SANTA CRUZ -- Neighbors are gearing up for a battle Tuesday over increased traffic from a large medical facility planned for Mission Street.

When the Planning Commission approved the 18,000-square-foot Palo Alto Medical Foundation building in June, the panel recommended the City Council evaluate traffic circulation in the neighborhood, which includes Van Ness Avenue, Laurent Street and California Street.

The foundation has agreed to install bulb-outs, put up signs restricting turns around the facility and perform other traffic calming devices. But neighbors have long expected the developer also would back partial street closures.

"We don't want our streets used as a driveway to get into and out of this project," said Jim Lang, a Van Ness Avenue resident and retired parks and recreation department chief for the city.

Only the City Council can approve closures, and Lang contends the developers agreed to back the idea. But they aren't, at least right now, and city staff aren't either.

"They're dumping us," Lang said of the developers, whose project the neighbors agreed not to fight because they appreciate having more clinics in town. In return, the neighbors expected the foundation would not oppose the closures.

"We're not taking a position on the closure itself, but we are taking a position that it ought to be studied first" if the council is going to consider it, planning consultant Charles Eadie said.


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He said closures could affect access to the building and that the foundation already is spending $200,000 in traffic impact fees and up to $80,000 on other measures that should be given a chance to work.

City staff don't support the closures "because of the unintended consequences of increasing traffic and congestion on other streets," according to a staff report.

The neighbors want Van Ness Avenue and Laurent Street blocked just east of the building's driveways -- there is no entrance from Mission Street -- so no traffic would continue into the residential area. However, vehicles would be allowed to exit onto Mission Street from those side streets.

The council will discuss the issue at 7 p.m.

During its 3 p.m. meeting, the council will consider establishing a tobacco retail licensing program that will charge the city's 60 tobacco sellers an annual fee of $559 to fund a program aimed at reducing sales to minors through enforcement checks and other measures. Eighty other California cities have such programs, according to a city staff report.

The council also is expected to amend its noise ordinance in light of a federal judge's ruling that it is too vague to be unconstitutional. The council also will consider spending an additional $80,000 through next June to extend private security patrols around City Hall and the main library branch across the street.

Follow Sentinel reporter J.M. Brown on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmbrownreports

IF YOU GO

SANTA CRUZ CITY COUNCIL

WHEN: 3 p.m., general business; 7 p.m., Palo Alto Medical Foundation facility traffic
WHERE: Council Chamber, 809 Center St.
INFORMATION: www.cityofsantacruz.com