It’s hard to see the forest through the trees. But it’s even harder to envision a capitalistic Santa Cruz filled with tract housing and strip malls. Yet that’s exactly where we’re headed. We once valued our “slow growth” and thoughtful development strategy, keeping over-zealous developers at bay and making decisions that supported the local community and the people who lived in it. But new wealth from the tech industry and increasing work-from-home job options that internet business allows has greatly impacted our community. Out-of-state developers are replacing local contractors and chain stores are replacing locally owned shops. Tech industry salaries are driving up real estate prices and driving out local residents. Social media seems to have replaced social activism. And while we do have a good deal of local nonprofits and state programs for the most economically disadvantaged, there is nothing available for the working/middle class which means it will continue to decrease in size. It’s the same old story of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It just seems like a city as socially conscious as Santa Cruz would not allow such capitalistic tendencies to prevail. The Santa Cruz I know love for it’s eclectic mix of people, ideas, and backgrounds would fight for it’s beliefs.
So what’s going on?
The internet for one. Perhaps the ease of online shopping has surpassed the desire to support locally owned businesses. Or perhaps, the cost of living has caused too many locals to move away in search of a better quality of life. Maybe we are all just overwhelmed by all of the “things gone wrong” that we‘ve lost our drive to push back. Although there are many factors at play, the most influential and undeniable culprit of all is the influx of money from the tech industry.
What does this mean for Santa Cruz?
Ever since the tech giants chose to build their empire in our neighboring valley, the entire Bay Area has shifted it’s focus. Silicon Valley became the new stock market in the 1990s with the first major tech boom, and then again more recently with the launch of mobile apps and startups. Investors, both local and foreign, have been putting their dollars in tech, and thus, in California real estate ever since for the guaranteed returns. It’s the safest bet you could make. And now, with the entire world becoming increasingly dependent on personal electronic devices, there is very little chance of “the bubble bursting”. This means the cost of living in Santa Cruz will continue to rise and local first time homebuyers will continue to lose out to over-market bids and all cash offers.
Why is tech industry money so bad for Santa Cruz?
More money means better healthcare, schools, and a safer, cleaner Santa Cruz right? In theory, perhaps. But when money rushes in too quickly to an area ill prepared for rapid growth, things get messy. Roads and city infrastructure lack the means to accommodate the population increase which leads to housing, traffic, and parking issues. Resources are spread thin and local healthcare providers become maxed out. Decisions that affect the future of the city are made in haste. Residential and commercial real estate gets bought up before laws are created to regulate the new and changing marketplace. The number of private schools increase bringing top notch education to those who can afford it, and negatively affecting the quality of public education. Not to mention the extremely hostile social environment created by vast economic disparity and gentrification.
What can we do?
Money is king and progress is progress. We live in a desirable and commutable area, so isn’t this shift inevitable? Maybe. But HOW it happens and how it affects our community is up to us. Now is NOT the time to be apathetic, unregistered, and careless. We can’t afford it. Literally. Now is the time to get educated about local politics if you care about the future of this city. It’s time to get our sh*t together and consider what role we will play in the re-invention of Santa Cruz.
MEFORMAYOR is a band, a movement, and a last stitch effort to preserve the diversity that makes Santa Cruz unique. Music has the power to unite, communicate, and inspire. It may be our best chance at combatting the capitalistic swells and marketplace homogeny threatening our community’s livelihood. Or, it may, in the least, convince a few folks to vote.
In case you‘ve mistaken us for angsty youth, we’ve included a reading list below with relevant links to websites and articles for your enlightenment.
“A band and social advocacy experiment, MEFORMAYOR explores the challenges facing Santa Cruz County residents amidst the rapidly changing socio-economic climate. Satirical and sobering, it’s social commentary for the thicker skinned. ”
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