Milpas Street
The three candidates for the Santa Barbara City Council District 1 seat want to revitalize Milpas Street. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

In many ways, it’s Jason Dominguez vs. The World.

Dominguez won election to the Santa Barbara City Council in 2015 — against on onslaught from the Democratic Party of Santa Barbara County, which had thrown its weight behind Andria Martinez Cohen. At the time, Dominguez was a newcomer to city politics and bucking the Democratic machine was no small feat.

Four years later, the party still isn’t on Dominguez’s side. It has endorsed Alejandra Gutierrez, a lifelong Eastside resident, for the District 1 seat in the upcoming Nov. 5 vote-by-mail election. Cruzito Herrera Cruz is also running — the sixth time he has been a City Council candidate since 2011.

The district — and the issues it faces — is somewhat of a microcosm of Santa Barbara. Milpas Street, much like State Street downtown, struggles with homelessness, crime and public safety issues.

Several controversial high-density housing projects are also in the works on the Eastside, over the opposition of neighborhood residents.

Even the Eastside’s parks have received unwelcome attention, from a hypodermic needle found discarded at Vera Cruz Park to last week’s middle-of-the-night stabbing at Ortega Park, which has been the scene of ongoing loitering, drinking and drug use.

Cruzito Cruz

Cruz grew up on the Eastside and is a perennial council candidate, with five unsuccessful previous attempts. While earnest in his effort, he refuses to run a formal campaign, does not raise money and won’t advertise.

Cruzito Cruz

Cruzito Cruz is undeterred by five previous unsuccessful Santa Barbara City Council campaigns. “All of Santa Barbara needs to witness a political candidate that got elected without political contributions,” he says. (Cruz family photo)

At council forums and in news media interviews, he frequently jumps around from topic to topic.

“My belief in political contributions has been my political Achilles (heel) because I have requested zero political contributions from any Santa Barbarians,” Cruz said in a a statement to Noozhawk. “The importance of political participation is done from my understanding of the civic needs coupled with an analysis of past city’s revenues and past city’s expenditures that my past elections civic-study-real-life-course has bestowed me from the other candidates of Dominguez and Gutierrez.”

Cruz, an IRS income tax preparer consultant, said his political candidacy has been rooted in “true nonpartisan political practice, in order, to educate, empower and energize others to engage locally and/or through political suffrage mobilization.”

He said he wants the city to provide low-income housing, and spend more money on infrastructure improvements on the Eastside. The city, he said, needs to be more fiscally conservative, but spend money on programs that help youth, adults and seniors.

Cruz vows to run until he wins.

“All of Santa Barbara needs to witness a political candidate that got elected without political contributions,” he said. “If not this election, there will be 2024 or 2028 or 2032. Chicano Power!”

Jason Dominguez

Dominguez is an attorney, and he is never reluctant to cite his lawyerly credentials, or humanitarian work in various parts of the world.

Jason Dominguez

Jason Dominguez is seeking re-election to the Santa Barbara City Council while also running for the Assembly. “Voters sent me to the council to get results, and I’m asking them to do so again,” he says. (Dominguez campaign photo)

On the council, his style is unique: The freshman is not afraid to challenge his colleagues, city staff or even the city attorney, if he has a question or different perspective.

While the culture of the City of Santa Barbara organization has often been that the city administrator runs the show and the council members’ power is symbolic, Dominguez has flipped the paradigm on its head.

He points fingers, speaks sternly and is unafraid of offending anyone. He frequently duels with Mayor Cathy Murillo, even mounting a short-lived challenge to her role as the council’s representative on the Santa Barbara County Association of Government, a position traditionally reserved for the mayor.

Dominguez refused to attend a council retreat at the Santa Barbara Airport because he believed holding it 10 miles from City Hall was a barrier to residents who wanted to attend, and grumbled that the meeting was not televised.

If there is a 6-1 vote, Dominguez is often the lone dissenter. Most recently, he voted against the city spending $250,000 on marketing to let residents know about public works projects because he thought the city could provide the same service for less money.

“I’m not interested in ‘going along with the program’ when the status quo is badly broken and not working for my constituents,” he told Noozhawk. “… Voters sent me to the council to get results, and I’m asking them to do so again.”

Despite his ability to annoy his colleagues and city staff, Dominguez has worked hard to speak out on issues in his district. He has made the safety of city parks a primary conversation at City Hall, frequently videotapes bad behavior in parks and shares it with police, and personally has confronted park loiterers.

Dominguez was one of the first council members to blast the city’s Average Unit-sized Density Incentive Program. Although the program was intended to encourage developers to build affordable housing, he said developers and homeowners were buying single-family houses — which, on the Eastside, often housed multiple families, many of them Latino — and replacing them with larger rental apartment projects leased at market rates.

“My greatest accomplishment on the council was spearheading the changes to our city’s housing plan,” Dominguez said. “It was failing in the goal of housing our essential workforce, including first-responders, teachers and nurses.

“It resulted in the demolition of affordable units and squeezed in under-parked, luxury apartments, adding to parking and traffic circulation issues.”

The council showed little interest in amending the 2013 ordinance before he was elected, but in the last year the council agreed that the ordinance needed an overhaul.

Dominguez is also running for the Assembly in the March 3 primary, but first he hopes to get re-elected to the council.

“I am running for the Assembly because there are urgent problems that my community is facing that can’t be solved from the City Council,” he said.

Alejandra Gutierrez

Gutierrez grew up on the Eastside and now works as the executive director of the Franklin Service Center.

Alejandra Gutierrez

Alejandra Gutierrez is a first-time City Council candidate running with the endorsement of the Democratic Party. “Everybody needs to get involved,” she says. “I decided to run to spark a fire.”
(Gutierrez campaign photo)

She notes she is “not a politician,” and believes in empowering her community from the ground up. She credits her success to teachers who believed in her, neighbors who cared for her and parents who inspired her.

“My mom cleaned houses in Montecito,” Gutierrez said. “At a very early age I understood what privilege looked like, what having money looked like, what having money didn’t look like.”

Gutierrez said she wants City Hall to pay attention and do a better job of communicating with Latino families on the Eastside.

“Someone like me doesn’t normally run,” she said.

If elected, she promises to stay true to her community.

“People know me,” she said. “These are my people. I understand the consequences of the decisions I make.”

Gutierrez also is concerned about the Milpas Street business climate and the potential gentrification of Haley Street.

“Our local government needs to do a lot more in empowering and helping local business people,” she said. “There’s a lot of things the city needs to fix.”

In a bit of an unusual move, Gutierrez is running a campaign without a political consultant. She started out with veteran Stephanie Langsdorf, but the two abruptly parted ways.

Gutierrez was endorsed by the Democratic Party, so she is getting organizational help from the group’s platoon of volunteers. Still, she said she enjoys managing her own campaign because she knows her community best. She wants the community’s help.

“Everybody needs to get involved,” she said. “Everyone needs to get organized. I decided to run to spark a fire.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at