.Nov. 8, 2022 Election: Santa Cruz Measures O, N Trail in Early Results

No On O campaign ‘cautiously optimistic’ after initial tally shows 19-point lead

Votes are still being counted, but Measure O, the controversial proposal that would scrap city plans for an updated downtown library, affordable housing and a new parking garage, is behind by 18 points.

As early results were posted, the No on Measure O campaign members let out tentative cheers in the corner of Abbott Square they staked out. But no one wanted to get their hopes up yet. 

“Certainly not time to celebrate, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” says former Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, a spokesperson for the No on O campaign. 

A vote in favor of the measure supports remodeling the current downtown library. It would keep the downtown farmers market at its current location, one of the fundamental tenets behind the initiative.

A vote against the measure supports the library project, a development in the works for over a decade. 

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As of 11:20pm, 3,025 votes have been counted in favor and 4,181 against the measure. 

Should the measure pass, it is uncertain how it would be implemented. The measure designates eight city-owned lots for future affordable housing development, but an outside evaluation found only three of those lots to be feasible for housing projects. 

It would also cast uncertainty on the future of the library: the city found remodeling the current library to be more costly than building a new one and that updating the existing building would constrict the possibilities for affordable housing and other amenities, like a childcare center. 

Measure N 

The initial results for Measure N, which would tax second homes that are in use less than 120 days per calendar year, are looking grim for its passage.

So far, the measure has the support of only 36.6% of votes, with 63.4% of votes against the tax.

The measure, also known as the “Empty Home Tax,” broadly pitted affordable housing proponents against real estate agents and vacation homeowners.

Funds from the tax would be dedicated to affordable housing, and the campaign estimates the tax could generate millions for low-income housing. 

Opponents of the measure say similar taxes implemented in other cities have yielded inconclusive results.

The funding against the measure was significant. Santa Cruz Together, the committee leading the charge against Measure N, raised upwards of around $130,000, with nearly $50,000 coming from the California Association of Realtors.

This story will be updated.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I am neither a “real estate agent” nor a “vacation homeowner”. But I can do math. Measure N failed for three primary reasons. It was poorly conceived and written. Other cities (Like Oakland) use readily available city data to whittle down the list of homes likely to be empty, by using water dept data, homeowners exemption status, rental program data, etc., and then ONLY require those likely empty homes to report their annual vacancy status. Not so Measure N, which would have created unnecessary expensive city bureaucracy by requiring EVERY home owner in the city to report annual vacancy status, and then having city staff follow up on all these homes rather than the very few likely actually ”empty”. Not only that, but because Measure N capped the money the city could recover for its expenses to15% of the tax collected, it virtually guaranteed the city would have to supplement money from its general fund every year, the very same fund where city staff salaries and city services are funded from. By the city’s estimate it would have cost over 400k from the general fund the first year. Next, there were criminal penalties that would be incurred by people for failing to file their paperwork on time, even if those people would not ever owe the tax. Finally, and most importly, the data used by the Yes on N campaign to estimate the number of empty homes was flawed and overestimated because it was based on the 2020 census data, widely agreed to be the least reliable census ever taken, due to it being done during the CZU fires and Covid, when both students and residents alike left town because of smoke and students returned home due to lack of in-person classes being held. Their estimate of 9% vacancy is actually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.9%at most, according to HUD data. The Measure N organizers thought no-one would pay attention, that no-one would care since the tax would never apply to them. But they were wrong. People care about their privacy, and they care about funding for city staff and city services. That’s why it failed. The rest is all sour grapes.

  2. I am neither a “real estate agent” nor a “vacation homeowner”. But I can do math. Measure N failed for three primary reasons. It was poorly conceived and written. Other cities (Like Oakland) use readily available city data to whittle down the list of homes likely to be empty, by using water dept data, homeowners exemption status, rental program data, etc., and then ONLY require those likely empty homes to report their annual vacancy status. Not so Measure N, which would have created unnecessary expensive city bureaucracy by requiring EVERY home owner in the city to report annual vacancy status, and then having city staff follow up on all these homes rather than the very few likely actually ”empty”. Not only that, but because Measure N capped the money the city could recover for its expenses to 15%% of the tax collected, it virtually guaranteed the city would have to supplement money from its general fund every year, the very same fund where city staff salaries and city services are funded from. By the city’s estimate it would have cost over 400k from the general fund the first year. Next, there were criminal penalties that would be incurred by people for failing to file their paperwork on time, even if those people would not ever owe the tax. Finally, and most importantly, the data used by the Yes on N campaign to estimate the number of empty homes was flawed and overestimated because it was based on the 2020 census data, widely agreed to be the least reliable census ever taken, due to it being done during the CZU fires and Covid, when both students and residents alike left town because of smoke and students returned home due to lack of in-person classes being held. Their estimate of 9% vacancy is actually somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.9% at most, according to HUD data. The Measure N organizers thought no-one would pay attention, that no-one would care since the tax would never apply to them. But they were wrong. People care about their privacy, and they care about funding for city staff and city services. That’s why it failed. The rest is all sour grapes.

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Aiyana Moya
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