The Weekly Dump – 2.16.24

Car Plunges 200 Feet Down Felton Empire Grade Road

Photo: CalFire CZU

Wednesday night around 7:30PM, CalFire responded to an accident on Felton Empire Grade Road near Kiln Road involving a single vehicle that went off the road and down a 200 foot embankment. First responders initially had difficulty locating the victim due to rain and complete darkness but heard faint yelling, and after rappelling down the embankment found the vehicle in a creek. One person was rescued and hospitalized with minor injuries. CAL FIRE, Santa Cruz County Fire, Felton Fire, Santa Cruz Mountains State Parks, CHP Santa Cruz, and CDCR crews all participated in the rescue.

Don’t Forget to Vote on March 5th!

Hey, it’s not just primaries on the ballot, we’ve got a pretty big State Proposition, a county proposition, and a couple city measures, as well as local candidates running for the Board of Supervisors and the Santa Cruz city council. Here are my thoughts on how I’m voting:

Proposition 1: 
What it is: Authorizes the State to issue 6.38B in bonds for mental health treatment facilities, supportive housing for homeless vets and homeless individuals with mental health issues

I’M VOTING YES

Why? We need better, improved, and more mental health facilities in Santa Cruz. We see so many homeless individuals suffering from severe mental health issues struggling on the streets, with no place to go and no options for treatment. This bond would not raise taxes and annual bond repayments would be less than one half of one percent of the state General Fund revenue.

Measure K: NO
See the reasons I stated below. Only this dubious tax comes from the County. Everybody wants some.

Measure L: NO
It’s another city tax (a sales tax no less which impacts poor people harder than rich people) that just goes into the General Fund to be doled out without expectations or any proven record of efficacy towards homeless services programs. This is the progressive quid pro quo for getting progressives elected. They get you funded through stuff like this. No more homeless city taxes. It’s a county responsibility.

Measure M: NO
Why? It would make it harder to get new housing built by requiring a higher percentage of subjectively “affordable” units. It also restricts building heights, which again would constrain new housing development projects.

County Supervisor 1st District: Manu Koenig
Why? I voted for Manu the first time around and think he’s done a pretty good job. He doesn’t let his chirpy critics derail him from doing good, pragmatic, community service. He’s smart and he cares. He’s what I want in my Supervisor. I wish we had 5 Manus.

County Supervisor 2nd District: Kristin Brown
I don’t know much about her other than from what I’ve read on her website, but she seems like the most experienced, the most pragmatic, she’s got a solid list of endorsements, and I don’t like any of the others for various reasons. And a big HELL NO to Jaffe!

County Supervisor 5th District: IT’S WRITE IN TIME!
I can’t say I like anyone here. So I’m writing in RICHELLE NOROYAN. She lives in the district and she’s better than all of the available choices. So write in “Richelle Noroyan”.

District 1 Santa Cruz City Council: Gabriela Trigueiro
Why? She’s got a great list of endorsements, she works for a good local non-profit, she’s on a city commission, she’s a young fresh face and perspective for Santa Cruz. Her opponent is endorsed by the same slate of whiny progressive PACs and unions that support the other left of left progressive candidates. I think we’ve seen DSA progressives generally don’t make very good government administrators. Look at our history and where we are. Gabriela is the better choice here and if I lived in the 1st district, she’d get my vote.

District 2 Santa Cruz City Council: Sonja Brunner
I gotta say ever since we flushed the male turds (Krohn and Glover) from the city council, and replaced them with pragmatic women like Sonja, Shebreh, and Renee Golder, the city has been better off. That’s right. The women are smarter. At least smarter than those 2 fools. Her opponent is endorsed by “Santa Cruz For Bernie” (why are these people still relevant?), the SEIU, and Sandy Brown, the last remaining progressive standing up there. Sonja is fine. She could do better. They all could do better. But we could do much worse. If I lived in the 2nd district, I’d vote Sonja Brunner

District 3 Santa Cruz City Council: Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson
Why? She’s by far better than Joy Schendledecker, who would bring me no joy. Joy is “DSA“, and that’s all I need to know to avoid that wrong way of thinking. I don’t feel so much excited as resigned about Shebreh. She’s nice, and safe, and ain’t rocking any boats here. Joy wouldn’t just rock the boat, she’d run it aground, then expect the city to house everyone she shipwrecked. If I lived in the 3rd district, I’d vote for Shebreh.

District 5 Santa Cruz City Council: Susie O’Hara
Why? Susie is the best candidate of all of them. The fact that she wants to return to the city government that she had to sue over the way she was previously treated (by a couple of recalled turds and a lazy worthless former city manager) speaks volumes about her character. Susie is compassionate but she’s also tough and no nonsense. There are no other choices here. Santa Cruz needs Susie O’Hara back in city hall. If you live in the 5th district, please vote for Susie O’Hara.

Dysfunction Junction Needs a Paradigm Shift

I want to believe there are new ways to do things here. It’s a big ask for someone who’s lived here for over 20 years, loves living here, but has long witnessed the systemic dysfunction in the local governments and how they have mishandled (or just willfully ignored) problem after problem, crisis after crisis, unless it first served their needs in some way.

I’ll give you a good example of a good local paradigm shift. About 4 years ago, when I was still writing this weekly column, I long predicted the eventual integration of district elections in Santa Cruz. The fully at-large system we had previously concentrated power in the hands of a chosen few, who determined who ran our city and county governments. Lot’s of bluster and ideology from local candidates instead of focusing on neighborhood level issues. DISTRICT kinds of issues. District elections changed all of that. It made outside money less influential, and neighbor support essential for success. We’ve long suffered from politics over pragmatics in Santa Cruz, of entitlements over expectations being met. District elections put the people back in charge, for better or worse. I’m seeing it now, with more candidates running through district elections, but with smaller voter bases with each district. We’ve now got a direct elected mayor who will oversee the “at large” needs as appropriate, but gone are the behind the scenes power plays and voting blocks to try to pass stupid endless dogma driven goals to placate their base.

Truck Barrels Through Westside Pharmacy Front Door

Ah Aidan Kammerman, UCSC student. Thank you for putting a Santa Cruz Spicoli take on this. “You can’t park there”.

Local Mayors Support Prop 47 Reform and Overhaul

So where’s Mayor Fred on this? Does he support this? Inquiring minds would like to know. Proposition 47 has been a state sanctioned nightmare. Back when Jerry Brown was Governor, California was in the process of being sued by the Federal government for prison overcrowding. So how does he get out of it? He whitewashes voters into thinking they are voting for a public safety ballot measure when in reality, it was a massive prisoner dump into the community. Build more jails? Oh hell no! That will never fly with California voters. He just let them out early until he made the overcrowding go away. And now we see the fallout.

Santa Cruz Wharf Suffers Major Storm Damage

Heavy rain and wind from a couple of storms that rolled through Santa Cruz in the beginning of February have taken a major toll on the landmark wharf, and at least one business at the end of it. The Dolphin Restaurant has had to shut down and its future is in doubt, after the wharf suffered extensive damage below it. Strong winds and high surf took out wooden pilings that helped support it, leaving a noticeable dip after several pilings snapped off. Some of those pilings can still be seen floating in the water. This area of the wharf is now closed to the public. The estimated cost of those damages in the city of Santa Cruz is just under $900,000 according to the fire chief.

I know most locals probably look at the Dolphin with a side eye, but I’ll be honest I used to order fried clam baskets from their side take out window and eat them at the picnic tables by the sea lions and it just felt OG Santa Cruz to me. Hot, cooked to order carny food with the best view of Monterey Bay tossed in for free.

Bratton Offline

I noticed the Iron Man of local op/ed, Bruce Bratton, hasn’t been updating his weekly column lately. Apparently he’s dealing with some health issues. I just want to wish him good thoughts, hope he gets well soon, and let him know his cranky old progressive wisdom is missed by me and the community at large. I’ve always said that Bruce Bratton is one of my original inspirations for Santa Mierda (along with Herb Caen and Marc Maron). I wanted to be the moderate version of Bratton locally. If you want to email him some get well nice thoughts, I’m sure he’d appreciate the love and support.

The Community Speaks

Each week I ask a question on my Facebook page and I get community feedback on that question. I share some of the responses here. Here’s what they said.

Is Downtown a safe place to visit?

“I work downtown, and am in the thick of things. I feel like it’s always dirty, and constantly see scary events. I will go out to eat if it’s early & if I am with someone, but I feel the same way about Midtown, off Water/Soquel & Morrissey…doesn’t say much about Santa Cruz proper.”
– Michelle

“I feel pretty safe. Mostly bc I am ready to rock. Hard.”
– Sarah

“I grew up in NYC and never felt as uncomfortable there as I do walking around downtown, even in the daytime. It’s really unfortunate because there are so many wonderful restaurants and shops there. When I do walk around downtown I am on high alert and have my pepper spray in my hand at all times.”
– Samantha

“I don’t feel safe dodging transients being down there alone. Sometimes I still do it but its the opposite of relaxing. Bums me out because I’d like to feel comfortable to let my teenage daughters roam around on their own but there is no way with the current state of affairs down there. For now they have to stick to Scotts Valley & Capitola.”
– Megan

“I’m born and raised here since 1967. I’ve worked downtown at several places including Ford’s Department Store. It was a cool place back then. Not any more. I haven’t shopped downtown for years. So no, I’m not comfortable shopping downtown anymore”
– Karla

“I work Downtown and never feel safe. I am constantly on high alert.”
– Linda

“I think it’s a crap shot! There are lots of scary people, but, fortunately, I’ve never had to deal directly. I will say that sometimes it feels a little scary and uncomfortable downtown.”
– Conrad

“I was born here and will no longer go downtown. It’s not safe or clean. I feel bad for the business owners down there.”
– Kathy

“I patronize downtown shops and restaurants frequently, 1 to 2 times per week. I keep my eyes and ears open, paying attention to my surroundings. I’m mostly at the top of Pacific but do enjoy breakfast at Zachary’s now and then. Extra caution is taken at lower Pacific as it is quite sketch down there. I like downtown and don’t want to abandon it.”
– Debbie

“I grew up in this town but lived in major cities where things were a lot worse and I guess you get used to it unfortunately. When I moved back to Santa Cruz it seemed tame compare to the city. So I personally feel safe but I definitely feel uneasy when my daughter and her mother go downtown solo.”
– Josh

You can see all of the responses here.

I have to say I’m not really surprised by the comments. About 90% of the comments said downtown was not a safe place to visit. Which is a fucking shame. It’s shameful. There’s no right or wrong answers. There’s only honest opinions here. Our downtown is our jewel and the tarnish gets worse every year. I encourage everyone to go read the full comments for perspective.

So do I think downtown is a safe place to visit? The answer is yes I do. I realize every person will feel differently about this question, and I know everyone has different feelings about when they feel safe or not. And I completely respect that, and every person’s individual feelings about feeling safe. Our goal as a city should be one of “zero fear”, a point where anyone can go downtown and feel safe. I also realize that’s probably wishful thinking. We’ll never get to “zero fear” but we can aspire to attain something closer than what we have.

I live downtown, where I’ve lived for over 20 years. I know downtown. It doesn’t mean me saying I feel safe means downtown is safe though. It’s not safe. That’s obvious. It’s dirty and full of bums and vagrants (see I’m still not going to be politically correct here). I’m not talking about the homeless. Yeah, they’re down there but they aren’t the problem. The bums and vagrants are the problem. The people dealing drugs, and stealing shit, and getting arrested over and over and over. Those bums and vagrants. I guess when you have your jail downtown and it’s got turnstiles for doors, you end up with a lot of bums and vagrants.

And no amount of gaslighting by the city or county or chamber of commerce is going to make someone who doesn’t feel safe going downtown feel safe again visiting. We’re way beyond words or excuses. Actions speak louder than words. Either we take pride in our downtown or we keep watching it fail. The long time merchants downtown deserve our support. They are the front line warriors and the last line of defense to losing downtown. I spend a lot of money downtown. I buy all my groceries from Trader Joe’s or New Leaf downtown. I love the Palomar, and Pizza My Heart, and BSSC, and Abbott Square, and so many other things downtown. We can make a better downtown. A safer downtown. It’s up to all of us to hold the city accountable for the safety of downtown, the merchants struggle and we need to have their backs. Instead of arguing over world politics at city council meetings, we collectively need to make the city council focus on the dumpster fires at home. Because they will continue to willfully ignore the issue until we make them do otherwise.

So what’s the call to action here? Put it on their radar. Send them an email at citycouncil@cityofsantacruz.com and give them a piece of your mind about how you feel downtown is unsafe and they need to focus on improving it for everyone. The merchants will appreciate your support. I’ll appreciate your support too. You can make a difference by being a squeaky wheel and together we’ll get oiled.

And if you feel unsafe going downtown or anywhere in Santa Cruz, empower yourself with some cool safety products from my friends over at Damsel in Defense! Shawna will answer any questions you have and set you up and take good care of you.

You’re Making Me Hungry

I want to talk about some of my favorite places to eat and drink in Santa Cruz. Disclaimer: I get no compensation for this by any of the establishments, they don’t know me, and I always pay for my food (unless my BFF does).

My first place is of course my favorite place to eat in all of Santa Cruz. I’ve been going here for over 20 years. It’s an OG classic in the middle of downtown. Of course I’m talking about Jack’s. So last week, I was fighting off some kind of flu that left me with no appetite, and I hadn’t eaten any food in about 4 days. I had to go out and as I drove past Jack’s, my appetite instantly came back and I craved a Jack’s burger. It was only 10:30 in the morning, but the sign said open and there was no line so I pulled over immediately, went in and ordered a Burger Basket (with everything of course), took it home, and had my first meal in days, savoring every bite along the way. Jack’s for breakfast. It was glorious. If you’ve never been to Jack’s check them out downtown. If you’ve been, you already understand the love I have here for them.

The Good The Bad & The Ugly

Good: All the love from everyone after announcing I was coming back. Lunch at the Palomar. True Detective Season 4. Joe’s bears and elephants and Aussies. Damon’s proclamation from Justin Cummings!

Bad: Getting drenched in a downpour walking to lunch at the Palomar. More rain all weekend. I’m sick of the rain already.

Ugly: The growing human dump over in Depot Park. The gaslighting from the city about downtown safety.

 

My Favorite NextDoor Post of the Week

 

 

18 Comments

  1. I have to disagree on proposition 1
    it says money for treatment but from my research it actually takes money away from treatment and adds to the scam of building overpriced projects by insider political contractors. This is a “housing first” scam. Don’t believe the description by Newsom , it’s a bait and switch.

    • Yes thank you! Prop 1 is awful as it takes money out of the local Mental Health budget and redirects it back to the state. This is taking money away from treatment and making counties compete to get it back. Please vote no

  2. Huge fan of your insight and commentary (i’m glad you are back). I live downtown and do my shopping at New Leaf, go to the downtown restaurants often. My grown boys are living in Santa Cruz, saving up to afford something here as well some day. Anyway, the wife and I mostly feel safe downtown. She goes out by herself to run errands as well, but usually avoids early mornings due to the mentioned crazy people. My only gripe would be polling for feedback on facebook. It seems like the platform caters to and generates fear, distrust and conflict.
    I also think downtown feels a lot safer than it did last year.

  3. Leaving comments is fine but please don’t leave links in the comments. The comments are for commenting, not sending people to another website. Thanks!

  4. We, the neighbors of Depot, are sick of the garbage dump as well, and took the powers that be to task on it. We met with the SCPD Chief, a City Council member, and a member of the City Manager’s Office. We let them know exactly how we felt about Depot being used again as a shelter, as well as part of new RV overnight program, and all of the problems it had brought back into the area. We pointed out that none of the rules or guidelines that were supposedly in place actually were working. Little or no security at the building ,RVs staying 24-7, illegal camping, needles, drug sales, prostitution. All the usual crap that has been handed this area before. And at the “Gateway to the Monterey Bay”? We were promised improvements after a one hour complaint session, and have seen some improved enforcement. Still seems like same crap, different day, to those who actually live here. So glad you’re back!

  5. Sorry for leaving link.
    If you want information on the truth of proposition 1 google Carl DeMaio
    Proposition 1 and see for yourself that this removes treatment funding for “ treatment facilities” housing first building overpriced condos and gives up local control of placement of those buildings, yes anywhere they want ( in your neighborhood). His YouTube video is long but breaks it all down.
    Vote No please

    • I googled proposition 1 google Carl DeMaio like you suggested. Found and watched his you tube video. I am sorry to disagree with you ben but I am voting no on prop 1. tom thank you very much for posting the info.

  6. Beat info- February 16th…

    Under “Prop 47,” simple possession of a controlled substance (under 14g) is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year. Unlawful drug paraphernalia up to 6 months. Possession of burglary tools- 6mos. Failure to appear for a misdemeanor is 6 months (1 year if it’s a felony). Repeat offender laws for both convicted felons and misdemeanant offenders add from 1-5 years as sentencing enhancements.
    Prop 47 isn’t the problem, it’s a failure to prosecute in a timely manner, led largely by cite and release police contact, by cite and release warrants for failure to appear, and the disregard of the cash bail system.

    Re city District Elections- I like O’Hara too. The others are just accepting dumb over kooks.

    Welcome back. You were missed.

  7. No on Measures K & L, for sure.

  8. Sherman Oakes

    The comments by you and others about downtown are spot on. Several years ago we had our company in the Sash Mill; we finally gave up – it’s hard to sustain a business if the customers are afraid – and moved elsewhere.

    I have fairly thick skin about people on the streets – around 1970 I lived just off of Telegraph in Berkeley. It was a real mess of dope, dogs, and dirt. There are times when Pacific Avenue feels and smells like that.

    When we visit “Santa Cruz” we prefer that visit to be to Santa Cruz avenue in Los Gatos rather than to Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz.

    By-the-way, our view of Manu in the county District 1 election, is the opposite of yours. He has completely disregarded the existence of our area, and we strongly disagree with his bicycle-uber-alles, damn the rail approach to public transit. (Yeah, I ride a bike too, but not being 20 years old any longer, I’ve discovered it not to be the 24x7x365 be-all and end-all of transportation methods.)

  9. Yay! It’s great to have you writing again!

  10. Ben, good to see you up and running again. In the past you frequently posted the turnstile recidivism records of some of Santa Cruz’s more illustrious criminal vagrants. I hope you are planning to do that in future issues of Santa Mierda.

  11. Carol Cuminale

    I do not live in Santa Cruz anymore…moved away in 2010 after living there since 1978.
    I still miss a lot of things about Santa Cruz. I am glad you are back.

    • Ya I remember when I discovered SantaCruz mugshots stopped being available pretty lame how we have to put up with criminals not being held accountable.

  12. Glad to have you back, Ben. I too, am bummed about the dolphin restaurant, I loved their unhealthy, but delicious food.

    And as far as downtown safety, I wonder why we don’t see foot patrol cops down there anymore? Used to be quite common. I don’t think there’s an excuse for that. The Community safety people that they put down there occasionally are basically just tourist guides and are worthless in terms of making the place safer.

  13. Welcome back! I really appreciate the comments on downtown. My husband has a retail store downtown and it can be a struggle. We had a man smash our window at 4am because he was upset that he didn’t get what he wanted earlier in the day. This man was arrested because we had video footage and he had priors. With that being said we are extremely fortunate to have amazing loyal customers that have kept us open since 2012.

  14. I’m a forever optimistic about most things and have a positive outlook,but when it comes to SC and places like it….. I don’t kid myself. I’ve lived in SC county for 40 years I never cared for SC cause it’s never changed , but it seems only delusional people with there blinders on think and preach “Oh Santa Cruz is a wonderful place” besides the input here I know many folks that lived/live here for twice as long,a few own businesses here or did in the past they all says it only gets worse.

    Then once I did graveyard shift for almost a year in downtown SC my I saw SC for what it really is. Please read my many previous posts 8/2/19 I believe is when I discovered Meirda I commented under “Dave” then “IH8SC” I basically was threatened by a “lady” to stop putting my experiences on YouTube or Else she would order her army of “homeless people” to destroy the place I guarded and any Gaurd there would be and this is her words- “would be Collateral Damage”. I did lose my job but luckily I was hired without missing a paycheck by another Gaurd company that had 2 posts directly across the street. I had made friends with the Guards and the Lead was on social media and was backing me up during all this. The Guards that replaced me were issued police style tasers and were 2 per post. So ya go figure. So it was strange being in a building across from my previous post where you could not hear,see,smell and most of all experience what was going on.

    So in a nut shell I think that’s how most people who live here feel, once there not witnessing SC they forget just how incredibly crappy the city is. The tourists get dooped, store owners have to put up with things they shouldn’t have to and the police get there legs cut from underneath them. So when I see Santa Cruz stickers on vehicles and people wearing Santa Cruz shirts and hoodies I just can help but to think “Wow Really” I had high hopes Ben’s reporting would start real Change in SC but the people that Make SC they way it is have “Bad Mother Welfare Syndrome” There only concerned with the Money,not the People.

    I was over the moon when I got the email that Meirda was back!! How long will Big Bad Ben keep it going!? I hope longer then the first go-round. Love wearing my Meirda Shirt and would love to buy more!

    Though I’ve moved to a “Ritchie” city BUT! I know it’s not about a town/city or even a State it’s really about what the LEADERS want and will TOLERATE. I’ve looked into this subject and people can keep areas crime free for the most part but only as long as the LEADERS make it possible. Scotts Valley is a great example. SOOOO…. I’m looking forward to more weekly dumps to keep track of the new and old dumpster fires SC tolerates

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