A county worker installs wave delineators on Portola Drive in Pleasure Point last week.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Environment

Pleasure Point saboteurs strike Portola Drive bike safety pop-up

The nonprofit partnering with Santa Cruz County said it has “never had such unfriendly and aggressive behavior from the community” on such a project but, as one resident countered, “Pleasure Point is a different animal ... people are very protective of their neighborhood.”

A temporary installation meant to provide safer travel for bike and pedestrians installed last week on Portola Drive in the Pleasure Point neighborhood of Santa Cruz has been sabotaged multiple times, including during Friday’s opening event.

“[We] have never had such an unfriendly and aggressive behavior from the community,” said Kirsten Liske, vice president of community programs at Ecology Action, the local nonprofit that partnered with Santa Cruz County on the project. “Our staff have been basically yelled at. We are not sending staff out alone to the site.”

“We’ve had to go out every day and start resetting up the infrastructure,” she added.

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The pop-up infrastructure project involved several changes along Portola Drive between 36th and 41st avenues, including reducing the roadway from two lanes each way to one, adding barriers to protect the bike lane and painted curb extenders around crosswalks. It was meant to be a chance for the community to try out these improvements and weigh in on whether they should be made a part of a permanent transportation plan for Portola Drive and other parts of the county.

But the project met resistance from some residents from the very beginning.

Jo Ann Allen, a retired employee of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education and a lifetime resident of Pleasure Point, said she was shocked and repelled by the vandalism, but not surprised.

“Pleasure Point is a different animal — people are very protective of the Point, people are very protective of their neighborhood,” Allen said. “People don’t like gentrification and [this] is definitely gentrification.”

“There are a lot of angry people,” she added.

Allen has been part of an active effort to register opposition to the installation through formal channels. She feels that the installation is a confusing and unnecessary interference with an important thoroughfare.

“I understand change — you need to change and evolve,” Allen said. “But I just want people to look at it for the right reasons and not because a small group of people who ride bikes say this is better for us.”

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To judge the success of the installation and whether or not to incorporate elements into the county’s transportation plan, Ecology Action is asking residents to register their sentiments on the project in a survey which can be found here.

Amelia Conlen, Ecology Action’s transportation planner, says the survey data isn’t yet ready to share, but wrote in a statement to Lookout that “we’ve heard a lot of frustration and opposition from survey responses so far.” She said there are no plans for an early take-down at this point, but added, “I think we’ll know more in the next week.”

For now, the plan is for the installation to remain in place until July 21.