Creating new housing supply is a critical need in our community. As a result, housing is a high priority for the City Council, and the City’s Two Year Work Plan calls for approval of 500-600 housing units in downtown. Several housing units could be included in the purposed mixed-use library building. Additionally, allowing for off-site parking for future affordable housing projects in a new parking supply project, could facilitate the creation of additional affordable housing units within a project. The idea being that parking takes up space, so if parking doesn't need to be provided on-site, more affordable units can be built.
Many downtown housing projects are proposed on existing privately-owned lots which are currently used for parking. There are also a number of public-owned sites – many of them surface parking lots—which are underdeveloped, underutilized or otherwise ideal for revitalization including housing.
Creating New Housing Supply
Creating new housing supply is a critical need in our community as we face a worsening regional and state housing shortage. The ability to create new housing supply in Santa Cruz will be dependent on the community’s desire for denser development in our urban core and along major transportation routes, maximizing public transportation and transportation demand management opportunities which reduce the overall parking demand and maximize the buildable footprint of development. The greatest opportunity in Santa Cruz for substantial housing creation is in our downtown where there are a number of development sites which are underdeveloped, underutilized or otherwise ideal for revitalization. The City Council has recently approved amendments to the Downtown Recovery Plan which increased the allowable buildable height along lower Pacific and other areas of downtown enabling proposed and future mixed-use housing projects to move forward efficiently while maximizing the housing development potential and public benefit to the community, consistent with best urban practices.
Current market forces and changes to the Downtown Plan have spurred considerable acquisition activity in the downtown resulting in new public and private housing opportunities in various stages of development. Most of the projects will remove existing privately-owned surface parking lots to better utilize limited downtown land for critical housing creation.
Housing Blueprint Committee recommendations for Downtown
In 2017, following the Santa Cruz Voices on Housing report, the City Council created a Council subcommittee to assess and prioritize housing recommendations identified by the community around specific housing policy changes to help address the housing crisis. Among others, specific recommendations prioritized by the subcommittee related to the downtown include the following:
- Identify City-owned parcels that could be used for housing development with particular attention to City parking lots
- Focus resources and staff to encourage construction or approval of units Downtown with a specific focus on enabling projects in the current development pipeline to break ground
- Update the downtown parking resolution to modify parking standards for residential development including in-lieu fee ratios and allowances for off-site parking to increase affordability and efficiency of land