THIRD IN A SERIES
By TOM HONIG
A new report on Santa Cruz's retail market opportunities lays the groundwork for some interesting and important discussions about the city's economic future.
The City of Santa Cruz Retail Market Analysis, prepared by retail expert Robert Gibbs, available here, lays out a possible strategy that could improve the city's economic standing significantly. Essentially, the report calls on city leaders to make some basic changes. Among them:
1. Improve traffic patterns in the downtown area -- including changing Pacific Avenue to a two-way street.
2. Encouraging better traffic signs in several areas, including the beach area and downtown.
3. Providing an infrastructure to link the beach area and downtown.
4. Most significantly: encouraging and facilitating the process of luring out-of-area retailers to Santa Cruz.
The payoff, economically, is huge. The report documents that $1.3 billion in spending leaves Santa Cruz every year.
So, here's the question: Will any of these changes be adopted?
THE CASE IN FAVOR
Santa Cruz is undergoing significant changes. A new, younger generation believes that economic growth and environmental protection can co-exist. People need better jobs, and they need them locally. They can make a case that an improved economic climate in Santa Cruz not only will improve the standard of living, it will also make for a better environment if people aren't forced into a long commute each day to jobs outside the area.
Leadership from an economically minded City Council could lead to planning and zoning changes to accommodate recommendations from the Gibbs report. The community, realizing the importance of these changes, will show up to support the council. Word will get out that Santa Cruz is interested in economic development and the old-time anti-growth protests are a thing of the past.
THE CASE AGAINST
Santa Cruz doesn't want chain stores or big box stores. No-growth advocates oppose change of any kind. Economic development is something to fear. Neighborhood groups will rise up to protest any sort of change to the roadways -- particularly making any change at all to Pacific Avenue.
Economic growth, in this view, is something to be opposed. People don't want Santa Cruz to look like other towns. This commitment to more retail development is something to be stopped. Out-of-town retailers will take one look at the political climate here and take their proposals elsewhere.
Which way will the discussion go?