end, plans for public art are included in the vision and a “tree-lined” boulevard to “provide a comfortable and safe place for people to walk.” The plan also calls for new buildings along Ocean Street that “will reflect a high caliber of architectural design”—local and franchise businesses. Hotels, restaurants and other visitor services, including mixed-use buildings with retail stores north of Water Street, could be added into the mix. According to the report, the County Government Center will become the “heart of Ocean Street” (imagine!) adding new public space for gathering. There’s also buzz about yet another new hotel and conference center, and the plans to strengthen the residential neighborhood south of Soquel Avenue along Ocean Street via mixed-use buildings offering new residences, retail stores and other services that benefit neighborhood residents, sound filled with good intentions. Still, all of this takes time, and like many a great idea, it seems that change, when it moves through this city and county, often takes a … long … long … time. (Although, those Warriors—and its stadium—sure got in here quickly.) Which brings us to the next topic …. | GA

Any takers? We’re a yoga town, I get it—patience is our middle name—but really, sometimes it feels like decades before any truly significant “change” happens. (Hello Tannery Arts Center, how are you doing?) Send thoughts and feedback about change to [email protected] | GA

I brought up the “If We Had Our Way” idea to a group of friends at dinner the other night and everyone had an opinion—from safer biking on Mission Street in Santa Cruz to, perhaps, a giant indoor playground for children for when the weather isn’t ideal. But what I see sorely lacking to support the teenage youth of our many Santa Cruz County communities is a “road map.” This would be the key to navigate the many resources and opportunities for youth all across the county. It would demystify how to access these baseline and lifeline services. It would help our youth access housing support or food stamps if they are in need. It could help a young person learn where to go for financial or college counseling to improve their future. For the young person trying to get clean, it could give them the step by step of how to move through the system to succeed in their monumental task. How about the incredible challenge of getting out of a gang? There would be directions to the agencies and techniques to do it. Breaking your addiction to fast food and gaming? Done. Health or exercise or contraception or parenting or obtaining a G.E.D.? All needs met. Don’t believe youth would actually use this tool? They would. At “Food, What?!” we have countless stories of teens who have some transformative experience through our program, and, once feeling more empowered, start seeking pathways towards a different life. We see it all the time. And it wouldn’t be a lame brochure that sits on the shelf only to be touched by the super motivated. No, it would be a living art force. It would be part social media, part music mash-up, part game, part tangible experience—and all in the flavor of today’s youth culture. It can be done. It needs to be done.  Youth want to know. And we would build a stronger community for all in the process. | Doron Comerchero. Director, “Food, What?!”  (Youth Empowerment and Food Justice Program of Life Lab)

If I had my way, every day would be like the day of the recent eclipse. Not for some astronomical reason, but for the way it brings people together. Do you remember where you were on May 20, 2012, the day of the annular eclipse? I was in Downtown Santa Cruz, with thousands of other people, watching cover mahshadows fracture against the streetscape. For one hour, teenagers and tourists, drifters and retailers shared something simple: a magical, other-worldly experience.

We have all had experiences that make the differences between us immaterial: disasters, lost pets, long lines. These connections with strangers are a kind of “social bridging.” The term was popularized by sociologist Robert Putnam in the book “Bowling Alone,” in which he differentiates between social capital built through “bonding” with people who are like you and “bridging” with people who are not. Bonding is easy. Bridging is hard. We need both if we are going to build a strong community. It sometimes feels like we live in an “us and them” world, dividing North County and South County, rich and poor, our problems and theirs. We bond well within our own groups, but we don’t build the bridges that will allow us to stop blaming or fearing others and start moving forward.

It’s time to make our own eclipses by consciously designing spaces and experiences that bring people together across differences. Social bridging doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. At the Museum of Art & History, we do it by partnering with diverse groups, mashing up knitters and graffiti artists, ukulele and opera. We invite people to build robots with strangers. We bring together homeless people and church groups to restore Evergreen Cemetery. And again and again, we see new connections spring up in the most unlikely places. We see magic and possibility shared across ethnicity, age, geography, and class. Every time you go out of your way to welcome someone unfamiliar or design an opportunity for shared experience, you create a social bridge. Let’s build more of them. | Nina Simon, Museum of Art & History


Santa Cruz has a highly visible and extremely under-respected social class of local citizen, that are suffering mightily. Most of our homeless neighbors neither wish to be in this group nor wish to stay in this group. But due to the expansion of the fastest-growing group in our current society, the working poor, many find themselves trapped and sinking fast.

To improve the entire community and specifically this group, I think a space needs to be given to allow this group to stabilize themselves from their social free fall, and begin to rebuild their self-confidence. Furthermore this space can be set up to  allow them to positively contribute to their general well-being and the overall health and security of the community. This space would be an “Eco-Rehab” center, that will allow its residents to perform community service in exchange for a safe sleep location and help to develop a sense of “place.” They need to feel they are a rightful part of the community.  This spot will have services to allow treatment for the many maladies that street people suffer from, as well as being the front line for diagnosis of many conditions that threaten both the person and the broader communities safety and security.

While this is not a solution for homelessness, it is a step in the best practices direction of “Housing First” to help the homeless and a step away from the “Emergency Shelter” model that has become passé for helping homeless neighbors re-integrate into society. | Franklin Williams, instructor,  Kresge Service Learning

If you’ve ever taken a hike through Pogonip, you’ve seen the decrepit two-story clubhouse at the top of the hill. The large boarded up building, which sits next to a crumbling tennis court overtaken by weeds and looks like the perfect setting for a horror film, was once a lively country club dining venue, a social hub and, ironically, the set of the 1987 vampire flick, The Lost Boys.

Though the clubhouse is undergoing restoration, the process is best compared to molasses. Relying mostly on locals, who recall its former glory—the golf course, the polo matches, the all-night swim parties, etc.—and enjoy the eight miles of trails in the park, to finance its restoration, progress has come in small bursts.

It we had our way … people would dig deep and help breathe new life into the clubhouse, which has the potential to bring joy to the entire community. Inside the refurbished building, visitors could admire old photographs from the bygone days of Santa Cruz, and learn a bit about the area’s history, then grab a bite to eat at The Lost Boys-themed café. Local musicians would perform for guests as they eat on the patio and take in the view of the city. Children could enjoy tennis lessons on the revamped court, while adults get their kicks on the brand new golf course. A fun, safe, local hang-out spot, where people can engage with the community, as well as honor our town’s history? Sign us up. | Jenna Brogan

It is a simple idea. Create it, design it and make it—here. I don’t expect to see large-scale manufacturing returning to Santa Cruz. We have a disparity between what our workers need to be paid to live in this area compared to those workers in China, Southeast Asia and India, but sheer size does not always equal success. I have witnessed local companies that have bucked the trend of not just surviving the massive economic downturn but have actually thrived, grown and increased profitability. Many factors have contributed to these unusual and special companies’ success but one element that always becomes apparent is a form of in-house manufacturing, assembly combined with a happy strong-employee culture.

What I envision would be the retaining of all forms of companies and business to remain, return and want to locate in Santa Cruz. Creative and innovative idea, concepts, products and companies have had worldwide reach with Roots in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is epically ripe with ideas, especially those untapped commercially from those deep thinkers up on the hill at UCSC. What a concept— that you could have a great company, or a great job, like or even love what you do at work and actually not have to commute far to get there. I think this is a wish that just may come true. | William Ow


I am grateful to Good Times for the chance to introduce a proposal that has been on my heart for many years. I long to return to the days of the apprentice, where young people have an opportunity to be producers, not merely consumers. It’s important for each person to develop a skill that provides both enjoyment and potential income. Regardless of whether or not it develops into a career, everyone needs an “in the meantime” way of joyfully supporting one’s self on the way to greater fulfillment.

Let’s establish a local program for our youth utilizing our own resources that may serve as a model for other communities. Specific businesses or organizations volunteer to train a 15- to 18-year-old intern. The training environments can be as varied as landscaping, graphic design, auto mechanics, food preparation, green energy solutions or any other field projecting occupational demand. Instead of cash, the interns earn credits to obtain career-enhancing products of their choice. These pre-selected items, such as electronic equipment, computer software, musical instruments, tools, or opportunities for further study, will be donated by other local businesses or organizations. The administrative costs of a six-month pilot program of 10-12 students can be kept to a minimum, shared, and/ or underwritten. All participants will receive ample visibility and publicity for their pioneering efforts.

Ideally, each person reaching adulthood would have obtained some basic skills and experience that would prepare them for a certaindegree of self-sufficiency. However, more important than the chance to make a buck is the value added that we each bring to society. We owe it to ourselves, and to the young among us, to make certain thateveryone has a meaningful place to contribute. Enhancing our web of interconnectedness is at the heart of our humanity. | Rev. Deborah L. Johnson, Inner Light Ministries

If we had our way … our community would recognize how important the arts are in contributing to our quality of life and economic development.  We would support the many artists who reside in our community and who add a rich creative heritage to make our city great  and a destination for experiencing the many offerings dedicated to  the arts. We would appreciate the passion and creative talent that is displayed in the many venues for which Santa Cruz is home and the  many nonprofit arts organizations would realize the support of the  businesses, the schools, the families and the many visitors who come  to Santa Cruz from all over the world.

To that end, Downtown Santa Cruz would be the cultural, entertainment, social and specialty shopping center of the county, showcasing the arts in the many specialty retail stores located there. Public schools would have the resources to provide access to arts education to all.  And all of our museums would have the  resources to become the cultural, entertainment and social center of the county. Additionally, the Tannery Performing Arts Center would be completed and be available and affordable to all our performing artists. And the Tannery Arts Center at Salz Tannery would become the arts center of Santa Cruz County under the stewardship of the Santa Cruz County Cultural Council. | Ceil Cirillo, retired City of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Director, President of Santa Cruz Community  Foundation, Vice Chair, Tannery Arts Center, Inc.

I’ll be honest, I stopped giving holiday gifts many years ago. All the stress and angst of needing to find the perfect gift, I didn’t need it. Since 2003, I’ve told friends and family that if they want to buy me a gift, please make a donation to a local charity in my name, and I will do the same for them. I know this choice is not for everyone. However, I do want to ask this: What if everyone in Santa Cruz redirected just 10 percent of their planned holiday spending to a local nonprofit? I know Santa Cruz is a generous place, and most of us give something to charity, especially at this time of year, but consider what it would mean to give just a little more.

The average American spends more than $900 during the holiday season, on gifts, meals out, travel, a turkey with all the trimmings, and  more. If only half the people in Santa Cruz County gave an additional  $90 to a local nonprofit, that would add up to more than $10 million.  (That’s right, $10 million.) It’s not enough to solve all the social  ills we face today, but for the price of a modest gift, we would make a huge dent.

Speaking as a nonprofit insider, there are many agencies in this county, doing difficult and important work, that exist very close to the financial edge. These agencies exist in every sector, from healthcare to social justice, from the arts to the environment. For these agencies, a little extra under the tree this time of year would mean breathing room in their budgets, extra support for services when  they are most needed, and a brighter holiday for the angels that work so hard to keep our community safe and strong. This is just a small  change, but it is a change within our power to execute. | Jim Brown, Grants Program Manager, Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County

I have a deep love of hotels. Not just any hotels, but fancy hotels, and particularly old hotels—really old hotels with lots of history. Hotels like New York’s Waldorf-Astoria;  where every president since Hoover have been received. Even today you would half expect to see Cole Porter drinking a daiquiri at the bar with John Kennedy. San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado, Chicago’s Drake, Colorado’s Broadmoor, Miami’s Biltmore; all filled beautifully designed rooms that transcend decades and seem to magically meld histories. When I walk the halls of these majestic palaces I easily imagine Monroe dancing with Chaplin to the music of Sinatra at a party thrown for Capone. I’m pretty sure that Belushi and Morrison were there too, but that part is a little fuzzy.

The problem obviously is that of the few hotels in our tourist town, I’m pretty sure the oldest doesn’t even predate the Beatles. There have been a number of efforts over the years to build hotels in Santa Cruz, some successful, many not. But my hotel success story involves building a hotel 150 years ago and watching it absorb the history and culture of Santa Cruz as the town grows and changes around it. The guest book would hold the comments of Teddy Roosevelt, Ken Kesey, Ansel Adams and scores of the many visitors who come to enjoy Santa Cruz from all over the world. The walls, brimming with memories, like the time that Hitchcock discussed the script of “Suspicion” with Cary Grant in the corner of the lobby.

This hotel doesn’t have to be on the beach, but then again, why on Earth wouldn’t it? I have to admit though, I’ve often found myself getting in the elevator at the Branciforte Palza, and imagining the elevator operator asking me which floor. When I tell him I’m on the penthouse sweet on the 21st floor, he smiles, pushes buttons and asks me if I’m enjoying my stay in Santa Cruz. “It’s a lovely town,”  I reply. “I really like what you’ve done here.” | Chip, Downtown Association

Regarding hunger issues, I would immediately grant us permission to invest every possible resource into our youth by feeding, educating, and empowering them. When kids and families are struggling for meals, it has an impact on our health care system, it adversely affects job performance, and it is generally a drain on the economics of Santa Cruz County. When kids are malnourished, their attention span is shortened and academics are a challenge to absorb. Instead, truancy and conflict takes place and are often followed up by disciplinary action. How is this providing the best possible outcome for our youth?

During disasters, communities pull together and work to get back to “normal.” I ask you: Are you content with the new normal? If we can help resolve the damage done in a natural disaster, then why not come together and provide a basic human necessity? If I had my way, then I would ask every resident of Santa Cruz County to commit and make sure no child goes hungry in Santa Cruz County for 2013. The future of our community depends upon the work of healthy and educated young people. 

I have faith that when we invest in providing the youth with what they need, then we are investing in our future. Kids will make the right choices when you believe in them. One in four kids are going malnourished everyday in Santa Cruz  County. If I had my way this would not be happening. | Danny Keith, founder, Grind Out Hunger

This is Santa Cruz—how hard can it be? Five years ago, there were three gay bars in town‚ Club Dakota, Club Caution and Blue Lagoon. Today, there’s not even (quite) one. After Club Caution and Dakota faded into the woodwork several years, the Blue Lagoon was left. But the reality is the Blue caters a great deal more to the University crowd than it does to the LGBT community. Then came Madhouse over on Seabright Avenue, with its weekly LGBT nights. Madhouse folded earlier this year. Lately, a group of enterprising folks within the  LGBT community have spearheaded Fab Fridays, a monthly outing. Still,  as diverse and creative as Santa Cruz is, there is, technically, no “gay” bar. But does there need to be? Back in the day, gay bars were the only portals in which the LGBT community could meet and feel “safe” and accepted. While discrimination still exists today, perhaps it has wane—at least in bigger cities or diverse areas such as Santa Cruz. Maybe there isn’t a need for a “gay” bar any more. Thoughts? | Charlie Price

Few would argue that 2012 has been a challenging year on the psyche—from the mass shooting/murders in a Colorado movie theater last summer to the recent elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Closer to home, Santa Cruz mourned the loss of beloved business owner Shannon Collins (of Camouflage), who was fatally stabbed walking down the street in May. Charles Anthony Edwards III was accused of the crime. Flashforward to September of 2012 and a judge suspended criminal proceedings against Edwards, 43, after two doctors found him to be incompetent to stand trial. Edwards was sent back into “the system” that eventually set him free and—onto the streets of Santa Cruz (from San Francisco). Yes. Crime is, and perhaps will always be, a major issue. It’s also up 6 percent in Santa Cruz from last year. But it appears that, in the aftermath of Collins’ death, local police (and locals), are more hypersensitive to this and Neighborhood Watches have become heightened. But the “system‚” remains fractured and that is where a great deal of the attention should go. In the meantime, Santa Cruz has proven that it can rally together and spark change. This was most evident during Collins’ touching memorials earlier this year. But the conversations about crime and safety need to continue. Continue to send us your feedback. Onward we go …  | GA


It’s a relatively simple concept, darlings: Be clean. But recent excursions into and out of Downtown Santa Cruz—and other surrounding areas—suggest that there are a vast amount of local humans who have  yet to embrace the H20. (Dear lord: This isn’t The Walking Dead!)  Running water over one’s body is nice. Adding soap makes the body  feel better. Scrubbing oneself is a delight. Rinsing is therapeutic. 

And shaving becomes you. Spritzing oneself with a nice fragrance other than patchouli suggests you may even be invested in caring about how you look—and smell. Just a thought.

(Oh, and let’s do toss in this runner-up: If you’re over 50 and a man, cut off your damn ponytail. You can grow it back if you must. Don’t get me wrong, darling—you are unique, but I’d love to see you stop milking your youth and morph into the man you really are. I fear I’ve frightened you. Relax: this isn’t judgment. It’s wisdom, dear, and you are still loved.) | Sally Reynolds

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