In the News

Santa Cruz City Council seeks bids on design of $1.4M sign project

By J.M. BROWN
Santa Cruz Sentinel, 4/27/11

SANTA CRUZ -- The Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday approved soliciting bids to design a Wayfinding Project to better direct visitors to downtown, the beach and other points of interest through improved signs.

The project calls for current green-and-purple signs to be taken down and replaced with a more comprehensive program that will update signs on the freeway, create better defined entrances to the city on Mission and Ocean streets, and improve signs for pedestrian routes between downtown and the beach, as well as bicycling routes on West Cliff Drive and the San Lorenzo River levee. The program will also create uniform parking signs, provide training for hotel staff in familiarizing tourists and include online components and new maps.

Bonnie Lipscomb, the city's economic development and redevelopment director, said directing tourists can only increase business for merchants and hotels, the latter of which provide $3.5 million annually in lodging tax for the city.

The initial design of the program is estimated to cost $200,000, with a final cost for the project estimated at $1.4 million. Funding was included in a $33 million bond sale the council approved March 1 to protect redevelopment money threatened under Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget fix.

Ron Pomerantz, a 2008 candidate for council who opposed the bond sale, said the wayfinding spending was not appropriate for the Redevelopment Agency, which he believed should address blight. He said he believed the project was more fitting for the countywide tourism bureau.
"This is a marketing program for tourism, is it not?" he asked. "Avoid making this Santa Cruz Inc."

The council on Tuesday also approved a controversial water supply assessment that will be part of the city's general plan, which will chart development through 2030. The city anticipates growth at UC Santa Cruz, as well as an additional 3,350 residential units, 311 new hotel rooms and 3.1 million more square feet for business.

The assessment says there is enough water through 2020 during years with normal rainfall, but that supply may not meet demand past 2020 once growth is considered. The report also says the city's 4.3 billion gallons in annual supply will drop to insufficient levels in dry years, regardless of development.

Conservationists said the city is obfuscating its water policies by approaching decisions in a disjointed way. Besides considering the supply assessment, the city is also awaiting deliberations by the Local Agency Formation Commission on expanding water service to UCSC, as well as negotiations with federal fisheries officials to reduce diversions from surface sources.

Another major component is a proposed seawater desalination plant that would boost supply in dry years, especially in light of planned development. The plant is being partially designed while an environmental study is under way.

Attorney Gary Patton, a former county supervisor who has sued the city over the university water expansion, said policy decisions should take into account fish habitat protection, projected growth and the cost of desalinating ocean water. Patton and other conservations suspect the plant will be used to offset 100 million gallons more the university will need every year after expanding.

"The credibility of the council's deliberation is undermined because both the city staff and council are clearly trying to avoid a unified and coordinated approach to land use and water supply planning," Patton wrote in a letter to the council.

Water Director Bill Kocher said the city is doing its best with data available now. If planners wait until the fisheries matter is resolved in several years, it would be too late to update the general plan, which currently covers only through 2005.

Mayor Ryan Coonerty added, "They are not perfect policies but there has been a process and it has been open and transparent the entire time."

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