Yet another reason for Santa Cruz residents to stay engaged re. this proposed project

During the Santa Cruz City Council’s November 23, 2021 meeting, there was council discussion about the possibility that the applicant (Novin Development) has already been suggesting in project financing applications that his 831 Water Street project will be granted a waiver of significant development fees by the city.

Under questioning by Council Member Sandy Brown, the city’s planning and community development director Lee Butler said “to my knowledge the applicant has included with some of the state tax credit application materials … indications that certain number of fees would be waived.” That is a discretionary process, Butler clarified, saying such a waiver request would have to be considered by the council should the 831 application be approved and a waiver request made by the developer. He added that, to his knowledge, the city has only considered such fee waivers in the past for 100 percent affordable projects, which Novin’s project is not.

Bonnie Lipscomb, the city’s director of economic development, also chimed in, saying “we have communicated with the developer, with the applicant, that [approval of such a fee waiver] is subject to council approval.”

At the Santa Cruz City Council’s subsequent December 14 meeting, the subject of the city waiving development fees for this particular project surfaced again with comments that reinforced the fact that — given the dysfunctional nature of this particular SB 35 application — there would be little City Council appetite for approving such a fee-waiver request should such a request be forthcoming from this particular developer for this particular proposal.

“The way that this particular project has been handled has been extremely frustrating,” Mayor Donna Meyers said. “I definitely do not support any fee waivers for this project at all. I would definitely not want that to happen.”

Added Council Member Justin Cummings: “It’s clear that this project hasn’t been meeting some of the most basic [process] standards … even at the last meeting, when this was discussed, the applicant was submitting materials while we were discussing this item.”

He also made it clear that “the fact that the developer has not been wanting to work with the community” has not earned him any points with the city. Council member Martine Watkins agreed, saying “This project, as presented, really doesn’t work for our community.”

Council Member Brown also made it clear that her opposition to this particular project proposal goes beyond the many “substantive concerns” she has that relate to public health and safety issues it would create.

“I do think that, under the circumstances of this particular application, the way it has been presented to [the city], has left the city staff … to try to navigate through a morass of internally inconsistent and I would argue, in some cases, contradictory materials to basically create the application for the applicant,” Brown said. “That’s a terrible process.”