Straightening Out Downtown

There are a couple of problems with downtown Santa Cruz. One is finding it. Another is finding your way around once you get there.

For years, the city has looked at solving these problems with signs to direct tourists heading to the Boardwalk toward the boutique retail and high-quality restaurants on Pacific Avenue, and turning the maze of one-way turns, which confuses even longtime locals, into one long stretch of one-way traffic. The Downtown Commission is holding a meeting for residents and merchants at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 11, at Assembly restaurant (1108 Pacific Ave.) to get feedback on a proposal to make Pacific one-way from the Clock Tower to Cathcart Street.

“We have a lot to gain through retail stores and by showing off our downtown,” says Jesse Nickell, head of the commission. “Most tourists go through Ocean Street and say, ‘it’s pretty ugly.’ We can do a lot better.”

One option is to post signs directing people to downtown. The other is to have traffic flow in one direction, toward the Boardwalk, through downtown.

Two years ago, consultant Robert Gibbs told the city council that business would improve by 20 percent if there were two-way access to Pacific Avenue instead of the current maze of snaking turns, but that proposal was shot down by the fire department, which said the street wouldn’t be able to fit fire trucks. Nickell says that having the street flow in only one direction, instead of in an “unintuitive” maze, might help.

“If we got 5 percent of what Gibbs said, that would be 5 percent more in sales,” Nickell says. “Mom and pop stores could make it if they have more volume.”

Nickell, who works as a developer with Barry Swenson Builder, says he will suggest trying the street change as a two-year experiment. If it doesn’t show improvement, they can put it back the way it is now, he says.

“As a developer, I have to deal with fear every day,” Nickell says. “People are afraid of new things. But it’s OK to try something new. We will have something measurable. If sales go up, we will know it.”

Flyover County

There has been an uproar over the roar of jets bound for San Francisco flying over Santa Cruz, ever since the FAA changed the flight path in March. Now, Congressman Sam Farr is asking for a public hearing and feedback from upset Cruzans.

“If we can bring the testimony of the people of Santa Cruz County affected by this problem to the FAA it will help demonstrate the extreme urgency by which this issue needs to be addressed,” says Farr. You can help by filling out a survey at the Save Our Skies Facebook page or on Sam Farr’s Facebook page. BRAD KAVA

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