Size and Scale

To a person, members of our group support the development of new housing in Santa Cruz — and new housing on this site. But, at least as it is currently proposed, this particular project is completely out of scale for its location:

  • scale
    At five stories — six, counting the rooftop bar — the proposed project would loom over single-family homes to the north.

    When asked, our group’s members are supportive of new housing on the 831 Water Street site. But, to a person, we believe that we have one simple right: to expect that any replacement development not completely overwhelm existing neighborhoods and streets there. (Please see the results of a recent survey that describe the scale of housing development we can enthusiastically support.)

  • Unfortunately, at 5 stories tall (6 stories if you count the walled rooftop garden and bar with its own roof), this project — as currently proposed — would cast a shadow, figuratively and literally, over much of an entire city street, Belvedere Terrace (see Casting a Shadow for more information). This proposed project even “towers” over other housing projects (Water Street Apartments and Breakers Apartments) recently developed in the vicinity. We also believe, as do many others outside our neighborhood, that its two enormous towers looming atop a hill would be an eyesore for a large area of the city.
  • The scale as proposed seems unthinkably large: 6 stories (including the rooftop), 151 units, an underground parking garage in which vehicles would be stacked in 2 levels, retail space, and a bar. All on less than one acre.
  • Most notably, our reading of the city’s documents suggests that the developer is requesting a 47.5 percent increase in height above what is allowed under current zoning — from 40 to 59 feet. And a 274.5 percent increase in the number of units permitted per acre — from 55 to 151. And all of this would occur just slightly more than 20 feet from nearby residents’ backyards (and trash and recycling cans for 151 units would no doubt be placed in that small setback area.)
  • In working with developers, the city should challenge developers to respect the motivation behind existing zoning and work closely with them to come up with appropriate proposals.
  • A project this size might be desirable for our downtown, but — at this scale — we believe it is inappropriate, harmful, and unsafe in a location that abuts an entire long-established neighborhood whose residents will live in the literal shadow of these twin monoliths. Perhaps it’s of little consequence from a purely land-use perspective, but the people most affected by this proposed development have shopped locally, paid taxes, and tried hard to be responsible and caring citizens of Santa Cruz. This project, as currently proposed, would be very impactful, disrespectful, harmful, and unsafe to an entire area of the city.
  • It is critical that fresh development on this particular parcel be done right because what happens at 831 Water St. will invariably affect and influence further development along Water Street and Soquel Avenue. The precedents set here will have far-reaching consequences for years to come.
  • While many Eastside residents objected to the now-shelved “Corridors Plan” because of the disproportionately high impact it would have had on city residents east of the river, this proposed project is not even faithful to the guidelines expressed in that plan. That’s because the Corridors Plan at least acknowledged the city’s responsibility to “protect” older neighborhoods in considering the kind of housing projects that plan envisioned. Further, this project violates the clear guidance from City Council to city staff regarding its work in place of “Corridors” – specifically, to “preserve and protect residential neighborhood areas and existing City businesses, as the City’s highest-level policy priority”, while creating “enhanced affordable housing opportunities.” [City Council minutes, August 27, 2019]