Morning Lookout: The Passion of the Rail Debate and the Circumvention of an Affordable Housing Law

Greetings and greetings, Lookout friends! Today is Friday, February 4, and Santa Cruz County has a mostly sunny day ahead, with temperatures heading into the mid-60s — and a warming trend is predicted for the weekend and into the -of the.

Santa Cruz residents are joining a national movement today, calling for more affordable and environmentally sustainable public transit systems. Local group Equity Transit will organize a march and event to National Transit Equity Day, kick off at 2 p.m. at Swift Street and the Railway; the group plans to march via Bay Street to Lighthouse Point for speeches by local leaders, including City Council members Justin Cummings of Santa Cruz and Vanessa Quiroz-Carter of Watsonville. Follow Lookout’s Grace Stetson and Kevin Painchaud for live updates, and keep it tuned lookout for the cover.

And in case you missed it, federal scientists turn to sewage as part of efforts to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control – and Lookout’s Max Chun has the dirt on how Santa Cruz County is part of this wave.

We have many more headlines this morning – including another chapter of the heated debate on local railhow hard Woodside tries to circumvent a new housing law and our Best bets for weekend fun — so let’s go next:

Felton line freight abandonment discussion sparks passions at RTC

(Kevin Painchaud / Belvedere Santa Cruz)

An often heated discussion about the possibility of closing the Santa Cruz and Felton rail lines to freight prompted hours of commentary at Thursday’s Regional Transportation Commission meeting – but no further concrete steps. Dan Evans of Lookout details the procedure.

PREVIOUSLY: How the Santa Cruz Rail Trail Debate Created a Standoff with Roaring Camp (Lookout)

Chasing the COVID

Drain pipe near the ocean.

(Alejandro Tamayo/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Consistent sewage testing began again this week in Santa Cruz as part of a nationwide effort to learn more about local COVID trends sooner. Lookout’s Max Chun explains.

MORE ON THE PROCESS: What are they testing? Sewage is playing a growing role in COVID-19 research across the county (Lookout)

Best Bets is ready for the weekend

Valentine's Day themed carved hearts

Choose a little something for your Valentine from a host of First Friday events, scatter the mists of Omicron with a few tunes, or go virtual with a Merry Prankster. Wallace Baine and the BOLO team at Lookout have recommendations for things to do this weekend and beyond.

OUR FULL CALENDAR OF EVENTS: BOLO, your place to go for things to do
AND PLAN WAAAAY IN ADVANCE: Discover Down The Line, Wallace’s expert guide to all the good things that lie ahead

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Wealthy Woodside has a plan to avoid building affordable housing

Cougars are making the rounds on social media in Santa Cruz County, but wildfires are unlikely to have affected their habitat.

(Via US Forest Service)

The affluent Silicon Valley suburb of Woodside is trying to block Senate Bill 9, a new state law allowing duplexes on single-family home lots, by declaring itself a habitat for mountain lions. Our Los Angeles Times partners dig in.

LOCAL SCENE: Do the people of Santa Cruz divide their lots? A look at SB 9 a month later as the new law is digested (Lookout)

A 49ers fan’s apparent beating was kept secret for days

Traffic flows down Manchester Boulevard towards SoFi Stadium

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

With the Super Bowl approaching, the delay in reporting the incident during last weekend’s 49ers-Rams playoff game puts security at SoFi Stadium in the spotlight. More here from The Times.

PREVIOUSLY: 49ers fan in coma after apparently beaten outside SoFi Stadium during NFC Championship (Los Angeles Times)

California signs deal with Kaiser Permanente, jeopardizing Medicaid reforms

Kaiser Permanente's new location in Watsonville, along Highway 1, will provide expanded mental health services.

The behind-the-scenes deal with politically connected Kaiser Permanente, which has infuriated other Medi-Cal health plans, allows the health giant to continue selecting the enrollees it wants. Our partners at Kaiser Health News report on the contract expected to be announced today.

LOCAL PRESENCE: Weighing ‘wider community impact’: Mixed reviews for Kaiser’s Live Oak project as Koenig seeks feedback (Lookout)

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Around the county…

Watsonville child molester sentenced to detention without bail (Santa Cruz Sentinel)
PV Water plans, boosted storage during wet winter (The Pajaronian)
Unlawful search prosecution against Scotts Valley Police officers continues (The press banner)

OK, you’re all caught up. But there’s a lot more on the way today, including another scoop of Summary of eaters from Lily Belli – so keep an eye out throughout the day by bookmark our website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and instagram. And you can receive news alerts and our other newsletters wherever you are by visiting our Lookout newsletter and text center.

What better way to spend the weekend than supporting local journalism, right? Our content is not possible without community support, so if you are not already, please consider become a Lookout member.

Have a fantastic Friday and a safe, healthy and relaxing weekend!

Will McCahill
Santa Cruz Lookout