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OT SANTA CRUZ site of the Y2K9 International Live Looping Festival
This is a fascinating article about the city that has declared
International Live Looping
Day in the city for the last five straight years and still boasts
perhaps the largest
per capita population of live looping artists of any city on the planet.
I'm proud of this place so I wanted to share it with all of you who have
Y2K festivals in past years or are considering doing so.
The Leftmost City: Power & Progressive Politics in Santa Cruz
by G. William Domhoff
Santa Cruz, California may be the most politically progressive city in
the United States.An unlikely confederation of socialist-feminists,
social-welfare liberals, neighborhood activists, and environmentalists
has stopped every major development project since 1969 and controlled
the city council since 1981. Berkeley, Burlington, Madison, San
Francisco, Santa Monica -- none of them had as progressive a government
for even half as long.
Since most cities are usually controlled by real estate developers and
their buddies, Santa Cruz is a good test case for comparing theories of
urban power. Atypical cases are helpful in eliminating theories from
consideration if they cannot explain the unexpected events.
That's why Richard Gendron and I wrote /The Leftmost City: Power and
Progressive Politics in Santa Cruz/
Press, 2009). It concludes that the growth coalition theory
<http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/local.html> of urban
power is the one urban theorists should build on because the basic
political conflict in Santa Cruz pitted downtown landowners and real
estate developers against neighborhood activists, who unexpectedly
triumphed because they had the help of faculty, staff, and students at
UC Santa Cruz, the most liberal public university in the country, as
well as environmentalists who wanted to protect the beautiful coastline
from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. We then point out the weaknesses of
the three main alternatives to growth coalition theory: public choice
theory, urban Marxist theory, and public choice theory, which are
also discussed on this site
This Web site can be considered a supplement to that book for those who
want to know more about the history of the city and the political
leaders who have run it. It also provides information on other books and
Web sites about Santa Cruz.
Map of California
About Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is a picturesque city of 58,000 people on the Pacific
coast, 75 miles south of San Francisco. It may not be paradise,
but it's a very attractive place to live compared to many American
cities. Nestled on a ten-mile strip of coastal shelf land between
the heavily forested Santa Cruz Mountains to the north and the
shorelines of Monterey Bay to the south, the city has breathtaking
both its hillsides and beaches.
The city enjoys an invigorating climate with moderate temperatures
year round: no snow or freezing weather in the winter, and very
few days in the summer with high humidity or temperatures above
85°F. Most of the rain is in late fall, winter and early spring,
leaving many months of the year virtually free of precipitation.
The wind can be chilly near the ocean, and the fog a bit
depressing when it hangs on late into the day for a week or two,
but most days are sunny and clear.
A Brief History of Santa Cruz
Logger on old-growth redwood tree, early 1900s
Thanks to a fast-flowing river and the heavily forested mountainsides,
Santa Cruz had a number of natural assets that made it possible for real
estate owners in the little central business district to attract
capitalists and workers to the area. The river currents were ideal for
powering lumber and paper mills, which provided a major boost for a
timber industry that was profitable first and foremost because of its
giant redwood trees, renowned for their beauty, durability, and
resistance to decay and insects. An ample supply of madrone and alder
trees, which provided a good base for making explosives, brought a
manufacturer of blasting powder and gunpowder to an area in the
mountains a few miles northeast of the city.
Lime kilns at the Cowell Ranch (now UCSC)
The abundance of bark from tan-oaks -- a cheap source of the tannic acid
necessary for tanning hides -- led to a large tanning industry; by 1870,
ten tanneries, making use of hides from the Mission Santa Cruz and the
few remaining cattle ranches, supplied half the saddle leather produced
in the state. And the limestone in the hills and mountains behind Santa
Cruz became valuable because of its role in making plaster and mortar
for use in the construction of stone or brick structures, leading to the
development of several limestone quarries that by 1880 were supplying
more than half of the lime used for construction in the fast-growing
cities of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento.
A 1947 "Suntan Special" train arrives from theBay Area
Because of its beachfront setting, Santa Cruz started to be a tourist
destination very shortly after California became a state in 1850, and it
has long been known for its laid-back atmosphere and beachfront
amusement park and boardwalk, complete with an old-fashioned wooden
roller coaster -- the Giant Dipper -- that dates back to 1924. Santa
Cruz is also renowned as a great place to surf or watch surfing
contests, earning it a mention in the Beach Boys' 1963 classic "Surfin'
Santa Cruz became a college town in 1965 with the opening of a new
campus of the University of California. The local landowners were
overjoyed by winning the competition for the new campus; they envisioned
huge growth based on new industries that wanted to be near a university.
But no new industries arrived. To their chagrin, however, the campus
became a competing power base, with its faculty, staff, and students
providing neighborhoods with the added money, expertise, and leadership
necessary to reject or control new real estate developments when they
impinged on the quality of local life. The campus became even more of a
"Trojan horse" after 1971, when the 26th Amendment granted voting
privileges to 18- to 20-year-olds and made an already activist student
body into an overwhelmingly progressive voting bloc large enough to
swing elections in a pro-neighborhood, pro-environment direction when it
could be mobilized.
<http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/santacruz/history.html> for a
much more detailed history of Santa Cruz and its growth coalition.
The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake
Damage from the 1989 earthquake
Beyond its atypical power structure, there is another reason why Santa
Cruz is an interesting test case: eight years after the progressives
finally took control of the city council, they faced an unprecedented
challenge when the main business district was almost completely
destroyed by a large earthquake that struck the area on October 17,
1989, with its epicenter just 10 miles from Santa Cruz. Three people
were killed in the downtown area and nearly half of the downtown
buildings had to be torn down, with many others suffering damage that
required major repairs. Stunned city residents huddled in grief as they
saw the entire downtown core being fenced off.
The downtown businesses that didn't go bankrupt or move elsewhere had to
move into large tent-like pavilions that were hastily erected on city
parking lots just outside the cordoned-off area. In the process, the
quake also put power issues on the table once again. It handed the
disheartened business leaders what some of them saw as a golden
opportunity to regain their political ascendancy by showing how
necessary they were to economic prosperity. For the progressives, the
disaster was fraught with political danger: they needed to rebuild the
downtown in order to have the tax revenues to continue their ambitious
social programs, but they feared and distrusted the downtown land and
business owners after almost two decades of bitter political warfare.
After a long political argument between the progressives and the
downtown business community (which is discussed in detail in /The
Leftmost City/), the city slowly recovered in the late 1990s and now has
a new Pacific Avenue that is almost as vibrant as the old Pacific Garden
For a more detailed account of the history of Santa Cruz from a
sociological perspective, please read the document entitled "The History
of Santa Cruz"
which leads directly into"Progressive Politics in Santa Cruz"