This project, as currently described, proposes a massive number of residential units, retail, and a bar that would completely overwhelm an intersection that for years has operated at near “failing” levels.
- First, any assessment of the proposed project’s impact on the intersection of Water Street and North Branciforte Avenue MUST NOT rely on traffic evaluations that are recorded during a global pandemic. When our downtown is fully operational, when the County Building and Courthouse are filled with workers, and when UC Santa Cruz is open in a non-virtual sense, the intersection of N. Branciforte and Water is already overwhelmed, making it non-functional and dangerous for many hours each workday.
- We do not claim to be traffic engineers, but the Water/B-40 intersection was analyzed — along with most other major intersections in Santa Cruz — as part of the Environmental Impact Report the city prepared in 2011 for its 2030 General Plan. Suffice it to say, the intersection where this project would be located was given one of the city’s lower “level of service” grades in that analysis — a “D” with “F” being the grade reserved for only the absolute worst intersections in our city. And that was 9 years ago! That assessment would not be a surprise to residents who already know that the intersection is “broken” and is dangerous to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. During normal (non-Covid) times, just turning left onto N. Branciforte while traveling up the Water Street hill can be very difficult; or proceeding east on Water Street through the intersection during rush hour can be nearly impossible where the lanes squeeze from 2 to 1, yielding backups well down the hill.
- Less obvious to people who don’t live in this area are other functional problems that already result from the necessity of having a divider on the portion of Water Street just below this intersection, triggering higher-than-normal U-turn traffic at the bottom of the hill.
- Even more alarming is that the existing site, under its current use, presents a real challenge for motorists just trying to exit and proceed anywhere other than down the Water Street hill. This project, at this scale, will only make these already obvious problems much worse. In addition, it seems likely that the U-turn problem will be extended to the side streets that are in the vicinity of this intersection if this irresponsible project goes forward as proposed.
- Other development — principally 908 Ocean St., just one half-mile away, proposes 408 dwellings, three stories high and a block wide — that will significantly impact traffic. Traffic studies have not been done yet but it argues for taking a holistic approach to the cumulative effects these projects will have on our city streets.
- Further, the project, as proposed, has its entry and exit at the west end of the project on Water Street, below the “brow” of the Water Street hill. Traffic into and out of the project will have to thread its way across one of the City’s major (and only recently improved) “greenway” cycling corridors. Cyclists are typically at or above 15 mph by that point on the downslope. We dread to think of the consequences of this reckless design on cyclist safety.
- These exacerbated traffic problems would also have an outsized impact on public safety by hindering emergency vehicles from the nearby Soquel Avenue Firehouse.
- The scale of this project would create real pedestrian-safety issues at that major intersection. Not only would it have the potential to impact safety of students at the Branciforte Small Schools campus across the street, but pedestrian safety is already a concern there because of the small “islands” on the NE and SW corners.