As Santa Cruz voters get their ballots, there are five issues that will directly steer the county’s policy decisions. City on a Hill Press has your guide on the five measures placed to the voters and how each measure will impact Santa Cruz residents.
The County Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), also known as the unincorporated area vacation rental/overnight lodging tax, decides whether there should be an increase in the existing TOT from 11 to 12 percent for hotels, motels, and inns, and 14 percent for rental or vacation properties. The money from the increase in taxation will be used for Santa Cruz county public services, including street repair, wildfire safety, houselessness programs, and public/mental health services.
Voting “yes” on Measure B secures funding for essential public development, and addresses the rising issue of vacation rentals in neighborhoods without financially impacting local residents. Measure B raises the tax by one percent on visitors staying in hotels or inns, and by three percent on visitors in residential rentals.
Voting “no” on Measure B stands against the increase in the existing TOT. Arguments against Measure B state policy-makers have not held promises made on similar ballot measures and the allocation of money from the tax will not be upheld. The tax may impact local residents that rely on temporary rental homes. The tax increase would impact these residents at a much higher rate than visitors in hotels, despite their permanent residency in Santa Cruz. If approved, Measure B results in a $2.3 million increase in the General Fund revenue. The increase in tax revenue would begin Jan. 1, 2023.
When you purchase a beverage in Santa Cruz, there is currently a 25 cent fee for the disposable cup. As of now, the full 25 cents remains with the seller, but Measure C may change that.
If passed, half of the existing 25 cent cup fee would be reallocated to the Santa Cruz County General Fund, the remaining 12.5 cents would remain with the seller.
It is estimated that the Measure would generate $700,000 in revenue yearly. Said revenue would be used for addressing pollution, protecting water quality, wildfire prevention, and environmental restoration.
If the measure is rejected, the entire 25 cent tax would be retained by the seller or provider of the disposable cup. If approved, the measure will be enforced beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
No argument against Measure C was filed.
The Santa Cruz County Greenway Initiative Measure asks voters to decide whether or not to amend the language of the Circulation Element of Santa Cruz’s General Plan. The amendment would either support the development of a multipurpose railway, known as the Greenway, along the Santa Cruz Branch Line Rail Corridor or maintain the current railway.
The Santa Cruz County General Plan is a set of policies, programs, and other objectives that guide city planning and land expansion. Consistent with what Santa Cruz County citizens want implemented in their community, these policies and programs ensure adequate quality of life. The Circulation Element of the General Plan serves as a long-range policy guide for the County for transportation decisions, such as the maintenance and improvement of transportation facilities and programs.
The construction of the Greenway would mean that existing rail tracks and two lanes currently under construction would be removed. While the initiative would change the language of the Circulation Element, the actual construction of the Greenway requires the approval of railbanking. This is a legal process that gives priority to future freight service and the preservation of railroad easements.
Voting “yes” on the measure would amend the language of the Circulation Element of the General Plan to support in creating the multi-use trail. Furthermore, it would mandate the removal of the currently existing tracks. Other additional changes include policy language modification for transportation system goals, development of recreational systems, and movement of commodities.
The language surrounding freight passenger rail services would also be amended, meaning that they’d be either reduced or eliminated from the Circulation Element. Voting “no” means that the Circulation Element of the County’s General Plan remains unaltered.
Measure E proposes a change in the process of City Council and Mayoral elections.
As of now, Santa Cruz residents vote for each city council candidate through at-large elections. If Measure E is passed, residents will begin voting for council members within their assigned district, based on the area they live in. The council has agreed on a six-district map that voters will have access to prior to deciding.
This change is in response to several complaints from city voters who feel as though the council doesn’t represent them and their identities. In past years, the city has been threatened with lawsuits from Latine voters who felt underrepresented in local government.
If Measure E was passed, voters of color could elect someone who represents their community effectively.
The passing of this measure would also give residents more agency in choosing their new mayor, who is currently voted on by the council. A vote “yes” on Measure E would support city voters voting for the mayor themselves. This change would have no effect on the mayor’s role or salary, but it would change the length of their term. Mayors currently serve for one year, but if Measure E is passed, their term would be four years.
Voting “no” on Measure E would lead to the future proposal of a new, seven-district system. With a “No” vote, the mayor would continue to be elected by the council annually, leaving city voters out of that process.
Measure F proposes a 0.5 percent regressive sales tax increase, from 9.25 percent to 9.75 percent, to support the city’s efforts to “maintain and expand essential city services.” The estimated $6 billion of added revenue will help the city address some of its most pressing challenges — including the housing crisis, increasing threats of wildfire, and an economy still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
All proceeds raised by the Measure F will remain in Santa Cruz and be added to a general fund supporting:
- The creation of affordable low-income housing
- Expanding mental health and substance abuse services
- Modernizing firefighting services and reducing wildfire risk
- Ensuring a living wage for low-income workers
- Providing and developing support for the homeless population in Santa Cruz
- Maintaining public goods, including roads and sidewalks as well as parks and recreation facilities
- Supporting local businesses as they continue to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Measure F appears on the ballot after being unanimously approved by the Santa Cruz City Council. Opponents of a regressive tax argue that it may disproportionately burden lower-income consumers. It should be noted that essential purchases including groceries, prescription medication, diapers, and feminine hygiene products will be exempt from the half-cent tax increase.
Election day is on June 7, and the polls close at 8 p.m.