Capitola from Depot Hill. (Stephen Baxter — Santa Cruz Local file)
CAPITOLA >> The Capitola City Council advanced a plan to build a new playground at Jade Street Park and launch a fundraising effort next year.
At the council’s Nov. 22 meeting, council members voted unanimously to allow public works staff to issue a request for proposals for the design of a universally accessible playground at Jade Street Park.
The playground is expected to be accessible to children with impairments to sight, hearing, mobility, cognition and development. The existing playground at Jade Street Park was built in 1999 and renovated in 2007.
The playground is expected to cost about $1 million, according to a city staff report. City leaders have allocated $275,000 to the project. To raise the rest of the money, the city plans to partner with the nonprofit Friends of Santa Cruz County Parks for a fundraising campaign. Friends of Santa Cruz County Parks is also known as County Park Friends.
After choosing a design, city leaders are expected to sign an agreement with the Friends to advertise and fundraise for the playground. Fundraising is slated to start in fall 2023. Construction could start as early as spring 2025.
A conceptual illustration shows potential features of a future Jade Street Park playground. The playground is expected to accommodate children with disabilities and accessibility needs. (City of Capitola)
The new facility will make Capitola, “a model for other communities, not just here but statewide,” said Capitola City Councilmember Yvette Brooks, at the Nov. 22 council meeting.
In 2020, LEO’s Haven accessible playground opened at Chanticleer Park in Live Oak with help from Friends of Santa Cruz County Parks.
The Capitola City Council on Nov. 22 also authorized a new long-term use agreement between the City of Capitola and Soquel Union Elementary School District for the use of Jade Street Park. The school district has leased the park to the city since 1982.
Under the new 50-year agreement, the city must complete $2.6 million in repairs and improvements to Jade Street Community Center by November 2024. Any additional changes to the park must be funded by the city and approved by the district, according to a city staff report.
In other business, the Capitola City Council unanimously agreed to approve a request from the Capitola Business Improvement Association to allow free parking in metered spaces in Capitola Village to encourage holiday tourism and shopping. The program started Nov. 24 and will run through Dec. 25.
Separately, the council agreed to move diagonal parking spots in front of Left Coast Sausage, Capitola Wine Bar, and Carusos to the opposite side of the street to accommodate a new outdoor dining parklet. The businesses are on the 100 block of San Jose Avenue in Capitola Village.
On its consent agenda, the Capitola City Council adopted new rules to allow cannabis deliveries from any authorized retailers within Santa Cruz County and elsewhere in the state. The change was required by a recently adopted state law.
Depot Hill hotel change
The council voted to persist in an effort to turn the Monarch Cove Inn into a home at the request of the owner. The California Coastal Commission and city leaders have clashed on whether the bed-and-breakfast can convert to housing.
Built in 1895, the inn at 620 El Salto Drive includes a nine-room hotel and two separate cottages. Owner Robert Blodgett has asked to use the hotel as his private residence and give the cottages to his children, according to a March 2021 letter to the commission from Capitola City Councilmember Yvette Brooks.
The inn’s location within the residential Depot Hill neighborhood has been a source of tension with neighbors for years, the letter stated. A 2012 effort to expand the hotel was abandoned after neighbors raised concerns over parking impacts and noise.
In 2021, the Coastal Commission certified the city’s updated zoning code for the Coastal Zone. However, the commission objected to plans to rezone the current site of Monarch Cove Inn from a visitor-serving zone to a single-family zone.
Coastal Commission staff argued in an April 2021 staff report that the Coastal Act, a state law governing the Coastal Zone, legally restricts the city from rezoning the property. The law prioritizes “visitor-serving commercial recreational facilities designed to enhance public opportunities,” over residential uses within the Coastal Zone.
Under existing rules, the cottages and part of the hotel may be used as private residences for Blodgett and his family, as long as at least six hotel rooms remain open, the Coastal Commission report said.
City staff plans to resubmit the proposal to rezone Monarch Cove to the Coastal Commission with additional economic analysis, according to a report from city staff.
The council also agreed to update the approved zoning code with minor amendments to improve organization or clarity.
The motion was passed with a 4-0 vote as part of the consent agenda. Capitola Mayor Sam Storey abstained from the vote because of an economic interest in Monarch Cove Inn.
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Jesse Kathan is an environmental journalist and a graduate of UC Santa Cruz's science communications program. Kathan has contributed to the Mercury News, Monterey County Weekly and KSQD-FM.