The new candidates are activist Alicia Kuhl, consultant Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and plant physiology researcher Elizabeth Conlan.
Conlan, a leader of the pro-housing group Santa Cruz YIMBY, is running partly to focus the race on housing affordability, which she says is “the most critical issue facing the city.” Conlan, who works for Driscoll’s, says she is tired of politicians paying lip service on the topic and then not walking the walk.
“As a renter, I don’t have time for this slow process of creating housing that is the status quo,” she says.
Kalantari-Johnson serves on the Pajaro Valley Health Trust Board, the Central California Alliance for Health Commission, a Dignity Health advisory board and a United Way of Santa Cruz County steering committee. As a mom and an immigrant, she says she deeply values equity.
“I see a lot of opportunity and possibilities. I’m not naïve. I know it’s going to be really, really difficult. But I know I can go in with an open mind and an open heart, and I know I can build partnerships,” she says.
Alicia Khul, who is homeless and a mother to three children, grew up in a group home for foster youth. She says the city does a poor job listening to the residents who are most impacted by the crises it faces. The Covid-19 pandemic, she adds, makes those impacts all the more severe.
“I understand the struggle of families here. And I understand what happens to adults when they’re not invested in as children. I have a unique perspective to work on these challenges,” Kuhl says.
After initially pulling paperwork to explore a bid, former Councilmember Richelle Noroyan says she will not run.
The race’s other six candidates are Councilmember Martine Watkins, Councilmember Sandy Brown, Community Ventures Executive Director Maria Cadenas, Romero Institute Social Media Specialist Kelsey Hill, Downtown Association Operations Director Sonja Brunner and FoodWhat?! Development Director Kayla Kumar.