SANTA CRUZ, CA — The Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce has followed the Downtown Library Mixed Use Project for the past six years since voters approved Measure S in 2016. Following the latest discussion and the introduction of a signature gathering petition drive to place an initiative on the November 2022 ballot entitled “Our Downtown Our Future,” the Chamber announced today its opposition to the initiative. It appears that the initiative organizers will submit the necessary signatures to the Santa Cruz City Clerk in early May. If the initiative qualifies for the November 2022 ballot it would significantly delay the downtown library project. In essence, the initiative would eliminate the ability for the City to build the library on Lot 4 at the corners of Cedar and Lincoln and Cathcart in downtown Santa Cruz.
Let’s take a broader look at this issue: In June 2016 voters approved a $67 million bond to modernize, upgrade and repair local libraries in Aptos, Boulder Creek, Capitola, Felton, La Selva Beach, Live Oak, Scotts Valley and the three branches in the City of Santa Cruz.
The architectural design of the Downtown Library that is in process calls for a 35,000-square-foot library, 5,000-square-foot outdoor rooftop patio, and a childcare center; the library would be the hub to serve the entire county library system. The conceptual design community meeting is set for this Thursday, April 21.
Citing the City of Santa Cruz staff reports dating back several years, the work of the Downtown Library Advisory Committee and the votes by two City Councils, all determined that the best path forward for the Downtown Library was through a cost-effective mixed-use project. If this initiative were to pass on a November 2022 ballot, the City would lose a Downtown Library Mixed-Use project that has been approved twice by the Council and could lose millions of dollars in affordable housing grant funding and tax credits linked to the 125-unit affordable housing project. Furthermore, the proposed initiative touts that they will create more affordable housing and re-direct funds to an affordable housing fund, statements that are not factual.
The real target of the initiative is the parking portion of the project that does not add a single new parking space to downtown – it simply replaces some but not all the spaces in lots that will be closing. This replacement parking would provide some parking for four affordable housing projects with 355 units, all close to construction stage. The projects will not have parking lots, allowed by city incentives to reduce vehicle use. This significantly reduces the cost of building and increases the chances of acquiring funding.
One fact initiative proponents ignore is that some of the lots the initiative would give preference for housing are too small for viable affordable housing projects. It typically takes five to eight years to authorize and approve a housing project, not including construction time, to turn an idea into a project.
The Downtown Mixed-Use Library Project is in the last year of that planning process. Let’s not throw away this opportunity toward an idea that exists only in the minds of people who have no expertise in creating affordable housing and a modern library.
The Chamber of Commerce envisions a vibrant downtown that includes a centrally located architecturally delightful mixed-use library structure. It will complement other downtown projects like the new Metro station, a new health and dental clinic, a Warriors facility, and a permanent farmers market designed with practical community needs in mind rather than one confined by an initiative.
The Chamber of Commerce recommends that registered voters in Santa Cruz should not sign the petition. If you signed the petition, you can call the City Clerk’s office at (831) 420-5030 to remove your name. If the initiative reaches the November ballot, the Chamber encourages Santa Cruz voters to vote No.