Plus Letters To the Editor
Some of the most interesting and important scientific work in the world is being done right here in Santa Cruz. Usually it’s up at UCSC, but the Puma Project is a collaboration between the university and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This week, as Henry Houskeeper writes in our cover story, Puma Project director Chris Wilmers and environmental chemist Peter Weiss-Penzias are delivering their findings about mercury found in the whiskers of pumas in the Santa Cruz Mountains at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In his story, Houskeeper explains the potential implications of these findings for understanding how what Weiss-Penzias calls “the most reckless, unnecessary pollution” has been spread in our own backyard. It’s a startling and unnerving piece that I hope you’ll take the time to read.
Please also check out Anne-Marie Harrison’s story about the Teen Kitchen Project, one of the innovative local nonprofits we’re asking you to support as part of our Santa Cruz Gives campaign through Dec. 31. Then go to santacruzgives.com to become part of the holiday giving.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Our quality of life in Aptos is being threatened. Our involvement—or apathy—today will have specific consequences tomorrow.
Saltwater intrusion is a threat, and traffic congestion is a daily challenge. Both of these situations will definitely be exacerbated by the construction of the Aptos Village project in the heart of the old village. I can’t even begin to envision 5,000 residents trying to make their way out of Trout Gulch and Soquel Drive in the event of an emergency evacuation.
I personally attended community meetings organized by Ellen Pirie back in 2008, when this project was under consideration. I have spoken to countless Aptos residents, local business owners, and friends who attended those meetings. My conclusion, then and now, is that the overwhelming majority of Aptos people did not and do not want a project of this magnitude. Those who are in favor would like to see a New Leaf and a few shops and restaurants. I found that the majority of the people who actually want the proposed housing development are real estate agents, developers, and others who will profit initially in some way.
To my mind, the best-case scenario would be to have a market and a few retail shops. But even that is a questionable proposition. By creating more shopping, you don’t necessarily create more tax revenue and jobs—you may well end up taking business away from existing stores and restaurants. A New Leaf market will most probably put Aptos Natural Foods out of business and will definitely take a bite out of Deluxe Foods of Aptos and Safeway.
I researched why high-density mixed-use projects are mandated by the state of California. The reasons make sense for places where there is adequate space for the flow of traffic and abundant infrastructure. In our case, the Aptos Village project is like putting a round peg in a square hole. It will definitely exacerbate the current problems facing us: lack of water, lack of affordable housing, traffic jams, transportation problems, and potential disaster during any type of emergency.
It seems to me that our local government is putting the cart before the horse. I agree that housing shortages cause home values to rise and the price of rentals to skyrocket. But building more expensive homes aggravates the situation.
We are quickly becoming a bedroom and weekend-home community for Silicon Valley. Our high cost of living means that people who work in restaurants, markets, convenience stores, box stores, shoe stores, hair salons, coffee shops, etc., can’t afford to live here anymore. The situation is appalling: we have people renting out walk-in closets as bedrooms; grown kids are living with their parents; three-to-four people sharing a one-bedroom apartment.
Our county leaders should work closely with developers to build tiny homes and apartment complexes that take up a much smaller footprint and are much more affordable. We must address the challenge of providing affordable housing for the labor and professional workforce that fuels the economy of our county and community.
As an experienced business owner, I know that to stay in business you must keep your overhead down and productivity up, and offer your product or service at fair market pricing. Similarly, our county must be run efficiently so it can afford to invest in better transportation, better infrastructure, better schools, and after-school programs. The county must become more profitable by reducing overhead, increasing productivity and rewarding forward thinkers.
The time is now: I urge the taxpayers of our community to become well-informed about these problems, to think critically and to act locally. We chose to live here because it’s one of the best places on earth. Our progressive thinking is what makes Santa Cruz a great place to live. Please let’s not turn our community into Anywhere, USA.
Mike Shenk, Aptos
Unfortunately, the picture of page 6 of the 12/9 issue is not a picture of Brandt’s cormorants. It is actually a group of penguins.
JACK YOUNG | VIA EMAIL
Well, they’re not penguins either, but we get your point. They were identified as Brandt’s cormorants in the photograph submission; we should have corrected this to pelicans. Apologies to our readers. — Editor
Last week’s story “The Medal to the Pedal” incorrectly stated that the city had an average of 222 fatalities per 10,000 cyclists. The correct figure is 222 crashes per 10,000 cyclists. We regret the error.
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CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? According to the photographer, Mitten the cat and this unnamed squirrel have become playmates. Is it just us, or does Mitten look here like the main quality he is looking for in a playmate is deliciousness? Photograph by Alison Gamel.
Curtis Reliford of Follow Your Heart Action Network is continuing his work collecting donations to give to those in need. With an extra emphasis on the holiday season, he wants locals to know that he’ll be giving bags filled with toiletries, warm socks, canned goods and miscellaneous new items to community members in need. To donate, call him at 831-246-4240, or catch him as he rolls through town in his Peace Train, which is covered in American flags.
With all this chilly weather, some people will want to celebrate Christmas the Jimmy Buffett way—by getting some tropical traveling in to Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, or maybe even the Big Island of Hawaii. County officials want any travelers to these parts to protect themselves from mosquitoes and the dangerous diseases they carry. That means long sleeves and bug repellant. Visit agdept.com for more information.
“With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea.” — Sylvia Earle