The Town Clock and The Flatiron Building, and the intersection of Pacific Avenue, Mission Street, Water Street, and Front Street.The Downtown area of Santa Cruz includes borders of Front Street / River Street on the east, the "Downtown Santa Cruz" sign on River Street and Highway 1 / Mission Street on the north, Pacific Avenue / Front Street on the south, and Chestnut Street on the west. Downtown is generally compromised primarily of the major streets Pacific Avenue, Laurel Street, Chestnut Street, Front Street, and Center Street, as well as several less prominent streets, such as Maple Street, Cedar Street, and Locust Street. The area includes many historic buildings on the western side, and the historic districts radiate to the north, west and south. To the east is the San Lorenzo River.

Pacific Avenue and the surrounding streets are still often referred to by the name Pacific Garden Mall or simply The Mall, but since the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the subsequent redevelopment of the area, people mostly use the term Downtown.

The Downtown area includes many businesses, restaurants, city government offices and facilities, and residences. The area also features displays of a variety of public artwork, including murals, and street performers can often be seen and heard entertaining a crowd.

The east side of the downtown and the San Lorenzo River as seen from Laurel Street Bridge.



People often gather for protests and marches downtown. Photo: Save the Knoll March on Pacific Avenue, August 2011.

While the downtown district is comprised primarily of businesses, the top levels of many of the buildings are apartments and residences, and a delicate balance exists between public use of the area and domestic uses. The noise ordinance is one result of this balance. The downtown features a variety of regular events, such as the Santa Cruz Farmers' Market. When visiting the downtown, common sites include street performers, public art, protests, oddly decorated cars driving down Pacific Avenue, the homeless, street crime, tourists, locals, and just about any other urban human activity one can imagine.




Annual Events

Downtown Characters

The Downtown Ordinances

The City of Santa Cruz has quite a few city ordinances specific to the downtown area:

Law Enforcement

A private security bicycle patrol officer from First Alarm, riding through the Walnut Tree Parking Lot. Photo: July 2011.

  • The Santa Cruz Police Department patrols the downtown regularly on foot, by bicycle, and by motorcycle and automobile patrol vehicles
  • Private security guards from First Alarm also patrol the downtown
  • Hospitality Guide Program - Private 'hosts' dressed in blue and yellow uniforms aid in law enforcement by warning people about possible violations and by contacting the police.

A guide from the Hospitality Guide Program (wearing yellow and blue) on Birch Lane.

Major Buildings


See Pacific Avenue for businesses located on that street

Spiritual Organizations


Public Restrooms

  • Public restrooms are located near Oswald on Soquel Avenue as well as inside of the Santa Cruz Metro Center.
  • Restaurants are required by law to have a restroom available to the public, whether that be an in-house restroom or a nearby public restroom. However, usually you must buy something before being given access to the restroom.
  • Bookshop Santa Cruz has a great public restroom. Please don't get it messy or graffiti on the walls— that just makes them mad.

Signage/Physical Features


Public Transit

The Santa Cruz Metro Center is located at the intersection of Pacific and Cathcart. This is the main bus Center in Santa Cruz County, and can get you pretty much anywhere in the county, as well as to San Jose. Greyhound Bus Lines is now located at the Santa Cruz Metro Center, and can get you to various places around California or across the US.

The Santa Cruz Beach-Downtown Trolley operates April 15 to Oct. 15 and costs $.25 for a ride from the beach to the downtown (or the other way).

The Santa Cruz Beach-Downtown Trolley.

Self-Propelled Transit

Skateboards and other roller-devices are prohibited downtown, especially on the sidewalks. Walking is encouraged, and jaywalking is the norm, which drives drivers insane. Cycling is fine, as long as you dont do it on the sidewalks. Also note that people have been given tickets for riding down Pacific Avenue in the wrong direction of a one-way street.



For the most part, there is lots of cheap and some free parking— you just have to find it. There are several free parking lots and garages which allow parking for three consecutive hours, and the most the pay lots and garages charge is $1 for two hours.

Most parking meters cost $.25 for a half hour, but there are some that charge different rates. Many meters now allow parking for up to 12 hours at a time.

Visit for more info and parking maps.

Downtown Parking Lots & Garages


Major Streets

Smaller Streets

Alleyways and Lanes



Unusual Items

Old style Wig Wag Signal by Chestnut Street & Walnut Avenue



Related Links