Remediation work has begun at the site of a planned mixed-use downtown area, pictured here on Oct. 17. Scotts Valley City Council recently voted to give the Town Center designs a refresh. (Drew Penner/Press Banner)

Scotts Valley City Council voted Oct. 4 to hand a $160,000 contract to Urban Field Studio for the plan refresh of the previously mothballed Town Center project it’s counting on to reinvigorate the community and help it achieve its housing goals.

City Manager Mali LaGoe said Scotts Valley has been making a lot of progress toward preparing the way for a brand new mixed-use “downtown” quarter.

“Over the years, several private development attempts have come forth, but none of them have been actually executed,” LaGoe said. “We, over the last couple of years, have been taking a fresh look at our strategy towards developing the Town Center. And the City’s been taking a more proactive role in removing barriers to development.”

She explained that includes the environmental cleanup happening on the property, which once was an airstrip. Scotts Valley has also been working to gain control of the entire site (a portion is owned by the City of Santa Cruz).

“We also have been reexamining our plans for the Town Center in regard to the Housing Element and the number of houses that make sense in the current market,” LaGoe said. “We’ve been embarking on an update to our specific plan.”

Now, a master architect was needed to come up with new renderings. A Request for Proposals was posted, and eight bids arrived. Interviews were held with four finalists on Aug. 24, and Urban Field Studio was selected as the top candidate.

Though the company has international experience, they are intimately familiar with the Greater Bay Area urban design landscape, according to staff.

“They’re highly skilled architects that are dedicated to our project, and they have extensive experience working, not just with municipalities, but also with developers,” said LaGoe, adding staff liked the creative approach to community engagement Urban Field proposed. “They also had excellent references.”

Company partners Jane Lin and Ryan Call introduced themselves to Council. Lin, a licensed architect with a planning degree, said they were honored to be selected to work on the Town Center.

“I’m really excited to work on this project,” she said. “Scotts Valley is a really special place for me. I grew up in Santa Cruz and my dad lives in Scotts Valley—and has for the last 20 years. So, I’m really familiar with it.”

Lin, who lectures at UC Berkeley in the Planning Department, can’t wait to see the city “come to life” with the development of the Town Center.

“I know there’s so much potential here,” she said.

Call, who is also an architect, said the San Lorenzo Valley and the surrounding areas have been a big part of his life.

“We still have the house that my grandfather was born and raised in up in Boulder Creek,” he said. “It’s a whopping one-bedroom—700 square feet. Somehow, they made that work. But it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful, beautiful part of California.”

Call added he is impressed with the commercial corridor along Scotts Valley Drive.

“You know, Scotts Valley is so much more than just a center unto itself,” he said. “It’s the center for the whole area. And I think providing it just that extra bit of placemaking, in a way that’s in-tune with what your community wants to see—and also what a developer can deliver—is just a really exciting assignment for us.”

Lin added that colleague John Bela, with his landscape architecture background, will round out the team. The Scotts Valley Town Center RFP really leapt out at them, she said.

“We can’t wait to get started,” she said. “And we know that you all have been waiting a long time, as well.”

Vice Mayor Randy Johnson said he’s hopeful that Urban Field Studio will be able to produce something that’s aesthetically pleasing while still economically feasible.

“That’s one of the most important things,” he said. “I liked the fact that Ryan and Jane will work closely with developers.”

After all, the construction landscape has only become more challenging in recent years, he added.

“It’s a brave new world out there with high interest rates, cost of building,” he said. “It’s chilling in some ways. So, I just think that this is a very good choice. I think it will be a nice relationship.”

Councilmember Allan Timms agreed that the local connection felt real. That’s something that stood out to Councilmember Donna Lind, too.

“Means a lot to hear (of) those roots, and your folks in Boulder Creek, and Santa Cruz,” she said. “That adds an extra plus in my mind. So, thank you, in addition to strong qualifications.”

Councilmember Derek Timm said new drawings will help explain to developers exactly what local residents wish to see.

“We can say, ‘This is what our community wants,’” he said. “We’ve always put the cart before the horse in the past. And I think this is an opportunity to get it right.”

No one spoke during public comment.

Vice Mayor Johnson made the motion to approve the contract, with Timm seconding. It was approved unanimously.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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