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SANTA CRUZ >> Long a talking point for its unusual architectural design, a historic Westside residential property at 515 Fair Ave. is now attracting the attention of the neighborhood for its planned development.

On Wednesday morning, Santa Cruz Zoning Administrator Eric Marlatt will review a development project for the so-called ‘Court of Mysteries’, also known as the ‘Red Castle’ and ‘Yogi Temple’ site, built in the mid-1900s. The owners’ proposal includes the restoration of its historic features and the construction of new housing units.

San Francisco owners Douglas Harr, partner of technology consultancy firm StrataFusion, and artist Artina Morton plan to build new residences closer to their property line than city codes typically allow, an issue that helped spark an opposition effort between neighbors and the city’s letter-writing campaign.

Morton said the couple went door-to-door with neighbors in 2016 when they bought their land, inviting questions, concerns and comments. Since then, neighbors who accepted their invitation and expressed concerns have generally been appeased, Morton said.

“We’ve been true to exactly what we do from the start. We haven’t changed it at all, ”Morton said.

Tom Horn, a resident of the property in question since 1979, is among the opposition organizers. He said his main concerns were issues of fairness, neighbor privacy and fire safety. The city offers exceptions to zoning and building codes to provide incentives for developers seeking to preserve and enhance historic properties.

“So far too much attention has been paid to pushing the applicant to restore the existing ‘historic structure’ and too little attention to the impact of the proposed project on the neighborhood and neighboring properties, and we hope to change that, “Horn said, reading a prepared statement.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission approved the project proposal at its July 19 meeting, and the plans align with the city’s general plan goal of providing incentives for renovation and maintenance. historic properties. According to the Zoning Meeting Agenda Report, since no other city-designated historic parcels are in the area, the exceptions provided for the increased housing density at 515 Fair Ave . will not set a precedent for the neighborhood.

“The project will improve the neighborhood through the upkeep, security and maintenance of the lot, and will not have a negative impact on neighboring properties,” according to the zoning administrator’s report.

The owners hope to give prominence to the existing “Yogi Temple” building in the center of the lot, while building behind it a new two-story residence, where they will live, and a grandmother’s unit above the garage. Separately, the project proposes to divide part of the property into a new plot, with the construction of a condominium duplex and another granny unit above the garage in an area otherwise zoned for single-family homes. The owners said they could initially lease the units, but have long-term plans to house close family friends as investors, adding that their plans do not exceed the density of development that would be allowed if their property was divided into four single family homes.

The first floor of the primary residence would be constructed within 5.5 feet of the backyards of the residential properties on Getchell Street. The city code generally requires a 20 foot buffer zone. The condominiums would also approach the neighboring property line, shared with a 10-foot-wide driveway to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Harr said he and his wife are trying to work with the city and its neighbors on any issues that arise.

“The majority of the feedback we receive is really positive. People are thrilled that someone is finally coming to take care of the property, ”said Harr. “In the past there has been graffiti and other damage to really cool monuments. People are delighted that someone is there to take care of the place and restore it to its beauty. We are delighted to do so.


What: Zoning Administrator meeting.

When: 10 a.m., Wednesday.

Where: Santa Cruz City Hall, 809 Center St.

At issue: 515 Fair Ave. Development of three condominiums.