.Fire at circle Church possibly arson

Santa Cruz Fire Department investigators believe that a fire that broke out Tuesday inside the former Garfield Park Church was deliberately set, the department announced on Facebook.

According to SCFD Division Chief Tim Shields, firefighters responded to multiple calls of smoke and flames seen at the now closed church–also known as circles church–at about 6:45am–at 115 Errett Circle.

“We are investigating it as an arson,” Shields said.

He added that there was some evidence that people had been living inside the boarded-up structure.

When they arrived, they saw heavy smoke coming from the building, and after forcing entry into the building, extinguished the flames within 15 minutes.

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“The Santa Cruz Fire Department thanks the community members that reported the fire, which allowed firefighters to make a quick fire attack before it evolved into a more complex and dangerous incident,” the department stated in a Facebook post.

The 1.7-acre property on which the building sits in the center of Santa Cruz’s Circles neighborhood. It is owned by the Circle of Friends, a local group that plans to develop it into a co-housing development where everything is shared, from tools to childcare to cooking. 

Co-owner Brett Packer says that a demolition date is getting near, and that construction plans are progressing.

The group is made up of two businesspeople, a teacher, a contractor, an outdoor guide and a retired firefighter. They purchased the property in 2017 with plans for a “multigenerational cohousing community.” 

Plans include twelve 5,000 square-foot lots, and another with 10 lots. All include accessory dwelling units, meaning the lot potentially could hold up to 24 new residences.

Both plans would feature a community kitchen and a shared garden. Both have plans to include five affordable homes.

Solar power and solar water panels are included in the plans.


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