.Housing For People Initiative Heading To The Ballot

The group gathered almost double the required signatures for their petition

The group Housing For People cleared a big hurdle this week after gaining the necessary signatures to put their initiative on the ballot for the March 2024 primary elections. 

The group amassed over the target number of signatures and filed their petition with the city of Santa Cruz on Monday Oct. 9.

Frank Barron, a member of the Housing For People group and retired Santa Cruz City planner, says that the results of their petition shows significant support from city residents for their cause.

“it indicates that there’s a lot of support out there,” Barron says. Barron recalls the enthusiasm for the petition as he went door to door to gather signatures in the run up to the Oct. 9 deadline. “A lot of people [were] like ‘Hell yeah! Sign me up.”

Santa Cruz City Clerk Bonnie Bush confirmed that the group’s petition had been filed and had obtained the necessary signatures.

“The number of signatures that we counted was 6810,” Bush says.

That is 3,100 signatures over the required amount, which Bush says is 3,693.

According to their website, the Housing For People initiative has two core goals: 

  • To increase the affordable housing allocation rate to 25% within the Santa Cruz city limits.
  • To grant citizens a right to vote on new developments that exceed the city’s current height limits.

According to Barron, the group’s petition began circulating about 3 months ago, giving the group only half of the allotted time to qualify their petition for next year’s ballot.

“We’re just kind of taking a breath,” Barron says when asked what’s next for his group’s campaign.

The initiative is a direct response to the development in downtown Santa Cruz, including the city’s Downtown Plan Expansion, which would redevelop 29 acres south of Laurel St. The plan would bring 1,800 units of new housing,20% of which would be required to be affordable to people with moderate, low and very low incomes. 60,000 square feet of commercial retail space, as well as a new 3,200-seat arena for the Santa Cruz Warriors basketball team, is also part of the plan.

City planners are looking to rezone for the expansion plan’s proposed development to allow for buildings up to 12 stories, about double the current zoning limits.

Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley is a critic of the Housing For People initiative, saying that the group has not gotten enough public input or support. Keeley previously stated that the group’s demands were “cooked in someone’s living room.”

“[Keeley] is not going door to door and talking to a lot of individual voters. He’s probably talking to people, you know, in his circle,” Barron responds. “I don’t know what he’s basing that on.”

When Keeley was elected mayor in January 2023, he attempted to assuage concerns over building heights by amending the plan to its current 12-story limit. He also recommended a net 20% affordable unit allotment, regardless of any density bonuses that would allow developers to build to the maximum unit and height limit.

Keeley said to GT that Housing For People’s demand for a 25% affordable unit requirement was “pulled out of a hat”.

Barron counters that claim and says the 25% came from an earlier recommendation from the city’s Planning Commission regarding affordable housing allotments for new developments.

“They went through this whole process […] and then they voted to recommend that the city council adopt the exact same thing. 25% for projects that have 30 or more units and it was never brought to the city. It was somehow cut off by city staff,” Barron says.

Barron does admit that there are many residents that don’t see a problem with taller and denser buildings. But he says that the aim of their initiative is to let everyone have a say in how they want new developments to move forward.

“We’re saying ‘democracy, what’s wrong with democracy?” Barron says.


  1. It’s important to note that 20% affordable housing often gets whittled down to about 12% because of density bonuses , land swaps, and other incentives to builders. As stated in this article, 25% is what was proposed by city planners. And again, this is only for new large buildings of 30 or more units.

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