.Voter Guide: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, District 1

This is part of our voter guide coverage for the fall 2020 election.


Although it initially had the potential to be a single-issue race focused on a narrow coastal transportation corridor, the discussion around the District 1 seat has broadened in recent months. 

Challenger Manu Koenig says he initially decided to run against sitting Supervisor John Leopold for his Mid-County seat because he thought that Leopold was too supportive of plans to introduce passenger train service along the abandoned rail corridor, despite community concern and mixed evidence. Koenig—the former director of Santa Cruz County Greenway, and who has opposed passenger rail service—believes Leopold is generally slow to adapt to changing information.

Leopold, who serves on the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, notes that an alternatives analysis is underway studying how best to use the corridor. The commission is moving forward with a bike and pedestrian trail, with the intention of some mode transit running alongside the trail. He says he’s focusing on key issues his voters care about, like housing, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, allowing fire victims to rebuild, and addressing racial injustice. In terms of recent accomplishments, Leopold, 54, cites his resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, the Sustainable Santa Cruz County rezoning plan for new corridor-oriented development, and his work to lower rates for Santa Cruz city water customers living in Live Oak. 

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When it comes to housing, Koenig says he supports the Sustainable Santa Cruz County plan, but he says Leopold went against it when he voted to approve a Nissan dealership on Soquel Avenue. He says he would like to see the county streamline building in District 1 and allow for more tiny homes. Koenig, 35, also thinks the county should better engage with criticism, including findings and concerns raised in Grand Jury reports in recent years on issues like homelessness, fire safety and mental health.

Click here to see all of our ongoing 2020 election coverage.


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