By Katia Protsenko
Despite criticism from local residents, the Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 12 to approve a request to expand the Sea & Sand Inn.
The proposed project will tear down the 55 year-old single-story Cliff Street motel and replace it with a two-story model. Five current rooms will be turned into four larger units and a laundry room will be added to the ground floor, while three higher-end suites are planned for the second floor.
Local residents, especially of the West Cliff Villas condominiums across the street, have been fighting the proposal, claiming it will put a strain on parking, block views, and be detrimental to the overall appearance of the area. Two hundred people signed a petition asking the Council to deny the expansion plans.
City Councilmember Mike Rotkin provided rationale for the Council’s vote and addressed residents’ concerns.
"The measure meets all zoning requirements, meets the minimum parking requirements, and it gives the City more in occupancy taxes," Rotkin said. "It’s nothing major, just some additional rooms."
The City Council denied a request for expansion of the Sea & Sand Inn in 1996 because it did not address environmental constraints that expansion would place on the beach cliff.
"They’re not taking any trees down," Rotkin said of the current proposal’s environmental impact. "The Inn hired a city geological expert to review the impact of the construction, and all concerns have been addressed.
"The argument that the expansion will affect the community look is not persuasive enough, although it is something the Council can rightfully take into consideration," he added. "The views blocked for the condos across the street are the only negative impact, but there is no guaranteed right to have your views protected."
Merry Crowen, Vice President of Hospitality and Lodging for the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, oversees the Sea & Sand Inn. She finds it ironic that many of the complaints are coming from West Cliff Villas residents.
"I know that the people across the street are not happy with getting the second floor, but the fact is that their three stories are a lot higher than we are, and they blocked a whole lot of views behind them," Crowen said. "They wouldn’t have been able to build had private views been protected, just like we wouldn’t have. We actually could go up three stories, but we’re only going up two."
Cindy Adrian, a third-year UC Santa Cruz student who lives in the area, believes that while expansion may be unsightly, it is part of the reality of living in a tourism-dependent town.
"Tourism will always be a part of Santa Cruz, and expansion is inevitable," Adrian said. "Other residents should be aware of that because the Inn has been there longer than they have."