Watsonville Metropolis Council approves the event as a attainable litigation process
Watsonville City Council cleared a proposed 21 condominium development across from Watsonville Municipal Airport that could face a Watsonville Pilots Association (WPA) litigation.
The project would redevelop a steel construction company at 547 Airport Blvd. which, according to the owners Raoul and Eve Ortiz, has been in contemporary living for at least 24 years. It would include three apartments subject to the city’s need for affordable housing.
But EPA officials – both at Tuesday’s meeting and in letters to city leaders – say the city has no legal authority to approve projects near the airport without environmental and airport impact reports.
In addition, according to the WPA, the city cannot build within the airport’s security zone because it is not yet under the State Aeronautics Act or the mandates of the recent Santa Cruz County Superior Court rulings and the 2010 appeals court mandate to incorporate the California Division of. The manual on land use planning for aviation and airports has been included in the overall plan.
The mayor of Watsonville, Jimmy Dutra, was the only no-vote to the project – councilor Aurelio Gonzalez was on leave. He said he feared the Ortiz family will get caught up in an overwhelming legal battle against the far-reaching EPA that has successfully challenged the city on multiple occasions – including a lawsuit against the city’s general plan for 2030.
“Home Depot, Target, the development behind Target, these are developers who have really deep pockets who have probably been able to keep up with the pilots dollar for dollar,” said Dutra. “I don’t know if you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
The Watsonville Planning Commission voted 4 to 3 to approve the project earlier this year, but the vote failed because it required an over-majority of five. Their concerns stemmed from the project’s one-way street, limited parking spaces (58, including 16 visitor spaces), and potentially toxic soil left over from previous industrial use.
Those concerns re-emerged Tuesday – with public fears the homes would be out of the Watsonville residents’ price range – but took a back seat to the potential litigation.
Although the city has not yet updated its general plan with the required manuals, city officials said the project actually meets the requirements in these documents. But, city attorney Alan Smith explained, the pilots argue that the court ruling against the city’s 2030 master plan is retroactive and that if the city continues to operate under the 2005 master plan, it will need to be updated with the manual requirements before the city can do so Approval of construction projects around the airport.
Although city officials said the project met the requirements, Smith said, “This is what the courts are for – people have disagreements.”
Council consolidates public nuisance
In other measures, the council also reiterated its statement that the deadlocked housing estate on Santa Victoria Ave. 1773 is a public nuisance and that if developers disagree with the city’s requirements by the end of the month, city officials will ask the elected officials to OK the demolition of at least 26 units currently in various stages of construction.
The city is asking property developer Pacific Sunshine Development, LLC to sign contracts that either guarantee construction of the 87-unit project will be completed or provide the city with financial insurance in the event that it does not. Staff said the recent public harassment statement took the project forward after it stalled for more than three years.
Development on Ohlone Parkway took place in 2016 and should be completed by 2018.
The Council unanimously agreed on the item.
Fire in the sky moves forward
Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker said the Fire In the Sky and Airport open house event, slated for September 4, is still going on despite the rising number of residents of the county developing Covid-19 runs.
People have to wear masks when they are not eating or drinking. Huffaker also said the city will host a Covid-19 vaccine clinic at the event, which usually takes place on July 4th.
“This event, like any planning we do during a pandemic, can change if the number of cases changes significantly,” said Huffaker Events can be held safely with the right protocols. And we know how important these (events) are for the social and emotional health of our community members. “