Live Oak, Soquel voters rank housing as a top concern
The Santa Cruz local heard from 81 English and Spanish speakers between the ages of 8 and 84. The poll was not intended to be scientific, but rather an informal poll of issues important to voters. We asked:
- What is your biggest need from local government?
- What personal experience makes you care about this issue?
- What do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote?
We conducted interviews with residents of District 1 in:
- Live Oak Market.
- Community bridges.
- Live Oak Elementary School.
- Live Oak Gray Bears food distribution.
- Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce Expo.
- Santa Cruz County Fair.
- Watsonville Strawberry Festival.
- Aptos village.
We also shared our survey in our newsletter and social media channels.
Population priorities are listed below in order of frequency.
- Affordable housing
- Rent assistance
- Homelessness solutions
- Traffic relief
Affordable housing was the most frequently mentioned issue across the District 1 residents we interviewed and surveyed. Residents said they want affordable housing for themselves and their communities.
Several residents said they had friends and family who moved away from Santa Cruz County because they couldn’t afford rent. The parents said their adult children could not live here.
Soquel resident Scott Young said he wants “zoning that allows for affordable housing.” He said one of his friends moved into a trailer in the backyard. Several other friends moved to Oregon or the East Coast because they couldn’t afford to live in Santa Cruz.
Live Oak resident Michael Taylor, 41, said he wants a higher tax on vacation rentals to help build affordable housing. Taylor grew up in Santa Cruz County and said he knew people who spent 80% of their monthly income on rent. (Natalia Dresser – Santa Cruz Local)
Residents said they want a variety of housing options to meet different community needs. Affordable housing development was mentioned several times, as well as accessory dwelling units and townhouses. Some residents said they just want more affordable housing built. Others said they want more housing at all price levels.
Duane Adams, 72, wants to provide more affordable housing for families. “Families are the cornerstone of any community, yet all the affordable housing projects planned in this area are for single people,” he said.
Live Oak resident Paul Kaneko, 79, is a retired city planner who worked in the cities of Scotts Valley and Watsonville. He says he wants county leaders to fix roads in Live Oak and find properties on which affordable housing can be built. (Natalia Dresser – Santa Cruz Local)
Need help with rent
The need for rental assistance was the second most important priority we heard from District 1 residents.
Live Oak resident Monica Torres, 32, said she wanted resources to help her family afford rent. Torres said she spends $100 a week on gas to drive to beauty school in San Jose. She wants to become a hairdresser.
Torres has a night job cleaning a restaurant. The only reason her family of five could afford rent was because they had lived in the same house for 10 years. She added that if they had to leave, they wouldn’t be able to afford the higher rent.
Live Oak resident Milagros Villalovos, 43, says she wants help with rent and child care before school. She starts working as a custodian at 7 a.m., but pre-school childcare doesn’t start until 7:30 a.m. (Natalia Dresser – Santa Cruz Local)
Billy Rainbow, 68, retired software engineer. He said he was almost homeless after losing his rent for 26 years. “Housing costs here are a crime against humanity,” he said. Rainbow said he wanted to see the government.”In fact, it significantly reduced the current costs of housing.
Another top priority among District 1 residents was finding solutions to homelessness. Many residents said they want the local government to help people who do not have housing. Some people said they didn’t want to see people in their community experiencing homelessness.
Sabrina Weaver, 62, said she lives in her car in Live Oak. She said she wanted access to showers and a safe place to park her car at night.
“I park the car surreptitiously, so I’m not in the same place every night. You know, so I’m not bothering the neighbors,” she said. The Santa Cruz County Housing Authority put her on the waiting list for a housing voucher in 2003. When she became eligible for voucher, she said she couldn’t find a landlord who would accept it.
Katayoun Salehi, 34, wants the local government to provide “a significant increase in homeless services” and “a true premier housing system in the province.”
Salehi said she co-founded the Secret Garden women’s shelter, worked at Footbridge Services and volunteered with Food Not Bombs. “We can’t keep saying there’s no place to build and there’s not enough money,” she said.
Residents also said they wanted to know how the supervisor candidates would work to provide mental health and addiction services and counseling.
Many District 1 residents want to feel safe in their community.
David Doolin, 63, lives in District 1 and owns a business in downtown Santa Cruz. He said he wants public safety to be a top priority.
“My team was attacked, and my property was stolen and damaged,” he said. He’s concerned about the impact crime has on businesses in Santa Cruz County.
Lee Houghton, 46, a Live Oak resident, works in construction. He said he wants Santa Cruz to be “safe and clean.”
Other District 1 residents said they were concerned about gun safety in their children’s schools, access to hard drugs in Santa Cruz County and drunk drivers. Residents said they want their community to be a safe place for families.
Some residents said they wanted more police, others said they wanted less. Salehi said she wants the county to reallocate funding to “less policing and more services.”
Pleasure Point resident Linda Lee, 74, volunteers with the Santa Cruz Welcoming Network for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. She said she wants Santa Cruz County to have better infrastructure because she loves riding her bike everywhere. (Natalia Dresser – Santa Cruz Local)
Many District 1 residents said they want transportation solutions. They said they were concerned about traffic and wanted to walk and bike safer.
James Wheeler, 72, said he wanted better access to public transportation.
“I can’t drive a car, I can’t ride a bike, I can’t walk long distances, so I need ways to get to and from public transportation access points.” He uses an electric scooter “but there are no safe parking spaces at bus stops, and no electrical outlets to recharge my scooter,” he said.
Many residents said they have to plan their days around traffic through the county. Proposed solutions ranged from expanding highways to increasing public transportation and walking and bicycle infrastructure. Residents also expressed concern about the impact of new housing on traffic.
A draft of our people’s agenda
Santa Cruz Local’s questions for District 1 County Supervisor candidates are based on topics we’ve heard from District 1 residents. These questions are Santa Cruz Local’s “People’s Agenda.”
- How can county supervisors help fund and facilitate more affordable housing? Which area of your district would support more density?
- Should county supervisors help current residents with rent stabilization or rental assistance? If so, how?
- What specific short- and long-term strategies will you support to address homelessness?
- Some District 1 residents are dismayed by crime, drug use, and litter. How can county supervisors help residents feel safe?
- Many District 1 residents told us they want traffic relief. What can county supervisors do to reduce traffic and make biking and walking easier for District 1 residents?
District 1 residents, what are your thoughts on our grassroots agenda? We invite you to Take our online survey. Your comments will contribute to future reporting for the general election scheduled for November 5, 2024.
Yesica Guzman contributed to the Spanish translation of this story.