SANTA CRUZ — A local advocacy group moved closer this week to gaining voter support to stop construction of a new city library with attached parking lot and affordable housing project.
Our Downtown, Our Future filed a petition on Tuesday morning with more than 5,000 signatures supporting the group’s proposed ballot measure to voters on Nov. 8. The move comes less than a week after another group filed its petition for an empty home tax proposal. measurement of the ballot.
“The petition has received overwhelming support from voters of all ages, diverse ethnicities and from all neighborhoods of Santa Cruz,” Our Downtown, Our Future Co-Chair John Hall told a small rally. on the steps of City Hall before dropping off the signed petitions. . “The people who have signed up range from fiscal conservatives to progressives and more generally, people who care deeply about the future of our community.”
The petition, which would require the approval of a simple majority of voters to pass as a ballot measure, would require the city to modify its master plan and other major planning documents to prevent the construction of a multi-unit parking lot. floors on one of the eight cities. parking lots and prioritizing the existing library to remain the institution’s home, among other changes.
In order for the initiative to progress to the polls, the City of Santa Cruz Clerk’s Office, through the County Elections Office, has 30 days to validate the petition by verifying residency and voting status of at least 3,848 petition signatories. If the petition passes, the matter will go to the Santa Cruz City Council to either formally call an election or consider passing directly by resolution.
Our Downtown, Our Future was born out of a collaboration between several existing groups seeking to alter or halt construction plans for the city’s “mixed-use library project.” The collective came together around three major issues, namely the opposition to the razing of the existing library, the relocation of the Downtown Farmers Market and the construction of a new municipal parking lot.
A newly formed citizens’ group calling itself Santa Cruz For Real Solutions released a statement Tuesday morning condemning the efforts of Our Downtown, Our Future as a step backwards for the library system and efforts to build affordable housing.
“ODOF’s election measure is a Trojan horse laden with smoke and mirrors and is not rooted in reality. This will eliminate badly needed affordable housing that will serve families, seniors, essential workers and students and waste millions of dollars in housing subsidies,” the statement quoted Don Lane, chairman of the board of directors of the Housing Santa Cruz County and former City Council member. “This measure uses vague language and unrealistic ideas in a cynical attempt to undermine the public process – a process that has used community-led committees, many votes from our elected city council and direct input from thousands of local residents. .”
The mixed-use project, as approved, uses “lot 4”, bounded by Cedar, Cathcart and Lincoln streets. The effort includes a new library adjacent to five floors of affordable housing — up to 125 units — in addition to three floors of parking. According to a page dedicated to town planning, since the start of the project, the proposed car park has been reduced from 310 to 400 spaces. The project also includes a space for a daycare center on the ground floor and a commercial space at the corner of Cathcart and Cedar streets.
The new library would replace the existing downtown library, located a few blocks away at 224 Church Street. Community events traditionally held on Lot 4, including the weekly downtown farmers’ market, are expected to be moved. City officials are considering using Lot 7, at Front and Cathcart Streets, or the existing Church Street Library site as the new home of the Farmers’ Market. A project that would have renovated or rebuilt the existing library site was rejected in initial discussions by a council-appointed citizen library committee as too costly or not comprehensive enough. Parking garage and library projects would save on shared construction costs by twinning.