Members petition against development of Cruz Hotel at Santa Cruz Community Credit Union site
The sale of the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union’s Front Street building could be finalized any day, but a group of members concerned about plans to turn the property into a six-story hotel is still hoping to appeal to the board of directors to reconsider.
With the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union’s downtown branch building now in escrow amid its pending sale, a group of credit union members is pushing the institution’s board of directors to reconsider over concerns that the property will be redeveloped into a hotel.
And while some members charge that they weren’t kept abreast of the sale, SCCCU representatives say the institution notified members on several occasions, as required by state law.
Former Santa Cruz city councilmember Micah Posner was among the SCCCU members who on Friday dropped off a petition with 636 signatures asking for a meeting with the board — which the credit union had told members that same afternoon was in the offing.
“We want the credit union to back out of the sale,” Posner, a longtime SCCCU member, said Friday, explaining that the group’s goal is to create a discussion for alternative uses for the site. “I don’t like that the bank sold it to make way for a hotel. We have enough hotels in Santa Cruz.”
Credit union officials said Tuesday the sale will help contribute to the credit union’s Member Access Plan Initiative, which aims to help provide and prioritize additional resources for low-income communities and communities of color throughout Santa Cruz County, according to a news release.
“We’re excited about this important moment in time when we have a unique opportunity to invest in a better future for those in our community with the greatest need for financial services,” CEO Beth Carr said in a statement.
The site at 324 Front St. is slated for the development of the Cruz Hotel. The project, which is still in its preliminary planning phase, features a proposed six-story, 228-room hotel with 11,498 square feet of retail and restaurant space. In May, the city council voted 4-2 in favor of approving the sale of two parcels of land along Front and Laurel streets for use with the project to New York-based developer SCFS Venture. SCFS Venture is managed by Santa Cruz native Owen Lawlor.
SCCCU said it aims to maintain a presence downtown by leasing or buying a smaller space.
Posner and other disapproving members said they are not opposed to the sale of the building, but rather that a hotel will take its place.
“There hasn’t been a lot of transparency with the credit union,” said Santa Cruz resident and credit union member Batya Kagan. “I wasn’t aware this was happening.”
Kagan said she hopes funds from the branch sale would be reinvested into the community and used for services such as affordable housing.
In its release Tuesday, SCCCU cited community priorities in explaining the sale, which is expected to be completed by Sept. 30.
“The buyer was selected for the sole purpose of providing the credit union, its members and the community with the greatest financial opportunities, specifically with regard to reducing costs so that SCCCU can increase its financial strength and expand on SCCCU’s core mission to promote and embrace economic justice,” it said in the release.
The SCCCU statement also echoed its Friday email to members in outlining the upcoming chance for those concerned to make their voices heard.
“All SCCCU members are invited to attend an upcoming meeting of the Board of Directors,” the statement said, noting that a date for the virtual event were yet to be announced, “at which time members will be encouraged to provide the Board with feedback.”
7:52 PM, Jul. 06, 2021: This story has been updated with comment from Santa Cruz Community Credit Union representatives.