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Seeds of Doubt: Volunteers worry that Farm and Garden fields and the Arboretum's plant collections will be affected by UCSC's housing plans.


Greenwood Acres

UCSC is on a building binge, and one of the biggest projects of all for Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood has some longtime university supporters fuming.

The university wants to build some 80 two- and three-bedroom housing units for faculty and staff on "Inclusion Area D," a 28-acre parcel between the Arboretum and Farm and Garden Project, located on Empire Grade. No decision has been made on whether they will be single-family homes or multiple-occupancy units.

John Barnes, UCSC's principal planner of architecture and site design, confirmed the university plans to build "around 80 units, maybe more."

Arboretum interim director Ronald Enomoto, who sits on the Area D planning committee, says the preferred entrance is an extension of Western Drive built through the Arboretum's eucalyptus grove.

"The land was designated as suitable for development in the LRDP [Long Range Development Plan] adopted in 1988," says Charlie Eadie, UCSC's director of campus and community planning. "Planning people are talking with the Arboretum staff, and the [Western Limits Neighborhood Association] is concerned about the access point as well. We're considering all sorts of possibilities."

Some volunteers, however, fear plans for the housing may be more advanced than the university is letting on.

Farm and Garden staff--who stand to lose up to four acres of research fields that lie within Area D--say university officials have been meeting with their board of directors for the past couple of months to discuss preliminary plans.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Arboretum say UCSC has kept them in the dark.

"The community and the volunteers have worked for 30 years to preserve this collection," says former Arboretum board president and 20-year volunteer Jean Beever. "As a donor, I am now embarrassed to give money."

Lynda Goff, associate vice chancellor of undergraduate education, told the Arboretum's board at its May 10 meeting that the university is planning to build 80 faculty and staff units. Without specific plans on the drawing board it's unclear how much of the Arboretum land or collection may be affected.

Longtime Arboretum and Farm & Garden volunteers say the housing plan is the latest episode in a series of abusive acts by the university.

"The people who are responsible for decisions are making ones that are unpopular, unwise and environmentally disastrous," says Martha Benedict, an Arboretum board member. "The university is being run as a business first and a center of education second." Benedict singled out Enomoto. "He's essentially a developer--he's not a botanist."

"The administration, the chancellor and the chancellor's assistant promised to consult the board before making any decisions that were going to affect the arboretum," adds former board president William Grant. "They did not consult me or the board before appointing the interim director." Grant resigned in protest shortly after the appointment.

Arboretum and Farm & Garden supporters do have one powerful ally--former Chancellor Dean McHenry, who passed away in 1998. In a Nov. 29, 1990 letter to the campus physical planning committee, McHenry wrote: "I want to reiterate and record that the use of 'D' for housing will be a planning blunder that will blight UCSC for a century or more."

But some fear it may be too late.

"The university is just chewing up everything they want for housing and selecting some very beautiful land--which really isn't going to solve anything," says Farm and Garden board member Graydon Livingston.

Buttery Fingers

Was it sabotage, or a simple misunderstanding? You, dear reader, be the judge.

According to cyclists enjoying a free meal at last week's Bike to Work Day breakfast, one highly unusual suspect showed up at The Buttery--for more than free muffins and pastries.

Cyclist Christopher Bley, site coordinator at the Buttery, says Friends of Arana Gulch head Patricia Matejcek rode up to the breakfast tables and made a beeline for a stack of petitions supporting a bike path through Arana Gulch.

And then, "the petitions for the bike path were gone," Bley says.

After asking twice if anyone had seen the petitions, "I had to almost pull it out of [Matejcek's] hand," he says.

Bley says he moved the hot-button papers to a different table only to have the incident repeat itself.

"Again she was at the table, taking the last page, the unsigned one," says Bley, adding that he told Matejcek she could pick up a copy at The Hub.

Matejcek tells a different story.

"I was there and I wanted a copy," she says. What about the petitions with signatures? "I was talking to some women, and I had rather absent-mindedly picked them up."

For further tales of Arana Gulch intrigue, see "Divided We Stand."

Livable Process

Hoping to meet a self-imposed July 1 deadline for implementation of a living-wage ordinance, some members of the Santa Cruz's Living Wage Task Force pushed for a draft to be adopted at its May 22 meeting. That was the last procedural opportunity to put the issue on the City Council agenda in time to have the required two readings by the June 27 council meeting.

Differences over strategy and what hourly wage level to adopt prompted the LWTF to split the issue into two tracks.

In the first, the task force will study three wage proposals which would apply to city workers as well as service providers and businesses that meet minimum dollar levels for city contracts. The LWTF's initial proposal ($14 per hour for jobs without benefits and $13 per hour for jobs with benefits) will be one option, along with corresponding levels of $13 and $12, and $12 and $11.

On the second track, the task force hopes that agreement on a wage level proposal will be reached in time for the City Council to vote June 27 on a living-wage resolution for city workers only. Unlike an ordinance, the council can impose a living wage on itself by resolution, which does not require two readings.

"I believe $14 is probably doable," said Mayor Keith Sugar, a task force member, "but it's a political mistake to try to push through a living wage if we've only looked at the highest level."

Council member Keith Hernandez also pushed for passage of the highest level the city could fund. "If we can find a revenue stream to meet the top dollar figure, we should do that," he said.

Task force co-chair Bob Fitch told members that they should "remember the workers who are not in the room" when they make their decisions.

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From the May 24-31, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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