Wharf Master Plan

Project Lead

The Wharf was originally built as a hub for the economic development of the city and region. As of 2015, it’s a century old. Over the years it has transformed itself many times, but it’s always been a part of our economic vitality. The implementation of the Wharf Master Plan will once again allow the Wharf to respond to the shifting marketplace and broader community objectives. By taking advantage of the unique characteristics of its setting, the Wharf can realize its full economic potential and iconic public space for the city and the region well into the future.

The Wharf Master Plan recognizes that the Wharf serves a number of roles within the city - as a visual landmark of historic significance, a recreational and open space resource, and as a real estate asset that contributes to the economy of Santa Cruz and the Beach Area. Three complementary and interrelated strategies were formulated through the master planning effort.

By taking advantage of the unique characteristics of its setting, the Wharf can realize its full economic potential and iconic public space for the city and the region well into the future.

The first strategy calls for the expansion of the perimeter of the Wharf for public access, recreation, fishing, and boating. Planned improvements are intended to strengthen the Wharf’s relationship to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the scenic and environmental qualities it offers. This strategy will enhance the Wharf as a recreational resource and provide opportunities to engage in a variety of coastal experiences. In addition, the lateral expansion of the Wharf will broaden its appeal, help increase off-season visitation, and provide an opportunity to change the image and identity of the Wharf. Public access expansion brings new branding opportunities and, most importantly, will become one of the most effective ways to improve the economic vitality of the Wharf’s commercial uses and the viability of the Wharf as a real estate asset for the City.

Plan-Improvements-101414 sm

The second strategy is aimed at enhancing the existing public realm on the Wharf. This includes the areas currently devoted to driving and parking, as well as the three key, but underutilized, public spaces: at the point where the Wharf widens to the west to accommodate commercial uses, at the change in direction of the line of commercial buildings, and at the bayward end. This strategy includes the reorganization of the parking areas for greater efficiency and effectiveness, to reduce pedestrian/vehicular conflicts, and to create a more attractive and inviting arrival experience. For the key underutilized public spaces, the strategy is aimed at expanding the opportunity for publicly-oriented activities and creating physical spaces that give structure and orientation to the visitor experience, expressing the unique locational characteristics of the Wharf, and adding a more diverse and varied dimension to its venues and offerings.

The third strategy calls for improving the diversity, density and appeal of the commercial uses within the existing area devoted to these uses. It also calls for the improvement of the commercial buildings, the storefronts and adjacent sidewalks and the enhancement of the quality of the pedestrian experience. As changes are made, improvements can be undertaken that enhance curb appeal, the pedestrian experience, and the diversity, size, type and mix of commercial uses.

More information:


National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center provides an interactive marine education facility just steps from the Pacific Ocean.


Tourism is a major economic engine in Santa Cruz, and being able to easily navigate is critical to a positive visitor experience. In 2010 the City launched a wayfinding effort to evaluate and improve upon the experience of navigating around Santa Cruz.