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Loma Prieta aftermath: Santa Cruz taking aim at last two vacancies downtown post-earthquake

Posted by Yijy8kNUMO on August 29, 2017

SANTA CRUZ >> Signs of life are emerging at opposite ends of Pacific Avenue, where two sites have lain dormant since the Loma Prieta earthquake wrought 15 seconds of earth-shaking devastation nearly 28 years ago.

Economic Development Director Bonnie Lipscomb said having projects proposed to build new housing over ground-floor retail businesses, tied to the historic weight of their vacancies, is a “significant milestone, for sure.” They are also part of the larger revitalization planned for downtown Santa Cruzwith more public spaces and connections to the San Lorenzo River, she said.

“Being able to be at the forefront of adding critically needed housing for our community is part of the larger revitalization effort,” Lipscomb said. “Having more people living downtown will help strengthen vitality of our downtown into the future, particularly with the challenges of online retail right now — you can definitely see how having more bodies downtown and having retail surrounded by downtown and residents is going to be very helpful.”

At 1547-1549 Pacific Avenue, a shrub-speckled vacant lot between the Bank of the West and Lulu Carpenter’s coffee shop owned by Barry Swenson Builders via Roaring Park Pacific LLC is set to become the so-called Park Pacific project. Plans call for dozens of housing units over commercial space, with a parking structure.

Less visibly vacant, the 1013 Pacific Ave. building with its steel-gray facade and covered-over street-level windows is at the southern end of the street. Due to its proposed pairing of residential units adjacent to The Catalyst nightclub, the site has raised the larger controversy.

Builder-architect brothers Eric, Michael and John Miller, who have owned the 1013 Pacific site since 2007, plan to demolish the long-empty two-story building and rebuild, with 17 housing units in a four-story development over ground-floor retail. Eric Miller said though the building has not served as residential space in years, the previous iteration included apartment spaces.

Catalyst owner attorney David Farling, in a letter to the city, objected to the residential portion of the renovation and is recommending a strictly commercial and/or office space project instead. Due to his letters and other concerns, the Millers agreed to push back their hearing before the Santa Cruz City Council from last week to Sept. 26, Miller said.

“Simply put, it makes no sense to allow residences to be built adjacent to a nightclub. It will result in complaints, stretched police resources and litigation,” Farling wrote. “While we know it will be extremely difficult to mitigate the escaping sound, it will be nearly impossible to control vibration with a neighbor that practically shares a wall with a nightclub.”


Eric Miller, who runs an architectural firm in Monterey, said the downturn in the economy has kept the family from building, but the downtown’s need for housing units, either as condominiums or apartments, are propelling them forward now.

“I know for a fact that we can contain the sound on our property for our units, I’ve already done the sound study. Of course, we’re the most concerned about those units being quiet, because we have to lease them out,” Miller said. “We’re trying to be good citizens. We want to be good partners and build beautiful units downtown. And downtown needs it — mixed use downtown there is really important.”


Less than half a mile north, the Swenson Builders/Roaring Park Pacific LLC 25,000-square-foot parcel was long owned by the Lau family before a 2005 eminent domain settlement with the city. The former home to Bookshop Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co. at 1547-1549 Pacific Ave., was razed to its basement level after the street-front building collapsed on Oct. 17, 1989, killing two.

The site, comprised of three parcels, was approved in 2011 as a five-story condominium project above retail businesses, but has changed ownership several times since then. Its current owners are asking the Santa Cruz City Council to extend a grace period for beginning construction and to shrink six of the project’s two-bedroom condos to one-bedroom units. The permit modification is scheduled to go before the council at its Sept. 12 meeting.

“The current owner, Barry Swenson Builder, has indicated that they’ve had a difficult time obtaining financing for the project prompting them yet again, to revise the project to the extent that some of the two bedroom units are split into one bedroom units with a new total unit count of 79,” according to the City Manager’s Weekly Update, dated April 21. Barry Swenson Builders representatives did not return calls for comment.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 28, 2017 8:11pm PST

Author: Jessica A. York

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