LAST IN A SERIES
By TOM HONIG
I've noticed something interesting when the matter of Robert Gibbs' Retail Market Analysis comes up. (See the first three articles in this series for a summary.)
While some business-oriented folks look first at his reporting of $1.3 billion in spending that's leaving Santa Cruz, others are fixated on his recommendation to make Pacific Avenue a two-way street.
Hey -- that's a big deal all right, but it's merely one of his recommendations. And here's the key part -- he's not telling anyone to do it. He's merely commenting that if it happens, there will be a likely result.
That's the key to understanding this -- and other consultant reports that come into Santa Cruz. The Gibbs report is about data and information. This group or that group might not like what he has to say, but that's not the point. It's data. And it should be the basis of our decision-making.
Essentially, this report can form the basis of a cost-benefit analysis. It's highly unlikely that City Council members will adopt or reject every single recommendation. Some recommendations will make sense (and win approval from the community). Others won't.
Some streets need to be realigned. Directional signs need to be improved. Gibbs makes a case that bringing in chain retail stores is actually a green idea, because it could cut down on the number of automobile trips Santa Cruzans take over to San Jose.
Finally, locals need to realize -- if they don't already -- that cities in California (yes, even here in Santa Cruz) get the lion's share of funding from retail sales taxes. That's the system. To put up roadblocks to more and better retail simply means having to cut funding for city services and social services as well. No, we don't want one big box store after another. But not allowing retail development is, essentially, a decision to cut aid to those who need it most. Not to mention the local need for jobs.
Here's my final take on the report: it's good data and can provide a basis for some significant planning for the city's future. No one is suggesting that the city of Santa Cruz adopt the entire report in its planning.
But ignoring the report would be a drastic mistake. Rather, people should realize that it's research and data, not one man's opinion of what Santa Cruz should look like. That decision will be made locally, and it's going to be interesting, looking ahead, to see what the results will be.