On Tuesday, October 27, the Santa Cruz City Council will decide whether to spend $240,000 to hire a manager for the planning and design phase of the proposed mixed-use project on Lot 4, the present site of the Farmers’ Market.
To finally stop this monstrous project, it is crucial for you to take two immediate actions, based on two basic issues —  the project is ill-conceived, and  financial viability has not been demonstrated. For details on the issues, read on below, following the requested actions!
THE TWO ACTIONS [and a 3rd: please forward this email to Santa Cruz friends!]
- Email the City Council TODAY!: ask that they END any further pursuit of the Lot 4 mixed-use project. Click here for an email to send (you are welcome to modify the email, or you can use the link to send your own message).
- Zoom into the City Council meeting discussion of item #30 at 6pm TUESDAY and let them know you oppose the project.
Call any of the numbers below. If one is busy, try the next one.
1-833-548-0282 (Toll Free)
1-877-853-5247 (Toll Free)
1-888-788-0099 (Toll Free)
Enter the meeting ID number: 928 2917 3723. When prompted for a Participant ID, press #. Press *9 on your phone to “raise your hand” when the Mayor calls for public comment on item. Detailed instructions about phoning in to make a public comment are available here.
THE TWO MAJOR ISSUES
First, as anyone can see by visiting the Downtown Farmers’ Market, the 6-story big-box slated to occupy the entirety of Lot 4 is ill-conceived from an urban planning standpoint. Here is a win-win-win alternative:
- Renovate the Downtown Library at the Civic Center, its present location, where voters were led to believe the Measure S bond money would be spent when we voted for it in 2016. Jayson Architecture has presented a strong, attractive, shovel-ready plan for renovation that can proceed immediately.
- Build 100s of units of affordable housing on Front Street’s parking Lot 7 instead of the 50 units proposed for Lot 4..
- Assure sufficient parking for now and the future through parking demand management instead of an unnecessary and far more expensive parking garage that staff is justifying using skewed modeling about parking demand. Money saved can be used to provide funds for affordable housing and upgrade the Jayson Architecture plan for renovation of the existing Downtown Library.
- Create a Downtown Commons, build a permanent pavillion for the Farmers’ Market, other community events, and concerts, and save the 10 Heritage trees — all at the market’s present Lot 4 location. We can have a much-needed community plaza to revitalize the heart of Downtown in the wake of the pandemic and economic crisis, surrounded by shops, cafes, and restaurants.
- Second, despite City Council direction to staff to provide basic financial details, staff cannot show where the $$$ is coming from for the Lot 4 mixed-use boondoggle. Let’s dive into the details and look at staff’s own bureaucratese in its 10/15 agenda report:Library: Staff fail to acknowledge that the City Council has decreased Measure S money available for the Downtown Library by $1.5 million, and they lowball additional funds required by the plan for building a new library at $3 million. Then they speculate about where to get the money.”The City is exploring a number of ways to fill the projected funding gap, which could include fundraising by the Friends of the Library, fees applied from potential air rights from market rate housing units, and/or and fundraising from private and governmental sources.”
- Parking: Staff do not have a plan for financing the garage. They write:they “are working through modeling the estimated annual bond payments, the long term revenue projections and factoring in the economic impact of the Covid- 19 pandemic. Detailed and updated analyses and modeling of the financial projections along with the Parking District’s fund balance will be possible following the selection of a conceptual preliminary design and updated cost estimate for the project.”
- Housing: City staff have had less than strong success at obtaining state and federal grants for affordable housing. One possible source last year, for $16.1 million, was vetoed by the Governor. The only city application decided so far this year, for $900,000, did not receive an award; two other applications, for which notification was originally expected in August, have not yet received any word. Staff say:”Both the guaranteed PLHA funding and the LHTF funding, if awarded, will be combined with the current $3 million balance in the City’s AHTF to be allocated to new affordable housing in our community, including the Library Mixed-Use Project.” [Emphasis added]
The Lot 4 mixed-use project, slated to cost $80 million or more, is a wrong turn from creating a better downtown. It would use bond funds that voters were led to believe we were approving for renovation of the Downtown Library during the 2016 Measure S campaign. It would displace the Farmers’ Market from Lot 4 to Lot 7, about half as large a space (51%, to be exact). It would cut down 10 Heritage trees on Lot 4. It would include an unneeded 6-story 400-space parking garage. And it would create only a fraction of the affordable housing that could be built on the city-owned Lot 7 on Front Street.
There is clear evidence that a solid majority of voters oppose this project. But city staff and the council are as yet mired in a 20th-century, imitation shopping-mall approach to city planning.
The time has come to end this madness. Just stop!
Please stand with us now in choosing a different, better course for Downtown Santa Cruz!
Convener, Downtown Commons Advocates, firstname.lastname@example.org
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