Some voters told us there is too much market-rate housing being built and not enough affordable housing. Do you agree? How should the city council handle market-rate housing proposals?
Sean Maxwell: This is very near and dear to me, as I’ve been working as a (Santa Cruz) planning commissioner for the past two years, and I’ve been working solely with my main goal right now to increase affordable housing for working-class people, low and very low income people in this town.
The landscape has changed with all the state bills that have passed — SB 330 and SB 9 — and we’ve now been in the world of objective standards, where we cannot prohibit development without having these objective standards. What’s going on now, there’s so many developments in this town with market-rate housing. I don’t think the issue is building market-rate housing. The real issue is, are we going to be building enough low- to very-low affordable housing?
We’re seeing a lot of people have to leave, or we can’t even house the working-class people that literally work in this town. They have to come from Watsonville, come from out of the area, to work here.
I agree there is too much market-rate being built. It’s not just the amount. It’s the style of the building. Do we want to have 17 stories downtown? Do people realize how tall 17 stories is in Downtown Santa Cruz right now? I don’t think so. What we need to do is be responsible with our development and the way we’re developing. Not just rubber stamping anything the city says, but holding the city accountable and listening to the neighbors and engaging with the people in those communities where that building is going to be built. That’s another huge part of it. You know, I feel like there is this need, we have a need, it’s very clear. But how we go about doing it is — the process is really, really important. And without that process, you’re gonna have people really upset.
Editor’s notes: In June, the Santa Cruz City Council advanced a plan to expand downtown and allow one building at 175 feet or 17 stories and up to three buildings at about 14 stories, said Santa Cruz Senior Planner Sarah Neuse. For comparison, the Palomar building is 90 feet and seven stories.
Maxwell supports an increased inclusionary rate for density bonus projects. Read more about the planning commission’s proposals in a Santa Cruz Local story and a city staff report.