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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Places to be on election night; the 'scaled back' La Bahia.

Election Night Scenes

Where were you in 2004 when Kerry lost? Nūz was crying at a seedy bar patronized by alcoholics who hadn't voted, and it was horrible. This Nov. 4, can we bear to leave the house, risk that very public heartbreak again, compounded infinitely by the fact that this time, this time, we were absolutely sure that he was the one ... ? Yes, we can. These local businesses will stand ready to lubricate the jubilant rioting, or else provide drinks to cry into at discount prices.

The Santa Cruz County Democratic Central Committee and the United Democratic Campaign are hosting election-watch parties starting at 8pm at 515 Kitchen and Cocktails (515 Cedar Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.425.5051) and Clouds Downtown (110 Church St., Santa Cruz; 831.429.2000). In Watsonville, try Cilantro's (1934 Main St., Watsonville; 831.761.2161) or the SEIU Union Office (11-H Alexander St., Watsonville) opens its doors until 1am.

The following venues have gone the extra mile to win your election night dollars:

Red (200 Locust St., Santa Cruz; 831.425.1913) is lugging a few televisions up the stairs so patrons can play along with election-themed cocktails, including the North to Alaska (Hpnotiq and Malibu), the Cheney Shotgun (a shooter of rye whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup), and the Red White and Blue Martini; Rosie McCann's (1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.426.9930) is offering a special menu and discount drinks and at Woodstock's Pizza an "I Voted" sticker or similar proof will get you a free 8-inch Cinnabread. Tampico Kitchen & Lounge (822 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.458.2821) is serving Mexican food from 9 to 11pm.

Obama Santa Cruz will be feverishly phoning swing state voters until the last possible second at Cypress Lounge (120 Union St., Santa Cruz; 831.459.9876), after which a presumed Obama victory celebration kicks off at 6pm with Squeeze Daddy performing live, and a prix fixe Cajun meal that optimistically includes cake and champagne .

Scaling Back to What?

If someone calls Barry Swenson Builder's latest plans for a La Bahia luxury hotel "scaled back" in court, they might not be charged with perjury. The 60-foot-tall tower in the most recent blueprints, which were released last month, is technically shorter than the 73-foot version originally pitched. But as several Coastal Commission planners are pointing out, the city's standing 43-foot legal limit on height hasn't changed. And if the slightly reduced plans are a "step in the right direction," the development company likely has a long way to go before shovels hit dirt.

"They came to us with a one-story reduction after we told them to take off two stories," says Coastal Commission planner Susan Craig. "This isn't what we were looking for and they know it."

Since 2002, BSB has been attempting to demolish the La Bahia Apartments at 400 Beach St. and build a luxury hotel in their place. The dilapidated complex with its crumbling walkways and defaced paint currently houses students and has been called an eyesore by both supporters and opponents of BSB's plans. In September, the City Council conditionally approved the 73-foot plans, but in the face of growing public opposition, Barry Swenson announced the reduced plans as a "compromise."

Jesse Nickell, vice president of operations for BSB, says the Coastal Commission is "trying to make us conform" but that the "visionary nature" of the project gives them license for an exception.

"If we took off two floors we'd be right back where we started," says Nickell. "Santa Cruz deserves a high-quality building that we can pass on to our children. I think we are a special circumstance."

Nickell says the hotel's 125-room count is crucial and can't be reduced. He also says if the building's height is lowered, more rooms will displace the property's famous courtyards--an element fiercely defended by La Bahia purists and the Historical Preservation Commission.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ryan Coonerty says although he hasn't seen the latest blueprints, there is no litmus test on height when it comes to his support of the project.

"I'm generally supportive of building a hotel at that site, to increase revenue base and hotel stock," says Coonerty. "I think we're really at the beginning of a process, though. Nothing is etched in stone."

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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