Downtown Watsonville Specific Plan

Project Underway

In July 2019, the City of Watsonville initiated a Specific Plan for downtown Watsonville. This planning effort built on the historic origins of the area while establishing a clear vision for the future of downtown Watsonville.

What is a Specific Plan?

A Specific Plan is a comprehensive planning document and regulatory tool for implementing the City’s General Plan and will guide development in downtown through customized land use and design regulations and provide recommendations for improvements to the public realm. 


Objectives for the Specific Plan include the development of multi-story mixed use buildings through both new construction and adaptive reuse of historic buildings. For instance, infill development along Main Street may include new residential housing with commercial retail on the first floor.

The Plan encourages compact development near transit to decrease automobile dependency, reduce both local and regional traffic congestion and related greenhouse gas emissions, and provide additional guidance and plans to increasing multimodal access to and from the historic Downtown area.

Consistency with the General Plan

Per California State law, specific plans must be internally consistent with the jurisdiction’s general plan. The Watsonville 2005 General Plan (adopted 1994) designates the land uses in the Specific Plan area. Where Specific Plan zoning is inconsistent with the 2005 General Plan, the General Plan is being updated concurrent with this Specific Plan to ensure consistency between the two documents. Adoption of the Specific Plan involved making a few edits to the land use and circulation elements of the 2005 General Plan.

Recent News & Milestones

  • On October 10, the City Council adopted the Downtown Watsonville Specific Plan (DWSP).
  • The Planning Commission held a public hearing on September 5, 2023, and recommended unanimously that the City Council adopt the DWSP.
  • The City prepared written responses to comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the DWSP and included them in a separate document entitled the Final EIR. The Draft EIR and Final EIR constitute the EIR for the DWSP (SCH #2022100602). The Final EIR includes a list of those who commented, copies of written comments, written responses to comments regarding the environmental review, and errata with minor text change made to the Draft EIR as a result of the comments. The Final EIR was published online on August 11, 2023, six weeks after the close of the public comment period on the Draft EIR.
  • The Draft EIR was prepared in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Draft EIR incorporates by reference the Initial Study prepared in 2022. The Draft EIR was made available for public review and comment from May 12, 2023, to June 26, 2023. Hardcopies are available at the Community Development Department and Watsonville Main Library.
  • A meeting on the scope of the EIR was held on November 30, 2022. This meeting included a brief overview of the EIR process and allowed time for oral comments on the scope of the EIR. Interested members of the public, including public agencies, were invited to attend the Public EIR Scoping Meeting. The EIR scoping process did not identify any areas of known controversy for the proposed project. Responses to the Notice of Preparation (NOP) and input received at the EIR scoping meeting held by the City are summarized in Section 1, Introduction, of the EIR.
  • A Notice of Preparation (NOP) was released in October 2022 that the City will prepare an EIR for the DWSP. 
  • An update on the DWSP was presented to the City Council on October 25, 2022. This provided an overview of the document and planning process, including community outreach in developing the plan and key recommendations to help make downtown vibrant. During the meeting, the City Council accepted the final draft of the DWSP and directed staff to complete an EIR for the plan.
  • Caltrans is committed to implementing a key recommendation in the draft Downtown Watsonville Specific Plan (DWSP). In response to Council support for integrating complete streets infrastructure on State Route 152 (Resolution No. 195-22), Caltrans will be including the "road diet" concept—i.e., reducing the number of travel lanes for Main Street from four to three with a center running left turn lane (or landscaped median) and one travel lane in each direction—and other complete streets recommendations into their upcoming State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) project no. 05-1P110. A virtual public meeting was held on the Route 152 Rehabilitation Project on October 6, 2022. For more information, download the presentation slides or watch the video recording in English or Spanish. For a single-page summary on this and other projects in the Watsonville area, download this factsheet.
  • An Advisory Committee meeting was held on July 21, 2022, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Public comment on the draft DWSP and recommended changes were the main focus of this meeting. 
  • A Joint Community Workshop and Advisory Committee meeting was held on June 30, 2022, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. This meeting provided an opportunity to walk through each chapter in the draft DWSP, answer questions, and invite attendees to provide feedback. The Draft DWSP was made available to the public on June 24, 2022.
  • Following the June 30th Joint Community Workshop and Advisory Committee meeting, the online platform Konveio was used to collect further feedback through Thursday, July 14, 2022. The comments received to date from Konveio as well as emails/letters submitted to the City are provided below:
  • An Advisory Committee meeting was held on April 14, 2022, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Meeting topics included the Plan's mobility and parking recommendations. 
  • An Advisory Committee meeting was held on February 10, 2022, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Meeting topics included affordable housing and anti-displacement strategies. 
  • A historic resources report has been prepared in support of the Specific Plan. This report presents a summary on research and reconnaissance efforts. The purpose of the historic resources survey is to provide baseline data on existing conditions and identify known and potentially eligible historic resources in the Specific Plan area. This information will inform future planning and development efforts and support compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other applicable state and local regulations.
  • An Advisory Committee meeting was held on October 6, 2021, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Meeting topics included a report back on responses to the 2nd community survey and an introduction of the Plan's zoning framework. 
  • In response to community interest in how the City's affordable housing program works, the Housing Manager held two workshops on June 16 and 17, 2021, to provide a history on the program, answered questions, and addressed how it would apply to new development downtown. Separate videos are available in English and Spanish for the June 16 and 17 workshops, respectively.
  • A second community survey collected feedback on design recommendations for public spaces, character areas, streetscapes, and bike network in downtown Watsonville. 
  • A Community Workshop was held on May 6, 2021, from 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Meeting topics included potential opportunity sites in downtown, as well as proposed street and bicycle network concepts. The second community survey was also unveiled at the workshop.
  • Meetings will take place virtually online due to Covid-19. The City of Watsonville invites the public to attend via Zoom and participate by watching the live stream of the meeting on the City's Facebook page.
  • Community members and stakeholder inform the vision for Downtown Watsonville. See the Vision Themes & Guiding Principles for the Specific Plan and summary of public comments
  • A community survey collected feedback on strengths, issues, opportunities, and community vision for the Downtown. Below are pictures of community members sharing their views at the Farmer's Market in the Plaza.
  • Existing conditions analysis and reports were completed in 2020 for the following topics: economics, urban design and land use, transportation, utilities, water supply, and noise.

Public Engagement Events

Contact Information