The Board of Supervisors has already voted to establish oversight of the Sheriff's Office with an independent Inspector General. On October 18th, the County released a Request for Proposals (RFP) asking for an independent contractor to provide these services. We are now reviewing the ordinance language that will define this position's purpose, duties, and collaborative practices.
This large package of updates includes rezoning and amendments to the County General Plan (Item 13), updates to zoning regulations (Item 14), changes to parking and circulation code (Item 15), a new framework for permit approval (Item 16), and new county design guidelines (Item 17). The Planning Department has been receiving public input on these changes since the spring.
The part of the Sustainability Update that I received the most public feedback about was the proposed rezoning of nine properties on Portola for high density housing of up to 45 units per acre. I received hundreds of emails saying that more housing, particularly for working class people and families is needed, but that we should not max out the density and risk losing what makes the area special.
At the November 15th meeting of the Board of Supervisors, I moved that we use the zoning of up to 30 units per acre that so many of you asked for. This would apply to 8 out of the 9 properties that were under consideration. This means that they would have the same county general plan designation as the residential properties around them and will still allow for a significant amount of housing to be built.
For the 9th property, which is right next to the El Rancho Shopping Center, I proposed that we retain the current commercial zoning. That's because it's across the street from an existing, vibrant strip of businesses that includes Paula's, Over the Hill Gang and Surf School Santa Cruz. Having commercial there would compliment those businesses and complete the commercial area of Portola. It would also still allow for a mixed use project that incorporates housing.
The rest of the supervisors supported this compromise and the zoning is scheduled to be finalized at our December 6th meeting.
The 9.8 acre health campus at 1430 Freedom Blvd is one of the most significant properties the County owns. This Master Plan has been developed over multiple years with bi-lingual community engagement. It recommends 85,000 square feet of new County public health services and 160 units of housing with at least 75% being designated as affordable. The master plan program is planned to be built out over a span of at least 20 years dependent on funding. It includes multiple layout options (Option 3 pictured above).
Click here to participate via Zoom. Public comment starts shortly after 9:00 AM.
Regional Transportation Commission Begins Passenger Rail Study
On Thursday, December 1st, the Regional Transportation Commission voted to initiate an environmental impact report of passenger rail. The initial conceptual phase of the study will cost $7.759 million. The total cost of the report is estimated to cost $20 million, and staff is seeking state grants to assist with the total cost.
The money will come from Measure D (2016) sales tax revenues that are dedicated for rail. In effect, money that would have been used to maintain the rail corridor, fix washouts and repair trestles, will instead be directed to the study. Because of the voter approved Measure D (2016) Expenditure Plan this is not money that could have been used to improve local roads or fill potholes.
The Commission's decision to initiate the study, and my own vote in support, was largely driven by the results of the 2022 Measure D vote. Over 70% of the public voted to retain language for rail in the County's General Plan, suggesting that there is continued interest in rail.
The study is being structured to dig into the largest risks facing a passenger rail project early on including:
Potential requirements from the Coastal Commission to move portions of the tracks inland along the Manresa Bluffs (similar requirements have been imposed in Southern California), as well as challenges from flooding in Harkins Slough
Detailed inspections of 10 important trestles
Updated ridership and cost projections
This report will provide the necessary level of detail for a sales tax measure to be placed on the ballot determining if voters will fund construction and operation of passenger rail.
I'm hopeful that one way or another the additional data in this report will help our community reach consensus on the best way forward.
Rodriguez Street Sewer Rehabilitation Project
Work continues on the Rodriguez Street Sewer Rehabilitation Project. The Santa Cruz County Sanitation District has announced that Rodriguez Street will be closed to through traffic between Paul Minnie Avenue and Jose Avenue between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm from December 5th to 7th, 2022, weather permitting. This road closure is necessary for street paving after sanitary sewer and water main improvements. Questions may be directed to Ryuun Ernst at (408) 435-5106.
METRO continues to face a shortage of bus drivers. In an effort to provide the most consistent service possible, despite the staffing shortage, some changes are being made to the winter schedule. The changes begin December 22 and will last through March 15, 2023. They include:
Routes 69A and 91X have been suspended for the Winter schedule. Routes 69W and 71 continue to provide service between Watsonville, Cabrillo College, and Santa Cruz. Route 69W will have a slightly modified route in order to serve Watsonville Hospital, and will run more frequently in order to replace Route 69A. The Crestview variant of Route 71 will also have a modified route to serve Watsonville High School, Lincoln Ave and E. Lake/E. Beach. The Watsonville Circulator will also have a modified route that will include service to the Watsonville Hospital and Airport Blvd.
The Highway 17 Express will only operate as far as San Jose Diridon Station on weekdays (as it does currently on weekends). Passengers whose destination is downtown San Jose or SJSU will need to transfer to VTA bus or light rail. Three weekday trips, in both northbound and southbound directions, have been added.
All Route 35E trips will now provide service to Boulder Creek Country Club.
Route 4 will continue to serve River Street and the Harvey West area, but will operate as a loop route, rather than separate outbound and inbound trips.
The Santa Cruz County Women's Commission is a non-partisan advisory board that serves to advance the causes of all women, expand possibilities for women and girls and advocate for empowerment and equality.
The Santa Cruz County Commission on the Environment acts as an advisory body to, and resource for, the County Board of Supervisors. The Commission is charged with recommending policies and action programs designed to improve and protect the environment.
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Tuesday, December 6th - Board of Supervisors Meeting. Starting at 9:00 AM. Via Zoom, telephone, and in person at: 701 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Agenda andZoom link.
Wednesday, December 7th - Office Hours. From 1 PM to 3 PM Please visit us at the First District Office at the Sheriff's Center, 5200 Soquel Ave, ground floor.
Thursday, December 8th, 2022 - Happy Valley Town Hall. From 6:00 - 7:30 PM Hybrid Meeting: Happy Valley Elementary, 3125 Branciforte Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95065 and on Zoom:https://zoom.us/j/96708318897
Tuesday, December 13th - Board of Supervisors Meeting. Starting at 9:00 AM. Via Zoom, telephone, and in person at: 701 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Agenda and Zoom link here.