Santa Cruz Legislative Watch: June 2001 – Affordable Housing Project Postponed

JUNE 2001


Image result for tom burns santa cruzTom Burns from the County’s Redevelopment Agency (RDA) was hired by the County to be the County Geologist in 1977. Then, for a while, he was the head of Resource Planning and dealt with long range and permit issues. Later, he was Assistant Planning Director for many years. And today, he is Director of the County’s Redevelopment Agency. Tom explained that State Redevelopment law is a tool for local cities and counties who may decide to consider setting up Redevelopment areas. In Soquel and Live Oak, the County set one up in 1987. The plan included parks, drainage, streets, infrastructure, etc. Tom mentioned that the Live Oak area prior to RDA, over the years had urbanized without benefit of urban services and RD funds were used to help put them in place. Once a Redevelopment area is set up, the RDA gets part of the growth from property taxes and 20% of the monies received have to be used for affordable housing. Current projects underway by the County RDA are the Soquel Bridge, which will begin construction in June and Capitola Road from the City of Santa Cruz to the City of Capitola. (Sometimes, various RDAs must work in conjunction with other City RDAs such as the Capitola Road project which traverses through the County and the Cities of Santa Cruz and Capitola.)

Tom estimated that the County RDA has funded about 50 or so projects including the affordable housing project on Cunnison Lane in Soquel, the Live Oak Library expansion, work on Schwan Lake, and the one way section of East Cliff Drive with the bikeway and walking pathway. A question was asked regarding the involvement of the RDA in the O’Neill Ranch property, currently the new Anna Jean Cummings Park, on Old San Jose Road, near Soquel High School. Over 20 years ago, this 95 acre parcel was slated for several hundred units of housing. After many failed attempts at market rate housing, the County purchased the property for $6 million by using $2 million of RDA funds and$~ million out of the County’s capital fund with a goal to build affordable housing and a park. Many years later, the Board of Supervisors voted not to build housing, and 1~stea~ made plans for the park. Because the property had nsen m value, capital funds from the County in the amount of approximately $3 .1 million was used to “buy back” the RDA’s original portion of $2 million. State Housing and Community Development Department (HC~), who oversees certification of the County’s Housing Element, saw the Board’s action as an act of bad faith toward providing housing in the County, and this was one of many reasons HCD was not willing to provide State certification for the Housing Element at that time. To complete construction of the Anna Jean Cummings Park, RDA funded an additional $3.5 million. Total park cost: Approximately $10.5 million. Tom noted that RDA funds cannot be utilized for maintenance of completed projects. Currently, some of the property owned by the County RDA are:

  1. land/buildings at the corner of 17th and Felt
  2. a Chanticleer parcel
  3. corner of Capitola and 17th
  4. the Anna Jean Cummings Park; various parking lots in Soquel
  5. a mobile home park in Soquel in the flood plain behind the Soquel Post Office

State RDA law has been revised and major changes were made in 1994 such as:

  • Tightening the definition of “blight” to require both substantial physical and economic conditions as a precondition to RDA plan approval
  • Requiring that agencies adopt implementation plans that ensure that projects pursued by the agency are directly related to remedying the blighted conditions that justified creation of the project area
  • Eliminating the fiscal review and negotiation process with taxing entities and replacing it with a statutory three-tier pass-through formula
  • Establishing time limits for project areas for issuing debt, plan implementation, and repayment of debt
Image result for anna jean cummings construction images
Anna Jean Cummings Park, Soquel California

RDA must go through the same planning process as a private citizen. Thus far, County RDA, in the housing arena, has leveraged approximately $13 million for property valued at about $80 million. For more information on County RDA projects, public hearings or other questions: the RDA email address is and phone number (831) 454-2280.


Public Hearing for Pajaro Lane Affordable Housing Project Postponed to June 5, 2001

In order to accommodate proper notice to the public, the public hearing scheduled for May 22 was postponed to June 5. The application for 99 affordable housing units was submitted in December, 2000 and is located on property on the east and west sides of Pajaro Lane to the southeast of Airport Boulevard at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Pajaro Lane about one-quarter mile south of Airport Boulevard and Green Valley Road. Consistent with the Affordable Housing Ordinance requirement for priority processing, priority processing has been granted based on the fact that 100% of the units are affordable and the project includes a “Density Bonus Credit.”

The application for 99 affordable housing units was submitted in December 2000

The Agricultural Policy Advisory Commission (APAC) reviewed and conditionally approved the proposed reduction of the 200 foot agricultural buffer setback to an average 175 foot agricultural buffer setback, consistent with the County’s Agricultural Land Preservation and Protection Ordinance. The 175 foot setback is contiguous with the General Plan’s required 10 foot setback from the dripline of the Corralitos Creek’s riparian vegetation. Conditional approval requires the applicant to construct a 6 foot high chain link fence along the agricultural setback line in order to prevent trespass into the agricultural land and to allow visibility into the riparian corridor. Priority funding is necessary in order to receive construction funding to occur this year with approval by the Board of Supervisors for the deadline in mid June. The approval of the application includes a Minor Land Division (MLD) for the proposed apartments to be situated on a separate parcel at the time of the tax credit application and must record the early part of June in order for the applicant to receive this year’s tax credit funding for construction to begin in 2002. Phase I consists of the required MLD. Phase II includes the Residential Development for the proposed apartments, community building and the necessary road, drainage and utility improvements. Complexities for approval include, but are not limited to, the 28 foot height limit, density bonus credits, roadway, roadside and riparian exceptions, etc. Permits must be granted prior to February 15, 2002 with Board approval in order to obtain the necessary funding. Phase ill includes the further subdivision of the land for 35 townhomes. This is one to “WATCH”!

Exploration of New Redevelopment Area in the San Lorenzo and Pajaro Valley Area

County RDA, in a letter dated May 10, 2001 to the Board of Supervisors, stated that as part of this past year’s budget actions, funds were appropriated to study the possibility of forming new redevelopment project areas in the San Lorenzo Valley and Pajaro Valley. While work is still underway to determine initial feasibility of pursuing a project in the Pajaro Valley area, discussions regarding the San Lorenzo Valley (SLV) have progressed to the point where the Board of Supervisors may take initial steps to formally initiate the plan development state of the project. The letter further said that the San Lorenzo Valley area, while not having experienced the same dramatic growth in new development that has occurred in mid-county, the SL V has it’s own unique set of issues due to infrastructure limitations. Most prominently, as the housing in the SL V has changed from predominantly seasonal summer cabins to year-round occupancy, septic system problems have become a high cost maintenance item for homeowners and an impediment to business area vitality. Other infrastructure needs have been identified over the past decade that directly affect the economic viability of the core business areas and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. Village plans were completed for Felton in 1987, Ben Lomond in 1990, and Boulder Creek in 1992, but little implementation of these plans has occurred due to a lack of adequate financial resources. Initial public input has been obtained indicating the following concerns:

  • RDA’s use of eminent domain authority and RDA’s ability to assemble sites for commercial development; thus RDA will recommend that the RDA plan not include eminent domain authority
  • Financial impact on the local special districts in the Valley as the result of the redistribution of property tax growth which impact the four fire districts in the Valley and if not properly addressed the community will likely not support creating a project area
  • Potential revenue must meet project needs
  • Housing assistance needs should be specifically addressed in the SL V area
  • Concerns addressed by citizens that the SL V project area should require a vote

RDA letter was unable to address the voting issue and said that the Board of Supervisors could conduct an advisory election on this issue, but that “it is premature at this time to assess the need or mechanism to address this issue.” After discussion by community members, the Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with the study to determine the feasibility of an RDA in the SLV. “Watch”!

Seacliff Village Plan

On May 22, the Board of Supervisors approved the plan in concept only and acknowledged that the moratorium on new development in the Seacliff Village expires on June 30, 2001. The moratorium cannot legally be extended. Issues that will need to be addressed in further detail are the re-zoning of the Adobe Hacienda, which is a 14 unit low income, longterm residential property, and was originally constructed as a motel back in 1946 with additions and alterations. The Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) recommended that the Board authorize the continued use of the property as affordable housing-and under the current C-1 zoning, a use permit would not be allowed-therefore they are recommending re-zoning to a higher density RMl.5 (Multi-Family Residential 1500 square feet per dwelling unit and change the land use designation from Neighborhood Commercial to Urban High Density residential. The Seacliff Center Trailer Park site is currently used for approximately 23 semi-permanent travel trailer/RV housing units and a manager’s quarters. Permits issued in 1963 and 1964 respectively allowed 28 transient travel trailer spaces. These permits also required a 15-foot landscaped buffer along State Park Drive, a 6-foot buffer along the railroad right of way, landscaping along Broadway, and an on-site play/recreational areaconditions which have not been met. Now, the transient trailer use has evolved into a semi-permanent housing use for lower income residents. HAC recommended that the Board of Supervisors continue the current enforcement policies relative to the occupancy limits contained in the use permits for the site so as not to displace the residents and ensure, also, that the owner does not displace tenants involuntarily. HAC also recommended that the owner be required to complete the various physical improvements required by the permits and adequately maintain the property. HAC is asking the Board to require the identification of new sites and projects for 31 affordable housing units within the Seacliff area and/or Aptos Planning Area for very low income households to be developed within the three years following the adoption of the replacement housing plan for the trailer park residents. The Board approved the above with the exception of this latter recommendation from HAC. Other considerations for parking, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center/Museum and Drainage, trails connecting Aptos Village, State Park and Seacliff Village. Design requirements were also included. Additionally, HAC recommended that the 2.9 acre McGregor parcel presently designated Community Commercial shall be designated as a potential Park site and that the Board seek funding for the purchase of the McGregor property. “Watch” as the process continues.


Rispin Mansion Hotel Proposal Continues

Image result for rispin mansion capitolaTwo developers, Beardslee and Floyd continue their inquiry to develop the historic 10,000 square feet Rispin Mansion on the comer of Wharf Road and Clares Street in Capitola. In the third year since their initial proposal back in 1998, the project number of hotel units has decreased from 49 to 24. Faced with the intricacies of historical preservation, so that the original architecture remains in tact, they must forge ahead with a design that meets the historical guidelines. They must also take the cautious approach to the Soquel Creek riparian corridor and the protection of the Monarch butterflies in the Eucalyptus grove. Meanwhile, the Coastal Commission has indicated that the location of the property in the riparian corridor and the endangered Monarch butterflies in the Coastal Zone present further obstacles to approval. With what many call a flawed EIR, answers to all of the aforementioned problems must be resolved in order for the hotel renovation to be approved. And the question, yet unanswered: When? “Watch”!


Blue Bonnet Lane Condo Project Postponed

A public hearing was held on May 16 to review an application for a 34 unit condo project on a 2.34 acre site located on Blue Bonnet Lane. The Planning Commission’s hearing on April 26 concluded that the project had been designed in conformance with the height regulations and asked that the architect provide additional exhibits for the City Council hearing. The Planning Commission, in its report, addressed its concerns about fence and lighting details and recommended that the City Council approve the application with modifications to conditions. Citing the following considerations for approval of the project: a) the project will serve the City’s goal of adding to the supply of housing units in the City in order to accommodate regional population needs and employment growth in the City; b) the project will help address the shortfall of housing required to meet the city’s fair share allocation of regional housing needs—in particular, the project will provide 5.1 affordable units to be used to offset the fair share housing demand; c) the project will directly contribute to the tax base of the City through increases in the assessed value of the project property and increased tax increment revenue because the site is located in the Scotts Valley Redevelopment Plan area; and d) indirect tax contributions through sales tax revenues would be generated through local businesses by occupants of the new dwellings and a larger population will also help support existing retail businesses. In spite of the list of recommendations from the Planning Commission, nearby neighbors voiced their concerns about the three-story development -some claiming that their privacy would be invaded by the tall structures looming over their homes in the Montevalle Mobile Home Park. The developer, Bill Brooks, asked for postponement in order to address neighborhood concerns. “Watch”!


City Redevelopment Agency to Enter into Affordable Housing Agreement with Pacific Union Apartments

Pacific Union Apartments is a major residential developer in Northern California. They have acquired one property and has acquired options on two other properties with the Merged Earthquake Redevelopment Project Area on which to develop mixed income residential rental projects each containing 40% low and very low income units. The developer proposes that by applying the tax increment and some City fees generated by the projects to the affordable units, could make these mixed-income projects financially feasible. The developer is proposing to construct approximately 100 mixed income rental units at the comer of Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street, known as 1010 Pacific Avenue, with ground floor retail on both Pacific and Cathcart Street, with subterranean parking. The developer is requesting the new tax increment and approximately $630,000 of the $1.3 million in fees to be paid by the project, to be used to provide the 40% affordability-or 40 units for low and very low income households. The developer is also requesting other fees to be deferred until issuance of the occupancy permit. Even with this assistance, the 1010 Pacific Avenue project will not be feasible without financial support from a second project consisting of 200 mixed income rental units on an 11-acre site on Shaffer Road.