HELP SAVE PAR 3!
by Supervisor Ellen Pirie
Mid County Post, October 15, 2008

Located in the heart of our community are two parcels of land which have come to be known throughout the county as the"Par 3 Property." Many of us see the property every day - it's the vacant land next to Highway 1 just north of State Park Drive. The two parcels together are approximately 13 acres and for many, many years were the location of the Par 3 Golf Course, a course which catered to beginning golfers, children and seniors.

Many of us have fond memories of learning (or trying to learn!) the basics of the game of golf from parents, grandparents and friends on the Par 3 course. It was a low key, inexpensive way for families to have fun together.

RECENT HISTORY

In 1999, the property owner forced the closure of the Par 3 Golf Course in order to change this recreational land to housing. Since residential land is far more expensive than park land, the
presumed motive was to increase the sales price of the property and the profit to the owner.

Fortunately, the zoning of the property is "PR" (Parks and Recreation) and the County General Plan designation is "O-R" (Parks and Recreation), so any residential project would require an amendment of the County's General Plan and a re-zoning of the property.

Over the course of the last 8 or 9 years, several developers have made proposals to the County for development of housing on the property. Most recently, the County Planning Department was
evaluating a development proposal for 230 homes on the property by Standard Pacific Homes. For a variety of reasons, none of these proposals has gotten to the point of approval or disapproval by the County. However, these developers were responding to the stated desire by some in the county to grow
faster and increase our housing stock.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN SEACLIFF

In the past some housing advocacy groups have promoted this property as a suitable location for high density housing, and at one time there was a serious lack of affordable housing in the area. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.

The housing opportunities in the Seacliff area around State Park Drive and Soquel Drive have changed markedly over the last few years. Where there was once very little affordable housing, there is now a great deal either built or planned. In fact, 11 acres of affordable housing will be located within less than a
quarter of a mile of the Par 3 property.

These properties are either 100% affordable South County Housing developments or are properties being rezoned under the County's Housing Element program. Those properties are:

  • Seacliff Highlands on Canterbury Drive, which is 3 acres of 100% affordable housing
  • South County Housing's new 100% affordable ownership project, located on nearly 2 acres at Searidge and Canterbury
  • The Miller property across Soquel Drive from Safeway, which consists of 2 acres being re-zoned under the Housing Element program
  • The Poor Clares property across Highway 1 from Safeway, which includes 4 acres being rezoned under the Housing Element program.

In addition to these 11 acres of new affordable housing, there are five mobile home parks within that same quarter mile of the Par 3 property. Two (Palm Terrace and Seacliff Mobile Home Park) are immediately adjacent to the Par 3 property. The other three nearby mobile home parks are Blue Pacific, Seacliff Trailer Park and Oceanview. These five mobile home parks provide affordable housing for hundreds of people, largely families and seniors.

The Aptos community has recognized and responded to the need for housing and they have done so with good grace. Unlike some other parts of the county, there has been almost no "NIMBYism" ("not in my backyard"). Instead the community has shown a willingness to help make projects successful. I am proud of the community's recent record of support for affordable housing.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

However, with 11 new acres of affordable housing and five mobile home parks, this small area around State Park Drive and Soquel Drive has reached its limit. With the currently planned projects, the carrying capacity of this neighborhood has been reached. For example, the traffic intersections serving the area
operate at near capacity now and will be even more impacted as the re-zoned land is built out. The local sewer system is also nearing its limit unless an enormous investment is made to enlarge its capacity.

Two years ago, the Par 3 property was being considered for re-zoning under the County's Housing Element program. It was removed from consideration and the community undertook an effort
to raise the money to purchase the Par 3 property and maintain it as a recreational asset for the entire county. That fund raising effort has not been successful largely because of the uncertainty surrounding the property. Potential donors question the County's commitment to saving this property.

In addition, developers continue to propose housing developments for this property. In fact, one such developer is in the early stages of preparing a proposal for a housing development of more than 240 units to go on the Par 3 property.

For many years, the County struggled to meet the State's requirements for affordable housing. It has now met those requirements and, as a result, has a certified Housing Element. In fact, the State has notified the County that it will not be required to re-zone any more land in the next planning cycle. Therefore, one of the primary reasons to consider re-zoning Par 3 is gone. We are free to do what we think is best for our community.

PAR 3 AS A COMMUNITY RESOURCE

The community, the property owner, and potential developers need the County to clarify its intentions for this property. I have scheduled a Board meeting on October 28 at 7:00 p.m. to consider the future of the Par 3 property. Please come if you care about holding on to this open space.

Although it would seem unthinkable to most of us that the County would give up park land, I assure you that it could happen. Two years ago the Board of Supervisors nearly added this property to the Housing Element re-zoning list. Fortunately it did not, and portions of the Miller and Poor Clares properties
were added instead.

Santa Cruz County prides itself on creating liveable communities for people of all ranges of income. Housing in our community is becoming more dense due to State mandates, economic realities, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. As a result, open space and park land become all the more valuable to the
community.

Just as Santa Cruz wouldn't put housing on Lighthouse Field and Capitola wouldn't consider such a change for Jade Street Park and Watsonville values Ramsey Park, so the County must have the vision to preserve a property that has served the recreational needs of the community for many years.

The Par 3 property is a unique piece of land which was a recreational mainstay for people around the county for more than 30 years. If you care about preserving this property for future generations, come tell us.

What: Board of Supervisors meeting about the Par 3 property
When: Tuesday, October 28, 2008, at 7:00 p.m.
Where: 5th floor of the County building, 701 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz.