To the shock of the many people working to make this unique and needed project a reality, last week the Santa Cruz Planning Department suddenly imposed onerous new conditions threatening our farm and the proposed adjacent affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities. These conditions include a requirement to agree to an easement so a roadway can be built on our farmland!
Coastal Haven Families, LLC, who own our parcel and are working to create an affordable pocket neighborhood, are protesting the demands of for profit developers who own land on three sides of our farm. Their proposed easement would link their properties and destroy the peace and serenity that our urban farm offers to all who visit, train, and work with us. In addition to the easement, this parent group is being asked to agree to a blank check for these developers, as well as a “no protest” clause in the event any future assessments or infrastructure proposed by the developers is adopted by the city.
The City of Santa Cruz has already determined this small-scale, low-income project has no impact that requires further infrastructure and we feel Costanoa Commons should not be required to pay costs benefiting developers’ future market rate projects.
This issue will likely come before the Santa Cruz City Council, though no date has been set. We ask community members to please send letters or emails of support to Mayor David Terrazas and members of City Council asking the conditions be lifted so the farm and housing can proceed.
Simply tell them that these unfair conditions, designed to benefit for-profit developers, threaten the financial viability of a project that is extremely rare, badly needed (as is true across the Bay Area, Santa Cruz lacks sufficient I/DD-serving programs and housing), and serves disabled, low income adults.
Thanks to our generous donors, volunteers and supporters, we are creating an enduring community asset in the form of our farm — a place where people of all abilities can thrive. Thank you.
Give my family a chance
by Inna Belenky
This story is about my first public protest. If I wrote a story about the road that led me to it, it would be a book. So, I’ll stay in the present.
We arrive on a typical cloudy Santa Cruz morning to be greeted by my new family from Costanoa Commons. My husband and my daughter are by my side, eager to share in this novel experience. Claire has autism, and it’s unlikely that she fully understands what this fight is about, but she is excited. She fist bumps Noah, as she always does. She has a green poster with a drawing of her friends, and she is eager to show it to everyone. There are 80 people there to support us! And it dawns on me that we are fighting for our big, diverse, loud, and occasionally very quiet family. Here, we are not judged for our unusual behaviors, silly questions, temper tantrums, overly big personalities, or shy ones. We are loved for who we are.
In the past 3 years, Costanoa Commons had become a vibrant, busy farm. We have opened our beautiful land to everyone who wanted to care for plants and animals. Master Gardeners brought their expertise and colorful, vibrant flowers. Major companies, churches, and schools came to learn about inclusion, team building, and farming. Coastal Haven Families has been working diligently to get started on low-income housing for disabled individuals, their valuable caregivers, and others. We were confident that the nature of this endeavor would speak for itself and touch everyone, including the city government and local developers. We were naïve.
The day is long. Our kids are getting restless, but we are trying to persevere. We have many supporters joining us today. Everyone speaks to the best of their abilities. They are passionately telling the zoning administrator how valuable our inclusive project is for Santa Cruz and the disability community. One person after another is arguing that the new conditions imposed by the planning department are without merit and will jeopardize the whole project. And yet, we lose.
As it turns out, my first protest will not be my last one. But my daughter will be there beside me, and so will my new family.
Visit our weekly farm stand!
Our farm stand continues to be a great success and good fun too! We gather eggs from our hens all week, and harvest delicious produce each Friday so that we can share our bounty with the community each Saturday morning from 10:00 a.m. until noon. We have stunning bouquets featuring the Monterey Bay Dahlia Society’s voluptuous creations, juicy sweet strawberries, and ultra-organic healthy kale.
We enjoy meeting new friends, including bikers and hikers going to Pogonip, and contributing to a healthy Santa Cruz.