Search

Reasons to sign the ‘Our Downtown’ petition

Stephen Kessler.


Column in the SC Sentinel, 1/29/2022


A petition to place a measure on the November 2022 ballot is now circulating that will help determine what kind of downtown Santa Cruz will have in the decades to come.


Our Downtown, Our Future (ourdowntownourfuture.org) is a coalition of grassroots community groups, downtown business owners and individuals with a different vision from the one represented by the city’s (management and council) decision to displace the farmers market to the less-central and less-sunny Lot 7 on Front Street, cut down 10 large magnolia and liquidambar trees, move the downtown library out of Civic Center and rebuild it as part of the ground floor of a six- or seven- or eight-story structure combining parking and low-income housing. Proponents of the city’s plan first argued that we needed the parking, and when that rationale was challenged by professional consultants and public opinion, OK then, forget parking (except for 310 new spaces), nobody can deny the need for affordable housing.


Why either parking or housing must be mixed with the library has yet to be explained apart from the mixed-use model’s alleged fiscal benefits, but even these remain open to question. From their earliest conception of a garage-library, 100% of the city’s political will has been directed toward that result. Our Downtown, Our Future’s petition is an opportunity to test the city’s determination against popular opinion in the interest of a truly democratic outcome. If the measure attracts enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, voters will have a choice between two starkly contrasting concepts of what best serves the community, for now and the next generations.


Here are some of the reasons to sign the petition.

  • The Library. Virtually no one who voted for Measure S thought they were voting to move the main library, let alone park it on the ground floor of a multistory garage or housing development. The library can be renovated where it is in Civic Center for a comparable cost per square foot as constructing a new housing-library-garage.

  • The Trees. Trees, the more and larger the better, help to mitigate global warming by absorbing and storing carbon. With their abundant, shady, oxygen-breathing beauty the trees on Lot 4 also break up the built landscape with a green oasis, even as now in the middle of a parking lot. Once these trees are slaughtered, they are gone forever.

  • The Housing. There is no good reason that the library must be combined with housing. If affordable apartments can be built on Lot 4, they can just as well be built on Lot 7. The original lie that we need more parking has been exposed by the ease with which the city now says it can replace (some) parking with apartments.

  • The Parking. Why have new hotels and market-rate housing developments not been required to provide their own parking? The city expects taxpayers to foot the bill for private-enterprise parking by putting 310 new parking spaces in their mixed-use thing. Let the new projects provide their own parking for the astronomical rates and rents they’ll charge their guests and tenants.

  • The Process. Worst of all for our political health, the process by which the mixed-use monster has been foisted on the citizenry was contaminated from the outset by the city’s singleminded promotion of the library as a component of something hardly anyone wanted and the bait-and-switch deception of the survey of library desires in which no mention was made of moving it into a mixed-use project. The illusion of community buy-in is a gross corruption of public trust.

The Our Downtown, Our Future petition is a first step in the direction of cleaning up the city’s self-made mess.


Stephen Kessler is a four-time recipient of the California Library Association’s PR Excellence Award for The Redwood Coast Review, which he founded and edited from 1999 through 2014 for Coast Community Library in Point Arena.

Recent Posts

See All