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Photograph by Sarah Phelan

Have MRC: Greenwood (third from right) says her farewell to the City Council.


Our Development News Is Real!

Late last Friday afternoon, just as Nüz was fantasizing about a weekend free of political intrigue, the fax machine made its migraine-inducing chirp and spat out an initiative from Santa Cruzans for Responsible Planning--a lower West Side group that is seeking to place a one-year moratorium on large-scale development projects on the West Side's industrially zoned lands.

Readers may recall that proposals are afoot to bring a full-size 150,000-squre-foot Home Depot store into the old Lipton building. And though plans to put Lowe's (the home-improvement industry's second-largest chain after Home Depot) in the old Wrigley building have fallen apart, Orchard Supply is rumored to be coming there, instead. All of which got local politico Gordon Pusser and former Planning Commission chairperson Dick Doubrava filing the above-mentioned initiative with City Clerk Leslie Cooke.

"I'm hopeful the City Council will adopt the initiative, but if they don't, we'll put it on the November ballot," said Pusser, noting that to gather the necessary support he plans to tap the same gang that collected 9,000 sigs opposing a repeal of mobile-home rent control.

"The truth is that no one will stand up and say we don't need to update the General Plan," claimed Pusser. "Stuff like biotech and the Internet didn't exist 15 years ago, and people were upset when all these box-store proposals dropped in on the West Side at the same time, but the truth is they can because the General Plan is not that modern. The mayor may say what we're facing will pull in all this new tax revenue, but what if we lose more tax as a result of the ensuing changes?"

Meanwhile, Doubrava noted that though the council could go ahead with this large-scale development proposal before the November election, it also has the option "to put a 45-day moratorium on any such plans and thus allow the West Side vision to be put together by members of the community as well as by the Planning Commission."

Asked about the SCRP's initiative, Councilmember Mark Primack described it as "totally illegal," "ridiculous" and "the product of a deep-seated need to control."

"People don't like change--they want to be in charge of their environment, they want to try and create a consensus by getting involved in writing the General Plan, but they are not necessarily the people who understand it," said Primack, adding that the GP, which gets updated every 10 years and is next slated for revision in 2005, "is our best shot of defining what we want."

As it happens, until three weeks ago, Primack thought he'd have to recuse himself from votes on both the Home Depot and the Lowe's projects, because of not one, but two potential conflicts of interest.

"I thought my office, which is 600 feet away from the proposed Home Depot site, needed to be 15,000 feet away, but turns out it only needs to be 500 feet away," said Primack. "And then there's the fact I was hired by George Ow to do some preliminary assessments before he purchased the Wrigley building."

Stressing that he never worked for Lowe's, and hence would not have had a conflict of interest had it remained in the picture, Primack said he did try to convince Lowe's to go for something smaller and more hometowny, but the idea didn't sit well with the company's North Carolina-based headquarters, which ultimately pulled the plug.

As for the Home Depot proposal, Primack believes that will either sink or swim, and that his inclination is for the former to happen.

"But I don't vote for my prejudices," he said, pointing out that all the traffic the store would generate will go right past his own office door. 'The truth is that people who go to Home Depot are trying to fix up their place as inexpensively as possible and will drive wherever they have to get the cheapest plumbing fixtures, or whatever, which makes their store a regional event, whereas Orchard Supply is seen as more of a neighborhood service, while Lowe's is supposedly a kinder, friendly version of Home Depot."

As it happens, housing- and relationship-challenged residents of our burg may wish to check out the latest Internet wisdom on Home Depot, namely that it's the ultimate pickup spot for people in search of men who own/renovate homes and women who not only wear jewelry made from parts obtainable at the megastore but are also able to explain the intricacies of, er, power tools.

Yes, with a decision on HD et al. possible within the next few months, clearly it's shaping up to be yet another hot-and-bothered summer.

Access Slip

While on the phone, Primack also claimed that the reason there's no discussion of an eastern access road on campus dates back to a closed session of City Council following UCSC's controversial decision to build a parking structure on campus--a move that got both the city and county threatening a lawsuit, unless the university promised (a) to commit a quarter-million dollars to do a traffic study and (b) to agree not to pursue eastern access, until 2010, or was it 2015?

Primack couldn't remember the exact date, but he did point out that the city could at any time decide to override its own deadline and study the issue. Meanwhile, he invites college students to come on down to the council and tell them that "if it weren't for UCSC, none of the councilmembers would be here, since none were born in the Cruz."

Farewell, but Not Goodbye

Speaking of UCSC, the last City Council meeting Nüz attended was interrupted midway through its discussion of gay marriage by a surprise thank-you visit from M.R.C. Greenwood, who was UCSC's chancellor for eight years and began her new job as provost and vice president of academic affairs for the UC Regents on April 1.

M.R.C.'s visit quickly devolved into a mutual-admiration society, with Cynthia Mathews saying UCSC was "lucky" to have had M.R.C., Mike Rotkin saying it was a pleasure working with her and Emily Reilly vowing to "do everything we can to exploit your new position. Bon voyage and let the name-dropping begin."

M.R.C., for her part, threatened to return as a professor of biology or run for an Academic Senate chair, if her new gig on the Regents doesn't pan out quite as expected,

Or as she put it, "I bid you not goodbye but farewell."

Bust a MoveOn?

According to Wes Boyd of MoveOn.org, the Republican National Committee is pressing the Federal Election Commission to issue new rules that would shut down groups that communicate with the public in any way critical of President Bush or members of Congress. The deadline for public comment to the FEC ends April 9. To find out more, email www.moveon.org or email your comments to [email protected], attention Ms. Mai T. Dinh, Acting Assistant General Counsel.

Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the April 7-14, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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