Political Attacks on Brand New City Council Starting

Dear Friends,

The Brand New Council candidates —Drew, Sandy, Steve and Chris— are running campaigns that are having an effect, and it’s showing. We are seeing the response from the voices of established power and big developers.

Our team is talking and campaigning on issues:

  • Real affordable housing
  • The severe impacts campus growth is having on our town
  • Preserving neighborhoods east of the river, in the face of the developer-friendly Corridor Plan
  • How best to protect our precious Santa Cruz Environment, the one that draws tourists here from so many other places.

The Brand New Council seeks to address the concerns of students, neighbors, low-income residents and the environmental community.


This is the week the planned political attacks on our collective and individual campaign efforts will begin in earnest. The big-developer-supported candidates and their surrogates started their attack with an inaccurate op-ed Saturday in the local Santa Cruz newspaper.

In a few days, we anticipate that stories will be published that go after candidates, not on campaign issues but on alleged personal missteps dating back years. My wife, Rachel O'Malley, and I have spent hours this week on the telephone and responded to innumerable emails from the local newspaper. The reporter’s storyline? For me, it seems to be a resolved property complaint concerning the house where we raised our two daughters from 1995 to 2005.

In that context, I would like to share the timeline with you, so you can have the facts at your fingertips:

In 2005, my family moved from our home on Barson Street to our current address. Rachel had owned the Barson house since before we were married. We decided to rent it out rather than sell it. The following year, a time when Rachel was very active in advocating for better environmental stewardship of the adjacent City-owned marsh, City staff contacted her to report that they had received "anonymous" complaints about the property. These complaints alleged that two fences were too high or misaligned, a tree should be removed, and that one of the folks renting the house might be sleeping in a work space in the back of the garage. Rachel reviewed the fence and tree concerns with City planners and corrected the problem that was valid (the fence alignment). She also contacted the tenants to let them know that they should not be sleeping in the garage room, if they were. She thought that was the end of it.

Fast forward to 2010, when the well-publicized rental inspection ordinance of Santa Cruz was adopted. The City inspected the house, which at that time housed a family of four. The house passed the inspection.

Rachel asserted that we were not required to have the garage inspected under that ordinance, as it was not a rental. It was a garage, not a dwelling; the renters didn't use it, and our family still had a lot of our personal belongings in it. The city staff pushed back, but Rachel felt strongly about the issue.

In 2014, we decided that I should join Rachel on the title and that I should take the lead in working with the City. I invited the inspector in, and he ended up asking us to remove a toilet and heater that were attached to the back work space. We complied. The case was resolved shortly thereafter.

The garage has been used intermittently as a work space and storage both for renters and for our family, as it is today. We worked with the city to resolve concerns, successfully.

It is so hard to see our local newspaper spend its scarce resources going after problems that have already been solved, while it misses real stories of our housing crisis, such as:

  • Rents for Beach Flats gardeners' homes doubling overnight (this just happened this week),
  • Students on Felix Street paying $3000 for a 2-bedroom apartment, or
  • Students on campus paying $1700/mo each to to live in a double turned into a triple.

The over-development of Santa Cruz inherent in the Corridor Plan must be stopped. The next council must negotiate more effectively with developers to obtain at least 25% real affordability in every project. The university, too, must house its students. We cannot continue letting renters in this town lose their homes to second-home buyers and vacation rentals.

Attacks on us will likely continue.

We must stand together, continue to flyer and walk neighborhoods and make phone calls putting our issues—the community’s issues—front and center. This week is a BIG week. Lots of mailings will be landing; the Eastside Candidates Forum is this Friday at 5p at Roxas Church; and the “Concert for a Brand New Council” will be at the Vets Hall that same evening, beginning at 7:30p.

Please join us for these events. We need your voices more than ever. Please contact our campaign to donate money, walk neighborhoods, or make phone calls. And let’s keep our eyes on the prize: Keeping Santa Cruz safe and affordable, and stopping the current city council policies toward over-development.


Chris Krohn
October 10, 2016

Response to The Sentinel, Oct 10, 2016

By Rachel O'Malley

Ouch. Today’s Sentinel uses an old-fashioned concept when it implies that, as my husband, Chris Krohn controls my actions. Even actions from before we were married. Anyone who knows me, knows that would be impossible.

For the record, Jessica York gravely misunderstood my motivations in her very long article about the toilet in the garage -- a garage which was not a matter of great concern to city inspectors because no one was living there.

It's not just that I dislike bureaucracy (although I do). It's much more that I dislike government policies that are poorly conceived, subjectively applied, and have outcomes that hurt the most vulnerable people. The current rental inspection ordinance, conceived and promoted by Mike Rotkin and Mayor Matthews, is all those things.

The real miracle is that Chris Krohn is tolerant enough to put up with me, and let me be who I am, for over twenty years already. And yet he's always got my back. That is what I love about him. And that is the hallmark of the successful modern marriage.

On the city council, Chris will be a reasonable, and experienced advocate for renters and small landlords both. And he sure does know how to respect strong-minded women.

Santa Cruz city council needs a change, and we need it now.

Rachel O’Malley
Professor of Environmental Studies, San Jose State University