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Living in The Best Place on Earth

It isn’t hard to see why Santa Cruz is such a great place to live. Even after travelling to many of the world’s most exotic destinations, I always feel fortunate when I come back here to call Santa Cruz my home. We are known as a beach town first and foremost, enjoying near-perfect climate with our south-facing location on the Monterey Bay, but equally intrinsic to its unique character are the scenic Redwoods, Oaks and Madrones that rise up from our coastal plains.

I sometimes wonder, what is it that makes this place so cool? Despite our town’s amazing natural beauty, I would maintain that it is the community who make Santa Cruz truly awesome. And over the years I have also seen our area evolve from its reputation in the 60’s and 70’s as a town of mostly surfers and hippies to a more cosmopolitan blend where the counter-culture co-exists alongside Silicon Valley neophytes, and everything in between,

What seems to tie us all together is a common love of world-class music, food, wine and brewing, with emerging talents in theatre, arts, education, sport and music, along with being a world destination for alternative healing arts. And behind all of this is a solid bedrock of families from a growing array of religions and walks of life who through their participation at the local level actively yet quietly continue to make Santa Cruz a place where people will want to live for years to come.

But then, living in one of the best places in the world does come at a price: With our cost of home ownership at 104.8% and cost of rents at 67.0% of monthly wage, Santa Cruz County was recently recognized as the 4th least affordable housing market in the world, after Hong Kong, Sydney, and Vancouver. In fact, according to CAR statistics, only 17% of the population in our town are able to afford to buy a home here. Studies of unaffordable markets worldwide show a direct correlation between restrictive land-use regulation and lack of affordability, highlighting the delicate task to find the balance between increasing affordability and preserving the things that made these desirable places to live in the first place.

So what is being done locally to respond to the market forces and meet the demand to make it sustainable for more of the population to be able to afford the high cost of living? Well for one, the Santa Cruz County planning department is now in the process of overhauling their Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance inviting input from the public to allow ADU’s to be built on parcels under an acre, so long as the parcel can support a septic system sufficient to serve both the main house and the ADU.

We may never be able to come up with all the answers to the question of how we can help more people be able to afford to live here, but along the way we can continue to become a better community for trying to make it possible.

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