A rendering of the mixed-use condominium project proposed for 190 West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

West Cliff condo project can move forward after Coastal Commission denies appeal

Resident group Save Santa Cruz Westside had long lobbied against the proposed four-story, 47-foot tall mixed-use development with 89 residential units adjacent to the Dream Inn at 190 West Cliff Dr., arguing that it was inconsistent with the city’s land-use plan for the local coastal zone.

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The California Coastal Commission on Wednesday cleared the path for a large mixed-use condominium development along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz that has been years in the making.

By a 7-3 vote, the commission denied an appeal led by Save Santa Cruz Westside, a group of residents who have lobbied against the project for years. Commissioner Justin Cummings, who also sits as District 3 Santa Cruz County Supervisor, proposed that the commission further analyze the issue; however, seven commissioners rejected the idea, effectively denying the appeal.

The appeal challenged a 2019 Santa Cruz City Council approval of the project proposed for 190 West Cliff Dr., adjacent to the Dream Inn, arguing that it was inconsistent with the city’s Local Coastal Program, a document governing local land use within the coastal zone.

This challenge was aimed largely at the project’s scale: It proposed a four-story, 47-foot tall development (reaching to 56 feet in the section with the rooftop patio) with 89 residential units, against the 36-foot, 66-unit caps allowed by the city’s local land-use plan.

A rendering of the mixed-use condominium project proposed for 190 West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz.

Cummings told Lookout that although inconsistencies with the local coastal plan have historically been enough to alter a project at the Coastal Commission, that has shifted with new state housing laws that have allowed for streamlined approvals. Cummings said the West Cliff Drive development offered an example of how California’s hyperfocus on new housing construction runs up against legacy regulations, such as Local Coastal Program rules.

Developer Ensemble Real Estate Investments, which owns the Dream Inn and is a partner in the nearby La Bahia luxury hotel project, can now move forward with the project, which will include roughly 17,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space (for restaurant and retail uses) and an outdoor public plaza.

Out of the 89 residential units proposed, 10 will be reserved as deed-restricted, affordable units for prospective homeowners considered within the low and very-low income brackets.