10 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY march 14-20, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com The vision for Sand City’s Art Park was hatched during the height of the pandemic, when the community still wanted to socialize, but also stay outside and at a distance. Whether or not the term “social distancing” will stand the test of time—it’s an oxymoron of sorts—remains to be seen, but it’s clear Sand City is committed to the future of the Art Park. It is planned for a block of land almost entirely owned by the city, and which Sand City officials hope will not only help inject energy into the West End district, but also add much-needed housing to the region. The idea, in a nascent stage, was presented to City Council on Feb. 20 with a preliminary concept to expand the Art Park into something more. As described in a city report, the hope is the property can become “an outstanding landmark building that defines and enlivens the area, catalyzes future redevelopment, and meets practical needs.” City Manager Vibeke Norgaard sums that up succinctly. “Sand City doesn’t own a lot of property. We’ve got to try and look at what we have and do something innovative and exciting with it and that lines up with the council’s vision of where they want to go,” she says. There are no building plans yet, it’s just an idea, one that—if Sand City can pull it off—would be a brick-and-mortar foundation that would bolster the city’s recent identity as a hub for artists to both live and work. The combination is something increasingly challenging on the Central Coast, where the housing supply has consistently lagged behind demand—whether or not water supply is a constraint. Long term, the vision is that 60 percent of the Art Park will remain as is, while also accommodating a live/work space for artists that would include 16 affordable units, eight extremely-low income, and eight low-income units. But that same building that would displace some of the existing Art Park is envisioned to be mixed-use with commercial space on the ground floor, which could be an art gallery that opens up to the mural-lined Art Park and allow for community events—the idea is to fold that open space into a brick-and-mortar core. The possibility has been raised of acquiring the one corner of the property not owned by the city. It’s the home of A&R Plumbing, but no serious offers to make that happen have yet occurred. Right now, the idea is in a chrysalis, and it could be years before the wings catch light. The rising tide of unionization and successful bids by unions to secure more pay and benefits floated the hopes of California State University student assistants last year, envisioning that they too could be recognized and rewarded for their labor. On Feb. 23, 7,252 student employees on 23 campuses voted, with 7,050, or 97 percent, voting yes to join the California State University Employees Union/SEIU Local 2579. The vote was certified by the California Employment Relations Board (PERB) on Tuesday, March 5. CSU Monterey Bay student assistants were part of the historic vote to create what is reportedly the largest undergraduate student union in the U.S. The vote also made history as the first primarily digital election overseen by PERB. One CSUMB alumna, Leah Baker, won’t benefit from the new union yet nevertheless worked to make the vote happen starting last April, after student employee organizers approached SEIU for help. “I’m so proud to be setting this up for future student assistants to come,” Baker says. As a student she worked in CSUMB’s IT Department. The money helped pay expenses, including on-campus parking. She graduated in December. “I think there’s this idea that student workers, it’s nothing more than a paid study hall,” Baker says, adding she was doing all the work that full-time staff do while being paid minimum wage with no paid sick days or holidays. “All workers deserve to be treated fairly by their employers, even if that employer is their university,” Baker says. “Student work is running these campuses, and it needs to be acknowledged for the real work that it is.” The next step for the new union is to form a bargaining committee and enter into negotiations with CSU administrators. A few weeks before the student union vote, CSU faculty successfully launched the first strike of its kind in the system’s history, winning concessions from administrators after just one day. Art House Sand City is trying to create a landmark that will both define and energize its core. By David Schmalz news NEW TECH Loaves, Fishes & Computers celebrates its 15th anniversary and its new, bigger location. The public is invited to learn more about LFC services while enjoying refreshments and a tour of their facility where computers are refurbished, distributed and sold, and tech classes are offered. 5-6:30pm Thursday, March 14. LFC, 830 Park Row, Salinas. Free. 7517725, lfctech.org. PLAY TIME University Park Elementary is launching a new playground with a ribbon-cutting event. The park is Salinas City Elementary School District’s first fully inclusive playground, which includes ramps for children in wheelchairs and walkers, and play items set at accessible heights. 9am Friday, March 15. University Park School, 833 Acacia St., Salinas. Free. 784-2270, parkplanet.com. neighborhood voices Hear a presentation about Rana Creek by the Wildlands Conservancy at the Carmel Valley Association’s annual meeting, where an introduction of board members and a talk on local issues with County Supervisor Mary Adams also take place. Wine, music and catering are also provided. 3-5pm Saturday, March 16. Hidden Valley Music Seminars, 104 W. Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. Free/CVA members; memberships available at the event for $35/person or $50/family. president@carmelvalleyassociation. org, carmelvalleyassociation.org. HEALTHY MOMS The 2024 Maternal Mental Health Forum happens thanks to sponsorships from the Parenting Connection of Monterey County and Natividad Foundation. Payors, policymakers, providers and partners are encouraged to join when they can throughout the day to learn more about supporting healthy moms and babies. The event happens 8:15am-2:30pm Tuesday, March 19 and 9am-2:30pm Wednesday, April 20 at Hartnell College–Soledad Campus, 1505 Metz Road, Soledad; also available virtually. $155; registration required. info@ policycentermmh.org, 2020mom. org/2024-annual-forum. TALENT SHOW Hartnell College hosts a STEM Expo and dives into the world of artificial intelligence. The event features a panel discussion on the future and impact of AI on our society. 1-5pm Wednesday, March 20. Hartnell College STEM Center Lobby, Building S, 411 Central Ave., Salinas. Free; registration required. mcstemtalentexpo. com. Student Union CSU student assistants vote to start a new union seeking better wages and benefits. By Pam Marino Sand City’s Art Park opened in 2021, and still hosts First Fridays and special events. A new concept envisions building live/work space for artists with 32 housing units. e-mail: toolbox@mcweekly.com TOOLBOX “We’ve got to do something innovative and exciting with it.” Daniel Dreifuss