New building rules aim to keep Pleasure Point weird

Sentinel Staff Report
Article Launched: 11/28/2009 12:00:00 AM PST

By Kurtis Alexander

PLEASURE POINT — Katie Loggins lives in an old, one-story bungalow a block from the beach where guitars, CDs and surf gear neatly pack the corners of her small home.

Over the last decade, Loggins has seen several modest homes like hers give way to larger, more modern villas, and the Santa Cruz County native fears her neighborhood is at risk of losing its small-town charm and writing off the eclectic residents who live here.

“It’s incredibly disappointing when you see these big homes being built,” said Loggins, whose 30th Avenue cottage is across the street from a newer, much taller vacation rental. “These homes draw the population that doesn’t seem to appreciate our community.”

At the urging of Pleasure Point residents, the county Board of Supervisors last year committed to halting construction of out-of-scale homes and protecting the neighborhood’s gritty, surf-town feel. Next week, planners are expected to introduce rules to honor that commitment.

“It’s really an effort to say what is it about Pleasure Point that is unique and what do you want to protect, and changing the rules to reinforce those things,” said county Planning Director Tom Burns.

Under the plan, the Pleasure Point neighborhood would become a distinct zoning district where new building and home additions would be subject to an additional layer of building regulations. Planners say the regulations will reduce the bulky appearances of new homes while still giving property owners maximum say over the size and shape of their structures.

For example, the rules would force second-stories to be built slightly back from first stories, meaning less wall-like facades, and the widths of driveways would be limited, an attempt to reduce the dominance of garages. Details of the proposed zoning district will be released before the county Planning Commission meets to discuss and adopt the plan Dec. 9.

Hugh Carter, a local architect, says the success of the new district hinges on the details. While he agrees special building rules are needed for Pleasure Point, he says they can’t be too limiting or they will have unintended consequences.

“One problem is demanding large second-floor setbacks,” he said, explaining that setbacks could prompt property owners to build deeper into their lots to recapture square footage. “I really think orienting the housing to be long and skinny is really going to mess up the backyard.”

Others don’t like the idea of additional rules at all, especially in an area where residents praise the diversity of homes that has spawned without the zoning changes.

“Any government making aesthetic decisions for property owners is a problem,” said Erik Zinn, a geology consultant. “Whether property owners want to make it look like a box store or a tepee, that’s their choice.”

Pleasure Point would not be the first area to have distinct building rules. The Westside of Santa Cruz, along the water, is another area with unique regulations.

The proposed zoning district in Pleasure Point would encompass a 320-acre area, with about 1,150 homes, bounded by 41st Avenue on the east, Portola Drive on the north, Corcoran Lagoon on the west and the ocean on the south.

“This is one of the last, old mixed-house-size surf neighborhoods left,” said Mike Guth, a Pleasure Point resident and longtime advocate of new building rules. “People have moved here because of what it was and people don’t want to see it plowed down with big houses.”