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News and Features
12.26.07

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Photo Illustration by Stanislav Komogov
Gases for the Masses: The state's decision to aerially spray a pheromone designed to disrupt reproduction of the light brown apple moth caused a real ruckus. Spraying started on Nov. 9.

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Was it us, or did it get warm in here? A look back at the climate-changing, pheromone-spraying, highway-widening madness of 2007

Compiled by Metro Santa Cruz staff


Tracking Santa Cruz over an entire year makes one realize how passionate locals are about the things they hold dear—and how diverse those pet causes are. The fight to stave off the worst effects of global warming attracted the overflowing energies of grassroots activists, creative innovators and even a few elected officials. For others, helping out the less fortunate, whether by working for affordable housing or donating food to Second Harvest, was a call that could not go unanswered. Of course the larger crises facing our nation, in the form of reckless environmental, foreign relations and health-care policies, were never far from our thoughts either.

Yet the event that evoked the most passion was, quite obviously, the aerial spraying of pheromones to combat the light brown apple moth. Whatever stance individuals took on the issue, it was clear they were sincerely passionate about protecting what they considered important. Things may have been a bit overstated at times, but it sure beats apathy.

'Needle Mania,' Jan. 17
On Jan. 5, Santa Cruz Assemblyman John Laird introduced A.B. 110, which would allow state HIV prevention funds to be used for the purchase of clean syringes. The Santa Cruz Needle Exchange Project (SCNEP) could benefit; it can legally provide clean needles to injection drug users but can't use state funds to pay for them. Says Merle Smith of SCNEP: "If we had a constant stream of funding from the state or feds, it would reduce the necessity to constantly be out there trying to hustle for every dollar we can find to keep our program running."

Gov. Schwarzenegger signed A.B. 110 into law on Oct. 15.—Editor

'Sen Feinstein's Iraq Conflict,' Jan. 24
As chairwoman and ranking member of the Military Construction (MILCON) Appropriations subcommittee from 2001 through 2005, Sen. Dianne Feinstein supervised the appropriation of money for two defense contractors whose interests were largely controlled by her husband, financier Richard C. Blum. From 1997 through 2005 Blum was a majority owner of both URS Corp. and Perini Corp. Feinstein lobbied Pentagon officials in public hearings to support some defense projects that were or subsequently became URS or Perini contracts.

Feinstein stepped down from her seat on MILCON in March 2007.—Editor

'Homeless,' Feb. 21
The population mix of Santa Cruz's homeless has begun to shift. A few years ago, families with children began joining the older population on the streets. Now the phenomenon has hit a new population: youth. And the numbers are up. A Community Assessment Project report that surveyed housed residents in April of 2006 found that "5,618 people may have been homeless at some time in the last year in Santa Cruz County."

'Lean Mean Reporting Machine,' March 14
MediaNews mogul Dean Singleton has decided to dismantle the Santa Cruz Sentinel's printing press following his purchase of the paper in February. It appears that low advertising revenue at the Sentinel and an overall desire to cut costs will result in the paper's being printed in San Jose.

'A Cure for the Common Health-Care Crisis?' March 28
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl's S.B. 840 proposes that every citizen have an insurance plan administered by the state government, instead of by private insurers. There would be a new tax to pay for the coverage and a Universal Health Care agency would distribute payments."A very substantial chunk of what we spend is wasted on what the insurance companies refer to as 'administrative costs,'" explains Carol Robertson, member of the Santa Cruz chapter of Health Care for All. "The [Universal Health Care Agency] will be small in comparison to the bureaucracies that are part of the present system, where we have hundreds of insurance companies who in California have between them thousands of different plans."

Single-payer health care, RIP.—Editor

'Train, Train, Train,' April 17
How feasible is passenger rail for Santa Cruz County? Rail projects built in lower-density cities have usually generated low ridership, brought no relief from congestion and lost money. Santa Cruz County, which 30 years ago limited most residential land in the unincorporated areas to eight or fewer units per acre, eliminated itself as a future accommodator for either high-quality bus service or rail. The upshot is that there won't be, from existing evidence, any practical passenger rail service in Santa Cruz County, and little if any congestion relief from building it.

'Double Shot,' April 18
Social justice advocate Van Jones visited UCSC to promote a "third wave" of environmentalism, which he believes will simultaneously solve social and environmental justice problems."We are now in a period of monumental social and environmental crisis, and we have limited time and resources to address the issues," says Jones. "Focusing on green-collar jobs for urban youth helps us address global warming, poverty, community violence and despair all at once with the same dollar."

'Exit Strategy,' May 2
After military recruiters pulled out of the UCSC job fair, everyone was confused. The U.S. Army denies it got a case of the jitters, but Students Against War (SAW), the UCSC group responsible for organizing counterrecruitment protests since 2005, claimed victory regardless.

'Raised by Wolves,' May 9
On April 24, Santa Cruz County personnel director Dania Torres Wong pointed out that Santa Cruz County supervisors' salary level of $93,780 "is 23 percent behind" that of eight other "comparable" counties in California. She then proposed an 18 percent raise. All supes except Mark Stone, who said he'd like to see the money go elsewhere (like to needy county programs) voted to cease struggling to make ends meet with their current pay—a mere 250 percent of the $37,650 area median income—and instead treat themselves to a more proper 290 percent. Plus benefits.

'The Play Shall Go On!' May 23
E3 Playhouse owner Wes Anthony was granted two weeks by the city of Santa Cruz to apply for a permit modification allowing his patrons to drink alcohol and dance past midnight at his downtown nightclub. Police have been called to his club over a dozen times.

'Tapped Out,' May 30
Santa Cruz water officials asked residents not to water their outdoor plants between the hours of 10am and 5pm this summer. The call for conservation came in response to low rainfall during the previous winter. Meanwhile, plans to shore up future water reserves were announced in the form of a desalination plant in Santa Cruz and a wastewater recycling plant in the Pajaro Valley.

'Styro-Foaming,' June 27
Capitola instituted a historic and controversial ban of polystyrene food service containers, prompted, it seems, by polystyrene's death-cycle. As Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said of Styrofoam last year, "Where does it go? There are only three places it can go: our earth, our air and our oceans."

'Little Wings, Big Burden,' June 27
As the fight against the light brown apple moth in Santa Cruz County continues into its fourth month, Santa Cruz nursery owners say they've been unfairly burdened—forced to close their operations and spray the powerful pesticide Chlorpyrifos while homeowners and farmers get off scot-free."They totally slam wholesale and retail nurseries, but in the meantime nobody else has to deal with this," says Theresa Aquino, who was forced to close her Blue Bamboo nursery after she refused to spray Chlorpyrifos. "No matter what treatment you do, a live moth from surrounding foliage can fly right back in that night and lay a new crop of eggs on any of those plants."

'Ch-ch-changes,' July 4
Not even change is constant; sometimes it accelerates and begins to rip away at the very fabric of things long considered permanent. Such is the current case with one of our most longstanding local institutions. The Santa Cruz Sentinel rapidly caught up to the times on June 26 when it lost 21 percent of its newsroom employees; eight of the 38 staffers got their walking papers last month. New owner MediaNews also put the newspaper's Church Street building on the market.

'O Give Me a Home,' July 11
After 11 years, a half-million dollars and many failed attempts to win approval to expand their Claravale Farm, owners Ron Garthwaite and Collette Cassidy gave up and decided to move Santa Cruz's last dairy to San Benito County, where the planning department took less than a month and $20,000 to approve their proposal for a milking parlor and a barn. The buildings they proposed, roughly the same as those planned for the Watsonville property, are now almost completed."If we'd moved to San Benito County 11 years ago, we'd be retired by now instead of starting from scratch because we've been pissing away all our money instead of using it on developing assets," says Garthwaite.

'A Tale of Two Cities,' July 25
In Santa Cruz, local developer Redtree Properties is proposing to develop a 20-acre plot of land at 2120 Delaware Ave., near the old Lipton plant on the Westside. The plans, heavily informed by the tenets of New Urbanism, call for densely packed commercial units on the ground floor supplemented by living quarters on the second and third floors.

In Scotts Valley, San Jose developer the Morley Brothers is considering the possibility of converting the 43-acre property currently owned by semiconductor equipment manufacturer Aviza on Kings Village Road into houses, condos and townhouses that would have a symbiotic relationship with the proposed mixed-use Skypark Town Center development nearby—sort of a "New Urbanism lite."

Morley Bros pulled out of the Scotts Valley plan in September, citing foot-dragging by city officials.—Editor

'Setting Sale,' Aug. 1
After a five-month fight with the city over his E3 Playhouse that resulted in several packed public meetings and the club's liquor license being revoked, Wes Anthony decided to hit the road. Or the sea, rather; Anthony plans to play music on a cruise liner.On his way out, Anthony stopped by the website where everyone goes to dump their old furniture, bicycles and failed business ventures: craigslist.org. The posting, short and sweet, asks for $199,000 for a "downtown venue in the heart of Santa Cruz" that's "ready to go." As of late last week Anthony said he had received "a lot of calls" about the posting, but nothing that had come close to a deal.

'Mustard Gas,' Aug 8
Organic farmers Ken Kimes and Larry Jacobs harvested 25 acres' worth of mustard seed in what they're hoping could become the first local and organic source material for Pacific Biofuel. Kimes envisions a closed energy cycle, with farmers growing mustard on their fallow land to fix nitrogen, selling the seed for biofuel and using the leftover plant material as fertilizer.

'A Presence Missed,' Aug. 15
After civil rights activist Tony Hill died of a heart attack at age 62, friends paid tribute to him in a crowded memorial at the Civic. In a piece for Metro Santa Cruz, historian and journalist Geoffrey Dunn wrote, "The void he leaves is vast."

'Spying Program Shuttered,' Aug. 29
Thousands of American peace groups, anti-recruitment activists and GLBT organizations—including UCSC's Students Against War, which interfered so massively with on-campus recruitment activities in 2004 and 2005 that recruiters skipped attending in 2006—may have successfully shaken off secret Pentagon spying.If, that is, the Defense Department can be believed. The DOD release, issued Aug. 21, claims that the TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notices) program, which had collected information on over 1,500 domestic actions and demonstrations, will retire its database on Sept. 17—and store it in the FBI's compilation of data known as Guardian.

'Supersize Safeway,' Aug. 29
A plan to double the size of the Safeway on Mission Street appeared to be breezing through the bureaucracy after Safeway won unanimous approval from the Santa Cruz Planning Commission on July 5. Or so it seemed, until three appeal letters came across City Planner Mike Ferry's desk later in the month. The six-page letter by one appellant—Frank Zwart, associate vice chancellor of planning at UCSC—claimed the EIR inadequately addresses water use, chemical runoff, contaminated soil and traffic. It also fueled speculation that UCSC is playing a tit-for-tat game over the city's balking at UCSC's controversial Long-Range Development Plan.

'Building Rules Simplified,' Sept. 5
On Aug. 28, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors did the once unimaginable, approving—at least conceptually—the most significant simplification in the county's complex planning rules in the last 30 years. Twenty-two changes make it easier to do smaller additions, upgrades and repairs."This is a major departure," objected Supervisor Jan Beautz, to plans to drop the tenant review process for every new resident of second units. County Planning Director Tom Burns, who initiated the changes, said, "We believe that we can make it easier for the average homeowner and business owner to do small-scale development projects and still protect [Santa Cruz's] core community values. Today's action by the board was hopefully the first of many steps down that road."

'Pretty Good v. Better,' Sept. 5
The struggle over whether to put a bike path through Arana Gulch, home to the endangered Santa Cruz tarplant, lands in court this week.

The plaintiffs in the case, California Native Plant Society and Friends of Arana Gulch, want to axe the city's plan for a half-mile, 12-foot-wide paved trail for walkers, cyclists and wheelchairs, saying it harms the tarplant's habitat.

In November Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick ruled in the city's favor.—Editor

'Maverick Medicine,' Sept. 12
Starting in February, naturopathic physicians Tonya Fleck and Audra Foster began noticing that the patients they were referring to Dominican Hospital's radiology center for mammograms and ultrasounds were being turned away. After investigating, they learned that Dominican Breast Center director Kenneth Averill was issuing the rejection orders, in spite of a California law specifying that board-certified naturopaths "may order diagnostic imaging studies." Averill defended his position to Metro Santa Cruz, saying he would be "uncomfortable" being part of a process involving alternative therapies.

'UCSC Plan Slammed,' Sept. 12
On Aug. 28 Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick delivered the city of Santa Cruz and its allies a mixed victory over UCSC's Regents and their Long Range Development Plan's EIR. Burdick threw out most of both parties' cases in a ruling seething with impatience over the gridlocked dispute between town and gown. He said the plaintiffs—meaning the city, county and Westside resident Don Stevens—"are going to have to accept the fact that there is a statutory mandate for the University to grow" that falls under the state education code.The Regents, Burdick said, "are going to have to accept that the city has the right to insist that the Regents participate [and] pay their fair share of all the demands on the infrastructure."

Having told both sides to behave, Burdick recommended mediation.

'Inhumanity to Humanities,' Sept. 12
UCSC Extension gave the ax to its humanities department, citing flagging enrollment and a $4.4 deficit for the university's community education program. "Unfortunately the majority of classes in arts and humanities were losing money," says Alison Galloway, UCSC Extension's vice provost of Academic Affairs.

'Cordoning Off the Sea,' Sept. 26
On Sept. 20, California celebrated the implementation of the first network of Marine Protected Areas in the nation, located off the Central Coast from Pigeon Point to Point Conception. The MPAs represent a new systems-based way of looking at marine conservation.

'Climate Compact,' Sept. 26
Local political and business leaders, including Santa Cruz Mayor Emily Reilly, UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal and County Supervisor Neal Coonerty, signed a historic Climate Action Compact. It calls for a greenhouse gas reduction goal to be set by January 2008, cooperative clean energy projects and a concerted effort among city, county and university to attract clean tech companies to Santa Cruz.

Fred Keeley, county treasurer and former member of the state Assembly, helped bring the city, county and university together. "The working assumption these three institutions have is that there is going to be enormous amounts of capital invested in global climate change solutions," Keeley says. "This community is almost perfectly situated to be a place where that investment is made and accelerate the rate at which the products go to market."

'To Spray or Spray Not,' Oct. 3
As local politicians and environmental groups rattle their paper sabers at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) over its plan to aerially spray chemical pheromones in Santa Cruz County starting Nov. 4 to disrupt the breeding cycle of the light brown apple moth, the organic farming community is siding with the state."We firmly support the use of pheromones because this was a technology that was pioneered by the environmental community several years ago and has been used for about 30 years in integrated pest management and in organic farming," says Teresa Thorne of the Alliance for Food and Farming, adding that organic farmers who spray unnatural pesticides would lose their organic certification and may not be recertified for three to five years.

David Dilworth of the Monterey-based Helping Our Peninsula Environment claims agricultural interests are being pandered to at the expense of the democratic process. HOPE filed a lawsuit against the CDFA over the absence of an Environmental Impact Report before EPA-approved emergency spraying in Monterey County during the first week of September. According to Dilworth, dozens of residents fell ill after the spraying.

'Highway 1 Revisited,' Oct. 24
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission officially introduced its "proposed mobility plan" on Oct. 19. The plan, created by the Transportation Funding Task Force, calls for a half-cent increase in the county's sales tax to fund a number of transportation projects. In many ways it resembles Measure J, the failed 2004 transportation measure. It calls for $300 million to widen Highway 1, $50 million for train service, $125 million for bus service, and $125 million for street repair and "quality of life" projects. County Tax Assessor Fred Keeley, who convened the task force, believes the plan's makeup will prevent groups arguing for highway widening and groups arguing for alternative transportation from locking horns and getting stuck with no money for anything. This was a major problem with Measure J, which both sides say was defeated by the other's wasteful proposals.

'See You Around,' Nov. 7
Last weekend, after 150 years in downtown Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Sentinel moved to its new offices in Scotts Valley. In spite of the computer glitches that invariably accompany a move of this sort, the Sentinel put out the first paper from the new location on Sunday. Editor Tom Honig, who has presided over staff cuts, the loss of the printing press and the move to the suburbs since MediaNews bought the paper in February, said, "There've been just a number of sad events."

Honig tendered his resignation in late November.—Editor

'Flea Market and Drive-In Fold,' Nov. 14
The Skyview Flea Market and Drive-In theater are preparing to close on Dec. 2 to make way for an expansion of the adjacent Sutter-owned Surgery and Maternity Center. Seems the "Save the Flea Market" campaign, which sent a petition with 17,000 signatures to Sutter Health and Santa Cruz County officials asking that the flea market be allowed to continue operating until Sutter begins construction, was unsuccessful. In May Sutter spokesman Ben indicated the flea market would stay open while Sutter prepared for construction, but prohibitive insurance costs eventually ruled out that option.

'Road Warriors,' Nov. 21
At its Nov. 14 meeting, the TFTF celebrated mustering more than two-thirds of its members to support a $600 million transportation measure on the November 2008 ballot. But the environmental contingent vowed to organize opposition to the half-cent tax, an act that could doom this measure to the same fate as 2004's failed Measure J.

'Playing the Percentages,' Nov. 21
Under pressure from the state to show more commitment to housing low-income people, in June the county zoned 30 acres of developable land on seven parcels as high density, with 40 percent of the units to be designated "affordable." Faced with pushback from developers, who say it's impossible to profitably build under such constraints, chief county planner Tom Burns proposed designating a $15 million fund to help out—and suggested redefining the term 'affordability' itself in a way that better reflects the disparity between average income and housing affordability.

Under the new rules, a family of four living on $81,000 could qualify as low-income and receive county housing assistance. California Rural Legal Assistance lawyer Gretchen Regenhardt worries that this will leave very low-income people—those who need help most—out in the cold.

'Mr. Cool,' Dec. 5
Ross Clark, the new Climate Change Coordinator for the city of Santa Cruz, steps up to some hefty challenges, including forging a plan to cut the city's greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2020. In an interview with Metro Santa Cruz, Clark said he'd like to see the city "moving towards a more sustainable community, where we can walk and do everything we need to do locally ... so that we don't have to drive."

'Home Is Where the Genome Is,' Dec. 5
Scientists at Long Marine Lab are working on a DNA test that could help identify salmon spawning grounds. The new technology could help officials locate and protect troubled salmon populations while allowing fishing of healthy populations to continue—a potential boon for local fishermen, who've faced recent closures due to crises playing out elsewhere.

'The Buck Stops Here,' Dec. 19
Last month locally owned Santa Cruz businesses formed an organization called "Think Local First" that aims to keep consumer dollars circulating in the area. Founding member Peter Beckmann of Beckmann's Bakery calls localism a "strong counterforce" to the impact of globalization.

'Point Lost,' Dec. 19
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Coastal Commission approved the university's plan to expand marine research facilities at Terrace Point, site of a longtime struggle between environmentalists and various developers. The decision caps an eight-year process that cost the university at least $3 million and includes one of the most extensive wetlands studies the commission has ever conducted.

'Organic's Organic,' Dec. 19
The state-operated planes that sprayed the Santa Cruz area with Checkmate LBAM-F last month will likely be silent until March, but the same can't be said of folks worried about the safety of the treatment. A group of concerned residents, most of whom work in the natural food industry, are actively seeking organic produce grown outside the spray zone.


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