Scotts Valley has agreed to front the money to pay for a quarter-million-dollar environmental cleanup at Skypark, which was found to contain arsenic, lead and diesel in the soil.
At its regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 6, Scotts Valley Council voted unanimously to approve a $74,820 contract with Weber Hayes to remediate the portion of the former airport it owns, and to cover the $234,813 cost on land owned by the City of Santa Cruz.
The deal is Santa Cruz will credit that back to Scotts Valley upon selling them the land, a key element of Scotts Valley moving forward with plans for a mixed-used Town Center development.
“There’s been surface level environmental contamination,” City Manager Mali LaGoe said in her report to Council. “After extensive testing, contaminants were identified at seven test sites.”
Weber Hays expects to haul away about 1,000 tons of toxic ground to landfill and backfill that with materials from Felton Quarry.
The contract says Scotts Valley will pay up to $250,000 for the work that’s needed on the Santa Cruz parcel. If Scott’s Valley’s oceanside neighbor doesn’t end up selling the land, it will still be required to pay the City back.
Skypark is considered one of the suburban municipality’s crown jewels. Located 520 feet above sea level, it’s a perfectly flat plane in an otherwise mountainous landscape.
Skypark Airport was developed in 1946, and served air travelers until 1983.
Next to that is a youth-friendly skatepark, soccer fields, bocce ball courts and a playground area. Long-awaited new playground equipment just arrived the other day.
The Town Center project holds much promise. Currently Scotts Valley is counting on developing it with plenty of housing in order to help satisfy a strict State mandate to plan for 1,220 units in the coming several years.
This is just the latest in a series of visions for the property.
Scotts Valley already had a pre-development agreement in place with Palisades Builders Inc., but they pulled out during the Great Recession. The company had pitched 288 units of housing (20% of which was to be affordable) and about 32,000 square feet of commercial space.
As things improved, there was hope that more retail would make sense again, but now that sector is struggling with the rise of Amazon and the fallout from the pandemic.
So, it’s incorporating more residential to make the property more economically attractive—and getting rid of hazardous elements is the first step in making that a reality.
Scotts Valley’s Housing Element is now projecting 657 units of housing, including 427 for people of low and very low income and 39 units for people of moderate income.
It’s all part of creating a “mixed-use node that will become the heart of the city,” Scotts Valley told the Department of Housing and Community Development in the draft Housing Element submitted for comments.
The 58-acre Town Center area is bounded by Mt. Hermon Road, Skypark Drive, Blue Bonnet Lane and Scotts Valley Drive, and includes 15 acres of vacant land.
At the Sept. 6 meeting, Councilmember Allan Timms asked about the impact to Skypark users.
“Is it going to be noisy?” he asked. “Is it going to be fenced off?”
LaGoe said there’ll be fencing around specific locations that are being remediated.
“They’ll be doing dust control and air monitoring,” she said.
Mayor Jack Dilles asked if the dog park would be affected. LaGoe replied that this is one of the targeted areas—as is the RV storage site (located on land leased from the City).
Vice Mayor Randy Johnson suggested putting up signs to let the public know what’s going on.
Earlier in the meeting, Councilmember Derek Timm said the Town Center project was “inching” forwards, with the Town Center Subcommittee deciding between eight applicants for the Town Center Specific Plan rework.
“We’re going to be doing interviews this coming week,” he said. “That’s an exciting step forward for the Town Center. It will help us update an outdated plan, which is really good news. Thanks to staff for their work on that. It was a lot to digest with all the RFP information we received.”