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.
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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