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[whitespace] Downtown Litter Abatement Crew
This Is My Crew: The Litter Abatement team has secured its funding for next year.


32 Miles Of Groove

Every morning, five days a week, the Downtown Litter Abatement Crew picks up trash while scattering positive vibes along Pacific Avenue. The crew members in their bright orange vests come via the city-sponsored Skills Center, and though they've only been in action since September 2001, they have already won our 2002 Cleanest Sweep Goldie, not to mention another year of funding--no small feat given the city's current budget crisis.

But the city's steam cleaning program wasn't so fortunate, falling victim to a $40,000 cut that has left the sidewalk looking grimier and sticky.

To find out if we're really up to our ankles in it now, Nuüz contacted Super Steam owner Dan Carey, who explained, "Without steam cleaning, high-traffic areas--especially where you've got people pissing and spitting there--are grimier. And anywhere there's bubble gum, you've got problems, because what starts as a pink or green blob becomes a black blob that becomes a black spot."

But just as Nuüz was scraping off its shoes after a brisk downtown walk and thinking what sorry times are these when even sneakers aren't safe on city streets, the situation got a whole lot stickier. Now comes news that suggests Pacific could become Bubblegum Avenue, a la Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, even after the city's finances improve: new storm water regulations are coming down the pike that say you can't lift pollutants and have them running into storm drains.

"Which means you can't steam clean, unless you have a recirculating system that vacuums the water back up," says downtown maintenance field supervisor Angela Curtis.

The good news? The changes take effect March 2003, so the city has six months to get its act together.

And so far, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, the local executors of the Federal Clean Water Act and the state water code, have only verbally told the city about this change.

"They haven't modified the regulations yet. We're waiting to get it in writing, said Public Works' Suzanne Healy, sounding a tad anxious. "Basically, they're saying steam cleaning can be done, but the water used can't go to storm drains, but must be collected. So it can either be adequately treated prior to being discharged to storm drains, or collected and discharged into a sanitary sewer. If we don't take those steps, in their view, it's a violation of the federal Clean Water Act."

While the new regulations take effect statewide, Santa Cruz is particularly in the hot seat, because the town drains into the San Lorenzo River, which leads into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

"Not letting steam cleaning run off will make the job longer and more expensive, but we've got six months to work it all out," Healy said.

Which makes Nuüz presume that an idea to dye the sidewalk different colors must by now be deader than a dodo. The idea, which sounded annoying, not to mention flawed (since ordinances can be revised), was floated by Councilmember Ed "eBay" Porter to color code what he calls "opportunity spots" for street performers and panhandlers.

Speaking of flawed plans, it's worth remembering that the city, albeit inadvertently, brought some of our current cleaning woes on itself several years ago when it cut 32 miles of sidewalk groove at the perfect size for cigarette butts to get wedged.

It also sandblasted the surface to create a rough-stoned effect (to reduce slipperiness from patchouli oil, perchance?), an effect that made the sidewalk grime faster and the dirt harder to remove.

All of which suggests we could now be really screwed--unless we can find a cheap steam cleaner that sucks. Literally.

Meanwhile, one wisecracking visitor suggested that since our cracks are getting wedged with butts, why not fill them with grout and write our thoughts on them instead?

"They'd have to be original thoughts--we could check them on the Internet to make sure no one's had them before--but judging from what I'm hearing downtown, there won't be too many of them," this visitor opined.

Super Steam's Carey, who first saw groutfitti while at UCSC, was not so keen."People used to write little words along [the grout] with tiny, sharp, really precise pointy pens that were almost impossible to clean," said Carey. "And to clean and prepare the grooves downtown would be fabulously expensive, and if any of it caved in, as it doubtless would, then it might catch the occasional high heel that goes by."

We should be so (un)lucky.

Missionary Position

If you've ever wondered what Mormon missionaries are thinking when they're standing on the other side of your door, standup comic Bengt Washburn is your man.

A self-described "confused Mormon from Salt Lake City," Washburn got into the funny business because he had a degree in art--which, he says, was because he was Mormon.

"I got a degree in art because that way I could draw naked women, which otherwise wasn't going to happen for me as a young Mormon," Washburn explains. "And I wanted to be an art professor, but there were no jobs. Then I heard about this chimp named Bongo, whose pictures were being shown in galleries, and I thought, 'Hey, I'm getting my ass kicked by a chimp!' and I gave up art and started doing standup. Comedy is my safety net, which proves I have bad judgment."

Washburn and Danny Bevins, both winners of last year's San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition, play the Kuumbwa Jazz Center Aug. 17 in the "Best of the Comedy Competition" tour. KPIG's Ralph Anybody hosts. Tickets are available at More Music or at Ticketweb.com.

Unlucky Break

Listeners who tried to tune into KAZU last week may have wondered if disgruntled programmers, upset at the new NPR-heavy format, had taken the station out. As it happens, the criminals were fire and water.

Station manger John McNally said KAZU got knocked off the air Aug. 8 after a fire broke out above the studio and huge amounts of water poured through the ceiling.

"We've been approved to have the power turned on." said McNally at presstime, "but we don't know when we'll be on the air. Tomorrow, If we're lucky."

Speaking of luck, the suite where the fire broke out belonged to the Serendipity Salon and Spa.

Nuüz 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 August 14-21, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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