Lookout Update: Downtown library vote moves toward November ballot

One of the latest renderings of the downtown mixed-use library project
One of the latest renderings of the downtown mixed-use library project, provided by the City of Santa Cruz and Jayson Architects.
(Via City of Santa Cruz)

With the validity of their petition’s signatures confirmed, critics of Santa Cruz’s mixed-use downtown library project can now plan on taking their issues with the development to the city’s voters.

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A vote on the siting of the new downtown Santa Cruz library branch continues to move toward the Nov. 8 ballot.

An update on the downtown Santa Cruz mixed-used library development project

County Clerk Tricia Webber has confirmed that 4,912 of the signatures gathered by Our Downtown, Our Future (ODOF) are valid. That confirmation now pushes the vote forward, with the Santa Cruz City Council formally deciding at either its June 28 meeting or in mid-July whether to place the question before city voters; it is expected to do so.

ODOF has contended that the site — Lot 4 in planning parlance — unanimously approved by the city council is inappropriate, citing the inclusion of a parking garage and a change in the downtown farmers market location. The group wants the downtown library to stay at its current location, at Church and Center streets, and be renovated rather than replaced.

The current plan, calling for a mixed-use library replacement on Lot 4, has been vetted and refined since 2016, when county voters approved $67 million toward renovating and restoring the county’s 10 library branches.

That plan includes a 40,000-square-foot library, community space, car and bike parking, and 124 units of affordable housing.

Group leader John Hall told Lookout that his group believes voters should be able to pick what works best for them, particularly amid the ongoing climate crisis.

“We believe voters will see this as a better choice for the future of Santa Cruz as a community than a Lot 4 project that puts an estimated 60,000 cubic yards of concrete into an unneeded, fiscally irresponsible parking garage,” he said.

Zach Davis, a former member of the Downtown Commission and a downtown business owner and vendor at the farmers market, told Lookout: “I have faith in the democratic process, and I am confident that when evaluated on its merits the voters of Santa Cruz will show their support for the downtown library and affordable housing project by rejecting the ODOF ballot measure.”

Santa Cruz City Manager Matt Huffaker estimates losses of $3.5 million toward affordable housing, and $2.5 million in investments toward the library, should the ODOF ballot measure win approval.

“The proposed measure would mean a significant loss for our community and hamstring the city’s ability to respond quickly to the escalating housing crisis,” he said. “Instead of a larger, modern and highly sustainable library, the community would receive a smaller library that doesn’t fully meet its needs.”

Four redone Santa Cruz County library branches have reopened and four more will throw open their doors by the end of the...