SANTA CRUZ >> Preliminary plans have been submitted for a six-story apartment complex with shops at 130 Center St. in Santa Cruz. The lot near Depot Park now has an auto body shop and a Hertz rental car shop.

Swenson, a San Jose-based developer, has named the project Calypso. Its plan calls for:

  • 233 studios from 295 to 400 square feet. 
  • 209 parking spaces in an underground and ground-floor garage
  • Two ground-floor shops that could sell food
  • A roof deck
A rendering of the proposed apartment complex on Center St. near Depot Park.

A six-story apartment and retail complex has been proposed for 130 Center St. across from Depot Park. (Swenson)

The project is in an early phase and has not been considered by the city of Santa Cruz’s planning commission. Swenson representatives have not yet said whether the units would be rented or sold.

“Swenson is looking forward to providing new housing and more affordable housing in the city of Santa Cruz. We will provide more detailed comments when we have feedback from city staff,” wrote Jessie Bristow, a Swenson development project manager, in an email to Santa Cruz Local.

The developer plans to pursue a density bonus to request more height, building mass and different setbacks than local zoning allows. State law allows developers to receive those types of concessions in return for affordable housing units for lower income levels as defined by the state.

Among the 233 units, the developer has proposed: 

  • Twenty-three units for very-low income households, based on area median income
  • Eight units for moderate income households

The area median income in 2020 in Santa Cruz County was $110,000. “Very-low income” means an income of less than $62,200 for a family of four. “Moderate income” means an income of less than $132,000 for a family of four.

Very-low income units are rarely built in Santa Cruz. As of July, Santa Cruz staff had permitted 12 very-low income units in roughly the past five years. State requirements call for Santa Cruz to permit an additional 168 very-low income units by the end of 2023.

City staff did not respond to a request for more information about the project Friday. City staff also did not respond in February to requests for information about the proposal or a copy of the application. A copy of the application recently was posted to the city website.

In Santa Cruz, developers often alter plans for multi-family housing after city staff and community feedback.

Plans for the Calypso project at 130 Center St. in Santa Cruz include an underground and ground-floor garage and a roof deck. (Swenson)

Possible impacts

The 1.2-acre lot is home to Chris Bordner Auto Body and a Hertz car rental shop. It’s across Center Street from Depot Park and close to the Santa Cruz Police Department.

The site is near several busy intersections including Pacific Avenue and Laurel Street and Front and Laurel streets. Hexagon Transportation Consultants prepared a traffic study in February for the developer.

The traffic study estimated the project would:

  • Generate 1,112 new vehicle trips each day, with an increase of 68 trips during the morning peak travel hour and 80 trips during the evening peak. 
  • Add traffic to “deficient intersections” at Front and Laurel streets, Pacific Avenue and Laurel Street and Front Street and Soquel Avenue. The developer would be required to contribute money to improve these intersections, according to city rules.

Also, Hexagon recommended a second driveway or a changed garage entrance. It also recommended that bike parking be relocated to the first floor.

Edward L. Pack Associates also published a noise study for the developer in February. Edward L. Pack Associates is a San Jose-based acoustical consultant. 

The study found that noise mostly from cars and partly from soccer games at Depot Park would exceed standards for the residential spaces. The report recommended that the project keep windows and glass doors along Center Street closed and provide mechanical ventilation for those spaces. The consultants also recommended windows and exterior doors that form an air-tight seal.

Residents can submit written comments to Santa Cruz city staff about the proposal. 

San Jose-based developer Swenson has proposed a six-story apartment and retail complex to replace a Hertz rental car and Chris Bordner Auto Body at 130 Center St. in Santa Cruz. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

The Calypso project proposed at 130 Center St. in Santa Cruz includes 23 studios for very-low income households. (Swenson)

The developer of the Calypso housing project in Santa Cruz plans to request a density bonus for more height, building mass and different setbacks than local zoning allows. (Swenson)

Kara Meyberg Guzman is the CEO and co-founder of Santa Cruz Local. ​Prior to Santa Cruz Local, she served as the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s managing editor. She has a biology degree from Stanford University and lives in Santa Cruz.