.The Candidates Running For District 3

Opponents Kalantari-Johnson and Schendledecker have different ideas for the lower westside neighborhood

Council member Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson and community-organizer Joy Schendledecker are the two candidates hoping to represent District 3 on the Santa Cruz City Council following next year’s election. 

The two candidates will have launch parties this week and weekend as they vie for the Westside district. 

District 3, which includes parts of the lower Westside and extends up to Nobel Drive by UC Santa Cruz, captures a fairly representative slice of Santa Cruz made up of businesses, ADUs, small apartment buildings and single family homes. The candidates said traffic safety, the future of West Cliff Drive and local development were all on people’s minds.

City voters have historically hit the ballots in June but this year, due to a statewide change, residents can expect an earlier primary in March 2024, with a potential runoff in November. 

Kalantari-Johnson and Schendledecker both lost high-profile races last year, but they have kept busy. Kalantari-Johnson took a moment away from the city council to visit Joe Biden and recently secured a $1 million grant to prevent violence against children. Schendledecker immersed herself in local politics by writing a political column and becoming an Assembly District Delegate to the California Democratic Party. 

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Now, they will face off in their own neighborhood.

Homelessness

On homelessness, the two have opposing visions.

Schendledecker disagrees with the city’s controversial ordinance that bans overnight RV camping—an ordinance that Kalantari-Johnson introduced and touts as one of her accomplishments from her time on the city council. 

The ruling prohibits vehicles 20 feet or longer from parking on city streets from midnight to 5am and establishes designated safe-parking programs around the city that accommodates around 70 RVs overnight. Critics of the ordinance say it penalizes unhoused and caters to homeowners on the Westside, while supporters point to the litter, unsightliness and safety concerns around the overnight RVs.  

Schendledecker said the safe parking program for RVs is insufficient because people need  access to more sanitation areas and gray water pick-up.

“It ties criminalization to services,” she said. 

Kalantari-Johnson said that the city is setting an example for other communities around the state that struggle with similar issues related to overnight parking. 

“I think other coastal communities will look to us,” Kalantari-Johnson said. 

Kalantari-Johnson defends the work the city has done to reduce homelessness by 29% this year

“We are no longer allowing large unmanaged encampments to fester and cause public health/public safety issues to those living in them and surrounding community members, and we’re not just shuttling people around… we’re offering shelter… and get on a pathway to housing,” Kalantari-Johnson said. 

Schendledecker thinks it is better to have the Armory (a 135 bed shelter and service-hub) than not, but said, “a carrot-and-stick approach is not the best way to treat people. And a lot of people get left out and it is extremely expensive.”

Taxes

To continue the various services the city provides, Kalantari-Johnson supports a sales tax increase that would fund things like the city’s fight against homelessness. 

Schendledecker said this is regressive and hurts the poor. She would support a progressive property transfer tax instead, that would also apply to commercial properties.

Kalantari-Johnson stands by her support of the sales tax that was defeated last election. She said the tax should delineate where money would go, so voters know how the council intends to allocate the revenue. Santa Cruz is a small city with big city problems, she said.

But Schendledecker thinks the city should go a step further. She wants to put revenue from a tax into a dedicated fund, like the affordable housing trust fund that already exists, so a future city council couldn’t change how the funds are used.

West Cliff Drive

Both candidates said the topic of West Cliff Drive is top of mind for many people in District 3. While work is expected to start soon on restoring two-way traffic, the long-term future of West Cliff Drive as laid-out in the 50 year plan will determine if the city is to anchor-down or manage a retreat. 

Preserving access with a minimum amount of consequence to the neighborhood’s livability is paramount, according to Kalantari-Johnson. When asked about managed retreat, Shebreh laughed.

“[It is a dirty word] for some people,” she said.

Coastal erosion is inevitable so the challenge “is how to preserve as much as we can for as long as we can for as many uses as we can,” said Kalantari-Johnson. 

Schendledecker agrees but wants “more space for bikes and people.”

She also wants to work with the Coastal Commission on making West Cliff drive more resilient. 

Still, she thinks that due to the reality of climate change, it might be inevitable that we need to reimagine the iconic street.

“At some point we’ll have to go one-way or no traffic,” she said.

The Council

Schendledecker thinks it’s time to redefine city governance. 

She wants a ground-up approach, where residents in District 3 would organize assemblies, sending up their concerns to the district council member, who would take it to council. 

“I think there is a perception in the community that the city manager and the staff lead the council rather than the council leading the city manager and the staff, and I think people rightly feel like there is a lack of accountability from staff and council,” said Schendledecker.

Kalantari-Johnson disagrees with this approach: she supports the council’s current process. 

Before meetings Kalantari-Johnson said she reads the agenda packet, talks to relevant staff members and has weekly meetings with the city manager before entering the chamber. 

“[If you are] diverging from staff recommendations, that means you are giving staff a message that you don’t think they know how to do their job,” said Kalantari-Johnson. “That creates divisiveness and frankly nothing will get done.”

Kalantari-Johnson said she ran in 2020 to facilitate bringing the council together, because “nothing got done” in 2018-2019. During this time, council members Glover and Krohn were accused of bullying and harassment and were subsequently successfully recalled—the recall in Santa Cruz history. 

“You have to work well with people,” said Schendledecker. On the council she would, “tone down the activism. Not the ethics.” She cites Sandy Brown as someone who is able to bridge the divide.

But she believes the recall happened because of Santa Cruz Together’s fear that a progressive majority would enact tenant protections. 

“Drew and Chris being a kind of jerk… provided a cover to get rid of them,” said Schendledecker. 

Housing 

District 3 is required to accommodate 372 housing units, the fewest units of any district, according to the city’s new housing element. 

According to the plan, the majority of the new housing—40%—will be developed in District 4, now encompassing an expanded downtown district. Some residents are concerned about the city’s vision for downtown and one group thinks voters should weigh in on the plan. The Housing for People wants to bring a ballot initiative that seeks to require buildings exceeding the current zoning to go before voters and raise the inclusionary ordinance for affordable housing from 20% to 25% city-wide.

Schendledecker is “very sympathetic” to Housing for People. 

“I am happy to go to the voters,” she said.

“I would of course like to see more inclusionary units but I want to see housing get built so that’s something I’m advocating for,” said Kalantari-Johnson about housing across the city. She has put forward an agenda item to form a Housing Element sub-committee to study if it would be possible to increase city-mandated affordability without styming private development. 

If you go: 

Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson’s launch party will be held Friday Oct. 6 at Vino at the Sea, 55 Municipal Wharf Ste B, from 5 pm-7:30 pm.

Joy Schendledecker’s campaign launch will be on Sunday Oct. 8 at Pizzeria Avanti, 1711 Mission St, from 2-4 pm.

3 COMMENTS

  1. While I ABSOLUTELY respect Mrs. Applebottem’s 1st amendment RIGHT to voice their perspective on Mr. Playfield and his wife, I VEHEMENTLY disagree on the grounds that Playfield is CLEARLY the hotter of the two. @applebottem, crack a book maybe???

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  2. On page 14 of your Oct 4-10 issue Shebreh Kalantari Johnson claims it is best NOT to represent her constituency but instead favors meeting with staff and city manager prior to Council meetings as a way to get things done. She went as far as claiming “ diverging from staff recommendations means you are giving staff a message that you don’t think they know how to do their job. That creates divisiveness and frankly nothing will get done.”
    Why then did Kalantari Johnson go directly against Staff recommendations during one of the most important issues in her time on Council: choosing and setting District Voting maps (Council meeting 4-19-22) ? Please review her lame reasons for choosing map 602, a realtor’s dream map which goes directly against the lawsuit’s goals to keep communities and neighborhoods TOGETHER. City Staff recommended map 604b.
    Many of the City Council’s actions are under legal review for their many missteps that resulted in denying City Voters 1) their right to choose at large elections over using districts, 2) the right to vote on using ranked choice voting as a way to meet the lawsuit’s requests, 3) not publishing images of the maps in question prior to the rushed June 2022 election in a mainstream newspaper. All during COVID lock downs and fear.
    City Voters continue to ask exactly why is Beach Flats connected to Westlake homes, UCSC cut in half and Walk Circle cut in half? Shebreh’s gerrymandered map tells voters much more about her as an upcoming candidate in District 3. The CIty flow chart places City Voters at the top choosing representatives who must listen, respond and act on behalf of their constituency, not to be a shill for realtors and developers as much of City Staff continues to rally for. Follow the money. Shebreh’s campaign money comes from Santa Cruz Together who worked hard to end the Empty Home Tax for affordable housing and they led the Recall of 2 duly elected progressives who were exonerated from all charges of sexual harassment and bullying and were instead found to be passionate about what they believed in according to the independent City investigation called the Rose Report.
    Ann Simonton (working for ranked-choice voting and At-large City elections).

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  3. Agree with Ann Simonton. Why indeed did the city council Gerrymander the city of Santa Cruz to produce districts that do not keep communities together? Developer and real estate money talk very loudly and nowhere does it speak more vociferously than the city of Santa Cruz. Best council money can buy…look at all those market-rate condos for evidence. Santa Cruz is for sale, but voters can have their say, vote YES on Measure M1

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