NOV. 10, 2021


Plans renewed for housing and shops on busy Santa Cruz streets

Santa Cruz city staff has proposed six new mixed-use zones that would allow shops below new housing. Water Street at North Branciforte Avenue is among the proposed zones. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local)

After a mixed response from the Santa Cruz Planning Commission, a public meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 10 is expected to explain some proposed housing design standards and a separate plan to allow more homes above shops on busy Santa Cruz streets.

  • At a Nov. 4 Santa Cruz Planning Commission meeting, city planning staff presented some of the proposed objective design standards for multi-family homes outside of downtown. Separately, the staff also described a proposal for six new mixed-use zone districts along parts of Soquel Avenue and Mission, Ocean and Water streets. Both plans are meant to guide future housing developments and adhere to community values and the city’s design aesthetic.

  • While the proposed objective design standards and mixed-use zones aim to increase affordable housing, some complaints already have arisen because of similarities to the Corridor Plan. Years in the making, city leaders scrapped the Corridor Plan in 2019 after many Midtown Santa Cruz residents’ opposition to more potential traffic and parking problems.

City planners’ online meeting takes place 7-8 p.m. Wednesday Nov. 10. City planners plan to present proposed objective design standards and gather public feedback.

Read Jesse Kathan’s story


RV parking limits adopted in Santa Cruz

Silvana Hay, 65, grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives in her RV in Santa Cruz. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

The Santa Cruz City Council agreed to new limits on overnight motorhome parking in the city. The law takes effect Dec. 9.

Tuesday, the council voted 5-2 to adopt the law. Mayor Donna Meyers, Vice Mayor Sonja Brunner, and Councilmembers Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Renee Golder and Martine Watkins voted in favor. Councilmembers Justin Cummings and Sandy Brown opposed it.

The proposal includes:

  • A requirement for overnight parking permits for oversized vehicles. Residents’ permits would be valid for one year and allow the vehicle to be parked in a spot for 72 hours four times a month.

  • Without a permit, RV parking generally would not be allowed on streets, alleys or city lots 12-5 a.m.

  • Resident permits are available to people who primarily live at a street address in the city of Santa Cruz or own land with a street address in Santa Cruz.

  • “Oversize vehicles” are vehicles or trailers at least 20 feet long. Vehicles that are at least 8 feet tall and 7 feet wide also are considered oversize.

“Oh God, I guess we’re doomed,” said Silvana Hay, 65. Hay grew up in Santa Cruz and started living in a vehicle in 2010. She has a post office box, but no permanent street address, so she will not be able to buy a parking permit for her motorhome.

The new law came in response to many hundreds of Westside residents’ concerns about trash, waste and crime related to people who live in their vehicles. “I can see their point,” Hay said of the complaints about trash. “I hate it too.”

Hay said she thinks more dumpsters in areas where RV drivers park would help solve the problem.

Santa Cruz resident Hollis Molloy spoke in Tuesday’s meeting to express his support for the law. “There is a huge distinction between the unhoused and these problem RVs that the police and the Westside are dealing with right now,” Molloy said. “People who simply are in their vehicles living unhoused do not get the police called on them. They do not disrupt public peace and they are not the issue we are complaining about. What we are complaining about is the problem RVs. That is drunk and disorderly conduct, child endangerment, environmental issues,” Molloy said.

Read Kara Meyberg Guzman’s story

Legal tent camps proposed at armory, 1220 River St.

Deputy City Manager Lee Butler announced Tuesday that city staff are working to create more sanctioned homeless camps. A recent city law that limits where and when people can camp requires the creation of a storage program and 150 safe sleeping spaces for the limits to take effect.

Four safe sleeping program locations are in the works, Butler said:

  • National Guard Armory in DeLaveaga Park: Staff recommend a 24-hour program with outdoor tents on a lawn for 75 people. Ten of the sleeping spaces would be overnight only with placements by police and service providers. The estimated annual cost is $2.5 million, according to Imwalle’s memo. A 24-hour program offers more stability and is more likely to result in connections to housing than an overnight-only program, Butler said.

  • A city-owned lot at 1220 River St. and at a location yet to be determined: Staff plan for two tent camps for 60 to 80 people, with staff, connections to services and “health and hygiene infrastructure,” Imwalle wrote. Estimated annual cost is $402,000.

  • Benchlands by the county government building at 701 Ocean St.: The city already manages a tent camp at this location. City staff propose continuing part of the camp north of the San Lorenzo River pedestrian bridge. Estimated annual cost is $605,000.

—Kara Meyberg Guzman


County redistricting could group Scotts Valley residents into single district

A map drawn by Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm could return parts of Scotts Valley to Santa Cruz County Supervisorial District 5. A yellow line shows an outline of Scotts Valley. (Derek Timm)

As part of Santa Cruz County’s redistricting process, county supervisors on Tuesday agreed to consider whether Scotts Valley should be reunified and included in county supervisorial District 5. Scotts Valley and the other three cities in the county had been split during the county’s redistricting process 10 years ago. The proposed change would move about 2,300 Scotts Valley residents from District 1 into District 5.

Scotts Valley Mayor Derek Timm submitted maps to county leaders that suggested the change in a letter to county officials. He essentially said that grouping Scotts Valley with San Lorenzo Valley in District 5 made more sense than grouping it with Live Oak.

“Our community is closely tied to the San Lorenzo Valley, and this has been further emphasized during the last 18 months as our community worked closely with the Fifth District during the pandemic and more importantly during the fires and their aftermath,” Timm wrote in a letter to county officials. “These strong ties should be returned to their former boundaries.”

District 5 is now represented by County Board Chairman Bruce McPherson and District 1 is represented by Supervisor Manu Koenig.

Redistricting is required every 10 years based on census data. Changes are intended to “unite previously divided neighborhoods” and bring the districts “closer to substantially equal population,” County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios wrote in a report.

At its meeting Tuesday, supervisors voted 4-1 to publish Timm’s maps for public review and have another required public meeting during the supervisors’ Nov. 16 meeting. Supervisor Ryan Coonerty voted against it in part because he said he had suggested map changes but was told by county staff that the state-mandated deadline made them too difficult to pursue.

Two more map changes remain to be decided.

  • Near the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor, about 600 people could move from District 3 representation to District 1, according to a county staff report.

  • A second change would move about 491 residents from District 2 to District 4 near Green Valley Road and Highway 1 Watsonville.

A proposed boundary change would move some residents from county supervisor District 3 to District 1 near the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor. (County of Santa Cruz)

A proposed boundary change would move some residents from county supervisor District 2 to District 4 near Highway 1 and Main Street near Watsonville. (County of Santa Cruz)

Supervisors unanimously support nonprofit hospital model

County supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to support the mission and goals of a newly formed nonprofit group to pursue a health care district to acquire and operate Watsonville Community Hospital.

Santa Cruz County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said the hospital had 21 administrative changes in the past 20 years. Alabama-based Medical Properties Trust Inc. owns the hospital. A majority stake in Medical Properties Trust is owned by the Australian hedge fund Macquarie Asset Management. Los Angeles-based Prospect Medical Holdings operates the hospital, Palacios said.

Palacios said he has been a patient at Watsonville hospital and the care is excellent. However, some medical services have been cut even as South County’s population has grown at least 17 percent in the past 20 years, said Tiffany Cantrell-Warren, assistant director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency.

The hospital off Airport Boulevard is in Supervisor Zach Friend’s District. “I can’t really imagine a better investment in health equity,” Friend said of a nonprofit acquisition of the hospital. “The nurses and the doctors there are looking for a long-term, stable ownership model,” Friend said.

Established in October, the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Project board includes leaders from the County of Santa Cruz, the City of Watsonville, the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente. County Health Services Agency officials plan to return to the supervisors by Dec. 7 with a request to contribute no more than $350,000 to the health care district.

—Stephen Baxter

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Despite mayor’s vote, agreement approved for Atkinson Lane affordable housing project

Renderings show a proposed 80-unit affordable housing complex near Atkinson Lane in Watsonville. (Dahlin Group)

The Watsonville City Council voted 5-1 on Tuesday night to approve an agreement with Santa Cruz County officials and a landowner related to an 80-unit, 100% affordable housing project near Atkinson Lane. Mayor Jimmy Dutra cast the dissenting vote. Construction is expected to start before June 2022, a developer representative said.

The development would be next to a separate 46-unit MidPen affordable housing project approved in 2014 and opened in 2018. That project received 2,491 applications for its 46 homes, according to MidPen Housing.

More than 60% of those who leased homes there already lived in Watsonville, said Joanna Carmen, director of housing development for MidPen Housing. Other new tenants there already worked in Watsonville, Carmen said.

The new project would have 39 of 80 units specifically for farmworkers and their families, Carmen said. Some other units would be for people with disabilities.

The units would have one to three bedrooms and rents would be restricted to residents with incomes of 30% to 60% of AMI, or area median income.

“What’s AMI?” asked Watsonville City Councilmember Eduardo Montesino.

The agreement between the city, county and landowner MP Berry Farms LLC is necessary because the project would straddle city and county land. Foster City-based MidPen Housing is the nonprofit developer. The city would provide public services such as police, firefighters, water and sewer services to the project. The city is expected to accept roughly $1 million in impact fees from the developers and about $500,000 to Pajaro Valley Unified School District, said Joanna Carmen, director of housing development for MidPen Housing.

“I’m just really against this,” said Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra. The proposal is in part of Watsonville he represents, District 6. “The neighbors that I have talked to so far are extremely against this,” Dutra said. “This is a tough decision, you know, really impacting the traffic in that area,” Dutra said. “We have to put in all new infrastructure. We’re going to use city utilities, city water.”

Mayor Pro Tem Ari Parker said she was concerned that Santa Cruz County received the 80 units toward its Regional Housing Needs Assessment goals rather than Watsonville. City staff said it was because much of the land belongs to the county.

Councilmember Rebecca Garcia said, “The need for housing outweighs any sacrifices.”

Councilmember Lowell Hurst said that when the adjacent Brewington Avenue neighborhood was built decades ago with streets that accessed the property. Hurst said the project had been planned for many years. “This kind of illustrates the pinch we’re in land wise. This is what it comes down to to provide housing for farm workers and disabled folks and others who really need housing.”

Mayor Dutra said he planned to rally neighbors to oppose the project before an expected Dec. 7 decision by the Santa Cruz County supervisors. “That’s the date I’m going to flier the neighborhood,” Dutra said.

Watsonville Mayor Jimmy Dutra said he planned to rally neighbors near Atkinson Lane to oppose a proposed 80-unit, 100% affordable housing project. (City of Watsonville screenshot)

Police officer approved for Watsonville High School

The Watsonville City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-1 to reinstate a school resource police officer at Watsonville High School. Councilmember Francisco Estrada cast the dissenting vote. Mayor Jimmy Dutra, Mayor Pro Tem Ari Parker and Councilmembers Eduardo Montesino, Lowell Hurst and Rebecca Garcia voted in favor of it.

Pajaro Valley Unified School District offered to pay the city $77,391 for the officer’s services for the remainder of the school year, according to a city staff report. City staff recommended the change.

“I think this is a great program for our school district. I view it as another parent being there,” said Councilmember Eduardo Montesino.

Police and sheriff’s deputies had been assigned to Pajaro Valley schools from 1994 until the 2021-22 school year. Leaders of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District had agreed to remove school resource officers in part because of federal studies that suggested potential increases in student arrests for low-level offenses such as disorderly conduct. After a gang-motivated fatal stabbing at Aptos High School in August, the Pajaro Valley school board voted to reinstate school resource officers and pair them with mental health clinicians.

—Stephen Baxter


Input sought on Downtown Plan expansion

10-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 13 / Online and by phone

rendering of a Capitola hotel

City leaders are in talks with Santa Cruz Warriors leaders about potential construction of a new arena, possibly on the site of the Kaiser Permanente Arena on Front Street in Santa Cruz. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file)

Santa Cruz leaders will host a community workshop Saturday to seek input on residents’ priorities for how the neighborhood south of Laurel Street near Downtown should change in coming decades. Priorities could include housing choices, urban design features, public amenities and more.

The workshop is part of a city initiative to explore an expansion of the downtown boundaries. City leaders say the goals of the expansion are to create more jobs and housing and create space for a permanent stadium for the Santa Cruz Warriors basketball team.

Read Santa Cruz Local’s previous story on the Downtown Plan expansion project.

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 833-548-0276, meeting ID 827 5773 3716.


Survey results: What keeps you in Santa Cruz County?

In our last issue we asked you “Do you think about leaving Santa Cruz County? If so, why? What would help you stay?”

Some of your responses:

“Yes I do think about leaving. What would help me stay is reduction in crime and homelessness. When I first moved here in 1993, I used to enjoy riding my bicycle along the levee most every weekend. Now it's so full of drug users and criminals I would never think of doing that. Despite a low-paying university job I was able to buy a house (barely). If I sold now I'd profit enough to buy a nice place all cash most anywhere else in the state.” —Kenneth Garges

“No. I have been fortunate enough to have purchased a home in one of Watsonville's senior villages back in 2003. It is affordable, a great neighborhood and Watsonville government/city council has become a great asset.

  • I live here because my daughters own a home in Santa Cruz which they purchased many years ago.

  • I live here because Santa Cruz County — specifically Watsonville — has the best climate in the entire United States.

  • I live here because of the people I interact with every day.

  • I live here because of the diversity.

  • I live here because the county mirrors my political beliefs.

  • I am a third-generation Californian whose great grandparent emigrated to San Francisco in 1884.”—Kirby C. Harris

Many of you have told us about how Santa Cruz County has changed in recent years. This week we ask: How has Santa Cruz County improved recently?

Take our survey: How has Santa Cruz County improved recently?

Why the surveys? We want to get to know you better. And we want you to learn more about each other. We’ll share some of your responses in a future newsletter.

A note from our staff

Our newsroom wants to better serve Santa Cruz County’s Spanish-speaking communities. We believe our community is stronger when everyone has access to fair and accurate news.

To this end, we now offer our website in Spanish. To switch between Spanish and English, select your preferred language at the top right menu on our website.

We need $1,000 to support this year-long pilot program. So far, Santa Cruz Local members have donated $400. Will you donate today so our community’s Spanish speakers can have a new source for local news?

DONATE TODAY to support Spanish translation of our news

Kara Meyberg Guzman, Stephen Baxter & Natalya Dreszer
Santa Cruz Local

NOV. 10, 2021

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