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Voters to decide library's future

Petition qualifies for November ballot

Boxes containing petitions with more than 5,000 signatures from people who attested that they were Santa Cruz city voters. Delivered by Our Downtown, Our Future, the measure qualified for the November ballot. Credit: Shmuel Thaler -- Santa Cruz Sentinel File

Aric Sleeper. asleeper@santacruzsentinel.com

Article in the SC Sentinel, 6/18/2022


SANTA CRUZ >> A vote to halt the construction of a new city library with an attached parking garage and affordable housing project in Downtown Santa Cruz will go on the November ballot this year unless it’s approved by the Santa Cruz City Council.


On Tuesday, the county clerk certified a petition created by the local grassroots organization, Our Downtown, Our Future, for a ballot measure to stop the city from building a new public library and mixed-use building on the lot that currently hosts the city’s weekly farmers market. The group gathered 4,912 valid signatures, more than the 3,048 required to place it on the November ballot.


“We are energized by the public’s response to our efforts and those of our volunteers who collected more than enough signatures to move forward,” said Our Downtown, Our Future member Lisa Ekstrom. “I have met and had conversations with so many amazing people in the community and for that alone I’m grateful.”


In addition to halting the Downtown Library and Affordable Housing Project, which has cost the city approximately $2.5 million during the planning process, the ballot measure would alter the city’s general and downtown plans. If passed this fall, it would prohibit the relocation of the farmers market and establish Lot 4 as its permanent home. The measure would also require the development of affordable housing on downtown city-owned parking lots, and designate surplus revenue gathered by the city’s parking program to finance affordable housing projects and alternative transportation programs for people working Downtown.


“Instead of a larger, modern and highly sustainable library, the community would receive a smaller library that doesn’t fully meet its needs,” said Santa Cruz City Manager, Matt Huffaker. “The Council has directed a study on the potential impacts, so we will soon know the true cost to the residents of Santa Cruz of what is being proposed.” With the petition’s certification, the city’s existing plan to use the funding allocated from voter-approved Measure S to build a new library, which would include a 310-space parking garage, and around 120 affordable housing units, will come to a grinding halt. The new ballot measure calls for the library to remain at its current location at 224 Church St.


“We are grateful that this will give people the chance to decide the future of Downtown for themselves,” said Erica Aitken, organizer with Our Downtown, Our Future.

The City Council will vote on the proposed plan amendments in the coming weeks.


[Editor's note:

The proposed renovation of the library includes full modernization and it spares the sustainability costs of the plan for demolition and rebuilding, which include increased "embodied carbon", the removal of 10 large heritage trees, and waste of existing materials.

According to City documents, the mixed-use project would also cost Santa Cruz residents more per square foot than would the renovation. Voters approving Measure S were unlikely to anticipate such use of the funding.

Individual library-users looking for sources and further information on the above clarifications and on how fully each proposal can meet their needs should visit ourdowntownourfuture.org/fact-check.]

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