Overview: What’s Happening in Santa Cruz


The weather may have been a little overcast last week, but there was plenty going on in Surf City and the surrounding areas. We had the first citizen’s repeal of a County ordinance in 13 years relating to the restrictions on commercial cannabis cultivation. The Regional Transportation Commission received the results of a County wide poll on transportation, which is now all the more likely to head to the ballot in 2016. And last but not least, the Santa Cruz Water Department is considering the adoption of a new Water System Development Fee, which would essentially double the cost of new hookups within the service area.

The first repeal of a County ordinance in 13 years comes at the hands of a signature gathering effort led by the group Responsible Cultivation Santa Cruz (RCSC), who thought the recently adopted regulations on commercial cannabis growth were too restrictive. The ordinance, which was adopted on a 3-2 split vote, limited patients/caregivers to cultivate only on a space 10 feet by 10 feet, which must also be on the property where the patient/caregiver resides. It further limited commercial cultivation to only areas zoned commercial agriculture, and would only allow for dispensaries to be the ones to grow. We covered the ordinance back when it was first adopted here, but felt an update was necessary given the repeal. It is now up to RCSC to create their own proposal, which will have to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors or the voters. However, you can vote on the original County ordinance below and make suggestions.

Restrict Medical Pot Grows of More Than 100-Square-Feet to Commercial and Agricultural ZonesThe Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors is set to vote on January 13th on changes to the county’s marijuana cultivation ordinance. Under the proposed new rules, grows of over 100-square-feet would only be allowed in commercial or agricultural zoned parts of the county. Large indoor gardens would only be permitted in official dispensaries. Proponents of these changes say they are necessary to reign in illegal growing, but opponents say that the proposed changes have the potential to overly restrict cultivation, causing harm to both patients, collectives and smaller “mom-and-pop” growers. What do you think? Use this initiative to vote and comment on these proposed changes.


Next up the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission reviewed the results of a County wide poll on transportation during a public meeting last week. The poll, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (FM3), found that 73 percent of County voters would be willing to support a half cent sales tax increase over 30 years to fund County transportation projects. In total, this would generate approximately 450 million over the lifetime of the measure. Of most important to County voters: traffic reduction, safety, and road maintenance. And while the final spending package has yet to be decided, and the poll was privately funded (meaning the full results are not available), the measure will likely include funding for local road maintenance in the unincorporated areas of the County, auxiliary lane additions on Highway 1, funding for the bike path along the rail line, and more funding for Metro and Paracruz. Stay tuned for more updates and vote on the sales tax measure below.

Santa Cruz County $0.0025 Sales Tax for Regional Transportation FundingGiven the decline in gas tax revenue, transportation agencies across the state have struggled to keep pace with the demands on their respective systems. 85% of CA counties have adopted sales tax measures, creating “self help” local funding sources to address this shortfall, while also becoming more competitive for other state and federal grants. The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission is considering such a measure for the 2016 ballot, but is still considering various spending options and priorities. Under this proposal, Santa Cruz County would adopt a quarter cent sales tax increase for 30 years, generating roughly $450 million over the lifetime of the measure.


Last September the Santa Cruz Water Department began studying how to revise its System Development Charge, which is the cost of connecting a new account to the water/sewer system. After undergoing heavy financial analysis, the department deemed that it needed to increase the fee to recover the upfront capital costs of building out and maintaining the system, which according to the report performed by Raftelis Financial Consulting is valued at $392,261,843. The current system development charge is $6,530 per Single-Family Residence or one Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU). The analysis contained in this report uses the Equity Buy-In Method and justifies modifying the SDC to $11,231 per EDU.

And while the city has to recoup these costs, the new fee comes amidst a major housing shortage, and could ultimately affect the viability of some already approved projects. Specifically, Barry Swenson Builder has expressed concern about how this new fee might affect its downtown mixed used project 555 Pacific Avenue. Should the Santa Cruz Water Department enact this new fee? Should they offer a grace period to already approved projects, or waive the new fees for housing developments? Vote and add your comments below.

Adopt an Updated System Development Charge in Santa CruzIf enacted this would increase the cost of hooking up a new account to the Santa Cruz Water Department System. The cost varies by the number and size of the meters, but is essentially double the previous system development charge (SDC). The current SDC is roughly $4,000, and it is used to recoup the initial investment costs of building the system, as well as ongoing maintenance costs. The total revenue generated through this new charge is unknown, as it is dependent upon new development.

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