Santa Cruz County has an issue. Some would say there’s not sufficient reasonably priced housing, because of Silicone Valley commuters, UC Santa Cruz’s rising scholar inhabitants, our Sluggish Development insurance policies of the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies, and Historic Preservation.
The housing disaster, nevertheless, is a nationwide drawback, and locations that over-built like Silicone Valley didn’t remedy the issue, however have greater housing costs than Santa Cruz County. Sluggish Development insurance policies did certainly trigger our drawback, but it surely was a “drawback” they meant to trigger. It was born of group activism, and electing Sluggish Development metropolis officers.
They created a mannequin of sustainable development, protected the village high quality of our cities, stopped freeway growth from dividing and destroying neighborhoods, used historic restoration to beautify the present constructing inventory as a vacationer vacation spot. Santa Cruz stopped high-rise development from remodeling the Waterfront into Miami Seashore, referred to as for Photo voltaic Entry by means of top limits, greenbelted town, protected open area, turned a Tree Metropolis U.S.A., land-banked our agricultural areas in opposition to sprawl, and conserved nature. Even with Sluggish Development, we have been projected to have totally built-out town by the Millennium.
If it doesn’t appear like Santa Cruz did something up to now 50 years, that’s the purpose. When postwar improvement pressures have been the strongest within the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, as an alternative of giving-in to the Automotive Tradition of decentralized cities alongside freeway corridors of suburban sprawl, Santa Cruz selected to protect the Pedestrian Tradition and village really feel.
Because the Automotive Tradition merged cities with industrial sprawl, Santa Cruz and the remainder of the Monterey Bay Space turned uncommon for retaining it’s picturesque pedestrian qualities and Humanist structure, which served our vacationer financial system.
It was my technology’s intent at hand all the way down to future generations the cities we liked, and the values we discovered in an period of over-development. We promoted our area as a spot guests and residents would love. And our sin was conserving Santa Cruz lovable, and livable. So it isn’t lack of provide that’s the issue, however over-demand for the Santa Cruz that exists as we speak.
Even for many who find it irresistible, Santa Cruz will not be all the time a straightforward place to reside. We’ve got droughts, wild fires, floods, landslides, earthquakes and tsunami. But as an alternative of dividing us, disasters deliver us collectively, and sharpen our concentrate on what qualities we want to preserve in the course of the rebuilding course of. Our seasonal financial system of agriculture, tourism and faculties, has seldom offered many good jobs, so some folks commute, or take a pay-cut to reside right here, or create their very own job.
However in the course of the pandemic lock down, some “COVID-19 Refugees” moved from extra densely populated large cities into much less crowded locations like Santa Cruz County, as a result of should you’re going to make money working from home on Zoom, you’d somewhat be dwelling in a spot that prioritizes magnificence, recreation, open-space and village tradition, over impersonal freeways, flats and concrete.
Science of happiness
In 2011, Dan Buettner went on Oprah selling his guide “Thrive: Discovering Happiness the Blue Zone Method.” He coined the time period “Blue Zones ” in a 2005 Nationwide Geographic article, to designate areas of the world with a better ratio of human longevity. These inhabitants thrived on a lifetime of average train, wholesome diets, a powerful social life, good coping expertise, and an upbeat religious outlook. In different phrases, they have been completely happy. Buettner started finding out the locations that created these Blue Zones, and realized that some communities have been already designed to encourage a wholesome, completely happy life-style.
Buettner featured San Luis Obispo on Oprah as “one of many nation’s happiest cities.” Like Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo has an agriculture/tourism/faculty financial system. To offset the Automotive Tradition’s polluting, sedentary fast-food way of life, social isolation, and stress-inducing commutes, in 1970 San Luis Obispo underwent a pedestrian make-over. They widened sidewalks, created a plaza, biking-hiking trails, sidewalk cafes, banned drive-through quick meals, and public smoking. The poor jobs market made it a sacrifice to reside there, but it surely was value it to take pleasure in a pedestrian way of life in a lovely place. They promoted cultural values with their very own orchestra, live performance corridor, museums and leisure venues. The humanities and delightful structure enrich group life.
Whereas a throwback to the village idea, it set a development for designing Blue Zone communities for optimum happiness, de-emphesizing Automotive Tradition parts, and enhancing pedestrian facilities. Having issues inside strolling and biking distance put folks able for social interactions. The extra you knew your neighbors and townsfolk, the safer you felt, and completely happy neighbors elevated your personal happiness.
How can we evaluate?
The similarities to Santa Cruz made one marvel how we stacked up. Since 2007, the Santa Cruz Seashore Boardwalk has acquired the Golden Ticket Award virtually yearly as America’s Finest Boardwalk, as a pleasant architectural fantasy in a pure setting. The UC Santa Cruz was declared essentially the most influential faculty in Astrophysics in 2008 (Cornell/UC Regents), sixth most influential in Finance (2010), and Forbes referred to as it one of many 14 Most Stunning Campuses within the World. Based in 1965, UCSC was already designed with Blue Zone parts, as a cluster of schools on a walkable bikeable campus in a state of nature. In the meantime, the Atlantic declared Santa Cruz the fifth Most Creative Metropolis in America in 2011, and the second Healthiest Metropolis in America the next 12 months.
Then in 2017, Dan Buettner and Gallup’s social scientists created an index to rank the 25 Happiest Cities in America for the Nationwide Geographic. San Luis Obispo ranked No. 5. But Santa Cruz-Watsonville got here in because the Second Happiest Metropolis in America, after Boulder, Colorado. They have been adopted by No. 6 San Jose; No. 13 Salinas, and No. 17 the San Francisco Bay Space.
All 25 listed cities have a number of faculties, and all however three of the cities are liberal-leaning. The liberal issue was not a part of the Nationwide Geographic examine, however a Crowdpac survey of these in 378 cities who donated to conservative-or-liberal causes. Berkeley was rated essentially the most liberal city in America at 98%; Santa Cruz is No. 16 at 95.1%; forward of San Francisco No. 17 at 93.5%; with Boulder, Colorado, No. 36 at 92.4%.
Within the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, historic downtowns have been dropping their companies, changing inventive facades with bland modernizations or demolitions, whereas competitors got here from chain shops constructed alongside freeways that might solely be reached by automotive. Gated suburbs have been created with out downtowns, church buildings or group facilities. Our county downtowns noticed a revival by means of historic restorations, which turned dying enterprise facilities into thriving vacationer sights and group gathering factors.
Santa Cruz put in the Pacific Backyard Mall in 1968 as an open-air historic buying district, with huge sidewalks and plush landscaping. The Cooper Home was the acknowledged centerpiece of the downtown, the 1895 county courtroom home transformed into Victorian retailers and eating places, plus a well-liked sidewalk cafe with reside leisure. The landmark was demolished after the 1989 earthquake, a loss so heartbreaking, it spawned the Downtown Design Pointers for brand spanking new development to attempt to retain the Humanist character that the outdated downtown embodied.
With Nationwide Geographic rating Santa Cruz the Second Happiest Metropolis In America, it felt just like the lengthy and tough rebuilding course of had paid off. One of many Blue Zone options is a populous that feels equal in standing and entry to energy. Santa Cruz is democracy at its most engaged. The spirit of volunteerism and activism could also be laborious to take at occasions, however it’s what has formed our group.
Santa Cruz comeback
As COVID-19 restrictions elevate, Santa Cruz is headed for a powerful revival. That is based mostly on one of many defining parts of a Blue Zone group: that experiences are extra beneficial to at least one’s happiness than cash or issues. Individuals are keen to earn much less, or reside in smaller houses, for the privilege of being in Santa Cruz. My dad, who grew up poor in outdated Santa Cruz, used to say: “For those who pays your payments and purchase groceries, you’re as well-off because the richest man.”
Santa Cruz is an expertise. There isn’t any Zoom equal to being there. Even within the midst of the pandemic, folks got here from throughout to go to the redwoods, surf, stroll on the seashore, and bike or stroll alongside West Cliff Drive. In an experiential financial system, a historical past plaque isn’t any substitute for a landmark, a treadmill isn’t any substitute for a park, an image isn’t any substitute for a panorama, and glare off a glass constructing isn’t any substitute for daylight.
The Tannery Arts Heart was focused to deal with artists, a phase of the inhabitants that contributes drastically to our cultural life, however have been being squeezed out. It’s a vacationer attraction, that highlights the historical past of its space, making a most well-liked mannequin of culturally enriching improvement, particularly in an period concerning our landmarks as vacant tons.
Let’s save the Blue Zone heritage of the Second Happiest City in America.
Ross Eric Gibson is a former historical past columnist for the San Jose Mercury Information.