.City Council Votes to Pass Revised Wharf Master Plan

Landmark Building and Western Walkway removed

The Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass a version of the Wharf Master Plan that removed proposals for a controversial pedestrian pathway or large warehouse at the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. 

The decision comes after years of litigation, with council members expressing a desire to move forward on applications for Federal and state funding. To do so, they removed plans for a controversial ‘Landmark Building,’ a 35 ft. warehouse at the end of the wharf, and a ‘Western Walkway,’ a low-lying pedestrian pathway that would have also acted as a protective-barrier

The city has $6 million in funding from the Coastal Conservancy lined-up, pending the dismissal of the on-going lawsuit from Don’t Morph the Wharf.

In 2022, a court ruling found that the Wharf Master Plan violated the California Environmental Quality Act. Community-founded group Don’t Morph the Wharf brought forward the litigation, but agreed to forgo any future lawsuits if the Western Walkway was removed from the plan. 

Supporters of the walkway, like ex-wharf Superintendent Jon Bambaci, marshaled a defense for the path, explaining its importance to the wharf’s structural integrity. The walkway would act as another emergency access point and block ocean-debris. 

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“While I like the Western Walkway, I am also going to support this because it is time we move on. We just need to protect the infrastructure,” said Council Member Renee Golder. 

Council Members Golder and Martine Watkins had not previously supported this version. Golder apologized to Council Member Sandy Brown for not supporting a similar measure Brown brought two years before. 

In 2020, Brown was part of a minority that voted against the Wharf Master Plan, on the grounds that the Western Walkway and landmark building were opposed by members of the community. Brown expressed relief that now, her fellow council members and staff agreed with her.

The city plans to focus on new parking gates and expanding the Eastern Promenade for a 2026 construction start date, if the Coastal Commission approves the plan.  

Gillian Greensite, leader of Don’t Morph the Wharf, said she was “surprised and very pleased” with the council’s decision. According to Greensite, “by dropping the walkway, the city has fulfilled the Writ. Nothing more to pursue.”

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