The La Bahia Project

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The La Bahia project is back in the news:

La Bahia dealt setback, hotel overhaul delayed – By SHANNA MCCORD – Sentinel staff writer – July 31, 2007:

So it looks like the old La Bahia, an “80 year old Beach Street landmark”, gets a bit of a reprieve. Barry Swenson, the developer, plans to tear it down and put in a gleaming hotel in its place. You can read the article to learn about all the wonderful things the project will do for the economy. Personally, I’m all in favor of that part.

I’m not so hot on tearing down the old building. I read in an earlier Sentinel article that the reason they wanted to tear it down was because the present structure is not earthquake-safe, and retrofitting it would cost substantially more than building something new and modern from scratch.

However, most folks will admit that there are more ways to measure cost than merely in dollars. I think we need to add on to the cost the loss of history. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (just across the street from the La Bahia) is celebrating its 100 year anniversary this year. Why doesn’t the Seaside Company tear the Boardwalk down and rebuild it into something more modern, safe, and that can provide even more tax revenue for the City of Santa Cruz?

There are probably a lot of reasons for that – I reckon the Santa Cruz Seaside Company is making a fair bit of money on the Boardwalk, and a lot of what they are selling is nostalgia for a bygone era. I doubt that one of La Bahia’s selling points with prospective tenants is that it’s an old, rundown, unsafe building.

I’d be curious to learn how La Bahia – such a beautiful building, at least on the outside – came upon such hard times. Many folks would assume that it was rent control that did it in – why invest in the building if you can’t make a good return? But Santa Cruz doesn’t have rent control. Indeed – rents here are sky-high.

Where am I going with all this? Nowhere in particular. Just generally moaning about the loss of a beautiful, historic structure in the heart of Tourism Central. I wish the Sentinel would do some kind of exposé about what’s really going on with La Bahia – but that kind of in-deapth reporting, it seems, is now more the purview of the Santa Cruz Good Times (our local free weekly news/entertainment “magazine”).

Sigh.

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