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Bruce Bratton

[whitespace] Santa Cruz c. 1859
Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection

Welcome to Santa Cruz, 1859: This is looking down Front Street on the left, and that's Pacific Avenue, which was then called Willow Street, going off to the right. The angled building facing the camera is now Louis Rittenhouse's white 'Bear' building, and the post office is on the left where the very tall Victory pole is standing. As you can guess, this is one of the earliest photos of downtown Santa Cruz. I know some of you have seen this picture before, but lots of people just got here.

THE BATTLE OF DeANZA MOBILE HOME PARK. In case you missed the July 28 issue of The Wall Street Journal, they devoted five columns to the battle the tenants of DeAnza Santa Cruz Mobilehome Estates are having with the new (1994) owners, Manufactured Home Communities Inc. of Chicago. A Santa Cruz jury awarded $6 million in damages to the tenants because they had been unfairly overcharged for water and sewer services. DeAnza Estates, which is out on the beautiful cliffs overlooking Natural Bridges State Park and butting against the fences of UCSC's Terrace Point, has rent control. But the new owners, who buy as a private water company from the city, have increased the charges to the residents for water. Which means, as Ruth Hunter, one of the DeAnzanians, sez, "They got us trapped. We don't own the land our trailers sit on, we can't move our trailers and our rates have kept climbing." Ruth and other residents also are determined to find out just how much the city is charging the Chicago owners for water to make sure they aren't being soaked even more. The residents haven't been paid anything yet because of course the judgment is under appeal. The W.S. Journal in a sidebar relates such figures as "about half of all Californians rent their homes." There are 5,006 mobile home parks in California, with 705,793 residents in 371,470 mobile units in them there parks. The Journal went on to say that there are 200,000 apartment complexes with 50-plus units. That means there are 3.9 million apartment units and 15 million apartment renters in California. There's plenty more to this DeAnza story and we'll get to it asap, but it struck me as odd that aside from the DeAnzanians nobody locally had heard of this yet.

ROMEO & JULIET. I've attended every one of the more than 50 plays presented by Shakespeare Santa Cruz in its entire 18-year history. I've dozed through a few, completely disliked some others, but not until this year's production of Romeo and Juliet have I ever left at intermission, and that was only out of politeness. There's no way to detail what was wrong except to say ... it was everybody's fault but Shakespeare's.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY BUSINESS COUNCIL, INC. We've been hearing a lot from this group in support of widening Highway 1. I wasn't sure exactly what the Business Council was, so I talked with James Conklin, the executive director, in their office on the third floor of The Galleria. Jim told me the "80 plus" member organization began 2 1/2 years ago when he was called by somebody he didn't remember to ask him to start a business council here like the ones he'd created in Monterey and seven other places like Fresno. Only "Senior Level" (successful) businesses can be members, and they have to be invited to join. Conklin said he'd have to get board permission to release the names of member businesses. The Council has not and will not endorse any candidates; they are only interested in facilitating and working with chambers of commerce and decision makers on countywide issues. They supported the Cabrilho College bond issue and the Watsonville and Santa Cruz school bond issues. After some prodding Jim remembered that Sister Julie Hyer of Dominican Hospital, Harvey Nickelson of Coast Commercial Bank, Kent Kniffen of Granite Construction and Karen Miller of Miller Farms were early movers and shakers of the Council. Conklin did say that Dave Regan, publisher of the Sentinel, is the current president; Harvey Nickelson was the last president; and Bruce Woolpert of Granite Construction will be president in 2000. Sister Julie Hyer is current secretary; Frank Minuti of Berger Lewis Accounting Corp. is treasurer. The reason Conklin gave me for not revealing member names is because "the members didn't like to get solicited." Being a private organization "100 percent private-sector funded," they sure don't have to name names, but for an organization dedicated to facilitating and communicating it seems a bit strange. Then again, after 2 1/2 years of facilitating and working with city and county staffs on land issues and school bonds and goodness knows what else, you'd think Conklin would have heard of this newspaper, but at least I told him where he could pick it up. But Jim is quick--he'll learn fast.

SOME MOVIES. Runaway Bride is definitely not Notting Hill--it's a mildly interesting Richard Gere/Julia Roberts Hollywood-type flick which would amuse your summertime visitors if you can't get into any good movies. Deep Blue Sea is not one of the good movies either. I swear Samuel Jackson forgot how to act; he used to turn in excellent performances, but what he did in Red Violin and this piece of junk isn't worth any price of admission. Even the special effects are lousy; avoid it at all costs.

LOS ANGELES NOTES. The Santa Monica Pier has undergone a significant overhaul. The old carousel is in great shape and they've added a tiny new roller coaster and Ferris wheel. Don't try the corn dogs at one of the oldest corn dog stands in history just next to the pier. I used to eat them there way back in the early '50s, but now all they sell are turkey and vegetarian dogs and yuck. I still think that the polish sausage corn dogs at the corn dog stand near the south (or actually east) end of Our Boardwalk are the world's greatest. You have to wait a few minutes, but they are worth it. I assume they still have the polish sausage dogs, but I'm not 100 percent positive.

A TOUCH OF HOME IN BUELLTON. Speaking of L.A. and my seven-month-old grandson who's doing excellently, I stopped in Buellton to get gas on the way back. Right across the road from the gas station was one of those omnipresent and very familiar signs announcing that Barry Swenson Builders were going to develop something right there. I felt right at home; imagine the thrill of not just being able to see Andersen's Split Pea Soup being split, but also being gifted with more Gallerias dotting gas stops everywhere.

WIDENING HIGHWAY ONE. George Jammal, chair of the regional group of the Sierra Club, sent a letter to the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission with copies to Keeley, McPherson, Farr and Campbell. The letter sez that the Santa Cruz Business Council and the Chamber of Commerce want to add lanes to Highway 1 because it's just a huge welfare grant to the road construction industry. He goes on to say that Seattle voted down rail three times in a row and spent $2.8 billion adding lanes to I-90. I-90 was jammed from the day it opened, and the voters then approved expenditures for rail. He and the Sierra Club support the Coastal Trolley as a first step toward a countywide multimodal transit network.

ABOUT HOME DEPOT. I just got the news and it sure bears repeating that the International Workers of the World, the Santa Cruz Rainforest Action Group, the Santa Cruz Biodiversity Project and Earth First! Santa Cruz are working as a coalition with small businesses, residents and many other groups to oppose any plans for Home Depot to locate in this county. Aside from traffic issues the groups are opposed to Home Depot's old-growth wood products, their strong anti-union policies and their keeping a glass ceiling over female employees. This will prove to be a bitter battle unless County Powers stand up for what their constituents and these groups are asking. Call 457-1105 for more information on how you can help keep Home Depot away from your home.

PESKY PALINDROMES. John Laird, noted radio commentator and nearly professional politico, sends in his favorite palindromes. He remembers in grade school learning that "Yreka bakery" was a palindrome; they used the motto "As good backward as it is forward." John had a palindrome competition in the County Building back in the '70s; he recalled "Yosemite nine times? Oy!" as one of the winners. Aside from that, nothing's new.


Bruce critiques films on KUSP-FM 88.9 every other Thursday at 12:50pm. Reach out and touch Bruce in cyberspace at bbratton@metcruz.com or call him at 457-9000, ext. 400.

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From the August 11-18, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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