As we sit through the longest nights of the year and wait for the sun to start traveling north again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your county supervisor. We got a lot of stuff done this year. There are lots of reasons to celebrate.
It was the year of a historic $97.5 billion state budget surplus. Our County did an excellent job of getting its fair share for projects ranging from bringing Watsonville Hospital into public ownership ($25 million) to a new Youth Mental Health Center in Live Oak ($11 million) to funding for active transportation and the next four segments of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail ($115 million). I was particularly glad to help with two Project Homekey grants, $6.4 million for the Vets Village and $10.66 million for Park Haven Plaza. Together, these two projects will provide 56 housing units for veterans, families, and youth that have experienced homelessness. It will give them places to live in the community, study, work, and enjoy life's simple pleasures, like baking cookies.
Undoubtedly, we still have a long way to go in building housing. This year's reports showed that we are the country's second most expensive place to live, after only San Francisco. I see this impact daily, given the difficulty we have filling open county positions - from lifeguards to lawyers and from planners to psychiatrists. Being second on the cost of living index means that even neighboring Santa Clara and Monterey counties can out-compete us. As a result, we have lost many good employees to lateral transfers. This leaves us little choice but to increase salaries, which in turn increases the cost of providing county services.
Because of this significant problem, I've spent much of my efforts this year on housing policy. The results are sometimes slower than I would like. You don't get to bake an apple pie as soon as you plant an apple tree. But, when 1500 Capitola Rd opened this fall, we were reminded of just how sweet the fruit of these efforts could be. This mixed-use project, which includes Dientes, Santa Cruz Community Health, and 57 affordable housing units, is the tangible result of many years of work, advocacy, and community donations. It shows how wonderful a walkable community center can be and inspires me to do more.
Above: image from the grand opening of the health clinics at 1500 Capitola Rd
Here's a list of the top policies and projects I worked on with my office this year. I've focused on the initiatives where I played a driving role or at least a highly engaged second. I've also listed the board of supervisors meeting date when relevant.
Expanded ADU Incentive Program - 4/26/22. When a review of our ADU incentive program came up, I advocated for expanding the fee waiver program from ADUs of 640 sqft up to those of 750 sqft. This will allow more people to save money on permits while building ADUs that fit the needs of a family member or adding a rental.
Bulk METRO Pass Incentives for New Housing - 5/10/22. This new Transportation Demand Management program will offer housing developments more design flexibility if they provide METRO passes to all residents through a bulk purchase.
Putting Assets to Work Incubator Program - 5/10/22. Our county applied to an incubator program that will help us develop business models to use county property like 701 Ocean St, and the Emeline Campus to build new housing.
Prohousing Designation - 6/7/22. Directed the Community Development & Infrastructure Department to apply for the State’s Prohousing Designation, providing the County with improved access to state housing funds and resources.
Local Area Management Plan- 10/18/22. When these new septic requirements from the State came up for review, I helped to ensure we included alternative testing methods, a simplified inspection report, and a reasonable compliance period to limit undue burden on rural homeowners.
Updated Tenant Protections Ordinance - 9/13/22. The amendments I brought forward provide renters with greater legal recourse when subject to harassment or retaliatory actions by landlords. I also made sure we publicized the law, because rights are only meaningful when people know they have them.
Tiny Homes on Wheels (THOW) - 9/20/22. Tiny homes on wheels can now be used as primary dwellings or ADUs. They have to be connected to utilities and have a parking pad. We implemented a quick and easy permitting system. THOW are currently limited to one per property, but we will review the ordinance to consider multiple tiny homes and “villages” in the near future.
Composting Toilet, Container-Based Sanitation Pilot Program - 10/18/22. New septic systems range in cost from $50,000 to $100,000, making them a major factor pushing housing affordability out of reach. This composting toilet pilot program will be available for CZU fire victims and use a central composting location managed by an experienced organization, Give Love. They will work through permitting issues with state agencies so that we are prepared to launch an emergency waterless toilet system after major disasters. They will also explore expanding the program to more participants in the future.
General and Special Rent Adjustments for Mobile Home Parks - 12/13/22. This amendment to the mobile home park rent control ordinance closes a loophole and strengthens the arbitration process to prevent big rent increases for mobile home park residents.
Appendix M, Water Demand Calculator - 4/26/22. By adopting this appendix to the State Plumbing Code, new buildings can use smaller, more accurately sized pipes. This reduces construction costs and saves water and money for residents.
Honoring Surety Bonds and Other Securities as a means of Facilitating Housing Construction - 2/15/22. This update removed outdated restrictions and gave home builders more financing options during construction. Reducing financing costs during construction will ultimately mean better prices for home buyers.
Above: Photo from the Vets Village, which will provide 20 new units of housing to formerly homeless veterans.
Vets Village, Homekey Award of $6.4M - 5/6/22 . This converted motel will provide at least 20 beds of permanent housing for formerly homeless veterans. Many people thought this underdog project team would never qualify for funding. I advocated for them every step of the way. Their application had so much heart and was so compelling that they were the first Homekey project in our county to win state funding.
Park Haven Plaza, Homekey Award of $10.66M - 9/20/22. 36 new housing units will be built near Cabrillo for families, youth, and veterans. The project is the first in the county to use modular construction so that it can open doors in a year.
Increased Funding for the Downtown Streets Team to Expand in the Emeline Neighborhood - 6/28/22. The additional funding will allow the program to hire more people and clean up a larger area in the Emeline neighborhood on more days. I think it’s essential that we keep county facilities clean and this is a win-win way to do it.
Requested Consideration of Alternative Locations for the North County/ Emeline Needle Exchange Program - 8/23/22. This could include other physical sites, such as the Homeless Persons Health Project at Coral St, or mobile vans. The Syringe Services Program Advisory Commission came to the same recommendation independently and we will review alternatives next year.
Monthly Hybrid Town Hall Meetings Throughout the First District. My team hosted a total of 13 Town Hall meetings. These were all hybrid meetings to maximize access. By rotating the physical location to different neighborhoods, it created an opportunity to focus on the specific issues in each area.
Regular Office Hours. Held monthly office hours to provide 1:1 opportunities to review and resolve issues with me in person.
Launched a New Issue Management and Communications Platform for the Board of Supervisors Offices- 6/28/22. By updating the software our board office uses, I ensured every supervisorial district has access to an improved newsletter, survey tool, and issue-tracking platform.
First Representative Citizens Assembly - 10/25/22. When we update our housing element in 2023, a randomly selected group of citizens will weigh in on where to put the housing. This will be the first official, representative group of its kind to meet in our county. It will include residents of all ages, income levels, renters, and homeowners.
Above: Photo from the ThinkBike Workshop organized by Ecology Action.
Adopted Resolution of US Bicycle Route 95 - 3/22/22. Our county will promote cycling tourism by adopting this official designation for an interstate bicycle route.
Resurfaced Portola Dr from 26th to 41st Ave. With approximately 15,000 trips per day, Portola is one of the most well-used roads in the county. We maintained it as well as improved bike lanes and crosswalks according to community design preferences.
Resurfaced Thurber Ln and Improved Bike Lanes. We improved the safety of the road based on community input.
Repaired 2 out of 3 slides on North Rodeo Gulch. And the third will be completed as soon as we can reach an agreement with the adjacent landowner on a maintenance easement.
Hired New METRO CEO, Michael Tree. Michael has brought renewed energy to METRO, including launching a bus network reimagining plan.
Climate & Environment
All Electric Homes Requirement for New Construction-11/15/22. Nearly 25% of our local emissions come from heating, cooking, and hot water in buildings. By requiring new residential construction to be all-electric, we’re taking an important first step to eliminate this source of planet warming gas.
Resolution in Support of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and Juristac - 11/15/22. We took a stand with indigenous people asking the Santa Clara County Board of supervisors to reject the proposed sand and gravel quarry on land considered sacred by the Amah Mutsun.
Above: Photo with CAL FIRE leadership during a tour of the Soquel Demonstration Forest.
Public Safety and Fire Safety
Installed New Alert WildFire Cameras. New installations at Silver Mountain Winery, Dream Inn, and Watsonville Airport expand our early warning system for wildfires.
Additional Funding for Code Compliance Staff - 6/28/22. Derelict properties have caused more than one fire this past year. That's why I advocated for adding two positions to our Code Compliance team and ensuring property owners clean up their mess.
Funded the Firesafe Council and Firewise Program - 6/28/22. By providing the base funding for this largely volunteer organization, we’ve helped them to hire full-time staff and scale the Firewise neighborhood preparedness program nearly four-fold to 43 communities
Funding for the Summit Sheriff Substation - 6/28/22. Supplied funding for reconstructing a Sheriff substation at the summit to be shared by Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. We are also pursuing a generator to ensure operation in times of emergency.
With this list, as with all things, I strive to be accountable to you, the voter.
If there are things that you would like to see your County government do differently next year, please let me know. This is a great time for planning and preparing for the year ahead and I always enjoy hearing your ideas. You can reply directly to to this email, or for more detailed proposals please complete this form.
Again, thank you for a great year. Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season to rest and reflect. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with you and making 2023 the best year yet for Santa Cruz County.
First District Supervisor
Santa Cruz County
Apply for the Measure D Oversight Committee
The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) is currently accepting applications for the Measure D Taxpayer Oversight Committee for representatives from Districts 1 & 2. This independent oversight committee is tasked with reviewing how the funds generated by the transportation tax are being spent.
The responsibilities of the Committee include:
Reviewing expenditures on an annual basis to ensure they conform to the Ordinance
Reviewing the annual audit describing how funds were spent
Producing a publicly available Annual Report of Oversight Activities
Members of the Measure D Taxpayer Oversight Committee must be residents of Santa Cruz County who are neither elected officials of any government, nor employees from any agency or organization that either oversees or implements projects funded from the proceeds of the sales tax.