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- Won't traffic increases resulting from the project cause traffic hazards at the intersection of Graham Hill Rd and Ocean St. Extension?
A traffic report for the proposed project was prepared by Hatch Mott MacDonald in accordance with City and State standards. The Graham Hill Rd., Ocean St. and Ocean St. Ext. intersection currently operates at an LOS (level of service) of “A” for exiting Ocean St. Ext. and an LOS of “B” for entering Ocean St. Ext. With the addition of the project’s traffic (25 vehicle trips during the PM peak hour), the intersection LOS is not changed. The traffic report studied vehicle accidents at the intersection and within 300’ each direction, over the past 13 years. There were 10 reported accidents. This accident rate is 60% of the statewide average for similar intersections. The project proposes substantial improvements to the intersection. The improvements include extending the left turn lane, reconfiguring of the medians and removal of vegetation to increase and improve sight distance up Graham Hill Rd. A speed calming radar sign will be installed 300 feet up Graham Hill Rd. These upgrades will improve both the operation and the safety of the intersection.
- What about the projects impact on the other intersections in the area?
The project will generate a modest increase in traffic (two to four PM peak hour trips along Hwy 1 and two additional PM peak hour trips along Hwy 17). Currently the intersection at Ocean St/Highway 1 southbound off ramp, is operating at an unacceptable level of service. Caltrans is considering the widening of the off ramp and signalization of the intersection. These improvements would raise the LOS to an acceptable level. This project may be asked to contribute financially to these proposed improvements, based on the project’s percent of the increase in the traffic volume. In this case, the increase is 1.3% during PM peak hours.
- Is there a safety concern for pedestrians and bicyclist on Ocean St. Ext. because of the increase in the number of cars?
While the Traffic Study concluded that the project would have no impact on bicyclist or pedestrian safety, the project does include offsite improvements that will improve safety for bicycles, pedestrians and cars. Ocean St. Ext. will be improved from the intersection to the north side of the entrance to the cemetery. The work will include improving the street to City standards with two vehicular travel lanes, a new sidewalk on the cemetery side, parallel parking spaces and street drainage improvements.
- Will this project cause a blockage of traffic for the emergency access for Paradise Park and Ocean Street Extension residence?
The use of Ocean Street Ext. as an alternative emergency route by residents of Paradise Park and Ocean Street Ext. will not be affected by the proposed development. In fact, with the improvements to the intersection and the widening improvements to Ocean Street Extension, emergency access through this section will be improved.
- Will the project cause parking problems along Ocean Street Extension?
The project is providing 92 onsite parking spaces. This is 13 more spaces than the City code requires. In addition, the widening of Ocean Street Ext will provide 8 additional street parking spaces for the public.
- Why is the project requesting a variance to the parking regulations?
The project proposes tandem parking in the semi subterranean garages. The City Code allows tandem parking in single family residences and townhouses but requires a variance for tandem parking in condominiums and apartments. This project proposes tandem parking for the private spaces only and the pair of tandem spaces would be assigned to the same unit. So, someone living in a particular apartment could park behind another person living in the same apartment.
- This project is not located close to urban services and therefore will require a car to get around.
Many urban services such as schools, shopping, entertainment and parks are located less than 2 miles from the project site. Bicycle parking is being provided within the project for each unit as well as additional bicycle parking for guests. Ocean St. has bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the street. The project is less than 1/2 mile from the San Lorenzo Riverwalk, multi-use levee trail and bridge. This provides easy and quick access to many services in downtown Santa Cruz and other areas of the City. The project proposes the installation of a sidewalk on the west side of Ocean Street Ext. from the cemetery entrance to the existing sidewalks on Ocean Street. And while the bus service that existed on Ocean St. just south of the project was eliminated due to budget cuts, there is a bus stop on Ocean St. that is less than 1/2 mile from the project site and connects to the downtown Metro Station.
General Plan and Zoning
- Why not just build the project with the existing General Plan and Zoning?
The proposed 40 unit project meets the City's objectives of providing housing on underutilized sites which can provide a housing opportunity for individuals and families of all income levels. While building nine single family residential units would be in keeping with the current designation of the property, the price of those houses based on today's market would exclude the vast majority of people looking to live in Santa Cruz. This property is also very well located in terms of freeway access, and biking or walking to many services and venues that are less than 2 miles from the property. The City wants to encourage higher densities for properties such as this. The proposed density is in keeping with the density of other housing projects on Ocean St. within the City of Santa Cruz.
- Why 40 units?
While 44 units could be built on the site with the proposed general plan and zoning change, 40 units preserves the mature oak trees and provides open space area that exceeds the City's requirements. A 40 unit project would allow for four handicap accessible units to be built, offsite intersection and street improvements and still make the project economically feasible.
- How is this project compatible with the neighborhood?
The property is located in a mixed use area with the predominate adjacent use being the cemetery. Within the City limits south of the project site are multifamily developments similar to the proposed project. Along Graham Hill Rd are single family dwelling. Within the County area north of the project, on Ocean Street Extension, are agricultural uses and single family homes. The proposed development is most closely aligned with the area within the City limits to the south along Ocean St. which has similar type and density of development. Those developments also have the same urban services as the project site, (i.e., municipal water, City sewers, etc.). The area to the north, within the County, along Ocean Street Extension is a well established neighborhood but is apart from the proposed site. This is a rural area which does not have the same urban services and therefore are not allowed the same densities. It is also separated from the project site by the cemetery and the topography and oak grove just north of the site. The project consists of 10 buildings spread out on the site (similar to 10 single family units), providing a good transition between the City development and the County development. The Tanner Heights neighborhood to the east of the project site, off of Graham Hill Rd., is also a well established neighborhood. This neighborhood is separated from the project site by significant elevation and a eucalyptus grove.
- Will the project be affordable to low income individuals?
The project exceeds the requirement for affordable housing. As a rental project there is no requirement but this project has 15% or six units of permanently affordable housing. As a For-Sale project the requirement is 15% or six units and this project has 17.5% or seven units of affordable housing.
- Why is the project requesting a variance from the required 20 foot setback from 30% slope?
The eastern edge of the property, below Graham Hill Rd.,has areas with 30% and greater slopes. This slope was created as a result of the installation and improvements along Graham Hill Rd. Rick and Craig had the slope analyzed by Haro, Kasunich and Assoc. to assess the stability of the slope. They concluded that building level building pads with a cut and fill retaining wall would improve the overall stability of the slope. Therefore, the slope variance would achieve the objectives of the City Code regarding slope stability.
- Will drainage problems along the gully to the northwest be made worst by the project?
No. The drainage gully to the north is on the neighboring parcel. The proposed project’s drainage will not be directed to this gully.
- How will the project affect drainage along Ocean Street Extension to the northwest?
The project drainage plan is designed so that post development runoff does not exceed pre-development runoff. The drainage calculations exceed City requirements by using 25 year storm volumes rather than the required 10 year storm volumes. The majority of the onsite driveways will be pervious asphalt which allow much of the precipitation to be absorbed by the ground below. The onsite storm water is filtered, retained and detained in bio swales before being released at metered rates into the existing drainage channel along Ocean St. Ext. to the north of the site. Storm water from the new Ocean St. Ext. road improvements is also filtered, retained and detained in bio swales before being released at metered rates. The project and street improvements should cause no increase in storm water runoff to the north.
- Even though the drought has ended there is still a concern about water usage. Won't this project add to the water concerns?
The 40 units being proposed will create a minuscule impact on the City’s overall water demand (2.0 MGY). The project will include water conservation fixtures, drought resistant landscaping and drip irrigation as required by the City. In addition, the developer is required to pay a system development charge as part of the new service connection fees required for new water service.
- How will this project affect the groundwater basin?
The City does not identify properties located in a groundwater recharge area. However, according to the County's maps there is a portion of the property identified as being in groundwater recharge basin. According to the County's Geologist, Joe Hanna, this designation is based on underlying Santa Margarita geologic formations that support regional aquifers (Draft EIR, pg. 4.6-14). The City's policies require that new impervious surface area, for development within a groundwater recharge basin, not exceed 55%. The proposed development proposes new impervious surface area of 42%. In addition, a geologist study, conducted by Haro Kasunich and Associates, confirmed that no regional groundwater basins were encountered in the soil drilling studies they conducted.