When I was a rookie reporter in Santa Cruz in 1972, my worst moments came when City Editor Jim Kruger said something like: "There's a report of a bank robbery over on Soquel Avenue. Get over there." I'd run out to parking lot, jump in my car and head out. And then get lost. I got lost everywhere I went. Santa Cruz is that kind of town. It's hard for newbies to figure it out.
When I'd finally get to the crime scene, the robber had long since fled and the cops were already done with their interviews. (It was easier to find a fire, because you could just see smoke from a distance and I'd just head toward it.)
I used to figure I got lost because I was stupid, but now I find that it was somebody else's fault. At least that's what the city of Santa Cruz is saying. The City Council on Tuesday voted to wipe clean my record: they adopted something called the "Wayfinding Project" to help people get around Santa Cruz.
Essentially, the city is going to embark on a plan for better signs and other helpful items -- including cellphone apps -- to help visitors (and even directionally challenged rookie reporters) find their way around.
It's not just that the city is being nice. As Santa Cruz businessman Doug Ley pointed out at a City Council meeting Tuesday night -- downtown businesses depend on the tourist dollar, and many people don't even realize where downtown is. They travel down Ocean Street to the beach area, and may not even realize that there's a Pacific Avenue/downtown area.
The council voted to move ahead with what will turn into a $1.4 million project with these aims (forgive the bureaucratic language -- I picked it up from the city staff report.)
1. Update highway signage.
2. Update parking and vehicular directional signage programs.
3. Develop bicycle signage for the West Cliff and San Lorenzo River Levee loops.
4. Update and expand banner program to include district banners.
5. Develop orientation and online map, and hotel staff training.
6. Develop primary gateways into Santa Cruz (Ocean Street and Mission Street)
And all this time I thought I got lost because I was stupid.