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By Iman Novin

Striking the Perfect Balance

Santa Cruz is changing. It’s no longer a sleepy seaside village but a unique and thriving city, attracting tourists, professionals and young families Santa Cruz is home to several large employers and a growing tech startup ecosystem, fostered by UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. Adequate supply of workforce and affordable housing will help support this growing ecosystem.


With these changes comes growing pains, and nowhere is that more apparent than development and housing in the city. However, a new development at 831 Water St. reflects the unique and innovative heart of the city, while helping Santa Cruz grow. It is a model for California’s equitable and sustainable housing growth in the future.


Not only is the 831 Water Street community a distinctive opportunity to take on the region’s growing housing affordability problem, it creates homes for current residents and workers who must commute into town because there are not enough affordable places for them to live locally. We’re talking about teachers, firefighters. and local office and retail workers who are already here and should not have to live far from the area. 831 Water Street will “keep locals local.”


A Unique Community

The four-and five-story buildings will emphasize community, accessibility, and sustainability, three things that represent the best of Santa Cruz. It will feature local art, easy access to transportation, and plenty of green space for residents and the public to enjoy, including a community garden. 

The mix of unit types and mixed-income approach addresses a full spectrum of housing needs, from hard to house low- and very low-income members of our community (30%-80% area median income – AMI) to the “missing middle” workforce housing needs for those who make more than what is allowed in tax-credit subsidized housing but not enough to pay market rents (80%-120% AMI). 

Our modular construction, double-loaded corridor development is unique in many ways. It is divided into two buildings, one with 74 studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units for middle income households and 71 studios, one- and two-bedroom units for low and very low-income households, including 54 project-based voucher assisted units for tenants who are on the Santa Cruz County housing authority’s waiting list. Many of those are individuals with disabilities as defined by HUD, veterans and transition-aged youth (“TAY”) homeless people.

Ideal Location

According to Walk Score, the project is ranked as a “Walker’s and Biker’s Paradise” so most daily errands do not require a car. The bottom floor of 831 Water Street will be dedicated to community-serving retail establishments, like a neighborhood corner market or a restaurant/café . Plus, the project is located close to other nearby retail, located within walking distance from Whole Foods, CVS, Shoppers Corner, and many jobs. This amenity-rich location along a major transit corridor helps to promote healthy living and reduction of green-house gas emissions by encouraging walking, biking, and public transit use. 

The 831 Water Street project is also collaborating with UC Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College and Santa Cruz City Schools to address workforce housing options for teachers and other staff members. One of the amenities we are trying to offer with those partners is a “professional incubator” affiliated with local schools. The 831 Water Street project will also offer a computer lab, and the construction of the development will pay prevailing wages that employs a skilled and trained workforce and will create new permanent local jobs.


Listening to the Community

In summary, 831 Water Street is a great step in the next generation of housing for the community.


“Santa Cruz needs to support affordable housing projects like 831 Water St. if we care about maintaining the diversity and vibrancy of our community,” says Robert Singleton, former Executive Director of the Santa Cruz County Business Council. “Density is not only the most environmentally friendly way to build, but it allows for mixed-income residents to share their lives together in a way that otherwise wouldn't be possible under the status quo. Building more housing in Santa Cruz is a matter of moral, economic and sustainable resilience.”

As a Harbor High grad who is now a local developer, I am proud of everything we’ve built, but most proud of our 831 Water Street project here in Santa Cruz. 


We have listened to and heard the many questions and comments about  the 831 Water Street project, and we have made many changes to be a better neighbor, including removing plans for a rooftop bar, adding serene gardens, reducing building height and mass, increasing setbacks and committing to sustainable building methods, including LEED certification. 


But most importantly, 831 Water Street is offering affordable and workforce housing to Santa Cruz locals who need it. 


“This project would offer 145 units of housing, half of which are significantly below-market-rate, helping to house Santa Cruz’s most vulnerable community members, as well as the city’s teachers, students, essential workers, and young professionals,” says Laura Foote of YIMBY Action. “This project will help address our staggering citywide housing shortage. In particular, it would add infill housing, helping to reduce the disastrous environmental effects of sprawl.”


We think 831 Water Street strikes the perfect balance for the community, at exactly the right time. We hope you agree.