The Next Inflection
Are we at an inflection point in Santa Cruz? It’s an interesting question and a timely one, given some of the fundamental forces that are hard at work reshaping the future.. Front and center in the housing debate these days, is the Downtown Plan Expansion.
It’s a work in progress advocating for what seems to some, like radical new building heights and crazy numbers of new housing units, the likes of which Santa Cruz has never seen. We’re getting a preview of coming attractions right now, with the new buildings going up along Front St.
Some think we’re at a third major inflection point in our local history, the first two being the arrival of UCSC and the post-earthquake rebuild. I’d probably add the growth of SIlicon Valley to that list and also cite the fact that a huge demographic shift is underway (by 2030, 1 in 3 people in Santa Cruz will be over 65). The inevitability of change is upon us.
Where will all those housing units go? In a few block radius just south of Laurel. When I was VP of the Downtown Association in the 1980s, well before the earthquake, we talked a lot about needing a big vision for the future that would bring life to an area that even then, seemed all but forgotten.
South of Laurel wasn’t part of the Beach or the Downtown. It was a no man’s land in between the two, populated by vacated warehouses, remnants of auto dealers, scattered commercial enterprises and vestiges of rundown homes and older apartments.
Forty years later, it still is, and it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling sorry to see south of Laurel transformed. New homes with more residents will breathe life into the neighborhood and make it a hub and I confess that I feel optimistic whenever I pass those cranes and construction workers hard at work along Front St. Something is finally happening!
Even though I still smile at the thought of the Rainbow Lady twirling in front of the Cooper House to the dulcet sounds of Warmth, I don’t wax too nostalgic for the good old days on the Mall, before the earthquake became our defacto redevelopment agency.
On October 17th, 1989 I watched the Cooper House crumble, from my shaky vantage point just across the street in the County Bank Building. I do miss its historic countenance but that’s all I miss. Those with fond memories for the Ghosts of Downtown Past don’t seem to recall that it was often deserted during the day and that at night, not one Downtown Merchant was open after dark.
I much prefer the Downtown that’s unfolding right round the bend of the next inflection.