Given the freedom of choice that accompanies the latest technological advances, it isn’t surprising that increasing numbers of workers in the tech industry have decided to set anchor here. And while the reception by the locals hasn’t always been exactly hospitable, the tech money - and everything that comes with it - is definitely here to stay.
You no longer need to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco to buy a $9 smoothie or a $300 pair of shoes. And the $5 per square foot rate that the new shops are paying at Abbott Square - with percentage rent provisions to boot, while certainly a contributing factor to the rising price of blended fruit - is also pumping money back into the economy by giving the local owners of those properties more money to spend back into the community.
Our interaction with Silicon Valley bears resemblance to the love-hate relationship shared between the locals of any number of tourist towns with the outside visitors whose dollars fuel their economies. The difference here is that many of the outside visitors have come here to stay full-time, and are now becoming the new locals. And like it or not, along with the emerging new breed of locals, the standards for education, recreation and housing have risen as well.
The challenge for the old guard - at least, those dating back to ancestors who displaced the Ohlones - has been to find ways to adapt and to tap into the economic wellspring that has swept into the area in order to able to keep pace with the rising cost of virtually everything, as things continue to grow and evolve. And with the tide starting to shift increasingly from NIMBYs to YIMBYs involving key issues like housing density and infrastructure, it will be interesting indeed to see how things continue to transform over the course of the next 25 years.
I would like to believe that through the process of intelligent growth, we can at least retain some of the core characteristics that ‘Keep Santa Cruz Weird’ and that we can make it possible for the maximum number of people who live here be able to stay, while not losing the essence of what drew us to this beachside town in the first place.
Exploring just how we can achieve that is the challenge that lies ahead.