Watsonville voters call for youth and family activities, rental assistance

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Watsonville resident Maria Martinez, 30, says she wants more city-sponsored youth activities. “Do something to keep the young people busy,” she says in Spanish. “There is nothing to entertain them.” (Kara Meyberg Guzman – Santa Cruz Local)

WATSONVILLE>> Ahead of the Watsonville City Council race in the Nov. 8 election, many Watsonville voters said they wanted candidates to focus on rent assistance and youth and family activities.

In August, the Santa Cruz Local surveyed about 60 Watsonville residents about their priorities for local race candidates. Interviews took place at Watsonville Farmers’ Markets and other locations. Participants ranged in age from 10 to 81 years old.

We asked:

  • What is your greatest need from local government?
  • What personal experience makes you care about this issue?
  • What questions do you want to ask local candidates as they vie for your vote?

Youth activities

Watsonville residents said they want more structured activities for students after school.

Enriqueta Rojas, 78, said in Spanish that she wanted more structured activities to “reduce delinquency among young people”. Rojas said Watsonville needed more after-school activities because many parents stayed at work farming in the afternoons.

Some students and parents said they wanted more sports, park activities and opportunities to make art.

Places to visit

Many young people and families said they wanted more stores and businesses that make Watsonville a fun place to hang out.

16-year-old Watsonville student Miguel Ortiz said: ‘We need a mall or an arcade for teenagers like me to play. I have to go to Salinas to play at an arcade. I have to go to San Jose to go to a mall. For me, at my age, I like playing in an arcade and shopping. And there is nothing here.

Lorenzo Holguin, 44, said he ran a non-profit bike co-op cooperative in Watsonville. He said some young people hang out there, but there are not many places for young people to go. “There’s not much for young people to do here,” Holguin said. “Why not bring bowling back?”

Rent, jobs and wages

Of the 58 Watsonville residents surveyed, 15 said they needed help with rent. Many residents said they wanted better jobs and higher wages to pay their rent.

Watsonville resident Margarita Sotelo, 51, said she made $16 an hour at her full-time job in Santa Cruz County. She said she was not eligible for food stamps because she earned too much money.

The rent for her mobile home park space has gone up 5% this year, she said. She pays about $1,000 a month, including utilities.

“I would like to ask [the city council candidates]: What are you going to do for the rents? said Sotelo in Spanish.

Watsonville resident Fidel Guzman, 51, runs a landscaping business. He said he was considering returning to Mexico due to the high cost of rent and gas in Santa Cruz County.

Guzman earns around $3,000 a month. His rent for a three-bedroom house on Rodriguez Street is $4,000. He lives with his son and daughter, who also work for the landscaping company and pay rent. Guzman and his wife live in the garage so they can sublet a room to make ends meet.

He wants the city council to focus on the high cost of rent. “It’s so over the top,” Guzman said in Spanish. “We don’t know how to survive now in this place, how to live.”

A popular program for Watsonville City Council candidates

Based on themes that emerged from Watsonville residents, the Santa Cruz Local has created a list of questions for Watsonville City Council candidates. The list is the popular Santa Cruz local agenda:

  1. Many voters said they wanted more activities for young people, in part to reduce gang involvement. What will you do to expand the city’s parks and recreation programs for youth?
  2. Many young people told us they wanted more fun places in Watsonville, like arcades and stores. What will you do to attract more businesses that cater to young people and families?
  3. Many Watsonville constituents told us that rents were rising and housing seemed unaffordable. What will you do to help tenants? How would you deal with the high cost of rent?
  4. What will you do to make the streets of Watsonville safer for walkers and cyclists? Where?
  5. Voters told us they want better jobs and higher wages. What will you do on City Council to bring better employers to Watsonville?

Kara Meyberg Guzman contributed to this report. Oscar Rios provided Spanish interpretation.

An interactive chart presents the main priorities and needs mentioned by Watsonville residents. Data is based on 96 interviews and survey responses. Data was collected in February, March and August 2022. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

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