One of the oldest battles around Santa Cruz revolves around the role of business -- and, even more importantly -- business development.
Here's the history. The first big success for environmentalists was the Lighthouse Field battle of the early '60s. Developers wanted to put a convention center down at Lighthouse Field, and the slowly building no-growth movement in Santa Cruz hit its stride. Through a clever mix of protest, legal action and impressive door-to-door lobbying, the environmentalist, no-growth movement in Santa Cruz took off.
Around the same time, the so-called North Coast housing development planned for the area near Western Drive was stopped -- another big no-growth success.
Those moves set in place a no-growth philosophy that has remained in place -- pretty much -- in the 40 years since. An aspect of no-growth has also been a skepticism bordering on suspicion of business interests. The resulting cliche is as follows: business interests ruin the environment and pave over our wonderful natural state -- all for their own greedy interests.
Some examples: greedy business interests want a wider Highway 1; they want more hotel development; they want more housing; they want a rebuilt Dream Inn; they want more water supply (desal); they want a bigger UCSC; they want a convention center and this one, too: they want a bike path across vacant land at Arana Gulch.
Here's the problem: economic growth does a lot of good things. Jobs, tax revenue for local cities and the county, opportunity for all ages and even a relief for the need to commute elsewhere for jobs, goods and services.
And here's another reality not always noticed: the business community has changed over the past 40 years. If you doubt it, just check out this interesting website: the Santa Cruz Business Council. This is an organization that has undergone great change over the past few months.
Once dismissed by some around Santa Cruz as a bunch of whining capitalists, the reformed council has moved mainstream into an organization that is at once interested in economic growth but also quality of life.
The question remains: are the changes in the business community real -- or are they just hiding their greed better? More on that in the next post.