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I have some extremely vivid memories of the 1997 El Niño in Santa Cruz. I saw people’s backyards—trees, lawn furniture, swing sets, everything—floating through Steamer Lane because they’d been washed into the San Lorenzo River. I saw a wave rise up onto the roadway and crash over a Metro bus.

I was housesitting most of that December for two good friends in Happy Valley, in a place next to a creek, and before they left, one of them said “If the El Niño rains get bad enough this month, the creek might flood. Try to save the dogs and the records.” I laughed, because that’s what you do when someone says that.

Four weeks later, I was definitely not laughing, as the water crept up near the top of the banks on one excruciating, sleepless night. The sound of footsteps outside turned out to be a neighbor pacing the water line, literally watching to see what the fate of his home was going to be. My girlfriend and I were up all night—like most of the San Lorenzo Valley, probably—waiting for the moment we had to grab those dogs and those records.

The moment never came. But when I read Maria Grusauskas’ cover story this week about the likely return of El Niño this year, all those memories came flooding back, no pun intended. In the story, Gary Griggs talks about how we’ve been sort of spoiled by almost two decades of moderate winters since then, and many people who live here now have never experienced an El Niño in Santa Cruz. If they do, I hope their memories don’t end up quite as hair-raising as mine.

STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF


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Take a Stand On Garden

First, many thanks to the Santa Cruz City Council, which voted last Tuesday, Nov. 3 to seek to purchase the entire half-acre Beach Flats Community Garden site, leased for the past 20 years from the Seaside Company (GT, 11/4). And thanks to Mayor Don Lane, council members and the city officials who conducted two subsequent meetings with the Beach Flats Community Garden users and the supportive coalition from the general Santa Cruz community.

After that seeming victory, the city met with Seaside Company representatives and came away with a very different deal: to downsize the footprint of the garden by 40 percent, completely remove all present beds and vegetation, including many trees, and to allocate much smaller beds to only 17 of the current total of 25 gardeners. The meeting space under a heritage tree was to be preserved. The new lease—not purchase—was to be for another three years.

The common response of the community and gardeners, expressed in many contrasting ways and tones, was that they—we—want “todos” of the garden preserved as it is: all 25 gardeners having space; preserving all communal space and structures for tools and equipment; keeping the food-crop trees which were planted by the gardeners and are now well-grown; preserving the present large beds containing ancestral food plants shared with neighbors and from the gardeners’ homeland south of the border.

City officials say that acquiescing to Seaside Company’s terms is their only option, and that using the city’s power of eminent domain to acquire the land for a fair or even generous market price is not an option—it takes too long, and requires a supermajority (5 out of 7 of the council) even to begin the process. The city has never in its entire history used eminent domain to acquire property, according to City Manager Martín Bernal. In the meantime, if the lease deal is not signed, the Seaside Company can evict the sub-lessors, the gardeners, after the lease termination date on Nov. 13.

Meanwhile, the Santa Cruz General Plan, if applied to Beach Flats, would mandate approximately four acres of park/green space in this area—eight times the present half-acre footprint of the Beach Flats Garden.

We are confident that the Seaside Company can use its abundant  property for its greatest good while preserving and strengthening a dedicated community space and resource.

To the City Council and City Manager Martín Bernal: You have the opportunity, if you have the will, to do the right thing. Please do it. Negotiate with Seaside from a position of power, the real power to grant permits for land use under zoning laws and the General Plan. Seaside Company surely has plans for the many properties it owns in the Beach Flats area, and they need the city’s permits for everything they do. We will support you; and everyone in Santa Cruz, as well as Beach Flats, will benefit by example and grow to be the simultaneously diverse and integrated, vibrant, self-sustaining community that we are meant to be.

Carol Long, Santa Cruz

Correction

Last week’s cover story “Beside Manners,” misstated that in 2010 President Obama struck down the requirement for people to have sexual reassignment surgery in order to have their gender marker on their driver’s license changed. The policy applied to U.S. passports, not licenses.

Letters Policy

Letters should not exceed 300 words and may be edited for length, clarity, grammar and spelling. They should include city of residence to be considered for publication. Please direct letters to the editor, query letters and employment queries to [email protected] All website-related queries, including corrections, should be directed to [email protected]


 

photo contest

photo-contest-1545-Snowy-Egret

REFLECTING POOL A snowy egret is reflected in the still water of Corcoran Lagoon on East Cliff Drive. Photograph by Steve Neff.

 



good work

NET GROWTH

The Golden State Warriors are the hottest team in the NBA and the only undefeated team left at 8-0. Former Santa Cruz Warrior James Michael McAdoo has played 40 minutes, most of them when his team was already blowing opponents out anyway. There’s always room for improvement, of course. On Saturday night, reigning MVP Stephen Curry yelled, “Hey Mac, make a free throw, man!” McAdoo is just 5-15 from the line this season.

good idea

 

ALL A BOARD

Tait Detro and Margot Czeropski are two recent college grads living in Capitola with new longboard designs that will hit shelves at Berdel’s on Pacific Avenue on Sunday, Nov. 19. The skateboards, made from reclaimed wood, range from $175 to $270. They’re also available at potaitoboards.com.

quote

“It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.” —Amelia Barr

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