A big win, but the effort continues


We are delighted to let you know that our Santa Cruz City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to find that the giant development our 831 Responsible Development group has steadfastly opposed does NOT qualify for fast-track approval.

A huge thanks to all of you who have followed this issue, written letters, Zoomed into Council meetings, and supported the effort financially. The process is far from over, but the vote is a setback for Novin Development, which wants to build 140 units in two joined buildings, four and five stories tall, at Water Street and N. Branciforte Avenue.

More importantly, it is a win for the many Santa Cruz residents who believe the city can and should promote affordable housing AND do it in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm neighborhoods, create a massive number of health and safety issues, and foster economic segregation. We have said repeatedly that we’d like to see affordable housing built on the site, but we believe the current Novin proposal would overwhelm the less-than-an-acre parcel, surrounding neighborhoods, and a key transportation corridor.

In its vote on Tuesday night, (Oct. 12) the City Council determined that the Novin application should be denied for its violation, or potential violation, of the following city objective standards:

  • The anti-segregation standard in the inclusionary ordinance and Density Bonus Ordinance that requires the dispersal of affordable units throughout a project, which also violates the city’s “Health in All Policies” ordinance.
  • The slope regulation that projects be located no closer than 20 feet from a 30 percent slope without a variance.
  • The lack of a completed Stormwater Management Plan and a completed Drainage Plan that ensure compliance with the City’s standards to prevent flooding on the property and in the neighborhood.
  • The lack of a traffic study demonstrating that compliance with the City’s traffic standards protecting the public health and safety from the proposed driveway crossing a bike lane.
  • The lack of a completed noise study documenting that the City’s objective noise standards will be met.

The Council also found the developer’s density bonus application incomplete, saying it did not comply with the State Housing and Community Development’s regulation that affordable units are distributed throughout the development, and for not showing the breakdown of AMI (Area Median Income) levels and density bonus unit locations.

In a letter to Council, our group’s attorney also forcefully called out the fact that the developer’s plans would lead to segregated housing on the site.

We are grateful to Mayor Donna Meyers and Council Members Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, Martine Watkins, Justin Cummings, Sandy Brown, and Renee Golder for doing the right thing, supporting the motion to deny the SB-35 application. Vice Mayor Sonja Brunner was the lone no vote.


If you have a moment, we encourage you to thank the Mayor and Council Members for standing up for the health, safety, and equity of their residents.  You can email them as a group at citycouncil@cityofsantacruz.com or individually. Their emails can be found at cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-council/councilmembers.

Before her vote, Mayor Meyers said she hoped “this is a learning moment” and that a reasonably scaled housing project at the site could still be possible. We couldn’t agree more and have consistently advocated for a project of a more compatible scale with fewer health and safety impacts.

While the Council vote could (and should) encourage the developer to scale back his plans to something we all could support, we are not naive. We need to stay vigilant and continue our advocacy for reasonable housing at 831 Water St.

Many thanks again to everyone who has joined in our “831 Responsible Development” effort to advocate for a reasonably sized project at 831 Water Street. There really is strength in numbers: Your letters, your public comments, and your financial support made a big difference!

But as we said, the effort is not over. We expect a vigorous pushback from the developer. So please stay tuned and stay engaged. We have racked up legal bills and unfortunately anticipate more. If you are able, please visit our donations page and contribute any amount that is possible or comfortable for you. As the Council vote illustrates, it really does take a village — and your support is greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much!