Pleasure Point is No Place for Skyscrapers: Rezone Our Neighborhood the Right Way
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Santa Cruz County wants to more than double the housing density on Portola Drive in Pleasure Point.
Save Pleasure Point – a group of Pleasure Point residents who came together in 2016 to save the neighborhood’s vibrant vibe and low-key features – vehemently oppose the idea. Our group started as a small group and now has hundreds of members. We want the community to hear our concerns and listen to our ideas for alternative solutions.
We consider Pleasure Point to be a living treasure with its rich history, shopping, great restaurants, iconic surfing, coastal boardwalk, and inclusive, informal “know your neighbor” style. We protect our neighborhood of 5,800 residents by monitoring development projects on our section of Portola Drive to ensure that any new development includes design styles compatible with our local character. This includes: no buildings higher than three stories, ample on-site parking for new projects, and plenty of green and open space.
Our efforts led to the placement of flashing beacons at crosswalks, increased on-site parking on proposed project designs, and community meetings that generated the Development Design Guidelines for the Portola Commercial Corridor Drive between 38th and 41st avenues.
During consideration of the county’s proposal 2022 Sustainable Development Policy and Regulatory Update, we recently discovered a section on the rezoning of Portola Drive to allow for maximum high-density housing development. We think this could easily diminish the low key culture and character of Pleasure Point. It is also contrary to the design guidelines developed through community meetings and supported by residents.
While we support the increase in housing projects, we must adamantly oppose this effort to rezone sections of Portola Drive into high-density residential and flexible urban housing. This would allow up to 45 housing units per acre – instead of the current 17.4 units per acre.
This is a shocking and very noticeable change – potentially increasing the allowed slot by more than double.
Pleasure Point is not urban. We don’t have strong, sustainable infrastructure to support this level of high-density housing. Our parking availability, public transportation, water resources and public safety are already strained and need major improvements. We can’t support more without first improving what we currently have.
Portola is currently a busy traffic corridor used by over 16,000 cars a day (a speeder’s delight). We have inadequate public transport (try being a restaurant worker and needing a 11pm bus). Bicycle and pedestrian traffic is heavy everywhere, and most of our avenues are single-lane narrow lanes. The drought has created locally enforced restrictions that may persist long into the foreseeable future.
We are currently a year and a half behind on our water resources. How can we continue to build if we don’t have enough water?
Moreover, the state Density bonus law promotes affordable and low-income housing, but also means that projects can increase by 50% to 80%. This means that 45 unit projects can easily grow to over 80 units per acre – once bonuses are applied.
One acre equals half a residential block. Visualize half a block on your street with 45 to 81 units. Now add cars without enough on-site parking spaces. Think about what this will do for on-street parking, traffic flow and the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, children and pets.
The county has repeatedly allowed developers to pay replacement fees to avoid building affordable housing.
We oppose this practice. It’s these types of under-the-radar deals — not neighborhood advocates — that are causing housing shortages.
We observed other neighborhoods labeled as “NIMBYs” (not in my backyard advocates). We’ve seen them get pushed back for saying “no way, never”. Our approach is more nuanced.
We say no to the Pleasure Point decrease, while simultaneously offering achievable solutions for everyone.
We would like the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors to rezone Portola Avenue as “High Density Urban Residential”. This will allow up to 30 to 54 units per acre (taking into account any density bonuses). This will allow for 138-245 units (again, depending on density bonuses) on at least nine underutilized Portola plots. It will provide housing but will not cause detrimental damage to our fragile infrastructure or alter the culture and character of Pleasure Point.
We think this is a good compromise and hope that our District 1 Supervisor, Manu Koenig, is listening.
We expect him to support us in urging the Board of Supervisors to veto the County Planning Department’s recommendation to rezone Portola Drive for maximum urban and high-density residential housing.
We also want the public to get involved. The town planning department must keep a public Zoom meeting with the county planning commission on Wednesday. Friday, the planning department inexplicably removed rezoning from the agenda of the meeting. But the public can still offer two-minute comments on this issue, even though it is no longer on the agenda.
The planning department does not advertise its rezoning meetings, and we believe that few people have attended past sessions because they do not understand the impact such rezoning will have on Pleasure Point. We encourage residents to come and talk.
Rezoning can be good for everyone. This can have a positive impact. But only when housing density remains realistic and meets the needs and character of a community.
Building too fast will destroy Pleasure Point, the village that 5,800 of us call home.
The authors are members of the steering committee of Save Pleasure Point, an informal group of 14 residents, landowners and merchants who wish to protect, preserve and enhance the character of Pleasure Point. The group, formed in 2016, now has hundreds of members. Some have lived at Pleasure Point for almost 70 years. Others have come over the past 15 years. All want to build on the unique character and surroundings of Pleasure Point.