It turns out that our mission to Save West Cliff began fifty years ago with John Scott, a Steamer Lane surfer. John, who had recently graduated from high school, had heard about a development proposal by the City of Santa Cruz to turn Lighthouse Point into a Convention Center with a thirteen-story hotel, high rise condominiums, and acres of parking lots.
He didn’t like the idea of losing this incredible recreational place.
John had two prized possessions: his car and his surfboard. They enabled him to ride the waves and share the stoke with his fellow surfers. The story goes that he felt so strongly about this issue that he sold his car to fund an advertisement against the proposed development.
This advertisement, on Page 15 of the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 11, 1972, may have been that ad:
Here are a couple of their Santa Cruz Sentinel advertisements:
By Mid-1973, the group had solidified its position in opposition to the plan. And on June 18, 1973, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that the Save Lighthouse Point Association had released the following statement:
“The Save Lighthouse Point Assn. has issued an eight - point statement which it says will "clarify its position on the issue coming before the city planning commission on Wednesday." The group announced it opposes the project proposed for Lighthouse Field for the following reasons: 1. This project, they say, will result in the irrevocable loss of Santa Cruz's only coastal open space. 2. The project would generate dramatically increased volumes of traffic, thus over-burdening the adjacent street system and necessitating the acquisition of land for substantial modification of the proposed access routes, they claimed 3. The group charged that increased traffic generated by the project, with its inherent detrimental effects, would destroy the quality of life that has attracted people to Santa Cruz. 4. They contend it will bring about an undesirable change in the adjacent neighborhoods, creating urban blight that will spread from West Cliff Drive to Mission Street. 5. The association claimed that the project would draw patronage away from the shops and restaurants located on or near the Pacific Avenue Garden Mall. 6. They said the project will result in the destruction of a valuable and unique wildlife sanctuary which presently provides shelter for several dozen species of birds, including the "rare and remarkable" Black Swift. 7. This project, they added, would impede vehicular access to Steamer Lane and the surrounding beaches. 8. The existing site plan for the proposed project, claimed the association, is inadequate. The group cited the example of trucks servicing the 100.000 square foot shopping village which will be using an entrance located on West Cliff Drive, causing traffic congestion on a scenic road, and "increasing the already alarming erosion of West Cliff”
An inevitable showdown between the Save Lighthouse Point Association and the City of Santa Cruz happened at a public hearing in the Civic Auditorium on September 18, 1973.
The next morning, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported:
“Former Mayor, Al Castagnola resigned from the Santa Cruz City Council this morning in the aftermath of a bitter public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed Lighthouse Point Convention Center. The aftermath included the hurling of an unlit Molotov cocktail through a window of Castagnola's Restaurant at about 2:30 a.m. today. Only damage to the restaurant was the shattering of the window, and the restaurant on River Street is open for business. Castagnola said flatly his resignation has nothing to do either with the "bombing" incident or with any of the crowd behavior at Tuesday night's council hearing”
The fate of the long-proposed Lighthouse Point Convention Center went before voters in the June 4, 1974, election. An initiative ordinance entitled Measure D was put on the municipal ballot to decide whether the City should be forbidden "from owning, leasing, maintaining or operating a convention center facility at Lighthouse Point or on ' Lighthouse Field." A "yes" vote by a simple majority would pass the ordinance and forbid continued City participation in the project. A "no" vote would reject the ordinance and allow the City to continue its project participation as a City-County Joint Powers Authority member.
Measure D passed with more than 75% of the vote.
This was the first big step towards saving Lighthouse Point, a central piece of the place we call West Cliff.