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November 8, 2016 — California General Election
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Local

City of Santa CruzCandidate for City Council

Photo of Steve Schnaar

Steve Schnaar

Bicycle Mechanic/Educator
10,423 votes (10.48%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Affordable Housing and Growth Planning: The lack of affordable housing is becoming a real crisis, making it hard for people who work here to live here as well. I’d like to see the City take a variety of measures to increase affordable housing.
  • Positive Solutions to Homelessness: Homelessness is a national problem based on inequality, unemployment, low wages & inadequate services. We can take constructive steps to help houseless individuals & reduce negative impacts on public space.
  • Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability: I am appreciative of our parks & green spaces, &dedicated to their protection. I would like to address climate change by increasing public transit, car-sharing, & active transport.

Experience

Experience

Profession:bike mechanic at The Bike Church, afterschool bike club leader
Bike Mechanic, The Bike Church (2015–current)
Youth Instructor, Green Ways to School (2010–current)
Founder of the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, The Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project (2010–current)

Education

University of Michigan Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, physics, math, philosophy (1999)

Community Activities

Co-founder and Organizer, Santa Cruz Bike Party (2014–current)
Steering Committee Member, the Resource Center for Nonviolence (2014–current)
Bookkeeper and Steering Committee Member, People Power (now Bike Santa Cruz County) (2010–2014)
Member and Oraganzier, Santa Cruz Against Methyl Iodide (2011–2012)

Who supports this candidate?

Featured Endorsements

  • Don Lane, Santa Cruz City Council Member and former mayor
  • The Monterey Bay Central Labor Council (MBCLC) representing 70 affiliated unions
  • Santa Cruz for Bernie

Organizations (3)

  • Bike Santa Cruz County
  • The Sierra Club
  • People’s Democratic Club (PDC)

Elected Officials (2)

  • Celia Scott, former Mayor of Santa Cruz
  • Jane Weed Pomerantz, former Mayor of Santa Cruz

Individuals (13)

  • Craig Reinarman, UCSC professor
  • Rick Longinotti
  • Dr. Paul Lee, Founder and Faculty Director: UCSC Student Garden Project and the Homeless Garden Project
  • Peter Klotz-Chamberlin
  • Barry Kirschen
  • Jo Kenny
  • Mary Howe
  • Esther Greenburg, Chair Santa Cruz City Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women
  • Darrell Darling
  • Emilio Martínez Castañeda, Beach Flats Community Garden
  • Peter Beckmann, Beckmann’s Old World Bakery
  • Nancy Abbey, Affordable Housing Now!
  • Henry Schwab, CEO/CFO Synergy Clothing

Political Beliefs

Position Papers

Affodable Housing

Summary

As a small city close to the beach and Silicon Valley, it is unavoidable

that our housing costs will be higher than average. However there are steps we can take to improve the situation, and as a council member I would make them a top priority.

Being a renter myself, I am very concerned about the sharp rise in rents in recent years, in a city that was already one of the least affordable in the state. The lack of affordable housing is becoming a real crisis, making it hard for people who work here to live here as well. As a small city close to the beach and Silicon Valley, it is unavoidable that our housing costs will be higher than average. However there are steps we can take to improve the situation, and as a council member I would make them a top priority.

One part of creating more affordable housing is building more units. Growth planning is a complicated topic, which for me rests on three main pillars: environmental stewardship and water planning, increasing housing for working people, and inviting neighborhood input into the planning process. On balance, I think that some amount of higher-density building is reasonable, but it should be distributed throughout the city, with respect for neighborhoods, and it should be done in a way that minimizes or entirely offsets increased water demand. Another way to add units without any major new construction is to permit more ADUs for use as housing (but not as vacation rentals).

In addition to the goal of adding more units, it’s important to think about what kind of housing we are creating. Inasmuch as possible, the City should work with developers to build housing within the budget of working families, as well section 8 vouchers. In development projects creating higher-end units, I support an increase in the affordable housing requirement from 15% to 25%, which is the standard in San Francisco. As a council member, I would also work to ensure that the units are actually built, rather than the City accepting a fee from the developer. While these fees can help build low-income housing elsewhere, good public policy is to distribute such housing throughout the community.

In order to compete for state and federal funds in support of low-income housing, it is helpful to have local funds. As a council member, I would strive to create new funding streams to make up for the end of redevelopment agencies. One option that I support is the creation of a real estate speculation tax, i.e. a transfer tax that is higher for properties resold within a short time. I also support an increase in Santa Cruz’ hotel tax (TOT), with some percentage allocated towards low-income housing.

Other ideas that I’ve gleaned from researching the housing crisis and speaking with community members include the creation of a tenants’ rights organization to help low-wage workers, and rent stabilization. Because state laws limit the application of rent stabilization, on its own this cannot be a solution to keeping housing affordable. But it could be a part of the solution, and at minimum as City Council member I’d want the City to examine rent stabilization possibilities and analyze how it might help in our community. 

Lastly, it’s important to remember that the flip side of affording housing is earning enough to pay for it. I support implementing the State mandated $15/hr minimum wage sooner than six years from now. The City should also pay its workers enough to live in the City where they work, fill long-term positions with regular staff rather than temporary workers, and use union labor on all public projects.

Homelessness

Summary

Homelessness is a national problem based on economic inequality, unemployment, low wages, and inadequate social services. It is clearly beyond the scope or capacity of a local government to solve this crisis. So what to do? The current trend has been to cut services and to treat homelessness as a law enforcement issue, hoping to drive people away. The problem with this, aside from its callousness, is that it doesn’t work.

Homelessness is a national problem based on economic inequality, unemployment, low wages, and inadequate social services. It is clearly beyond the scope or capacity of a local government to solve this crisis. So what to do? The current trend has been to cut services and to treat homelessness as a law enforcement issue, hoping to drive people away. The problem with this, aside from its callousness, is that it doesn’t work.

Both Deputy Police Chief Rick Martinez and City Manager Martin Bernal have said that law enforcement is not a solution to homelessness, but just pushes people from one place to the next. So rather than more laws, tickets, and policing, I’d rather see constructive steps that help individuals experiencing homelessness and reduce their negative impacts on public space. I’ve read the “All In” plan, a comprehensive approach put together by the County in conjunction with community organizations. I support this vision, and am pleased that the County and all local municipalities have already signed on in support.

An important point from the “All In” report is that people experiencing homelessness are not all the same, but include a range of individuals with different needs, from those who have jobs and families and may need just a little help, to individuals with serious mental health or substance abuse problems. For the most vulnerable chronically homeless individuals, the recommendation is to place people into permanent supportive housing. I applaud the efforts of the 180/2020 program, which has already placed hundreds of individuals into housing, using federal funds.

As permanent housing is only available for a small fraction of those in need, I also support the regional (county-wide) creation of supervised, safe and secure camping and parking areas outside of neighborhoods, like those successfully implemented in Portland and other cities. Having a safe place to sleep and secure one’s belongings is essential for a houseless person’s wellbeing, without which it is difficult to have stability and work towards self-sufficiency.

There are other essential services that most housed people take for granted, like showers, laundry, a mailing address, and a place to charge one’s phone, that many unhoused people lack. Even more basic is the needs to relieve one’s wastes, which is why I support 24-hr bathroom access. Not only is being forced to go in the bushes undignifying, but human waste and trash have negative impacts on public spaces, public health, and the environment. Positive solutions for those experiencing homelessness are usually also positive for the community at large.

 

Environmental Stewardship

Summary

Concern for the environment has been central to my entire adult life. From protecting wild areas to challenging the use of pesticides that endanger farmworkers to living without a car and growing a lot of my own food, our relationship with the natural environment is always central in my mind. I can be counted on to promote policies that reduce carbon emissions, protect natural areas, and ensure sustainable use of water and other resources.

Concern for the environment has been central to my entire adult life. From protecting wild areas to challenging the use of pesticides that endanger farmworkers to living without a car and growing a lot of my own food, our relationship with the natural environment is always central in my mind. I can be counted on to promote policies that reduce carbon emissions, protect natural areas, and ensure sustainable use of water and other resources.

As a town with incredible natural beauty and a strong environmental ethic, I think Santa Cruz could become a model green city. I appreciate our adoption of a comprehensive Climate Action Plan some years ago, although as a council member I would work to make its implementation a higher priority.

A big part of reducing climate emissions will be a shift in our transportation sector. I appreciate the City’s efforts to make cycling and walking safer, and would like to see us continue to make such improvements. At the same time, we need a convenient and reliable public transit network. In addition to a well-funded Metro, I’d like to see our region consider creative options like bus-on-shoulder highway transit, commuter benefits program to incentivize vanpooling and transit, as well as the feasibility of a commuter train. These efforts would make it easier for people to get around without driving, while reducing traffic on the roads for those who must drive.

Another key issue for our city and our region is wise water management. I support the recommendations of the Water Supply Advisory Committee, such as regional water sharing to support aquifer recharge. To limit increased demand, I would like to see the City maintain but not increase its water allotment to UCSC, while also requiring new developments to be water efficient, and incentivizing conservation in existing buildings and landscapes.

In addition to water and transportation, energy is another critical component of our environmental impact and carbon emissions. I am proud to live in a City that has solar panels on government offices and schools. I’d love to help bring community choice energy to Santa Cruz, so that thousands of energy customers who can’t afford their own solar panels or wind turbines can choose to have more of their energy come from renewable sources.

Other steps I would advocate as a council member to protect our environment and address climate change include implementing a municipal food waste composting system, as exists in Oakland and other nearby communities. Not only does composting reduce solid waste going into the landfill, it reduces climate change emissions by breaking food down aerobically into carbon dioxide rather than methane. I’ve also been disappointed that the current council has allowed so many heritage trees to be cut, and would like to reverse that trend, as well as launching a program to encourage the planting of future heritage trees. 

Lastly, as food production is responsible for some of our greatest environmental impacts, I support community gardens and urban agriculture. As director of the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, I’ve been working with the City to develop our first-ever community orchard, and would like to see that collaboration grow. As a council member I would also fight to protect the Beach Flats Garden, and work with the Parks department to look for additional spaces to use as gardens.

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