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Cesear Chavez Housing Co-op burns

On Sunday evening, a fire started at the Chavez housing cooperative on Main Street in Santa Cruz -- more new to come
The fire started some time in the mid to late evening on Sunday, the day after an enourmous raging party was held there on Saturday night. The upper section of the main house was burned, along with the attic, to this author's knowledge, but details and general, vertiable information is scare right now. All residents are barred from staying there for the next several days, according to a fireman on the scene. More information to be posted soon.

The Cesear Chavez Housing Co-op has been in existance for around ten years; it has been the one-time home to many well-known Santa Cruz activists and has been one of the primary hubs of the local anarchist scene. Organizations such as Food Not Bombs use their facilities bi-weekly, and their space has been of great use to the town and the community.

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Not everyone dismayed that Beach Hill co-op went up in flames

Not everyone dismayed that Beach Hill co-op went up in flames


February 4, 2003
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ -- Residents of the charred co-op on Beach Hill say
they’re grateful to all the Santa Cruzans who offered shelter and kind
words after their home burned Sunday night.
But the fire, traced to problems with the electrical system, reminded
them that some neighbors have zero sympathy for the cooperative
Cesar Chavez House, which is considered noisy and rowdy by some.
One co-op member said a neighbor told her the fire was “thanks for
your lifestyle” and its members now “ought to get a tent.”
Ironically, when the fire began, most co-op residents were at a
downstairs meeting discussing a “noise-reduction policy” and
addressing neighbor complaints, renters said.
City fire inspector Mark Ramos said the house meeting, which was
well away from the second-floor room where the fire began, may have
saved their lives.
The insured million-dollar house at 316 Main St. sustained $200,000
worth of damage, firefighters said. Ten engines and 38 firefighters
responded. One firefighter sank through a second-story floor and
pulled himself up, but nobody was seriously hurt in the blaze.
The home’s “balloon frame” construction made the fire worse, Ramos
said. After putting out the fire in 20 minutes, firefighters spent two
hours checking the thick walls for flames, he explained.
The fire scorched the top floor of the two-story 1916 Victorian and
left 26 people, mostly UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo college students,
with no permanent home.
Residents plan to move back into the co-op but said it could be
months before the home is made livable again. Most found temporary
arrangements at the youth hostel across the street. The Salvation
Army and Red Cross also offered help.
Firefighters are not sure if a circuit overload or faulty wiring is to
One neighbor, aside from noise concerns, was reportedly angry about
the fire having reached a redwood tree that burned near a group of
townhouses, which were not damaged, firefighters said.
“One family was happy to see us burn,” said co-op member Philips
Patton, son of former Supervisor Gary Patton.
For the past 10 years the house has been a meeting and living place
for student activists.
Residents describe the 19-bedroom, two-story home as an
“autonomous, diverse place open to all physical, cultural, sexual and
spiritual types of people.” The group says it is an educational
nonprofit promoting ecological causes with frequent community
events such as a fair-trade tea and coffee open house. Out front is a
sticker saying “do something, resist, strike, quit, dance, protest,
vandalize, create, fall in love, write, yell.”
Inside, there is a mural of turtles, frogs, worms and angels stretching
up a narrow staircase that leads to a burned-out room full of melted
LP records and Greek drama texts. The kitchen is stacked with bulk
food canisters now covered with soggy hunks of ceiling. Beside the
staircase, the co-op had a “free store” where “hippies” could leave
items and take others in return. Kale, chard, collards and radishes
grow out front.
Tenants were well aware that some neighbors had a dim view of their
house, but say it’s mostly due to “residual” anger from past incidents.
They said things got ugly in 1998, in part because a student played
bongos on the roof at 3 a.m.
One neighbor, Alex Stern, said “I overheard a neighbor say, ‘You kind
of get what you deserve.’ But they’ve always been very nice to me.’’
Another neighbor said she, too, gets along with them but “they play
music and I play music too. They never play too loudly.”
Co-op members initially did not know their house was burning.
“We were down here (on the first floor) and hear some thuds, bumps,
popping and breaking glass,” said Jeremy Fredericksen, who is on the
co-op’s board of directors. “At first we thought someone was jumping
around in the room. Then we saw the sparks.”
One person was on the second floor at the time but was well away
from the room where the fire began.
The co-op that runs the house is part of a national co-op network
connected to the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO).
It also owns the “Zami House” on Laurel Street.
Patton called the house friendly and affordable. “I hope we as a family
survive,” he said. “With fire comes the possibility of regeneration.
That’s exciting but it’s going to be a long six months.”
On Monday afternoon, some were relentlessly optimistic.
“This is gonna be one hell of an art project,” said one young woman,
leaning out of a second-story window.
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at)


Anarchist Library Burns

The Anarchist Library that the house held was also a casualty of the fire; hundreds of books donated by the former Santa Cruz Anarchist Library Collective were being housed in the attic of the front house at the time of the fire; nearly all readable material was destroyed.

Also destroyed were some seriously good record collections of some friends of mine.

Man, this sucks.

Where did it start

I'm curious where the fire actualy started. I lived in the co-op back in 97 and still have fond memories of my time there. Also is the back house still habitable?

Exit Stage Left, Banging

Exit Stage Left, Banging


by Nuz

About 30 UCSC students lost their homes
Sunday night when a fire broke out at the
Chavez Co-op on Main Street.
Ironically, the students were meeting to
discuss creating a noise policy when they
heard loud cracks, bangs and popping
glass sounds coming from the upper
floors of the 1916 Beach Hill Victorian.
Everyone evacuated safelymoments
before the ceiling caved in on the living
A dense pillar of smoke drifted across
downtown as fire fighters battled the
flames for three hours. The cause of the
blaze is most likely due to faulty wiring,
said Matt McCaslin, Santa Cruz Fire
Department battalion chief.
The colorful 19-bedroom home is one of
two Santa Cruz properties owned by
North American Students for
Cooperation, and has been inhabited by
scores of students in its 10 years of
The university is assisting the students in
finding alternative accommodations. And
while the fate of the house is still being
determined, residents say the fire has
made their cooperative spirit burn
“We’re going to stay as a family,” said
Philips Patton, while Adam Zerlinger
promised that “Chavez House will be
With a bang, no doubt.

well, for your information...

The back house is still inhabitable. The extent of the damages is roughly as follows: the fire started in 'Unit Five,' in the first room on the right-hand side, due to electrical bullshit, some and most diagnosed. It then spread all the way through the unit, traveling via the attic, which destroyed the Anarchist Libaray. The floor to this area was heavily damaged, which sent flooring and ceiling matter crashing down into the common room and kitchen, fucking that shit up real good as well. Most other parts of the house were okay, save some burn marks or distortion of physical properties due to excessive heat (i.e. Melting).

I think that is about it. Lots of stuff got wet from the fire hoses, which conversely damaged more things. But what can you do?


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