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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county


Petitions block Santa Cruz hotel project and parking complex

Developer withdraws proposal

Santa Cruz Group Sierra Club Board Member Patricia Matejcek speaks at the news conference launching the petition drive.
Photo: Debbie Bulger

The voters of Santa Cruz demonstrated the depth of their opposition to a massive hotel project proposed for West Cliff Drive first by signing referendum petitions against the project and second by responding negatively to the project in a telephone survey commissioned by the developer. As a result, the developer has withdrawn the project.

The Sierra Club joined with other community groups to oppose the project which would have replaced the former Dream Inn on West Cliff Drive with a structure nearly twice as large. In addition the project included a 690-space, six-floor parking garage and conference center across the street. The City planned to invest $30 million ($66 million with debt service) in the project via its Redevelopment Agency.

The Club opposed the project because it would have exceeded the height, mass, land use and setback limitations of the present General Plan, Local Coastal Plan, and zoning for the site. Ordinances passed by the City in a 4-3 vote in January included spot zoning to benefit this project exclusively. The staff of the California Coastal Commission also expressed concern about the project to Council.

Were the project built, views to and from the Wharf, Cowell and Main Beaches, and West Cliff Drive would be severely impacted. Coastal development policy requires that developments along the ocean and scenic coastal areas blend into, rather than dominate, their surroundings.

In addition, the proposed complex, with its 690-space parking garage would have been automobile-centric and would have created major traffic problems impacting access to the unique coastal resources surrounding the project site, including Lighthouse Field and West Cliff Drive. Only a week before the City Council approved the project, the City Transportation Commission recommended that approval be delayed until the traffic problems could be properly addressed.

Santa Cruz Group Executive Committee members and others who opposed the project noted that more extensive and more participatory planning is needed to identify appropriate locations for a major visitor-serving facility in Santa Cruz that would not create environmental damage.

In addition to many environmental problems, the proposed complex would have exposed the City to major financial risk if the project did not generate as much tax revenue as promised.

The developer's decision to withdraw the project as we go to press eliminates the need for the City Council to schedule an election on the issue. Presumably, the Council will now rescind the ordinances it adopted in order to approve the project. The hotel owners have indicated their intent to remodel the existing hotel after the summer season.

Special thanks go to the many Sierra Club volunteers who gathered signatures, spoke out about the project at public meetings, and otherwise worked with other groups to oppose this massive project.


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