Two recent planning stories in the news

To: Campus Community

From: Frank Zwart, Campus Architect

We want to offer some background on two recent items in the local news:

UCSC's decision to appeal the City Planning Commission's approval of the

Westside Safeway; and the groundbreaking for the area's test desalination


First, let me say that the campus has not taken a position in opposition to

a new Safeway and the other improvements planned for the shopping center at

Mission Street and Almar Avenue. To the contrary, many members of the UCSC

community, myself included, welcome the store's expansion.

What we have taken a position on is the necessity for consistent

application of law and regulations by the City regarding planning and

environmental impacts of projects. Unfortunately, the Initial Study

prepared for the Safeway expansion project contained contradictory

statements and insufficient analysis in several categories of the

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), particularly with regard to

traffic and water use.

On July 3, prior to the Planning Commission's consideration of the project,

UCSC provided the City with six pages of detailed comments, describing why

we believed the Initial Study to be insufficient (see: The campus routinely

comments on environmental documents prepared to meet CEQA requirements for

projects in the City. A fundamental premise of CEQA is that providing the

public and its elected officials -- in this case the City Council of Santa

Cruz -- with appropriate feedback leads to an open planning process, and

ultimately to fair and consistent planning decisions.

When the Planning Commission -- without addressing the issues raised by us

-- approved the proposed project at its July 5 meeting, the University felt

compelled to appeal the Commission's decision (see: in an effort to ensure

that our comments were heard. This was the first appeal ever filed by the

campus. Our appeal does not constitute a legal challenge: the appeals

process is a safeguard provided by CEQA and the City's Municipal Code to

present all perspectives on land-use matters to the City's ultimate

decision-makers, its City Council.

UCSC holds itself to high standards when planning projects on campus. The

City holds us to high standards, too. State law requires both UCSC and the

City to meet the same guidelines. We would expect the City to acknowledge

and base its decision-making on the fact that it has a responsibility to

consider local impacts such as traffic and water use in a process that is

fair to all projects. Preparing thorough and accurate CEQA documents is an

important step toward finding comprehensive solutions to the impacts that

accompany vital economic and social benefits in an ever-changing community.

As mentioned earlier, I would also like to briefly report on another,

recently publicized story: the groundbreaking this past week for the

community's pilot water desalination plant. UCSC is providing crucial

support to the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District in our

shared interests of supplementing the area's water supply. In this

cooperative venture, UCSC staff members have been working closely with city

staff on plans for the pilot plant for more than a year and a half. The

campus is providing the site at Long Marine Laboratory for no charge, and

most importantly, access to UCSC's existing seawater system.