The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors recently gave direction to Planning staff to once again amend the County’s Affordable Housing Program (second time in 3 years), despite the process and economic concerns laid out by representatives the Business and Development Community. The proposed amendments appear to be staff driven, and include the elimination of the ‘developer option’ to pay in lieu fees to the County’s housing program, instead of building deed restricted, subsidized units on site, which tend to be prohibitively expensive. The in lieu fees are also not cheap, at $15 a square foot, but provided some certainty in an otherwise extraordinarily risky process.
The option to pay the fee, which provides much greater flexibility to those attempting to build housing in what is widely considered an unfriendly development market, has been marked for elimination for projects of 7 or more units, seemingly for no reason, despite having only been adopted 2015. Supervisor Friend seemed to be the only member of the Board who expressed caution at the idea of discontinuing the practice, saying that option to pay the fee has only existed for 2 years, and that not enough time had passed to assess how effective it was at promoting more housing development. During the first hearing he asked the very poignant and direct question to the Planning Director and Housing Manager: “will the strategy of requiring on site units result in the creation of more housing?” to which the reply was an ambiguous “well maybe…”.
The overall record of the County’s affordable housing and growth restriction program, Measure J, speaks for itself quite plainly. After it’s passage by voters in the late 70s, the program has helped to engineer what is widely considered one of the worst housing shortages in the country, making Santa Cruz County one of the least affordable places to live in the world, and most certainly one of the hardest places to do business. While other local jurisdictions have attempted to change their programs by pivoting toward more supply oriented measures, like the Cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville, the County continues to lag behind, and seems to actually be regressing. The developer option was a singular bright spot in providing more flexibility, and was even touted at the moment of it’s adoption as being a step in the right direction, interestedly enough by the same people who just suggested it be removed. Adding insult to injury, the County’s major step towards increasing housing density, the Sustainable Santa Cruz County Plan is behind schedule, and doesn’t appear like it will be ready for another 2 years.
Yet it somehow almost got worse. The County’s own economic analysis found that rental housing was essentially not economically feasible to build, at all, because of the low density and the lack of interest from developers. Yet Supervisor Leopold asked staff to look into a program that would require on site deed restricted affordable rental units for all new projects. Staff was even taken aback, letting him know that it would only create another barrier and further dis-incentivize the development of any new rental housing. Yet he asked for it anyway. There can be no motivation other than to further stop any new housing from being built, despite the near desperate pleas from people of all walks of life for more rental housing.
Thankfully the Housing Advisory Commission voted yesterday to nix that idea, again citing the plain fact that it wouldn’t accomplish anything because no one is building. How is the concept of “getting 15 percent of nothing” so mind boggling?
However, the overarching problem was how the process was carried out. When the housing program was amended back in 2015 there was extensive outreach and a robust public process around the amendments. Developer input was sought out, and all of the Supervisors and Senior Planning staff met with representatives of the Business Community. The Business Council in turn held multiple round tables of our housing focused members and came up with ideas to help, some of which were directly incorporated into the final program amendments. Yet, the roll back of the signature piece of these program amendments, the ‘developer option’, the one change that got buy-in for the amendments generally, was instigated this time around without a single hearing of the Planning Commission or even a phone call to those who had been apart of the process in the past. The agenda was set and made public late Thursday evening, and the business and development community was sent scrambling to figure out why this was happening now, and why such substantial changes were being proposed without so much as an overture of genuine engagement. That is deeply concerning, and speaks more to a problem of culture than policy.
SCCBC member Bay Federal Credit Union was recently named one of “2017 Best Credit Unions to Work For” for the second time in three years!
Bay Federal was also named one of the Best Places to Work in the Bay Area the past three years running. As part of its efforts to be an employer of choice in Santa Cruz County, the Credit Union provides employees with a generous benefits package, loan discounts, in-person and online learning, job shadowing, a management training program, a wellness program, recognition and appreciation, and volunteer opportunities. Check out the full article at CUJournal.com.
At Downtown Streets Team our goal is to prepare homeless men and women for the workforce and to help them move forward and into regular employment. The old adage, “get a job, bum” is too simple and unrealistic when we stop to think about the many challenges that people face simply to find a place to shower, launder their clothes, get an ID and other vital documents, and access their email or phone messages. A bridge is needed if homeless men and women are to move toward employment, and we strive to be that bridge.
Organization wide, our Team Members have earned over $4 million of taxable income as a direct result of their work with Downtown Streets Team and have retained their regular employment for 90 days or longer (an established benchmark for sustainable success) at a rate of 75%. The national best practice for transitional employment programs nation wide is 14%. We have achieved and will continue to achieve this success because of our commitment to help people rebuild from the ground up and to continue support long after they graduate from our program. This high rate of success is also in part because we individualize our employment strategy for each Team Member and try to find a position that matches their unique skills, knowledge, and abilities. If people – homeless or not – enjoy the work they do, they are much more likely to stick with it.
This last piece is where our partnerships with local businesses like yours will be extraordinarily valuable to the success of our Team Members here in Santa Cruz. Since the Downtown Business Improvement District in Palo Alto launched the first Downtown Streets Team back in 2005, we have always valued the partnerships of businesses. We have formal partnerships with BIDs and other business councils in many of the eight greater Bay Area communities in which we’re addressing homelessness every day. We recognize that businesses are an essential part of the solution to homelessness, even though they’re rarely engaged as such except when they’re being asked to donate money.
We are committed to developing employment pipelines with local, compassionate employers who understand the challenges that people face as they struggle with the daily rigors of homelessness but who are nonetheless willing to give our Team Members chance. We have developed such partnerships with large companies like Enterprise Rent-a-Car, as well as, with smaller, locally–owned businesses in the communities we serve. Since we are committed to supporting our Team Members after their graduation from our program, we can offer support to both employee and employer if challenges arise while on the job.
As we continue to establish our presence here in Santa Cruz, we hope to develop partnerships with member organizations of the Santa Cruz County Business Council to work together to address the issue of homelessness in our community. If you have any questions about our program or would like to discuss working with Downtown Streets Team, please contact me at 831-713-3708 or email email@example.com.
Employment Specialist – Santa Cruz
Downtown Streets Team
Agricultural Workforce Development Survey
As you know, our agricultural sector constitutes an important pillar of our local economy, and while technologies and new regulations come into place, we need to adapt to this changing environment by acquiring new skills and knowledge.
The Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Cruz Workforce Development Office have partnered with the AWET Program, an initiative from the Chancellor’s Office of Education and the Doing What Matters Framework, to identify the needs of agricultural businesses and bring more and better training to the workforce.
If you are a business owner or a manager working in agriculture, we would like to request just five minutes of your time to share your input with us regarding your needs as an agricultural business.
Please follow this link to participate by October 15: Agricultural Workforce Development Survey
(A Spanish version is also available per request.)
For this initiative to be representative of our agricultural sector, we need the participation of farmers, ranchers, agricultural services, machinery providers, seed producers, etc!
Please forward this survey to any contacts you may have in an ag-related business. The more input received, the better prepared the workforce will be.
Members and staff of the SCCBC attended today’s UCSC Friday Forum featuring Chancellor George Blumenthal and Assistant Professor Lindsey Dillon. The presentation focused on the foundation and recent activities of the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI).
Ms. Dillon co-founded EDGI, a network of academics and professionals, after the elections of November 2016 in response to threats to federal environmental and energy policy, and to the scientific research infrastructure by the incoming administration. EDGI has been building online tools, events, and research networks to proactively archive public environmental data and ensure its continued public availability. They also monitor changes to federal regulation, enforcement, research, funding, websites and general agency management at agencies including EPA, DOE, NASA, NOAA, and OSHA.
This was a very enlightening presentation and EDGI is doing great work. UCSC is planning to expand the Friday Forums this fall with lunch and evening sessions, so keep an eye on our events calendar and newsletter for info on upcoming sessions.
The SCCBC was honored to host Congressman Jimmy Panetta this morning at the Chaminade Resort for for breakfast. Congressman Panetta gave our board and guests a legislative briefing then took questions from the audience. Thank you, Congressman Panetta, for sharing your time with us! And thank you to our sponsors Kaiser Permanente, Cruzio Internet, and Barry Swenson Builder.
As many of you may be aware the County of Santa Cruz recently completed the first draft of an Environmental Impact Report on cannabis cultivation for the unincorporated areas of the County. This document, which is only the 3rd County-level EIR to be completed within the State, and of them is surely the most comprehensive, outlines the different regulatory approaches the County could take in regards to future land use policies governing recreational cannabis cultivation. The policy approaches the document considers vary from “very restrictive”, which would severely limit what areas of the County that would be available for growing; to “permissible”, which would create the loosest level of regulation. The document then considers these approaches and how each one would likely impact the natural environment.
Interestingly enough, the EIR recommends that the policy approach that would impact the natural environment the least is the most permissible approach. Essentially, it argues that if new restrictions on cannabis cultivation are too onerous, then there would be no incentive for the growers who are currently producing cannabis illegally to participate.
The current impacts from illegal cannabis grows in Santa Cruz County are tremendous, including pollution of local waterways, illegal diverting, use of pesticides in protected spaces and others. However, the organized cannabis community and the County both agree that this is due to a small number of bad actors who likely won’t take the steps necessary to become legitimate businesses, while those who want to play by the rules are willing to accept sensible environmental regulation, so long as they have enough land to operate.
Below is a summary of the specific recommendations that come from most permissive overarching policy approach. This summary was provided to the Business Council by SCCBC member organization Green Trade Santa Cruz, which represents over 30 cannabis industry partners. The summary’s original author is local Attorney Trevor Luxon. Trevor’s full summary also deals with the EIR’s recommendation concerning the manufacturing of cannabis products, however this has been left off to focus on the land use element.
INCREASES IN CANOPY SIZE- Previous proposals set relatively small caps on the percentage of a parcel which could be used for cultivation, and the total allowed square footage of canopy, which varied based on zoning. The EIR recommends that the previously proposed allowable canopy be increased as follows (effectively doubling prior proposals for most zoning types):
1. CA (Commercial Ag)- increased from 2% of the parcel, up to a maximum of 22,000 sq. ft. to 4% of the parcel, up to a maximum of 44,000 sq. ft.
2. A (Agriculture)- from 1.5% of the parcel up to a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. to 3% of the parcel, up to a maximum of 20,000 sq. ft.
3. RA- from 1.25% of the parcel up to a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. to 2.5% of the parcel, up to a maximum of 10,200 sq. ft.
4. C4- no change from prior proposals, a maximum of 22,000 sq. ft.
5. M1, M2, M3- no change from prior proposals, a maximum of 22,000 sq. ft.
6. TP- from 1.25% of the parcel up to a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. to 2.5% of the parcel, up to a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. on parcels less than 10 acres, and up to a maximum of 20,000 on parcels over 10 acres,
7. SU- from 1.25% of the parcel up to a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. to 2.5% of the parcel, up to up to a maximum of 10,000 sq. ft. on parcels less than 10 acres, and up to a maximum of 20,000 on parcels over 10 acres
MULTIPLE LICENSES PER PARCEL- Previous proposals allowed for only one cultivation license to be granted per parcel, regardless of the size of the parcel. The EIR recommendation is to allow multiple licenses per parcel. The first recommendation is to allow each license to allow the amount of square footage permitted under the above formulas, the secondary recommendation (dubbed the “More Permissive Project”) is to allow multiple licenses on a parcel, but the total square footage of all gardens combined must be less than or equal to the amount permitted under the above formula.
REDUCTION OF MINIMUM PARCEL SIZES: Under previous proposals, a minimum parcel size of five (5) acres was required for cultivation on parcels. Parcels zoned A (Agriculture) could not be licensed unless they were greater than 10 acres, and parcels zoned RA, TP and SU could not be licensed unless they were greater than 5 acres.
Under the recommended changes, the minimum size for A zoned parcels is reduced 10 to 5 acres, and for RA zoned parcels from 5 to 2.5 acres. Other zoning types are not affected.
In addition, the licensing official, in their discretion, would be permitted to license parcels that do not meet the minimum size requirement on a case-by-case basis.
CULTIVATION IN THE COASTAL ZONE AND ONE MILE BUFFER- Under previous proposals, cultivation was banned in the Coastal Zone, and also in a one-mile buffer zone from the Coastal Zone’s boundary, except in previously existing buildings in properties zoned CA, M, or C4.
Under the recommended alternative, no specific restrictions would be placed upon cultivation in the Coastal Zone or the one-mile buffer zone.
CULTIVATION IN THE SECOND DISTRICT- Under previous ordinances and proposals, special exceptions were made for the Second Supervisorial District, which did not permit outdoor cultivation, or cultivation on parcels of less than five acres.
Under the recommended alternative, no special exceptions or regulations would apply to the Second District for cultivation licensing.
WATER SOURCES- Previous proposals required all water used for cultivation must be provided by a legal source on the licensed parcel, and did not allow cultivators to import water from legal outside sources by methods such as delivery by truck.
SETBACKS- Under previous ordinances the following setbacks were included, which are recommended to be reduced in the following manner:
1. The minimum setback from cultivation sites to municipal boundaries, libraries, substance abuse treatment centers and parks was 600 feet. It is recommended that this be reduced to 300 feet.
2. The minimum setback from a habitable structure on an adjacent property was 200 ft., it is recommended it is reduced to 100 ft., with the Licensing Official allowed, in their discretion, to issue licenses with setbacks below 100 ft. on a case by case basis.
3. The minimum setback from a public right of way was 100 ft. on parcels from 1-5 acres, 200 ft. on parcels 5-10 acres, and 300 ft. on parcels over 10 acres. These have each been reduced by 50%, to 50 ft., 100 ft. and 150 ft. respectively.
4. No setback shall be required for indoor gardens.