Candidates Gather for On-Campus Forum

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In the print edition of this article, City on a Hill Press mischaracterized the effects of an amendment to Measure O. The decrease in the affordable housing requirement was applied to areas outside of downtown Santa Cruz, not downtown itself. The downtown requirement is unchanged.

City on a Hill Press hosted a forum for City Council candidates on Oct. 21. Of the 10 candidates, five attended. We asked them about key issues facing the community. Here are abridged versions of their answers. For an extended look, find the full video on CHP’s Facebook page. Responses are presented in the order they were given.

*Candidate Cynthia Hawthorne arrived late, and was unable to answer the first two questions.

Measure O, an affordable housing measure, was recently amended to increase the maximum allowed rent of affordable units by 5 percent, and lower the required number of affordable units in new developments by 5 percent  downtown.

City on a Hill Press:

Was the amendment to Measure O a good decision by the Council?

Justin Cummings:

We need to make sure that we’re holding the developers in this town accountable for the amount of inclusionary units that they’re providing. The city has been really focusing on building more luxury market-rate housing in Santa Cruz, and that’s not going to actually help to solve the housing crisis. […] The proposal by the city right now is to build 500 more market-rate and luxury homes in downtown Santa Cruz, and only 100 affordable units. […] Reducing the amount of units that are the inclusionary percentage in these new developments is not good for Santa Cruz.

Drew Glover:

Who in their right mind, from a policy-making position, when we’re in a housing crisis, is going to not only give breaks to developers to make it so they have to include less [affordable housing], but pass measures that would potentially increase the cost of affordable housing. Not only that — they worked out some weird deal recently where developers only need to sell the unit at affordable rates but not rent them and they can still being considered inclusive housing, so there’s a lot of weird stuff going on behind the scenes within our City Council.

Donna Meyers:

So, actually, the recent work by the council actually increased the number of inclusionary units downtown up to 15 percent up from 10 and then apply the 10 stat outside downtown. […] These are policies that can continue to be refined based on our community needs as well as the types of housing that we may be able to build in the future.

Philip Crawford:

The reduction was a bad idea, but even at 15 percent, as it’s been mentioned, it’s not making a dent in the affordability of housing in the city. There isn’t going to be affordable housing in the city, not when it’s a million dollars a home. It’s got to be subsidized. And what we’re beginning to see is that what’s working, […] is with Section 8 housing, which is subsidized housing. We had 2,500 people in the waitlist, we’ve gotten 1,000 of them off of that and into homes and it’s down to 1,500 now. So that’s affordable housing because now they can pay based upon their income and they can live in this community.

On the ballot for 2018 is Measure M, the rent control and just cause eviction ordinance.

CHP:

Is Measure M a good policy for Santa Cruz?

Crawford:

The provisions in Measure M, as far as I can see, are good public policy for Santa Cruz and the City Council at present has adopted some of the more formidable aspects of Measure M in enacting a rent freeze and just cause eviction. Measure M itself is a flawed piece of legislation, which often happens with the initiative process because it seeks to amend the city charter and once you amend the city charger you’re not going to tinker with it again until the next election […].The realtors market and economists all believe that it will have a negative impact on the availability of rental units and on rent itself.

Cummings:

 I’m supporting the rent control measure, I’m supporting Measure M.  […] One thing that Measure M does do is ensure a fair return on investment. I don’t think that housing should be something that we’re investing in for financial returns. Everybody deserves a place to live and the ability especially to live in the community they serve.

Meyers:

I am not in favor of Measure M. […] I just don’t think that Measure M in its totality is going to be a good policy for our community. I’ve already talked to a dozen homeowners who have rooms and [accessory dwelling units] sitting empty in their homes right now and I personally know people who are selling homes right now because they’re worried about this policy.

Glover:

A lot of the claims that are being made by the opposition to Measure M are just false or impossible to prove with the data that they’ve presented, or it’s been presented in ways that are misconstrued. […] It’s important to realize that in that same study that they looked at with the reduction of cost or amount of rentals in Berkeley, there were similar if not greater amounts of reductions and housing in Alameda County and the surrounding nine county Bay Area locations around there that weren’t impacted by rent control. So to say it was because of rent control that Berkeley lost housing units doesn’t make sense from a data point of view.

CHP:

What kind of infrastructure do you support for the so-called “rail trail” between Watsonville and Davenport?

Meyers:

It’s important to put the segments in place because people actually start using them right away and they become part of our neighborhood transportation fabric. So stalling things out to decide what we’re going to be doing with the rail in the future won’t service Santa Cruz in particular very well, so I’m supportive of moving ahead with those and then continuing to do the work of understanding the role of the rail trail in our larger transportation priorities. […] We have a lot of work to do with regards to understanding how to move people to the county and the rail trail is this part of that calculation. I’m excited, though, about getting the existing trail pieces in place as soon as possible.

*Cynthia Hawthorne:

You never dig up public infrastructure, and so whether you’re going to use the trail in 10 years or 20 years, it is really important to leave it in place. I see in Seattle what they’re able to do with tracks, with things like light rail and other kinds of things that are quiet. They’re ecologically sound, they’re cheap. So I totally support both and I’m looking now at what the RTC [Regional Transportation Commission] is doing and their 500 page report that just came out, which I have not read all of, but I have a pretty good understanding, that of the four options, option B is probably the one that we’re going to adopt and it does include rail trail and I support that.

Glover:

Our transportation system is broken in Santa Cruz. Students, I’m sure, notice the most out of most people with regards to the impact of being able to get from one place to another. So I am against removing options for future transportation solutions, which includes removing of the track. […] It feeds into a lot more than just that, though, because even if we do have that corridor it’s difficult for people to get from the train tracks to somewhere where they need to go. So this needs to be a more comprehensive and holistic conversation about not just the rail in the trail but how we’re going to maximize the efficiency of our bus system.

Crawford:

I have to commute down Highway 1, and if you have gone through that corridor you realize the terrible congestion and the difficulty of getting anywhere on time. I think I might even ride my bike to Watsonville and get there faster, and get home faster, once this trail is completed. […] If you’ve ever been to Sacramento you can see that along the river and along a number of areas there are bike trails, and you can get all over the city very quickly. It’s very bike-friendly, we need to have more of that alternate transportation to get out of our gas-guzzling cars that are polluting our environment.

Cummings:

I’m in support of keeping the rail in place, and also beginning to work on the trail in conjunction with that. I think what we need to think of, the U.S. as a whole is very behind on rail systems. […] Having lived in Northern Spain on and off for a number of years when I was in my early twenties, none of my friends had cars. Most of my friends’ families only had maybe one car at most, and everyone was able to do the things that they needed in terms of shopping and getting from to and from work, school, to their doctors. We need to start exploring more of these types of options in Santa Cruz.

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Sean D. Ross is editor for the City News desk at City on a Hill Press. Previously, Sean served as an editor for the Investigative News desk and as a reporter for the Campus, City and Sports desks over the past two years. Before coming to UC Santa Cruz, he was News Editor for the Diablo Valley College Inquirer, contributing to the Inquirer earning the Journalism Association of Community Colleges’ “General Excellence” award at the 2016 Northern California Conference. For his coverage of California fires in the fall of 2017, Sean was awarded third prize in the California College Media Association’s Breaking News competition. Sean is pursuing a career in law, and has interned for renowned California attorney James M. Wagstaffe. Besides casually browsing LexisNexis, Sean enjoys board games of all stripes, competitive Magic: the Gathering, playing the french horn, automotive racing and the literary stylings of Neil Gaiman.