Watsonville workforce housing group forms

aerial of downtown Watsonville

Downtown Watsonville and other areas could see more construction of affordable apartments with new state targets for home building. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local file) 

4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 / Online and at 275 Main St., top floor, Watsonville

At the request of Watsonville City Councilmember Maria Orozco, a new workforce housing working group held an initial meeting with representatives from Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Cabrillo College, UC Santa Cruz, the County of Santa Cruz and the City of Watsonville.

The Watsonville City Council plans to hear an update on the effort at its Oct. 24 meeting.

A lack of workforce housing has hampered economic development, job recruitment and youth prospects, according to a city staff report. The new group aims to create projects that add housing and improve economic development, infrastructure, public safety and community engagement, among other aims. 

The effort comes as Watsonville is finalizing its draft Housing Element, which will need to plan for at least 2,053 new homes over the next eight years. County leaders also are trying to identify county-owned land for potential new housing, according to a city staff report.

—Nik Altenberg

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Salary approval for Watsonville city manager

The Watsonville City Council on Oct. 24 also is expected to consider whether to make Watsonville City Manager Rene Mendez’s annual salary $247,200.

The council also will consider a $300 monthly car allowance for Mendez, according to a city staff report.

—Nik Altenberg

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 669-254-5252, meeting ID 160 466 1504. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] by 1 p.m. Tuesday.


Residents’ input wanted on climate adaptations for transit

The Santa Cruz Branch Line runs

The Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line runs near Antonelli Pond in Santa Cruz. (Nik Altenberg — Santa Cruz Local file)

Residents’ input is wanted on how to adapt Santa Cruz County’s transportation systems with expected damage from climate change. 

The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission is creating a report that identifies infrastructure in unincorporated county areas and the Santa Cruz Branch Rail Line that are vulnerable to climate change. The report is due in 2025.

The commission plans to prioritize adaptation projects based on: 

  • Community feedback.
  • How critical the infrastructure is to the overall transportation system.
  • Severity of the threat from climate change.
  • Environmental justice considerations, including how low-income residents often are more vulnerable to environmental problems. 

Residents can share their priorities in online surveys in English and Spanish. Two workshops also are planned to present information and gather feedback:

  • 6-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 25: Lakeview Middle School, Multi-Purpose Room, 2350 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville.
  • 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 26: Felton Community Hall auditorium, 6191 Highway 9, Felton.

—Nik Altenberg


Downtown Santa Cruz plan could allow height of proposed hotel

A 2021 rendering shows a planned hotel at 324 Front St. in Downtown Santa Cruz. (BCV Architecture + Interiors)

1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 / Online and at 809 Center St., Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz City Council on Oct. 24 is expected to consider changes to the Downtown Plan that could allow a hotel proposal at Laurel and Front streets to advance.

The changes would allow hotels, offices and other buildings on the east side of Front Street between Soquel Avenue and Laurel Street to be up to 70 feet tall if they meet certain requirements, even if they don’t include housing. Under existing rules, buildings in the area taller than 50 feet must have some homes. Plans for the hotel in 2021 included a six-story building up to about 70 feet tall.

Other proposed changes to the Downtown Plan include:

  • Required approval from the Santa Cruz Planning Commission to the city council to make exceptions to proposed building heights. Exceptions to height limits now require a recommendation from the city’s planning director to the city council.
  • Streamlined approval for proposed buildings with daycares and supportive and transitional housing.

—Jesse Kathan

Proposal aims to protect Beach Flats

The Santa Cruz City Council on Oct. 24 is expected to review a city staff proposal to apply for money to help the Beach Flats neighborhood reduce problems related to climate change and slow displacement from gentrification. 

The council is expected to consider whether to allow the grant to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

The proposal includes:

  • Burying utility lines to reduce damage from floods and other climate-related risks. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. could contribute to the project, according to a city staff report.
  • Planting more trees and improving bike and walk conditions on Riverside Avenue.
  • Encouraging home appliance upgrades to reduce fossil fuel use and energy costs.
  • Developing plans to safeguard affordable housing, increase tenant protections and try to reduce displacement from rising housing costs and potentially from the city’s Downtown Plan, according to a city staff report. 
  • Maintaining the culture and character of the neighborhood by reducing displacement from gentrification.

Residents can review the proposal and submit comments by Oct. 23 in English or Spanish and comment at the Oct. 24 council meeting. 

—Nik Altenberg

To participate: Join on Zoom or call 1-833-548-0276, meeting ID 946 8440 1344. Attend at 809 Center St. in Santa Cruz. To comment ahead of the meeting, email [email protected] by 5 p.m. Monday. The meeting will be broadcast on Comcast channel 25.

Santa Cruz Local journalists wrote these briefs and previews for our weekly newsletter. Want to receive these local updates, a preview of recent articles and more in your inbox each Sunday? Sign up for our free newsletter.

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Website | + posts

Nik Altenberg is a copy editor and fact checker for Santa Cruz Local. Altenberg has a bachelor’s in Latin American and Latinx Studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Reporter / California Local News Fellow | + posts

Jesse Kathan is a staff reporter for Santa Cruz Local through the California Local News Fellowship. Kathan holds a master's degree in science communications from UC Santa Cruz.