Volunteer makes second bid for Santa Cruz City Council: Steve Pleich opposed to desal, wants more affordable housing

Santa Cruz Sentinel 07/13/2012

SANTA CRUZ – Steve Pleich will be hard to miss as he and other City Council candidates line up for November’s race.

At 6 feet 5 inches tall with a shock of platinum blond hair, Pleich wears Hawaiian shirts and is a fixture at community events. And he’d like to move from his usual seat in the third row of the Council Chamber to the dais.

The 53-year-old part-time grant writer and avid volunteer is making a second effort to join the council. In 2010, he placed second to last in a field of eight, didn’t raise much money and had no real campaign structure.

This time around, Pleich said he’s more prepared, actively fundraising so he can buy yard signs and seeking endorsements of his main message – to make government and all the services it provides more accessible. A member of Occupy Santa Cruz and a longtime advocate for the homeless, Pleich believes the city needs to be more responsive to the community.

“Our City Council has not moved quickly enough nor strongly enough toward supporting the creation of affordable housing and the creation of more jobs here,” Pleich said.

Rather than invest $3.5 million in a new stadium for the Golden State Warriors Development League team, Pleich said he would rather see the city refurbish the Pogonip clubhouse or tackle other long-standing projects.

The next council likely will vote on a proposed desalination plant. As a supporter of Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives, Pleich is opposed to the facility, saying he believes conservation and other measures could make the costly supply-boosting project unnecessary.

Pleich volunteers with Save Our Shores and helps with the annual Community Thanksgiving dinner. He worked with other community members last year to raise money and interest in reopening the big pool at Harvey West Park, which the city did in June on a temporary basis.

Pleich, who grew up in the East Bay and came to Santa Cruz in 1999, lives in an RV that he sometimes parks at the Circle Church on the Westside, an arrangement he made with the church a couple months ago. Pleich said he moved there from Live Oak expressly to qualify for the council contest, but he also works with the church and several others on a homeless shelter program.

Pastor Steve DeFields-Gambrel said the church often allows people to stay in the church lot for varying lengths of time. Any more than three parties would violate the city’s camping ban, and he said Pleich is rarely there during the day anyway because he is often on the go.

“We work out an understanding with each individual person,” he said.

City Clerk Bren Lehr said, according to the county elections division, Pleich qualifies to be a candidate because he registered to vote using the church address. Records show he changed his registration from Live Oak in May.

Pleich is one of eight candidates who have filed statements of intent to run in the Nov. 6 contest for four seats on the seven-member council. The nomination period opens Monday.

Other candidates are Take Back Santa Cruz board member Pamela Comstock, resident Jake Fusari, Mayor Don Lane, former mayor Cynthia Mathews, Democratic Party chair Richelle Noroyan, nonprofit leader Cece Pinheiro and bicycling advocate Micah Posner.