One local editor wants this historic building turned back into a hotel. Photo by Jacob Pierce.

One local editor wants this historic building turned back into a hotel. Photo by Jacob Pierce.

“Let’s turn the Palomar Inn on Pacific Avenue back into a hotel.” That’s the theme Good Times keeps hammering away at lately—most recently in its “Critics’ Picks” last month—with a bizarre lack of analysis as to how such a move would affect low-income housing locally.

This last time around, GT editor-in-chief Greg Archer gave the building his award for “Worst Eyesore,” advocating once again that the building is long overdue for some good old-fashioned gentrification. Now, let’s be honest, the seven-story historic structure probably wouldn’t even make most locals’ top ten list of Santa Cruz eyesores, but that’s not the point here.

It’s not the first (or even the fourth) time Archer has suggested the change. He first expounded on this vision in 2010, and likes to revisit it regularly. This year’s “Worst Eyesore” award was even a demotion from last year, when the Inn won “Worst Use of Downtown Space.” Archer also deemed the hypothetical Palomar revamp his number one “Bright Idea for 2013” last December. He thinks such a change would improve the social and economic scene downtown, and bring in more tax dollars, too.

Last month he wrote, “The building’s upper levels are used for affordable housing. Not sure what Andy Balich, who owned it back in the day, would have thought of that.”

We’re not sure what Balich would think about it, either, but we can’t find any evidence that he’d be against locals being offered an affordable place to live.

Let’s look at what we actually do know: the Palomar is all low-income housing—including 23 Section 8 units. Santa Cruz Housing Authority director Ken Cole says that makes it a valuable source of housing, which would go away if developers changed the space.

Therein lies the biggest problem with this revamp vision, especially at a time when there’s such a huge public demand for keeping people housed and off the streets. The need for Section 8 housing in Santa Cruz is already at a critical level, and Cole says that makes the Palomar much more than some fix-up project.

“Affordable, low-income housing like the Palomar is the goal in terms of helping low-income people, helping the homeless. Period,” Cole says. “To entertain the notion of turning it into a something else is hard to conceive at this point. Nothing else could ever replace it.”

Exactly how high is demand for low-income housing in Santa Cruz? Cole says the Housing Authority stopped adding people to its Section 8 wait list when it reached 14,000 names a few years ago. He estimates the Housing Authority currently accommodates only about 14 percent of people in Santa Cruz who qualify for Section 8 housing.

Luckily, despite the GT campaign, this doesn’t appear to be in any danger of actually happening. Palomar manager Richard Gouker says the owner has no interest in selling: “There are low-income people here,” he says. “Where else are they going to go?”