Residents weigh in
Rafa Sonnenfeld, director of legal advocacy at YIMBY Law, said that because of state housing laws, “the city doesn’t really have a choice” to approve the appeal.
Proponents of the project urged the city council to reject the appeal. The project’s supporters included six UC Santa Cruz students who said the project would help address Santa Cruz’s lack of student housing.
“The cheap and abundant housing opportunities many former slugs — now current Santa Cruz residents — were afforded are no longer available to us,” said Zennon Ulyate-Crow, a UCSC student and president of the Student Housing Coalition. “Our coalition views 130 Center St. as a step in the right direction when it comes to restoring and expanding access to opportunity to live and gain an education here.”
Chris Bordner, the owner of an auto body shop at the proposed project site, supported the appeal and said the project could worsen local traffic issues. “It is gridlocked on Front Street, Pacific Avenue, Center Street and Washington all leading from Laurel,” he said. “My concern is, and I’ve been concerned for some time, about fire and being able to access those areas in the event of an emergency.”
Resident Ron Pomerantz echoed traffic concerns and said the developer’s offer of four additional affordable units amounted to a “last minute bribe.”
Developer and council responses
Multiple council members echoed community concerns about congestion, but said they were not a sufficient reason to block the development. “I understand traffic concerns. I also live near the development,” said Councilmember Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson. “I did find most compelling the young adults in our community who are really urging us to think differently and to be proactive about building all kinds of housing.”
Traffic issues are “not going to go away, whether we build a new apartment complex or not,” said Councilmember Justin Cummings. “But I do think that the concerns that were raised are valid, and my hope is that we can address some of these issues moving forward.”
Bristow, the development project manager at Swenson, said the company plans to propose more developments in the future. Bristow said appeals from the community are time-consuming and costly.
“Are we going to hit this roadblock every time? Is Santa Cruz Tomorrow going to appeal every project? Do they have the right?” he said. “It can be a little frustrating.”
Councilmember Sandy Brown said community groups “should have the right to make these kinds of appeals.” She added that she does not believe the appeal’s request for further traffic study is warranted. “I believe that if we were to conduct such a study, it would not change the outcome,” she said.