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Santa Cruz: The Verb

Like a lot of democracy-loving masochists here in the Cruz, Nüz likes a good processing once in a while. This time out, it was the TANNERY ARTS CENTER community conversation, billed as a "special joint study session" hosted by the CITY COUNCIL and the CITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY. The event was attended by roughly 100 people, including all seven City Council members, who were broken up into small groups to discuss three questions: "What is important to you about this project?", "What concerns do you have?" and "Which solutions would best serve the community?"

RDA assistant director JOE HALL, Tannery Arts Center project director GEORGE NEWELL and senior City Planner DON LAURITSON presented information about the project, but the telling moments began when the small groups began their discussions, which were summarized to the whole by representatives from each group. Instead of waiting for the "What concerns do you have?" can of worms to be opened in the second round of conversations, group spokespeople began unloading the collective concerns of their groups in response to the first "What is important to you about this project?" question.

Nüz knows good and well that we're not the only ones who can turn a phrase around these parts, but imagine our chagrin when a participant pleaded that we not "Santa Cruz [the Tannery project] to death." Other platitudes like "death by a thousand cuts" and "money driving the process instead of the other way around" wafted about the room, as did concerns about the future of CENTRAL HOME SUPPLY, the business adjacent to the Tannery, but "Let's not Santa Cruz it to death" stood out as a succinct critique of a characteristic point of pride--and problem--of the Cruz. Where else but in Santa Cruz is the level of citizen involvement in the democratic process high enough that it actually becomes problematic? (Political scientists, feel free to weigh in here.)

Hall later told Nüz that he's "pretty resigned that process is a major issue" in Santa Cruz, which is fortunate given that he's had to present the same slide show on the Tannery project seven times for various audiences. "Those people go away, other people come," says Hall, "that's what happens in Santa Cruz."

But the real problem in this case, according to local art maven CHIP, seems to be a lack of credible information about the project, which isn't readily available to the public. All of which led Nüz to this Public Service Moment, in which we refer any and all who are interested to the Redevelopment Agency's website, www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/ra, which includes a copy of the final EIR for the project, and to the Tannery Arts Center website, www.tanneryartscenter.org, which may not as yet contain much useful information, but is in the process, says Newell, of being updated.

Not included in either website is a chart from the RDA that compares agency/city assistance for the Tannery affordable housing element with other affordable housing projects in town. According to said chart, Nueva Vista falls at the high end, with assistance per unit at $192,000, and the Sycamore Street project lies at the low end, with APU at $33,000, and the Gault Street project falling exactly in line with the Tannery project, with both having an APU of $60,000. The next public meeting on the Tannery is June 14, when the City Council votes whether or not to approve the FEIR.

Funneling the Feedback

All of the comments from the public were summarized and written down by Councilmembers CYNTHIA MATTHEWS and MIKE ROTKIN; Newell says that public input from previous meetings has been addressed in subsequent drafts of the Arts Center plan, and the same will happen with the notes from Tuesday's conversation.

All of which reminded Nüz of all the input from the CRUZ TO THE FUTURE events, which was hosted by the city's Planning Department last month, and which invited the public to share its vision of the future of Santa Cruz. What ever became of all that? Senior Planner LAURA SPIDELL says staff is in the process of transcribing the notes, and will present them to the General Plan Advisory Committee, which had its first meeting a few weeks ago.

Committee member DON LANE described it as a "getting acquainted" session; their first substantive meeting is scheduled for June 9, and the second Thursday of each month thereafter.

Meanwhile, Councilmembers TONY MADRIGAL and TIM FITZMAURICE have put together a 20-person planning committee for the COMMUNITY-WIDE ECONOMIC PROSPERITY SUMMIT, which they hope to present in late summer or early fall. The group, which Madrigal says is composed of both proponents and opponents of the Coast Hotel project, has come up with a mission statement, which is "To foster a common understanding of elements of a healthy Santa Cruz economy and to engage people in moving forward together."

With all the committees and commissions working on somewhat parallel goals, Nüz would like to humbly suggest forming a Committee-Coordinating Committee, which should of course be chaired by DEANNA PURNELL, who, as Planning Commission chair, General Plan Advisory Committee member and Community-wide Economic Summit member, is clearly a glutton for punishment (and more than qualified for the job).

Pride Rolls On

Plenty to do this Pride weekend, starting off with the KINSEY SICKS performing their show, "I Wanna Be a Republican," at the Rio Theatre on Friday night. After the Dyke March on Saturday afternoon, the Attic will host an alcohol-free Pink Party from 7pm to midnight, while Club Caution will host an alcohol-drenched Pink Party late into the evening. Dakota will also be hosting a Dyke March afterparty with DJ AD and drink specials until 2pm. They'll also open up bright and early at 9am on Sunday for Bloody Mary and shot specials, with music from DJ ERIC, DJ AD and DONNETTE G all day and all night long.

Meanwhile, at 11am the 31ST ANNUAL SANTA CRUZ GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, TRANSGENDER PRIDE MARCH will hit Pacific Avenue near Cathcart Street, proceeding on to San Lorenzo Park for the Rally, where more than 70 organizations, agencies, public services, food and merchandise vendors will be ready to educate, entertain and feed the masses. The San Francisco­based salsa band ORQUESTA D'SOUL will wrap up the festivities. Visit www.santacruzpride.org or call 831.427.4009 for more information.

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From the June 1-8, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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