Santa Cruz now eyes June 2024 for affordable-housing bond election after community members request more time

Construction along Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

After initially aiming for a March 2024 vote, community members participating in drafting a long-sought affordable-housing bond measure in the city of Santa Cruz said Wednesday they wanted more time. Now, sights are set on a June 2024 special election.

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The City of Santa Cruz will add more public meetings about a proposed housing bond, likely pushing back plans for a March 2024 ballot measure after community members working to draft the affordable-housing initiative said they wanted more time.

About 50 residents gathered in person Wednesday in the community room of the Santa Cruz Police Department — with another 25 on Zoom — for what was supposed to be the third and final community meeting hosted by the city to take input and shape a long-sought affordable-housing bond. The city’s plan for the bond, which was a key part of Mayor Fred Keeley’s campaign platform, is to have residents dictate the language of the bond measure with help from city officials. If and when the community agrees on the language, a citizen group will start a petition and collect signatures to get the measure on a ballot in 2024.

Midway through the meeting, after several community members questioned why they were being rushed through a condensed process, Keeley asked the group whether it wanted two more meetings to sort through unanswered questions (of which there were many). The group agreed almost unanimously.

The city and community still need to answer fundamental questions about the bond’s language, including exactly what type of tax funding streams the bond would use and what kind of restrictions to place on the new revenue.

Three community meetings will now be at least five and a vote that had been pegged for the March 2024 primary will now likely be in June 2024. State law gives citizen-initiated petitions 180 days to gather enough signatures in order to qualify for a place on a local ballot. However, the condensed timeline of the city’s plan to place a housing bond on the March 2024 ballot would have given petitioners less than 100 days before the deadline to place an initiative on the ballot.

In asking for more time, those gathered at the police department Wednesday night said they preferred the full 180 days to gather signatures, which makes a June 2024 special election the earliest possible date to hold a vote on the bond.

The next scheduled meeting will be the week of June 12, with a specific date and time to be determined.

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