Progress Stalls on Pacific Avenue Planning

One Christmas rush downtown isn’t seeing this year is a push to break the stalemate over the future of Pacific Avenue. That’s quite a switch from last year, when local business leaders rallied hard to turn it into a two-way street, and the urban planning got hot and heavy.

It all started, you’ll recall, when retail expert Bob Gibbs recommended last fall that the city convert downtown Santa Cruz’s main street for two-way traffic, and predicted the change would lead to a 25 percent jump in retail—provided no parking spaces were lost. The Downtown Association quickly asked city council to OK a trial run of two-way Pacific for last year’s holidays. But when the fire department discovered the street wouldn’t be wide enough for any trucks to maneuver, the DTA pulled its recommendation.

Then the Downtown Commission (not to be confused with the DTA) voted in May to approve a new and revised plan to make Pacific Avenue two-way, over the concerns of the fire department, after public works studied the idea and said two-way traffic would cost the city 42 parking spots. As a backup, the commission approved a plan to send traffic one-way southbound.
Normally, that would have sent the item to city council, which has yet to look at the issue. Instead, the Transportation and Public Works Commission said they want to have a look first.

But before that happens, public works director Mark Dettle says he’s waiting to hear from the DTA with a new recommendation before the city moves forward. “It’s not that high a priority on our own projects,” Dettle says.

So after trying to fast-track a plan for Pacific Avenue, the DTA is taking it slow this time and might talk about it next year.
“There’s a lot to consider,” DTA director Chip says, “so we stepped back and took a breath to see how to address the traffic issues downtown.”