NUZ: Santa Cruz Leaders Don’t Care About Your Silly Housing Crisis

Council may leave Santa Cruz in violation of the Housing Crisis Act of 2019

Last week, Nuz called out neighborhood activists for using the idea of transitional encampments to fuel a recall effort against city councilmembers Drew Glover and Chris Krohn.

Those same recallers have, of course, not suggested any better ideas to address homeless issues. But zooming out, there are bigger themes at play here. It is time for this town to stop arguing and start fixing its problems. Santa Cruz’s failure to do that is a pandemic that stretches beyond a conservative coalition of anti-Krohn groups. 

You need look no further than Krohn himself.

Take for example the Santa Cruz City Council’s short-sighted move last month to unceremoniously ax the Corridor Zoning Update, a years-old effort that aimed to plan for smarter housing growth—much of it affordable—on Santa Cruz’s four busiest streets. Although Krohn and Glover have not gotten much heat for it, they both voted to kill that plan, in spite of all the ranting and raving the two of them do about the “housing crisis” and “struggling” renters. They did so because—their own grandstanding aside—a huge part of their political coalition is privileged NIMBY single-family homeowners, some of whom happen to live a couple blocks from the busy streets where we really should be upzoning for denser housing. Though it was good policy, the plan was a work in progress. It was on the backburner, while staff focused on implementing the Housing Blueprint Subcommittee recommendations. But in a surprise 4-3 vote, the council’s super-liberal majority pulled off a political stunt to toss the corridor plan out quickly, without any real public input. Planning staff will now have to do the council’s busywork involved in putting the corridor plan to bed, instead of the actually important work of making housing cheaper.

Since the vote, Krohn has argued that there are other important progressive values besides housing affordability. Like “quality of life,” although—let’s be honest—that’s really just rich-people-speak for “no new buildings over two stories tall.”

It seems like an odd principle to stick to—especially considering that corridor development would be along busy bus routes, which is where California communities should be growing if we’re serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Development along the corridors would reduce the spread of sprawling suburbanism across the region and make it easier for commuters to live without cars.

And this is where, when you look at it closely, Krohn’s world view starts falling apart.

Take his antics on the City Council, for instance. Whenever Krohn sees his more moderate colleagues declining to back him on the tenant protections he supports, he interrogates the other councilmembers, asking why they don’t care about renters. He hunts for rabid applause from supporters who show up to cheer him on. And given the current housing shortage, the sense of urgency is palpable. The truth is that protecting renters is great, but honestly—when you’re in a housing shortage—the best way to stop average rents from continuing to soar is to build housing. (At the very least, you could stand up for both types of solutions, if you truly cared.) 

And yet, Krohn spent three years weaponizing his divisive rhetoric to undermine corridor upzoning. He then helped hammer the final nail into the corridor coffin on Aug. 27. After finally accomplishing his goal, Krohn flipped his logic on the housing crisis’ urgency. He’s found a new way to argue that he’s still the most “progressive” guy in the room, in spite of constantly finding unique reasons over the years to vote against housing projects and plans. He has conveniently come to discover a list of considerations to ponder besides housing. Like protecting the “livability” of homeowners, in this case.

Krohn defends his point of view by saying the corridor plan was unpopular, anyway. And maybe he’s got a point there. It’s almost like someone’s been campaigning against it!

Looking ahead, Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 any day now. And when he does, last month’s anti-corridor vote will leave Santa Cruz in violation of state housing law.

Now, that is a development that won’t make Santa Cruz look too progressive.

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