Santa Cruz Summary of Issues
We are from Intermountain West and wished we would have researched Sperling's info beforehand. We have never seen anything like the lack of care/concern (i.e., apathy) from city/county leaders relating to multiple problems. If we knew what we know now, we would have NOT moved here.
The noise pollution is horrendous. More vehicles than not are rundown, mufflers have holes in them so VERY loud. Some think it's "cool" to turn up vehicle's audio system, noise blasting from vehicles, all hours of the day/night.
Unemployment: The employment rates are higher than national average. Very strange given we are so close to Silicon Valley. Either city/county leaders don't want to attract good paying jobs or they don't care given "tourist and students" provide the most money and they don't have to work for it since both come year after year regardless.
The roads within city limits is laughable. We have never seen anything like Ocean Avenue. It is literally like driving on a dirt road in the backwoods with all the cracks & mediocre patch-work repairs. Riding a beach cruiser along it was like taking our bikes up in the mountains---bumpy, vibration, all the screws needed tightened afterwards. It's unacceptable. This is one example of many roads needing repaired. Where is all our local taxes going?
Contaminated beaches (3 of 10 of CA's beaches are right here in Santa Cruz County, tourist council dirty little secret). Cowell Beach, at the wharf, ranks #1 according to multiple reports. Capitola Beach, east/west of the jetty and, then Rio Del Mar beach. Go to California Coastkeeper Alliance, Beach Report Card and local news for more information.
Homelessness downtown, along San Lorenzo river, along West Cliff Drive etc. is heartbreaking and scary at times when he/she confronts you asking for money. We've seen multiple times, homeless people urinate right out on the sidewalk by Trader Joe's parking lot and the movie theater on Riverfront (Regal Riverfront Stadium 2). Trash along the river (delicate ecosystem for birds and marine life), which flows right into the ocean at Cowell Beach, making the already contaminated area even more so.
Illegal drugs, cigarette butts & marijuana use. Seen many used IV needles strewn along West Cliff Drive, beaches and by Seabright Beach (along East Cliff). The amount of discarded cigarette butts just thrown in/around parking areas on West Cliff Drive (which either blows right into the Pacific Ocean, affecting marine life negatively, or into private property which tobacco has been known to kill plants). Drug dealers regularly cruise along West Cliff trying to make their next deal. Pathetic.
Feral cat problem (certain residents feed such all the while these "wild" animals are using others property as their personal liter box). Many complain about dog owners not picking up waste, well, the feral cat problem here in Santa Cruz is beyond belief. Cats have been known to kill MILLIONS of birds, plus urine and feces is more toxic than canine. Can you imagine a pack of dogs being allowed to roam free to use the area as they feel fit? Can you imagine? Well, that is what city/county officials have allowed feral cats to do is roam free while using private properties as he/she feels fit. Do NOT dare bring it up with the residents who believe the feral cat (even fixed then released back into the community) is a problem. Huge arguments then the "complainer" will be labeled within the neighborhood as an animal hater and blacklisted within the neighborhood. It's such a disturbing issue.
Drought: The lack of concern for conservation unless fines are levied against residents. There are still people within the city/county who have thirsty lawns--it should be banned in the West. California is in its 4th year of gut-wrenching, historic drought. Multiple long-term residents even had the nerve to say, "Not that big of a deal. It's been dry before." Nope, nothing like this. We believe he/she has NEVER traveled to the Central Valley (Modesto/Bakersfield areas) where the farmers are sucking more ground water from the aquifers then being replenished to water thirsty almond and pomegranate farms (pretty much the same Big Agriculture corporations). The amount of greed at the expense of the environment is disgusting.
Lack of affordable student housing. University of California, Santa Cruz last year (fall of 2014) admitted 700 more students even though the housing in/around the college is dismal. There's greedy homeowners renting 1400 square feet homes to 8-10 students, causing HUGE parking issues, partying concerns, and noise disturbances. Most of the students are renting such houses for $5000+ and on multiple occasions we have found out the homeowner was reporting such property as their "primary" residence. Reason, we believe, in an attempt to avoid paying appropriate taxes, which costs ALL of US money. City obviously doesn't care to come up with a plan that would solve such issues or track such illegal business practices.
Short-term, vacation rentals, illegal rentals: City needs to come up with a plan to track such properties given it reduces such available housing to students and professions wanting to live/work in the area. All a person has to do is go on Craigslist's Housing section to see how many people are sub-leasing properties or leasing places short-term for the biggest amount of money in their pockets. It would be interesting to know if such person(s) are paying appropriate taxes on such arrangements--I highly doubt it, which again costs all of us. Then, the illegal rentals in "Tuff Shed-like" units where there's no full kitchen or leasing out closets/garages. It's going on more than anyone would like to admit.
Crime and vandalism: On multiple occasions, we have been awakened to gunshots coming from the Natural Bridges area. Tagging of street signs, large dumpsters, fences and businesses. There's been multiple gang related stabbings and shootings since moving here a year ago. For such a small town, this type of violence and crime should be lower, but it reminds of inner-city statistics. Don't even get us started with Salinas & Seaside (Monterey County) 40-50 miles south of Santa Curz, it's the killing fields.
Think long and hard about what type of quality of living you want compared to cost of living, including expensive food prices (we live very close to many produce farms, yet, cost of food is the same or more than 100 miles away). Sperling has the statistics that CANNOT be refuted.