• Land Use Attorney Capitola

New, Dense Residential Development Is Coming To Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel recently reported on the Santa Cruz City Council’s approval of a new 32-unit condominium project to be constructed at 1800 Soquel Avenue at the intersection of Hagemann Avenue, which is the current site of May’s Sushi Bar & Grill. (Santa Cruz Council Green Lights New Condo Development, 4/13/16.)  The article described this project as, “a test case for the city’s in-development “Corridor Plan,” calling for increased density of residential and commercial growth along major city roads….” The project consists primarily of one-bedroom and studio units, and will provide much needed relatively affordable housing in the City.

The Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors have already decided, as a matter of land use policy, that the best places to add the substantial amount of new housing that is needed in Santa Cruz are along the four main thoroughfares – Mission Street, Water Street, Soquel Avenue/Soquel Drive, and Ocean Street.  The basic idea is to site new, dense residential development near bikeways and public transportation routes in hopes that a significant amount (10%? 20%?) of new residents will bike and/or take the bus instead of driving (at least some of the time), in order to minimize traffic and other impacts in the urban boundary area overall.

Like death and taxes, new, dense, residential development is inevitable near the main traffic corridors in urban Santa Cruz County.  Unfortunately, it has to be in someone’s backyard.”

Inevitably, this project pits affordable housing advocates against people living near the project.  It is natural for neighbors to oppose new development next door or in nearby, because new development often has some adverse impacts (at least in the eyes of some).  That is certainly true for the next door neighbors of the 1800 Soquel Avenue project, whose backyard privacy will be invaded by multi-story condominium balconies, and for everyone on the street who can expect local traffic and parking to be worse.

It is too bad the law does not provide for some sort of government compensation to property owners affected by general plan and zone changes that are made for the public benefit (and for the benefit of private developers), but result in disproportionate negative impacts being imposed on immediate neighbors in the form of increased noise, reduced privacy, reductions in property values, and et cetera.

The neighbors’ opposition to this project is understandable, but they should keep in mind that their little neighborhood is not being singled out. Many more of these types of projects are to come. And who knows – that part of Soquel may end up with some interesting new shops, stores, and/or cafes within walking distance, which could actually add to their quality of life and the desirability of their neighborhood.

What can you do if you own property in or adjacent to these corridor areas?  Selling out is an option; if your lot can be combined with other lots to become part of a larger project, then it will have significant value to the developer.  But if you want to stay in your home, there are some things you can do to protect your quality of life by participating in the planning and environmental review processes.  For example, you can request environmental mitigations, such as on-site parking, well-placed windows and balconies, fences and vegetative screening, tiered elevations, and other aesthetic/architectural features.  You can also request that mixed-use projects be required to include certain types of non-residential uses that will benefit you and the neighborhood.

Like death and taxes, new, dense, residential development is inevitable near the main traffic corridors in urban Santa Cruz County.  Unfortunately, it has to be in someone’s backyard.

Do you need an attorney?
Are you concerned about land development that you feel may adversely affect your property value? Do you want to know what your rights are? Please check out the services I provide as a land use & zoning law attorney for Santa Cruz County property owners.

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Comments (3)

  • Avatar

    Candace Brown


    We did all that you suggested and we were completely ignored by the City Staff, Architects and ultimately the City Council…Many guidelines of the General Plan were ignored and the Architect had 4 years to incorporate those guidelines in the plans. It was clear that the goal was to maximize the density and not about following any of the mitigating guidelines. I cited many in my 7-minute presentation to the City Council April 12, 2016. My presentation is at about 5:07:00 and George’s 7-minute presentation which is also very relevant is at about 5:00:00 on the video of the date of the hearing:


    • Avatar

      Miles Dolinger


      Except for non-profits, private developers will only develop projects that will earn a profit, and so they will often argue that they need a certain density or certain design features (or lack thereof) to make the project sufficiently profitable. Decision-makers may perceive their choices as being between an boxy, uninteresting, dense residential project or no residential project at all. But that is a false choice. I think decision-makers should demand closer compliance with General Plan design guidelines so that new development increases the aesthetic and functional qualities of neighborhoods. Ultimately development approvals are made by politicians, who are trying to satisfy their own assortment of goals, policies and constituencies. It may take the exercise of significant political power to obtain the outcomes you want.


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    Kristin Truse


    This effects far more people than those living in these “little” neighborhoods. As a community member, it is not difficult for me to see that the additional traffic will have a direct impact on myself and my family. Beyond that, Santa Cruz is struggling with 50 million dollars of deferred road maintenance as well as many other infrastructure issues. The bus service is far from adequate for the East side and the service is struggling with budgetary issues as well . Lastly, the head of Santa Cruz’s Affordable Housing stated at a public City Council to You meeting that “Santa Cruz can not build its way out of its affordable housing crisis.” This corridor development is a bad deal not only for those living in the “little” neighborhoods along the Soquel Corridor but for all of us in the city.


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