Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Santa Cruz Looks Even Weirder Now

"Keep Santa Cruz Weird" is a popular slogan for t-shirts in my old hometown. For a while Paul put a satirical T-shirt on Cafepress saying "Santa Cruz is Weird Enough Already" but later thought better of it and took it down. Why antagonize the mob? They have no sense of humor about this.

Earlier this week I received my weekly email version of "The Good Times", Santa Cruz's largest weekly newspaper. "The Good Times" has tried from time to time to actually be a real newspaper but these days the vast majority of articles are written by overworked and underpaid kids just out of college, interns and unpaid "citizen journalists." Same like lots of weeklies all over the country, same as here.

Last week's "Good Times" reported that the Rittenhouse hole is finally being replaced with a building. Rittenhouse has left an empty space in the heart of Santa Cruz since his original building fell in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. I'm quite certain he and his family were waiting for a firm commitment from either the city or a major business to occupy the space. The mystery is why it took so long to do this when all the other fallen buildings were replaced long ago.

No matter, supposedly it's happening now or has happened already. I couldn't tell from the article online. The thing that caught my attention was the silly man-on-the-street opinion poll on what that building should be used for. Here were some of the responses:

"I'd like to see some beautiful local artists be represented there, performance artists, visual artists, musicians and have it be another community art space in Santa Cruz."

"I'd like to see half this building turned into a community garden, and the other half a big free school for anybody who wants to take classes. And a part of that would be a meeting space and a library."

"I think it should be turned into an ecological workshop center, and there can be workshops on herbal medicine and urban gardening and composting."

Now, personally, I'd love to see some economic stimulus money for all these kinds of purposes... but my first response was are these people insane?

All the things these people thought should be "top priority" already exist in Santa Cruz. Most places on the planet don't have half the alternative opportunities Santa Cruz provides. But almost no attention is paid to how to keep Santa Cruz financially viable and an affordable place to live. Santa Cruz currently has an unemployment rate over 11.5%. That's worse than most places in the nation. South Santa Cruz county (Watsonville) has an unemployment rate of over 27.5%! I don't know what to make of that. I just glanced at that puff piece and shook my head.


john (santa cruz) said...

haven't seen the article, but the head of the downtown assn said that the building completion was delayed (i.e., finishing the interiors, etc.) because Rittenhouse was trying to hide the complete absence of tenants. And 6 months later it's still empty with no prospects.

And that mondo condo thing on North Pacific? Still mostly empty with the city suing for millions and getting two units (about 10% of their development loan).

It's definitely weird enough already!

Sheryl Karas said...

Interesting. A big huge housing center in the heart of downtown with all the units priced too high to fill left empty when people are leaving California in record numbers because of the high cost of living!

The thing that got me about some people's comments int he Good Times was this pie int he sky "we need another library with a meeting space" when there's a great library with meeting spaces struggling to keep its doors open just one block away from this project!

It's all like la-la-la, we're all in the merry land of Oz and we don't need no stinkin' reality check here.

Sorry, living in black and white "Kansas" really holds this weirdness up in sharp detail. (Not that Santa Cruz doesn't have a lot going for it!)