Suit in motion over Nissan dealership in Soquel

An artist's draft shows what the proposed Santa Cruz Nissan dealership will look like. Contributed rendering.

A lawsuit has been set in motion regarding the construction of a new Santa Cruz Nissan dealership proposed to be built near the intersection of Soquel Drive at 41st Avenue.

Initially slated to open in spring 2019, the 2.6-acre parcel would be a relocation for the existing Nissan dealership which is nearby. Plans were approved by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors in May. Though the ball is rolling in motion, the group Sustainable Soquel is saying “not so fast.”

“This is a complex issue and not just about traffic,” said group member Lisa Sheridan. “It’s more about the sustainable plan. We are looking at how to plan our neighborhood and what is sustainable. There is a concept of alternatives. There is a list of issues here, including sound, lights and traffic.”

Sheridan said there is a 75-page response to the environmental impact report.

“We need to have advanced planning or we all just fall apart,” she said. “It’s shocking to say, ‘hey, great plan,’ and then turn around and ‘poopoo’ the plan. This land could be used for mixed community commercial, for example, with a grocery store, and single unit apartments, for starters. They had one project and went with it. That is not reasonable.”

Sheridan said currently there are scores of people living in close proximity to the site including four mobile home parks that she described as “close by.”  One of the chief goals of Sustainable Soquel, Sheridan said, was to push for what she described as a “walk-able neighborhood,” that would make way for a more pedestrian and residential-friendly setting.

“After the project was originally proposed and scheduled for the Planning Commission, I got all of our departments together and it was decided that we should do an EIR for the project,” said John Leopold, Santa Cruz County Supervisor.

Leopold called the study “the highest level of environmental review.”

“The EIR looked at the project as well as all the alternatives suggested by the public,” Leopold said. “The whole EIR process took a year and addressed many comments from a handful of people. “The EIR identified that the biggest impact was on traffic, with the dealership being the least impactful among the alternatives.  “In order to deal with the traffic problems that already exist on Soquel Drive, I got the Board to agree to find the funds to install a four way stop light at Robertson/Wharf Road. Every traffic analysis says that this would improve traffic flow and protect pedestrians.”

Leopold said the new traffic light has to be installed within “three years of pulling the building permits.”

A Notice of Proposed Development notice posted at the site reads: “Proposal to combine 8 parcels and construct an approximately 12,550 square foot car dealership and an approximately 10,000 square foot service area.” The project got the green light from the Santa Cruz County Business Council and the County Planning Commission.

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