KB Home wants to build 32 homes in a new Branciforte Creek development with “the comfort of green living” in Santa Cruz, California.
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The proposed low density project is planned for the east side of Market Street at the intersection with Goss just north of Highway 1 where Market becomes Branciforte (B40) road. The site is currently an undeveloped field along Branciforte Creek.
During the Environmental Impact Review 2006 that took place by a previous developer and owner, most of the concern seemed to center on impacts to riparian habitat along the creek, tree removal, and impact to the robust spineflower (Chorizanthe robusta). This undeveloped parcel along Branciforte Creek is apparently one of about a half dozen locations where this plant grows along the northern California coast. While there was also comment on the traffic impact from NIMBYs, there was almost no input from Santa Cruz’s sizable cycling population at the time.
In the meantime, the California Native Plant Society filed a lawsuit about the EIR that was eventually settled. Ownership has changed to KB Homes, and the new owners filed a “Major Modification” to the already approved development plan. This major modification requires a city council hearing, which takes place Tuesday, March 8 at 7 PM.
People Power Santa Cruz brought this to my attention last week and hopes to rectify the earlier missing bike input when the City Council meets Tuesday night.
In addition to residential access, Market Street is the main thoroughfare for mountain bikers and other recreational cyclists headed to Delaveaga Park. Many (most?) cyclists headed to Delaveaga transport their bikes in a car, but a fair number of Santa Cruz residents ride up B40 to the park. Cyclists traveling on Market and B40 must be very assertive about their rights. In spite of the narrow lanes and 25 MPH speed limit on Market / B40 north of Hwy 1, drivers are often very aggressive, especially at the all way stop where Goss, Isbel, Market and B40 all come together. Scofflaw behavior by drivers is routine.
Currently, bike lanes on Market end just south of the Highway 1 overpass. Underneath the overpass itself, the shoulders completely disappear, and cyclists are advised to take the lane.
The development won’t change much on Branciforte Road, Goss or Isbel (other than a new driveway entrance and parallel parking added to Isbel, but that’s a deadend street). The engineering will take place on Market between Highway 1 and Goss, where the plans call for a new sidewalk on one side of Market, parallel parking, and bike lanes on both sides of Market for most of that distance. You can see the detailed plans in this drawing. North towards the Mystery Spot is to the right in this drawing; Highway 1 is just off of the left edge. The new homes will be built “above” (to the west) of Market. Click through on the photo for a larger image.
Common practices in bike facilities have changed since these plans were drawn up five years ago. Some things I’d like to see changed:
- The bike lane on NB Market disappears into the right turn lane to Goss. It’s a perfect setup for a right hook. I’d like to see the bike lane continued to the left of that right turn lane.
- There’s a similar situation for soutbound cyclists at the driveway into B40 Creek.
Micah from People Power, I think, would like to see the bike lane extended so it continues under Highway 1 as well. This can be considered given the increased traffic anticipated from the new development, but I’m pretty sure there’s not any room under the existing viaduct for additional lane space. If you comment to council, though, feel free to pass that along.
A missing opportunity is for a bike / pedestrian link from B40 to Lee Street, which in turn connects to Emeline Avenue. Currently, anybody traveling from North Market to the County Buildings on Emeline must detour across Highway 1 twice. The planning commission should have pressed the developer for a path and bridge across the creek connecting to Lee Street. A 12 foot ‘future pedestrian trail’ is specified in the plans, but that’s never actually gonna happen now.
How to participate
Here’s the agenda for Tuesday night’s city council meeting. It goes into a lot of detail on the history and current modification request for Branciforte Creek. You can find planning documents here. The staff recommendation is for council to approve the plan with some modifications.
You can speak in person at the Santa Cruz City Council Chambers during the 7 PM special session at 809 Center Street (between Locust and Church). There’s a sign up sheet so they know to call your name during the “Oral Communications” part of the meeting. You’ll have two minutes to speak.
It might be too late now, but you can also send email to city council. Your email (along with any personal information contained in it) becomes part of the public record.