Ryan Coonerty
Council Member, Santa Cruz City Council
First Elected: 2004-2008
Current Term Expires: November 2012
(831) 420-5020 City Hall
(831) 423-8939 Residence
mailto:[email protected]
Public Address
809 Center Street, Room 10, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Ryan Coonerty was the mayor of the City of Santa Cruz from 2010 to 2011. He is a lecturer in law at UCSC, he is the co-founder of both NextSpace, a co-working business, and the community organization Santa Cruz Next. He wrote the book "ETCHED IN STONE: Enduring Words From Our Nation's Monuments." He is also the son of Neal Coonerty who is a former mayor himself and currently a county supervisor. Neal Coonerty is the owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, and Ryan Coonerty grew up in the 1970s and 1980s with a father who owned a large business located on Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz.

Ryan Coonerty's positions on downtown issues are both at the heart of his support by community members as well as the basis for a human rights based critique of his tenure by his detractors.


  • Coonerty lists the following accomplisments on his website: "creating an Ayuda Linea (Help Line) for day laborers to report incidents of abuse, investing the City’s reserve funds locally to spur the local economy, and authoring an ordinance that allows dense, for-sale housing which will provide affordable housing for teachers, city workers, firefighters and police."1
  • Coonerty collaborated with local artists to help reform the City’s permitting process so that musicians could play in restaurants and cafes without first obtaining a permit2
  • He created a task force to increase the safety, cleanliness, and promotion of Downtown Santa Cruz.2
  • Coonerty helped save the City of Santa Cruz money when he negotiated with UCSC concerning the university's plans for growth in the future. This resulted in the settling of a variety of law suits outside of court, as well as requiring UCSC to contribute more towards the costs of their growth10
  • In 1991, when Coonerty was a senior at Santa Cruz High School, as a response to the AIDS epidemic it was his idea to insert condoms in the school newspaper, which gained national attention10
  • As a student at the University of Oregon, Coonerty registered 7,450 voters in a get out the vote drive, a nation-wide college record at the time10


  • In April of 2006, Coonerty strongly supported a city ordinance that limited the amount of time a person could spend in a downtown parking lot or garage to 15 minutes. Coonerty believed that parking lots were meant for nothing more than parking cars and bicycles and he was quoted as saying, "The Civic Auditorium is a public space, but that doesn't mean you can walk in any time and do whatever you want."3 Some felt this was another type of loitering law that was unfair to anyone who visits Santa Cruz, and other critics believe the ordinance to unfairly limit the types of activites that occur downtown, such as waiting for someone, reading, or eating in one's car. The ordinance pushes people out of their cars and into the business community.
  • In January of 2011, As mayor, Coonerty changed the rules for the open comment period during city council meetings, and restricted the amount of time for the public to participate. He moved the comment period from 3pm tp 5:30pm, and he restricted the period to 30 minutes with two minute limits for each speaker.11
  • In July of 2011, Coonerty voted in favor of the lifting of the ban on dogs downtown, but also approved of the inclusion of the added provision that panhandling would not be permitted in the prescence of a dog. He was quoted as saying, "People use dogs as a way to garner sympathy. We thought that was an inappropriate use of an animal in this situation."4 Critics feel that this discriminates against poor people.
  • On July 12, 2011, the State of California's Fair Political Practices Commission issued a warning to the City of Santa Cruz that a letter by Mayor Coonerty detailing city achievements that was included in a water department mailer that promoted the proposed desalination plant was in violation of state ethic's rules. The flier was mailed out to 24,000 residences in June. No fine was issued because Mayor Coonerty was not eligible for re-election.12

NextSpace & Santa Cruz Next

Coonerty founded NextSpace with Caleb Baskin and Jeremey Neuner, who was an economic development manager for the City of Santa Cruz while Coonerty was Santa Cruz’s mayor. Baskin is described on the NextSpace website as being a, "local attorney and business leader."5 Prior to co-founding NextSpace with Neuner, Coonerty and Baskin founded Santa Cruz Next.

  • On the Santa Cruz Next website, and under the heading "Our Values", the organization states, "Santa Cruz NEXT believes in: Engagement, Awareness, Involvement, Commitment, Enjoyment, Sustainability, Inclusion, Creativity, Transparency, and Tolerance."6 Coonerty often fashions an image of himself in ways that are at odds with his voting record as a city council member (often these ways link his actions to some ambiguous moral high ground). Another example of this can be seen when he was quoted after the California Coastal Commission's vote on the La Bahia project. He was qouted as saying, "This was a good project that reflected the values of Santa Cruz....Mark Stone failed to represent the community, and I am extremely disappointed in his leadership."7 Both sides representing that issue had reasons for their position that "reflected the values of Santa Cruz", however it was Coonerty who chose in that quote to associate himself with moral correctness. The 2011 statement is also at odds with a previous Coonerty quote where he discusses the differences between his generation and the previous generations' "challenges" and he states, "I think we all share the same values but the challenges and the perspective are different."8
  • Coonerty's NextSpace partner, Jermemy Neuner, was quoted as saying in a Santa Cruz Sentinel article about downtown merchants frustrated with their perception that the downtown posessed a negative public image, that, "I'm not particularly interested in people's civil rights right now...Sometimes we have to break sacred cows."9 Coonerty's association with Neuner and NextSpace raises important questions regarding the relationship between his business practices and professional allignments to how the business-friendly city ordinances he has ushered in as council member and mayor have affected people's civil rights downtown. For example, he has supported as council member an ordinance that makes it illegal to do anything in one's car in a downtown public parking lot for more than 15 minutes. He is the co-founder of a downtown business that offers as one of its primary services a co-working space that provides recreational and eating areas, including a cafeteria. When acting in response to his is political interests, he has helped create a hostile public atmosphere that makes it more difficult to do just about anything downtown, especially 'free' activities, and while acting in his business interests he has created a private, for profit, self contained space that provides everything a business person could possibly require. To what extent has Coonerty financially profited from his political activity?

Political Positions & Connections

Committees Served On(2011):

  • City of Santa Cruz/Soquel Creek Water District Desalination Project (Alternate)
  • City Schools Commitee
  • Economic Development Council
  • Sanctuary Inter-Agency Task Force
  • Community Programs Committee

Committees Served On(2007):

  • City Schools Working Group
  • Conference and Visitors Council (CVC)
  • Downtown Management Corporation
  • Economic Development Council
  • Sanctuary Interagency Task Force

References & Citations

Related Links

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