Despotism and developmental colonialism | Ross Eric Gibson, Local History – Santa Cruz Sentinel
The Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II (1741-1790), summed up his “enlightened despotism” as “Everything for the people, nothing for the people”. However, the Americans, who qualified British colonialism as a form of despotism, created in 1776 a “government of the people, by the people and for the people…”.
Meanwhile, on the west coast, Villa de Branciforte was founded in 1797 as the third and last Spanish settler community in California, in an area now known as Eastside Santa Cruz. Yet the promised property, homes and privileges were not honored, leaving the settlers in dire poverty. They found only resentment from the chaplains, retribution from the soldiers, and indifference from the provincial government. With no one to represent their interests, in five years they took matters into their own hands to elect representatives, making Branciforte the cradle of democracy in Spanish California. La Villa called for an end to the mission system and independence from Spanish colonialism.
Return to colonialism
Yet the yoke of colonialism has reappeared at times in our history when the government decides it cannot trust the voters. In 1950, San José declared itself the “Los Angeles of the North” and its expansionism colonized many neighboring farms and hamlets, remaking the “Valley of Hearts Delight” fruit capital in a cobblestone highway culture. In the 1960s, redevelopment destroyed “ethnic” neighborhoods in favor of massive highways and “Urban Renewal” housing projects, which benefited few residents. This affected black neighborhoods like the Filmore neighborhood in San Francisco, while five freeway routes were considered through the Santa Cruz Westside.
Oldtime Santa Cruzans recalls that there was no trick-or-treat in the vacant neighborhoods, made up of second homes and summer rentals. It was this seasonal housing stock that made the University of California Santa Cruz such an attractive prospect in 1965. It was assumed that apartments and cottages would be rented by tourists during the summer season and by students out of season. . Yet by 2020, 95% of UCSC’s 17,207 students live off campus, with plans for a larger student body, as UC regents are not bound by local governments.
Santa Cruz worked hard after the destruction of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, to guide reconstruction through area plans for parts of Santa Cruz, with meetings to attract the widest possible audience. Our values have been carefully articulated, supporting the ambience of the village, artistic styles compatible with the local character and buildings on a human scale. And when studies found that the Beach Flats neighborhood had only about five owner-occupied homes among many rentals, city council moved to increase the level of homeownership.
County mobile home parks have been the first line of affordable housing. Chicago’s infamous billionaire Sam Zell used to buy mobile home parks across the country and raise rents, sometimes by several thousand dollars. This included De Anza Mobile Home Park on the cliffs above Natural Bridges State Beach, and in 2003, after four years of litigation with Santa Cruz, a federal court declared the city’s rent control order unconstitutional. The city forced the owners of De Anza to strike a settlement to save the city $ 1 million in additional public legal fees. The settlement allowed for a 34-year lease at previous rents, but with understanding, this disappears when the property changes hands, raising the rent and lowering the value of the house.
So they can’t sell without losing all of the equity in their home, which drops from $ 200,000 to $ 20,000. (Frank Wodley, November 1, 2007; Good Times, March 12, 2013).
When the Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the city’s general plan in 2012, I asked the Planning Department not to zoning the Garfield Park Church property as housing. I was concerned that luxury real estate developers would eliminate a community resource under the guise of urban renewal, which I was assured was unlikely.
Then came the bogus “Latin American voting districts” that Santa Cruz must create. (Sentinel June 9, 2020). The city was sued in 2018 by a Santa Barbara law firm, alleging “a digest of Latin American voting rights and a racially polarized vote in the city of Santa Cruz” which “diluted” the Latin American vote . The company has sued a number of small towns and California school boards on light charges, without any standard for defining what constitutes a violation, and replacing the general election with polling districts as the only solution, even if they don’t. not produce Latino. Polling district.
San Francisco-based Pedro Hernandez’s Fair Vote organization studied Santa Cruz census demographics and concluded that the city’s 20% of the Latin American population was so dispersed that it would be impossible to formulate a district. Latin American (Good Times, August 12, 2019). While this may benefit some neighborhoods, it’s not for a vote, as city voters rejected voting districts in 2000, until they were imposed on us.
Now we are in, not a “housing crisis“, but an “affordable housing crisis”. More housing at market price is not the same as affordable housing. Those who blame Santa Cruz’s slow growth policies misrepresent the situation. Santa Cruz is often less expensive accommodation than on-campus accommodation. And Silicon Valley, which has gone in the opposite direction of over-construction, still has people coming to Santa Cruz, because “Santa Cruz is cheaper than San Francisco and other parts of the country. [Silicon] Valley…. ”Said Jen Rettig of local tech company“ Looker ”(Sentinel, August 29, 2017).
The Santa Cruz draw
The county has made an industry to attract people to Santa Cruz, to enjoy our mountains, our redwood canyons, our fertile valleys and our coastline. Our two main economies are landscapes, tourism and agriculture. Yet even without these benefits, the same house would cost twice as much if built on the waterfront as it would be inland. (SF Gate, June 11, 2018). The most desirable places to live in America are two states dominated by the coastline. California, the third largest state by area, has 840 miles of coastline, and Hawaii, the 4th smallest state, has no less than 750 miles of coastline. California and Hawaii are called “lifestyle states,” where people make sacrifices to have “quality of life” as a top priority, despite the cost of living or a tight labor market (2017 statistics).
Buildings in Santa Cruz often exhibit an intimate character, instead of the institutional aspect, and there are many wonderful examples of recent structures that exemplify this point. Even the notoriously ugly proposition of 831 Water Street is close to the kind of aesthetic skyscrapers that Santa Cruzans can live with, and that complement Branciforte’s unique history. Ten years ago, this would have been called a special opportunity site to interpret its story. Sadly, San José’s colonialist spirit of forcing its Freeway aesthetic on a humanist community was authorized by Senate Bill 35, granting developers dictatorial powers to ignore the sensitivities of local jurisdictions, if they want to do so. housing.
The final outrage is the loss of protected landmarks in favor of a form of housing coercion. If we can’t influence the aesthetics of new construction, then all we do is replace cherished architecture with institutional blandness, which isn’t worth worrying about.
The question is: what exactly ensures that affordable housing remains affordable? You have House Flippers buying affordable, to make it less affordable. And just like notorious developers buying up trailer parks to raise their rates, a disturbing new trend has hit the housing market. Financial companies buy single family homes in desirable areas, out of sight, with all the cash up front, as soon as they hit the market, even offering a higher than market rate. Then they hire them. One home buyer said that unless you can bid $ 250,000 in cash, you cannot compete.
Tennessee State University professor Ken Shilton lamented these “Wall Street owners” taking over neighborhoods. “It’s just private capital that comes in and buys capital into communities, and sends it back to people who are already wealthy. (NBC News, October 6, 2021).
And no matter how enlightened despotism is, no volume of construction will be able to “solve” the affordable housing crisis. Because Santa Cruz will always have an overabundant demand and a limited land supply.
Ross Eric Gibson is a former history columnist for the San Jose Mercury News.