For the first time outside of a Santa Cruz City Council meeting, city leaders and consultants met with community members Tuesday to discuss a 50-year vision for the future of West Cliff Drive. Attendees widely agreed that safeguarding coastal resources should be prioritized, and that the city should think twice about restoring the road to its original form.
About 50 residents came to the London Nelson Center in downtown Santa Cruz on Tuesday evening for a workshop to examine and discuss the future of West Cliff Drive and the importance of a 50-year vision for the scenic roadway. Residents nearly unanimously agreed that safeguarding coastal resources and restoring coastal habitat should be the main focus for the future of West Cliff.
In late May, the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously passed a motion that outlined the next steps for the future of West Cliff through the end of 2023, which included a 50-year plan that involves coordinating with federal, state and local entities to identify projects that protect, restore and sustainably manage ecosystems.
Michael McCormick, founder and president of Sacramento-based climate consultant firm Farallon Strategies — who is closely involved with the planning document designed to guide the city’s decision-making for rehabilitating West Cliff — helped facilitate Tuesday’s meeting.
“If we can establish a vision that aligns around what everybody here wants to see, we can start working towards that,” said McCormick. “If we don’t have a long-term vision in place, then we’re reacting to what we have and are losing in the moment, not working towards what we want in the future.”
McCormick added that one of the workshops’ main purpose is to better connect the community to city officials in order to develop a shared vision for what is an important resource for many locals and visitors.
“We have the opportunity to put some concepts down in front of the community and get immediate responses,” he said. “That way we can understand how you’re feeling about things that are currently in process.”
Attendees formed groups to discuss priorities, and nearly every group agreed that safeguarding coastal resources to ensure lasting existence should be the top priority. Others, however, said they felt that maximizing access to the coast was the most vital goal for the future.
“To be able to drive down all streets, and be able to walk and ride your bike is big from a community standpoint,” said Westside resident Tom Powers.
Several residents said getting buy-in from other levels of government to support West Cliff’s preservation was a key priority since Santa Cruz could not manage the entire area by itself.
“Without commitments from the city, state and federal partners, and the [California] Coastal Commission, there won’t be the resources to make anything happen,” said Midtown resident Andrea Welles.
Some said the 50-year plan is a chance to diverge from the original West Cliff Drive and build on what is already there.
“I think we could reconfigure and build back what we already have better,” said Powers, who added that he supports two-way traffic and possibly a bike path extension in areas with excessive ice plant growth. “I see areas where things can be reworked and expanded to make it safer and to accommodate everybody.”
“People are drawn to West Cliff as an extension of themselves,” said McCormick. “It’s not something they go to, but a part of them.”
There will be two more 50-year vision workshops in November, with dates to soon be specified on the city’s website.
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