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Not a Drop to Drink: ... or to maintain the Arboretum's gardens. But a major housing project would strain the city's water supply in case of a major drought.


High and Dry

UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood's 80-unit housing project couldn't find a single supporter at the Arboretum Associates annual meeting on June 24--except Arboretum interim director Ronald Enomoto.

Attendees say Enomoto showed a map of Inclusion Area D next to the Arboretum, where the housing would be built, and fielded questions about the project. He also implied dry times ahead for the Arboretum.

"He said there's always going to be droughts, we'll surely have another one and the Farm and Garden can go a year without planting, but the Arboretum will not be able to maintain its collections," says volunteer Edna V. Vollmer. "He also said he was doing a survey to see what kind of housing the faculty wants, which I thought was kind of strange--that the interim director of the Arboretum was doing a marketing survey."

"I was horrified," adds Jean Beevers, former Arboretum board president. "It's the same fight we had 10 years ago."

In a past interview, Enomoto, considered by many Arboretum volunteers to be a mouthpiece for Greenwood's development plans, said the preferred entrance to the project would extend from Western Drive through the Arboretum's eucalyptus grove.

He was less forthcoming with Nuüz earlier this week.

"Inclusion Area A was the most cost-effective," he said, explaining UCSC's choice of building sites. "It has the infrastructure, the water, gas, electricity, road proximity."

When pressed on questions of water supply and his involvement in a marketing survey to determine what kind of housing the faculty wants, he changed his tone.

"I think if you have [university spokesperson] Liz [Irwin's] number, that would be best," he said, before hanging up.

"They are going to be adding to the problem, but so is every housing project," says Bill Kocher, director of the Santa Cruz Water Department.

Suffering Bosses

Pity the poor city department heads, who scrape by on an average salary of more than $103,000 per year. The sacrifices they must have to make.

Fortunately, the city is planning to ride to the rescue. On the same day it turned down a Living Wage proposal for the poorest city workers, sources tell Nuüz that the Santa Cruz City Council considered a wage increase of 27 percent to be phased in over two years for these 13 hard-working public servants.

Coincidentally, the salary bill (excluding benefits) for this baker's dozen comes to $1.2 million--the same amount most estimates say is needed to institute a Living Wage for one year.

The highest-paid department head, City Manager Richard Wilson, currently pulls down a cool $123,204 per year. That's more than $59 an hour, almost 10 times the $6 an hour currently paid to the lowest-paid city workers.

The council may address the issue at its July 11 meeting. A couple of members are said to be eager to push the raise through before that pesky Living Wage deal gets raised again.

Nuüz is so glad to know that city budget watchers have their priorities straight.

Bus Yard Blues

The Metro Transit District successfully weathered a California Coastal Commission hearing on June 15 and earned its stripes--a coastal development permit allowing a stream to be diverted from the 20-acre Lipton Tea property on Delaware Avenue in order to build the MetroBase consolidated facility there.

But despite the apparent green light from the CCC, community and City Council opposition to the site has made it politically impossible to go forward.

So at the transit board's June 16 meeting, the board of directors voted unanimously to study properties in the Harvey West Industrial Park area as potential sites. For the moment, the West Side lot remains the preferred site.

The transit district will hold a community meeting July 12 to discuss the feasibility of the Harvey West location. It begins at 7pm at the Harvey West Clubhouse, 126 Evergreen St., Santa Cruz, 420.5250. Buswes will shuttle attendees from the downtown bus mall to Harvey West and back.

HPC to the Rescue

The longtime dream of local arts enthusiasts to turn the 1930s-era Del Mar Theater into a performing-arts venue may finally come true. Or not. The sale of both the Del Mar and Rio theaters could be signed, sealed and delivered by Aug. 1.

"All interested parties are local, except for one from Sunnyvale," says Matt Shelton, the real-estate agent handling both properties for owner United Artists.

Meanwhile, the Historical Preservation Commission is looking for someone to protect and restore the Del Mar. The HPC is in league with local arts supporters who have long been pushing for a central county venue for music, theater and dance.

"The Del Mar is the ideal space and location for a performing-arts theater," says Ross Gibson, former HPC chair now serving as a historical architectural consultant.

Gibson will present a master plan to the County Cultural Council in August urging it to assist in the protection of this art deco relic. In the meantime, he will be mustering support from the community.

"It is possible that whoever buys the theater could turn it into offices upstairs and some kind of retail store below," Gibson says. "Only the façade and lobby are protected."

Sol Searching

It's a rail rider's dream come true: the Santa Cruz SolTrain.

"It's the first solar-powered rail system being developed in the world, and it's being developed here in Santa Cruz," says Ted Lahti, director of the SolTrain project, an ultralight, 30-passenger rail-transit system

With a little help from the city of Capitola and a $15,000 grant from the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the group will test a prototype this summer. Depending on technical and political considerations, the train could be ready to run by next summer along the Union Pacific rail corridor between Santa Cruz and Watsonville.

"We're such an inexpensive option," Lahti says. "We can put a whole 12-car system into operation for less than $12 million," he continues, adding that a light-rail system would cost the county $200 million or more.

The train also boasts all the comforts of a home-office space.

"You can hook up your computer to the Internet, there are bike pedals on the floor for exercise and to help charge the batteries," Lahti says.

To hear more, come to the Alternative Transportation Conference, July 10, 11am-5pm, Soquel Avenue at Cayuga; call 425.1500 for details.

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From the July 5-12, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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