Lookout Update: Santa Cruz pushes off weighty discussions on ‘corridors,’ affordable housing and rezoning

Public comment at the Aug. 23 city council meeting.
(Via City of Santa Cruz)

Some 387 parcels along Mission Street, Ocean Street and Soquel Avenue that are up for rezoning and new building standards have driven lots of debate. Meanwhile, a proposed assisted living facility along West Cliff Drive has drawn opposition. Decisions on both have been postponed, with hearings scheduled for October and November.

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Lookout update on rezoning/design standards

As the city of Santa Cruz grapples with the major challenges of affordable housing, urban development and the inevitable trade-offs involved, big decisions on them will wait a little longer.

At the Aug. 23 Santa Cruz City Council meeting, concerned and intrigued members of the public voiced diverse opinions on significant rezoning and the development of new design standards presented by the Santa Cruz city planning staff.

That hearing outlined a broad strategy for the city’s future.

The new standards — called “objective design and development standards” — aim to address the typically obscure and detailed specifications related to planning and building, especially around larger developments such as multifamily and mixed-use housing projects. The standards are intended to comply with state mandates, most notably the Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 330).

In addition, 387 parcels along Mission Street, Ocean Street and Soquel Avenue are set to be rezoned to conform with the city’s 2030 General Plan. The rezoning largely changes the designation of most of these parcels from community commercial (business-oriented) to multiuse, with medium or high density, thus enabling housing development accompanied by commercial and office space.

The Soquel Avenue parcels would be high density, the Mission Street parcels would be medium density, and the Ocean Street parcels would be a combination of medium- and high-density developments focused more on commercial, visitor-serving uses.

After a long presentation Aug. 23, Councilmember Donna Meyers motioned to continue the item to Tuesday’s meeting. Councilmember Justin Cummings seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.

Now the matter has been postponed again, with the city council discussion and vote moved to Nov. 15. According to the agenda report for the Tuesday meeting, the delay is the result of a large number of public comments that misunderstood basic components of the proposal.

It is the second development project to see governmental action delayed recently. Santa Cruz city planners were scheduled to present plans for a senior living facility project proposed for a parcel adjacent to the Shrine of St. Joseph church and opposite Lighthouse Field State Beach at the city planning commission’s Sept. 1 meeting, but that presentation was continued to Oct. 6 due to errors with public noticing.

The continuation will allow staff the opportunity to reach out to those who provided comments regarding this issue so they can better understand the topics at hand, and allow more time for people who might not have the full background.

“Our intent is to use the brief delay to connect with those who have provided comments on the public hearing package, address various misunderstandings, and accept comments for future evaluation,” said senior planner and project lead Sarah Neuse. “The two months will provide us with an opportunity to conduct some final engagement work, after which time we will be recommending that the council take action on Nov. 15.”