Quick Take:

After a unanimous vote against Measure O by the governing board of the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz, business owner Zach Davis explains his and others’ opposition to the ballot proposition before voters in the city of Santa Cruz centered around the mixed-use library project.

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A handful of downtown business owners wrote a commentary for Lookout a few days ago and might have given the impression that lots of folks in the downtown business community support Measure O. As vice chair of the Downtown Association and former chair of the Downtown Commission, I can assure Lookout’s readers that the overwhelming majority in our local downtown business community oppose Measure O. The small sample size in the aforementioned commentary does not represent the range of businesses downtown.

Here are two ways we know this. First, the governing board of the Downtown Association voted unanimously to oppose Measure O. This board is broad-based and attends to the needs of the range of small businesses downtown. So a unanimous vote means a lot.

Second, please note the identification labels for the authors of the pro-Measure O commentary. It might not be obvious, but four of the six signers of that commentary are connected to just one downtown business. This is hardly representative of our diverse downtown community.

Let me give you a better sample of the kind of business owners representing businesses with a combined 215 years of operation in downtown who oppose Measure O.

Here’s what Zoccoli’s owners, Craig and Patty Zoccoli, say:

“The affordable housing and library project will be a vital asset for downtown Santa Cruz. The affordable housing will allow people to work and live in the same area. The state-of-the-art library will become a significant hub for families, students and tourists, which in turn benefits our shopping and dining district. Including more bike parking spaces than vehicle parking spaces will encourage more people to bike to work.”

Here’s what Bookshop Santa Cruz owner Casey Coonerty Protti says:

“I’ve committed my career to building the next generation of readers. A new library and affordable housing for 124 families is a huge step forward in investing in positive change for Santa Cruz families. I can’t wait to see this addition to downtown.”

Here’s what Sockshop & Shoe Company owners Ellen and Eric Gil say:

“We support the visionary affordable housing and library project that can only move forward if we vote no on Measure O. It’s vital that people are able to live and work in Santa Cruz. The project is also green, especially the all-electric library with its living roof. It’s great that the project makes more efficient use of the existing surface parking lot, while ensuring a permanent and better home for the farmers market. This is the kind of progress downtown Santa Cruz can build on.”

And here’s what Atlantis Fantasyworld owner Joe Ferrara says:

“As a longtime downtown small business owner, I know how important a vibrant downtown is. Measure O would be devastating to the future of downtown. The affordable housing and library project checks all the boxes: It provides affordable housing, delivers a modern and welcoming new library, supports jobs and addresses parking in a forward-thinking way that benefits local businesses, workers, customers and visitors. We need a family-friendly downtown that supports economic sustainability.”

To be clear and direct, here’s why Measure O will be so negative for the downtown that sustains us and is the social center of our community:

  • We need the affordable housing for our community’s workforce. Empty promises and grand theories about other possibilities just won’t cut it when the need is so pressing and immediate.
  • We need smart parking policy. Measure O gets in the way of consolidating parking so we can make better use of low-efficiency, flat parking lots with more community-serving activities. Measure O also means that as downtown housing grows, we won’t have enough parking for the residents, workers, shoppers and visitors who help our downtown thrive.
  • Felton got a new library, Capitola got a new library, Aptos is getting a new library. Our downtown library should not be an afterthought, and Measure O stands in the way of giving our kids, our community and the hub of the entire Santa Cruz public library system the best library possible.
  • Santa Cruz is all about moving toward a green building future. We are poised to create an extraordinary green library and affordable housing project. It will be state of the art, in terms of green building practices. And yet Measure O will stop this progress in its tracks.
  • As a business person and a local taxpayer, I want financial efficiency. The architect for the library project has estimated a savings of more than $10 million if we combine three projects into one. Passage of Measure O wastes these savings as well as the millions already spent and the approximately seven years of community input and work put into the project.

Measure O is bad news for downtown Santa Cruz and I hope you will join me in voting no.

Zach Davis serves as vice chair of the Downtown Association board of directors and is co-owner and co-founder of the Penny Ice Creamery.