By Michael Shaw
Posted October 12, 2004
Summary: It is ironic that “progressive” Santa Cruz politicians are neck deep in a right wing government/private partnership scam that destroys neighborhoods at taxpayer expense. A friend was right when he said it is like Russia — except that Lenin and Stalin were not this sophisticated.
Measure J: Combining Transportation and Housing Policy Recently Ms. Pirie, an elected Santa Cruz county supervisor, was asked by a citizen if the director of the county’s ‘Planning’ department had been granted powers of “eminent domain”. She said “No.” Technically, her statement is correct. What she failed to disclose was the Board of Supervisor’s recent grant of streamlined rezoning powers to Planning director. Supposedly this was done in order to solve the “emergency housing crisis” that was declared by the Board of Supervisors earlier this year. I do not know the details as well as Ms Pirie would. However, a forthright clarification by her would serve the public’s right to know and would reduce neighborhood confusion and frustration.
My understanding is that the “housing crisis” is to be cured with the construction of 10,000 housing units built on transportation corridors (rail and bus lines) by government “partners'”. (Non profits, compliant developers, and the like) What makes certain people ‘partners’ is their willingness to build housing with government imposed conditions on the occupants such as “water masters”, “electric masters”, auto use restrictions, occupancy limitations, (such as permits for visitor stays), government run child care centers etc. This so-called “affordable” (taxpayer subsidized) housing is subject to County Housing Authority determinations of who can live there, rental rates (subsidized), or purchase and resale prices.
Your money = developer profits
The Santa Cruz county government has received commitments of $295 MILLION of federal and state taxpayer grants to assist in the construction of the first 3750 small, multi-story, multi-family housing units. (Costs of construction for a nonprofit builder can be twice that of market developers.) The draft housing element even proposes protections for the “Sustainable Developer” from construction defect liability. In essence, profits are guaranteed to the developer, and risk of debt repayment is sloughed off to the taxpayer. What makes the situation more disconcerting is that the draft housing element is that over 190 homes and businesses have been declared “underutilized”. This means that parcels with existing homes and businesses are to be targeted for demolition and replacement with high density development. Additional parcels can be declared “underutilized” at direction of the county planning director. These new living quarters are to be built by government partners and occupied by people approved by the county housing authority. The existing homes are often at the entrance (exits) to neighborhoods.
I speculate that this could easily facilitate the prospect for a reinvented government to monitor citizen movement. One final factor – for the last 15 years newly appointed Santa Cruz County Planning Director headed up an advance planning team with a multi million dollar budget. This team’s work appears to have focused on developing the county’s Sustainable Development program on a parcel by parcel basis. This means that un-favored property owners were given a ‘stick’ so that property ownership would end up in the hands of insiders who would then be given tax funded grants and zoning ‘carrots’. When systems are made devoid of principle and without checks and balances corruption grows.
Suddenly, downtown Aptos is to have 300,000 square feet of new development. A single developer now controls the majority of the new planned development. For 20 years the prior owners could not do anything with their properties because of restrictive zoning and obfuscation of rights to the zoning that did exist. The term Sustainable Development is a cover for a land grab. Aptos, Seacliff, Corralitos and other county towns have been subjected to ‘Community Plans’. The county has been itching for one in my town of La Selva Beach for several years. These plans are implementing Sustainable Development’s ‘Smart Growth’ policies.
The basic outcome of a Community Plan is determined beforehand. They are designed by a few and guided by others who are outside of Santa Cruz. Foundation money often fuels the start up of these plans. Federal and state tax money then flows to reward compliant participants. This is happening throughout the country. On a local level the program is facilitated by business councils that include some who know the game, others who smell opportunity, and those who simply thought the council a networking forum.
What can a citizen do? A town’s best methodology for maintaining local control is simply not to participate. A county’s best methodology for maintaining integrity is to remove from office the policy makers who accept federal and state money for these programs. In Santa Cruz County the present focus of the Sustainable Developers is the government’s acquisition of the rail line. Rails, trails and buses are to become the common man’s transportation system for the new order in a post private property era. This is the real purpose of Measure J. Stack ’em, pack em and put them on a train. It is ironic “progressive” Santa Cruz politicians are neck deep in a right wing government/private partnership scam that destroys neighborhoods at taxpayer expense. My friend was right; it is like Russia; except that Lenin and Stalin were not this sophisticated.
See the related article: Measure J Marries Transportation and Housing in Santa Cruz County by Michael Park
A Citizen’s Analysis of Measure J by Michael Shaw
Michael Shaw is a political economist and an Abundance Ecologist. He is the proprietor of Liberty Garden and is a director of Freedom 21 Santa Cruz [now Freedom Advocates]. He has lived in La Selva Beach for 20 years.