Our Quest for Our New Home: Show Support

mike_headshotNew Home 2016 Update from Mike Ryan, Artistic Director, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Posted November 20, 2015

This is the third blog post in “The Quest for Our New Home” series.

This blog post is about how you can best express your public support for Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s proposal for The Grove at DeLaveaga. (In fact, I have rewritten it three times as my understanding of how the City’s review process works has evolved). There are a great many moving parts, and learning how best to manage community support has been challenging. Of course, the temptation is simply to ask all of you to be with us at every step of the process: attending all of the community meetings, writing in to City Planning during the public comment phase, and writing to the City Council. The reality, however, is more complicated.

We have a community meeting scheduled for November 30th, 2015, in the City Council Chambers at 5:30pm. This meeting will not include the City Council, but is designed for residents of the Prospect Heights neighborhood and surrounding areas with concerns about traffic and noise. It provides them a forum to express those concerns and receive assurances from the experts who conducted studies in those areas, as all our consultants deemed there was no significant impact to the community. The agenda is simple. Parks and Recreation will re-introduce the project and provide comments on how the new outdoor theatre might be used by the City when SCS is not in session, City Planning will discuss where it sits in the Application Process and clarify the timeline for reaching City Council and a final decision. I will speak about the studies we conducted on behalf of the neighborhood and introduce our experts who will each speak about the results of those studies. In particular, we will be focusing on the Biotic Reports for Habitats and Wildlife, the Traffic Study and the Noise Study. After the experts have spoken, we will open the floor for questions from community members.

Because this meeting is designed to allay the concerns of those folks who feel they will be most affected by the move to DeLaveaga, we don’t want to bog down the meeting with praise for the Festival, or drown out the legitimate questions and concerns that people may have about the impact on their neighborhood. I believe very strongly that these issues must be addressed honestly and directly and that if neighborhood folks feel their questions and concerns have not been heard or answered, those who oppose the project will continue to do so. Consequently, I would ask that we not overwhelm them with a crowd of supporters. That said, I am interested in seeing some key people at that meeting. Specifically, if you live in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, or used to live there, and support the Festival’s move to the park, then it would be great to have you present. Also, if you live on the Westside along Western Drive, Bay St. between Mission and High, or along High St. (i.e. routes that people used to take to get to and from the Festival), it would be nice to have you there. My hope is that those of you in the latter category can provide assurances that in the 34 years of the Festival’s incarnation, outdoor Shakespeare didn’t lower your property value, quality of life, or wake you up in the middle of the night. So, if you fit into one of those categories, please attend. If not, give this one a pass so the neighbors don’t feel overwhelmed.

Not long after the community meeting, the public comment phase of the project will begin. This is an environmental comment period and is not for people to say, in general terms, we support or do not support this project. Instead, people will write with questions about how the project will impact the environment, and the City responds to each and every question by pointing the concerned party to the appropriate study or finding that addresses their concern, or by clarifying why certain studies were not required for this particular project. Again, we would like to avoid overwhelming the city with comments of support so they can focus on the questions, and we can streamline this process.

“But Mike,” you ask, “how CAN we show our support for the Festival’s move to DeLaveaga?” DeLaveaga-detailAnd I have an answer for you! Writing your city council members to express enthusiasm for our new home is much appreciated. Emails sent to citycouncil@cityofsantacruz.com will be distributed to all members of the council and other key parties. We will want these to ramp up, with only a few emails each week, until we are close to the final city council meeting where approval of the use of the new site is on the table. At that time, we will unleash the floodgates and I will ask everyone who is willing to write to do so. If you are interested in writing an early letter of support, please email me, so I can coordinate our efforts. When the time comes for everyone to write, I will let you know via this blog, our website, and Facebook.

Finally, there have been a couple of letters to the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel from Prospect Heights residents expressing concern about the project, and it would be great to see some letters that reflect the passion that many of us share for the many benefits Santa Cruz Shakespeare brings the city and its generations of residents. Letters to the editor can be no longer than 150 words and may be submitted online.

There will be other ways to help in the coming months, but for now, please express your love for Santa Cruz Shakespeare to your friends and neighbors in addition to the forums listed above. It may seem a simple and even unnecessary thing, but I believe there is no better argument for our new home in DeLaveaga than the love and passion so many of you have for the festival. Thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.