nhs has gone chinese (if u didnt know)
SANTA CRUZ — Doing business in communist China is easier than in Santa Cruz, said a local surfboard, snowboard and skateboard maker.
Richard Novak started NHS company, known worldwide as one of the first skateboard outfits, 33 years ago with the launch of Santa Cruz Skateboards. It is located in an industrial complex at the former Seabright Cannery.
Novak said keeping the business here is difficult when he's forced to field frequent complaints from nearby residents and city officials about parking, early morning truck deliveries, screeching truck brakes and other noises associated with work at the 143,000-square-foot complex he's owned since 1989.
Novak said he doesn't hear those complaints in China, where some of the company's surfboards and skateboards are manufactured. He said he is considering selling the property and taking his business to another town because of the ongoing local complaints.
The former Seabright Cannery also is home to Pacific Edge climbing gym, Beckmann's Bakery and Santa Cruz Bikes, which combined with NHS, provide about 300 full-time jobs.
"It's painful to stay in Santa Cruz," Novak said. "As a business person, I can't deal with it."
Neighborhood grumbling came to a head earlier this month while Novak was seeking a master-use permit from the city Planning Commission to make it easier for new businesses to move into the complex.
A master-use permit, rarely issued in Santa Cruz, allows a mix of businesses to operate in the cannery rather than requiring each to get an individual permit to operate on the site before they move in.
Novak was granted the master-use permit after a year of working with city officials, but denied use of a loading dock connected to an empty 7,500-square-foot building that was vacated a year ago when Producers Dairy left town. Denying use of the dock, across the street from homes, was largely based on neighbor concerns.
Commissioners said they would revisit the loading dock issue in six months; Novak has appealed the decision to the City Council.
"It was a very difficult discussion in trying to balance the neighbors' concerns against the industrial commercial interest of a business owner," city principal planner Alex Khoury said.
The loading dock faces the residential side of the complex on Hall and Owen streets. Neighbors say truck noise shoots directly toward their homes.
But without the dock, Novak said, the warehouse is "unusable" because it would be difficult to move large loads of snowboards, surfboards and skateboards in and out of the building, which sits 3 feet off the ground.
And, he said, about $10,000 in rent is lost each month the warehouse sits empty — a total of $120,000 so far.
Since the dairy's departure in October 2005, the neighborhood has been quieter without trucks coming and going in the early morning, residents say.
At least 36 residents signed a petition after the dairy company moved out, asking city officials to move the loading dock to the other side of the complex near the train tracks along Murray Street.
"We've been enjoying a neighborhood that's somewhat quieter," Owen Street resident Paula Mack wrote to the City Council. "However, there is still a great deal of semi-truck delivery traffic, ... which violates the spirit of the Planning Department's conditions of approval."
After his latest run-in with city officials, fueled by the upset neighbors, Novak said he has toyed with selling the industrial complex — worth up to $20 million, he said — and moving to another city.
"My question is when the residents bought their homes, did they see a state park here?," said Novak, a Capitola native. "If this keeps up, I'll think about moving. Watsonville would welcome me with open arms."
The former cannery, between the railroad tracks along Murray Street and a residential neighborhood to the north, was a hub of food manufacturers in the 1980s and '90s with Santa Cruz Poultry, Monterey Mushrooms and Producers Dairy renting space.
The Seabright Cannery opened in 1914, and for 75 years canned fruits and vegetables — pears, beans, olives, spinach, artichokes and cherries. It closed in 1989.
City Redevelopment Director Ceil Cirillo praised NHS and the other businesses located at the former cannery as the type of businesses — bikes and baked goods — Santa Cruz should embrace and protect.
"People need to acknowledge that's an industrial zoned area," Cirillo said. "NHS is an important asset for this community. I am supportive of what he's done there."