In the News

Santa Cruz City Council to weigh water restrictions: 5 percent cutback would begin May 1

By J.M. Brown

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 4/24/12  

SANTA CRUZ — With rainfall measuring just two-thirds of normal for the season, the City Council on Tuesday will consider granting a Water Department request to issue a first-stage shortage alert, banning landscape irrigation during the day.

Beginning May 1, the alert, designed to reduce water use 5 percent, would allow watering before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. It also will require hotels and motels to offer guests the option of skipping daily laundering of towels and sheets, and restaurants will provide drinking water upon request only.

During the restrictions, which will last until late October, water customers may not wash down sidewalks, driveways or other paved surfaces unless for safety reasons. Any run-off water from lawns will be seen as a sign of over-watering.

“This is a pretty straight forward, reasonable approach,” Mayor Don Lane said. “It recognizes we had a dry year and need to keep people cautious about water use. But because the reservoir is full, we don’t want to go sounding an alarm beyond our real situation.”

If approved, city officials will issue written warnings for initial violations of the restrictions, and fines for future offenses range from $100-$500. The city last instituted cutbacks in 2009, when a 15 percent reduction was put in place after several years of dry conditions.

The council will consider the restrictions during its 3 p.m. meeting.

In addition to the low rainfall, water officials say the cutback is needed because the city has reduced diversions from the San Lorenzo River and Laguna Creek as part of a pilot program with fisheries managers to bolster salmon habitat. The city believes the restrictions will help keep the Loch Lomond reservoir 80 percent full by the end of summer, a level that would put Santa Cruz in good shape if dry conditions persist next winter.

“There is always the chance that rainfall next year will be normal, and that in hindsight, imposing water use restrictions this year to preserve water in storage, however, modest, will have been unnecessary,” Water Director Bill Kocher wrote in a report to the council. “But no one can tell what the weather will be in the future.”

The city is pursuing a $115 million desalination plant to create new supply in drought years. Voters could be asked by a citizens group in November about whether they want to have a future say in the plant, a right the council already has granted through a new ordinance.

Also Tuesday, the council will:

Weigh a special permit for the 19,300-square-foot space at 1200 Pacific Ave., the future home of Forever 21 women’s apparel store. While the store plans to dedicate 12,000 square feet of sales space and 7,000 square feet of non-sales space, a permit is nonetheless required for any use downtown larger than 16,000 square feet. The location is the site of the former Borders, which closed after the bookseller fell into bankruptcy. Forever 21 is expected to open in August and hire about 45 people.

Consider how to spend about $1.2 million in federal housing funds, including projects at the Homeless Services Center, Beach Flats Community Center and Teen Center, as well as code enforcement, senior housing and first-time homebuyer assistance.

Review its Capital Improvement Program projects list that includes transportation, public works, water and parks projects at 7 p.m. Funding stems from developer and user fees, property taxes and grants.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown on Twitter: @jmbrownreports



WHAT: Discussion of proposed Stage 1 Water Shortage Alert, special use permit for Forever 21, 2012-13 housing spending plan

WHEN: 3 p.m. general session, 7 p.m. Capital Improvement Program Budget study session

WHERE: Council Chamber, 809 Center St.


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