Update: Sustainable Santa Cruz County Plan (County of Santa Cruz)

On September 24th, the County Planning Commission held a public hearing to discuss the current draft version of the Sustainable Santa Cruz County Plan. The Planning Commissioners present each provided comments on the Plan, and for the most part were supportive and complimentary of the vision laid out in the document. Following discussion by the commissioners, and after listening to various public comments, the Commission voted to pass the document along to the Board of Supervisors for approval with the following comments highlighted:

– Request for more detailed analysis regarding the walkability of the Plan’s focus areas.
– More clarity about how the Plan will incorporate the future Sanctuary Scenic Trail
– Emphasis should be placed on improvements to Highway 1
– Height overlays proposed (all require Board approval for specific locations identified in the plan):

  • Medical (60 feet/ 4 stories)
  • Mixed Use residential and commercial (45 feet/ 3 stories)
  • Residential (40 feet- 3 stories)
  • Residential Flex (50 feet- 4 stories)

– Refine/reduce potential parking requirements for residential areas in transit priority areas
– Added multimodal transportation improvements such as:

  • Enhanced bike/pedestrian connectivity for better safety and appeal
  • New vehicle connections and traffic congestion improvements on streets

SCCBC staff submitted formal comments to the Planning Commission and also spoke at the public hearing. The two major themes of our comments were 1) the importance of density (especially regarding housing) in the Plan’s focus areas, and 2) the emphasis that should be placed on improving infrastructure associated with Highway 1. While the Commissioners addressed the density topic (through their detailed height discussion), the impact of current Highway 1 conditions was not addressed in full related to how it could adversely impact the Plan’s future vision.

Next up for the Sustainable SC County Plan is a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors on October 28th. The Board may chose to accept/approve the Plan “as is” at the hearing. SCCBC plans to submit additional comments related to the need for the Plan to clearly define transportation infrastructure improvements that need to be made, primarily to Highway 1, to support the comprehensive vision of the Plan. While SCCBC feels that the key components of the Plan (higher density near transportation hubs, zoning improvements, elements focused on alternative means of transportation) are to be lauded, we still have concerns about the Plan’s ability to accomplish its comprehensive vision if congestion issues associated with Highway 1 are not specifically addressed in the final version. Keep in mind that when we refer to Highway 1 improvements it does not necessarily mean widening of the highway. Expediting the completion of auxiliary lanes, reconfiguration of streets to keep cars off the highway and improvements to access/egress are part of the portfolio of options that should be mentioned in the final version of the Plan.

Formal comments we plan to submit to the Board of Supervisors prior to the October 28th hearing will be posted to the SCCBC website. Check back for updates.

If you have any questions about the Plan, or our involvement in the process, please feel free to reach out to us.