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By Lira Filippini, John Hall, Robert Morgan and Susan Renison Source: Lookout Santa Cruz

Measure O finally provides the Santa Cruz community a real decision on both how we spend our MeasureS library renovation funds and how we permanently shape our downtown.

Since the City of Santa Cruz wants us to focus on its plan for Lot 4, let’s first look at what the plan really means in a physical sense.

The city would tear down our structurally sound, but outdated, library at the civic center, move the farmers market from its home of over 20 years, cut down those big trees, tear out Toadal Fitness, and use our Measure S money toward building the library as part of a parking garage, housing and commercial project that would take up an entire city block and go up eight stories.

Measure O stops the city’s misguided project.

It fully renovates our library at our civic core; it dedicates eight publicly owned lots downtown to affordable housing; it secures the best permanent home for the farmers market; and prevents debt for a new, environmentally regressive parking garage all available data shows we don’t even need.

The city’s plan would permanently take away our absolute best place for the market and a public plaza.

Currently, the second-best place identified by the farmers market board is Front Street’s Lot 7, which is not as big, has three times the vehicle traffic, is already a darker parcel, and will soon be a busy, windy, tunnel of shade with all the new buildings already approved for the area.

Beyond that, the city wants to sell two of our publicly owned lots to an out-of-state luxury hotel developer.

Measure O reserves those — and six other publicly owned lots — for affordable housing above the ground level; it’s a significant community investment of land toward what we need most into the future. It results in far more affordable housing than the city’s unfunded proposal for Lot 4 and prevents further shenanigans with our publicly owned land.

It’s tempting to be swayed by the claim that the city’s project of 124 affordable housing units is “ready to go.”

The city is creating an illusion that its project is years into the application process. Once our 2016 Measure S funds were secured, the sleight of hand started as city officials immediately transitioned to the library as part of a garage … and then later a garage/library/ housing/commercial proposal.

The reality is different.

The city’s proposal has been in the “concept” phase until this September. That’s when the city filed the official project application and held its first community meeting for the project as a whole.

Check for yourself here.

“Unready to go” funding facts on the city’s proposal include:

  • The new library plan is currently $17 million over budget.

  • The city was denied the state library grant for $10 million — there goes the solar power, green roof, and who knows what else.

  • The city hasn’t secured a bond for the unneeded parking garage, which if secured would put us in debt for decades.

  • The city needs to buy the Toadal Fitness lot — and hasn’t yet done so, nor do officials know the cost to buy that land or demolish and dispose of the building.

  • The proposed project lacks at least $121 million for the housing component.

The city claims the project is environmentally responsible, citing the use of solar energy. Let’s be clear: Solar is possible in both library options.

But the bigger environmental issue, pointed out by green architects and urban planners, is the intense carbon debt caused by the amount of concrete construction, compared to the renovation. And let’s not forget building the new parking garage.

We face a climate crisis, an affordability crisis and an economically struggling downtown, with many large developments already in the pipeline that will change the downtown landscape forever. It’s crucial that if Santa Cruz is not just to survive, but thrive, we use our publicly owned land to its best potential.

Measure O stops the city’s current, damaging plan.

Beyond that, it provides the city a user guide to ensure the community will get the most out of our precious and fastest dwindling resource downtown — publicly owned land.

How things are decided matters.

Where things are matters. Community-centered urban planning matters. And our social, cultural and physical environments matter.

This moment marks a crossroads for our community — the opportunity to vote directly on far-reaching urban planning decisions downtown, decisions that normally exclude us. We can choose the path the city wants, or we can take a seat at the table where our future is decided— and vote yes on Measure O.

Lira Filippini sits on the board of numerous nonprofits and organizations, co-founded Waves of Compassion Foundation, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UC Santa Cruz. She has lived in the community off and on for nine years. She is co-chair of Yes on Measure O for Our Downtown, Our Future.

John Hall is a UCSC research professor emeritus in sociology and a church representative to the developer for the Peace Village housing project. He has lived in Santa Cruz since 2011. He is co-chair of Yes on Measure O for Our Downtown, Our Future and chair of the Downtown Commons advocates.

Robert Morgan is a retired public school teacher and principal. He’s a former Sierra Club executive committee member with an interest in transportation issues. He raised his family in Santa Cruz and has been a resident for 27 years. He is also on the steering committee of Yes on Measure O for Our Downtown, Our Future.

Susan Renison is a librarian and a 43-year active member of the Santa Cruz community. She is proud of her role with Felton’s Friends Of Locally Owned Water. She is on the steering committee of Yes on Measure O for Our Downtown, Our Future.

By Letters to the Editor | Santa Cruz Sentinel October 26, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

We’ve reached a new low when a notice to remove Lot 4’s Heritage trees is posted just before election day when passing Measure O will save them. The irony is that the removal notice is initiated by the San Jose affordable housing developer that will profit if Measure O fails. What arrogance. In the very doubtful event that the city finds funding for the project, housing will not even begin construction until the massive parking structure is built because it is meant to perch on top of the structure. We are talking years.

This tree removal notice is a shameful, arrogant political stunt. It is time to assert ourselves and vote Yes on O, if not for the trees then for the sake of transparency and honesty.

— Erica Aitken, Santa Cruz

By Santa Cruz Sentinel | October 25, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

By Stephen Svete

A fundamental rule of good city planning holds that community stakeholders should be involved at the project conception. A central tenet of public financing is that a taxing entity must spend money in a manner consistent in both spirit and detail with the bond voters’ approval. On both counts, the city’s mixed-use concept for Cedar Street’s Lot 4 fails...

The need for affordable housing is indisputable, and its development warrants careful sensitivity to scale and context. Ideal sites are dispersed surface parking lots and other underutilized properties. Urban form and compatibility should all be analyzed in each project, not only to ensure that the integrity of what remains of Santa Cruz’s historic and aesthetic sense of place remains intact – but to ensure the quality of life of future downtown residents, visitors, and the community writ large.

Stephen Svete is a career urban planning consultant. He is an American Planning Association certified professional and holds a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Neighborhood Development credential from the U.S. Green Building Council.

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