hillcrest homes groundbreaking
Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino (fourth from right) is joined by Shaz Roth (third from left), CEO of the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, and other key players in the groundbreaking ceremony Feb. 17 for Hillcrest on Ohlone Parkway in Watsonville. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—Watsonville’s newest residential development broke ground on Feb. 17, nearly five years after it was originally approved by the city council.

Hillcrest, located off of Ohlone Parkway, will consist of 144 units when fully built out over several phases, including 76 townhomes, 63 duplexes, and five detached single-family structures on 11 acres that overlook Watsonville Slough.

A total of 29 homes will be sold at below market rate, with details and pricing on those still to be determined, said Andy Ardila, principal of the Ardila Costello Team at Compass, which is overseeing sales and marketing for the Hillcrest project. The market rate homes will start in the $800,000s.

The first batch of homes will go on sale in the summer.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of time spent on this project, but we knew the benefits to the community,” Mayor Eduardo Montesino said. “Twenty-nine affordable units is incredible for our community, especially for the working class.”

The development will also include picnic, turf, play and bird watching areas, and a hiking trail around the wetlands.

Mark Lester, CEO of developer LANDCO, said on completion, Hillcrest will add $130 million in real estate to Watsonville’s tax base, and result in $6 million in impact fees for schools and other uses.

“The Hillcrest project will deliver abundant and vitally important community benefits, including essential affordable housing stock, high-paying construction jobs, significant impact fees for local parks and schools, and recurring property tax revenues for both the City of Watsonville and Santa Cruz County,” Lester said. “We are proud to be leading this much-needed housing development.” 

The developers also announced that for the first 10 homes sold, they will donate $1,000 each to Second Harvest Food Bank.

Originally approved by the Watsonville City Council in August 2018 as Sunshine Vista, Hillcrest has faced a complicated road to this point. The development has seen pushback from neighbors concerned about increased traffic, had troubles with securing funding and multiple times changed project managers. 

The development team returned to the council in 2021 to propose a major change to the soil remediation plan. Instead of excavating, hauling and disposing of the top 2-foot layer of soil that was deemed contaminated from the site’s previous use as an auto wrecking yard for 60 years, the developer proposed removing only the top six inches and burying the remaining 18 inches—roughly 20,000 cubic yards—in a cement-sealed pit on the outskirts of the property. 

The council approved that plan in a 4-3 vote.

A local group filed a complaint to the California Attorney General’s Office against the City of Watsonville and the County of Santa Cruz for advancing a housing project, claiming that the pit would create an environmental hazard for its future residents and a massive liability for the city.

hillcrest homes groundbreaking
An artist’s rendering shows what the Hillcrest development would look like once completed. Courtesy of LANDCO
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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


  1. Who can afford 800,000 with current interest rates? Insane price for crappy houses.

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    • Dear Pa:

      My advice to you is: GET A JOB. Earning an honest living works wonders for malcontents and skeptics like you.

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      • Hey Pa, please let me talk to Ma.

        Your embarrassment over being unemployed is surpassed only by your extreme indignation in being challenged as a malcontent and skeptic with nothing constructive to offer.

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  2. you are correct, PA. who , indeed? and why do we need an EAST PALESTINE, OHIO in Watsonville? HILLCRUST acres has the potential of becoming an EPA toxic waste site in a few years. really stupid.

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    • Dear Steve Troll-jillo:

      Your comment above causes me to wonder why you spoke glowingly of this project’s merits on every possible occasion before the city council and the planning commission. What could have changed your mind?

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      • you are mistaken. and that was when the builder promised to REMOVE the many tons of contaminated soil to a pit in Bakersfield. they then broke their promise and said they could put it in a pit on the property of the development, and only go down 18 inches of top soil rather than 3 feet. so yes, it still qualifies as a potential EPA toxic site.

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    • Really ST, you mean this development near the proposed rail will have trains carrying toxic substances and tallow which will crash and pollute the area?

      Thanks for the heads up. No train, I agree!

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      • Hmmm, Steve and Junior, seems to me a big part of your support for a train to nowhere included freight. That and you support storing tallow in rail cars on the tracks. How is that passenger service? Not surprising as you once again ignore facts to support your unsupportable POV. No train. Widen the freeway, which should have occurred 50 years ago, except for the no-growth folks in Santa Cruz thinking that if they did not improve infrastructure, it would inhibit growth. Wrong. Now we are stuck with revisionist notions that a train will solve gridlock. What a crock.

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  3. This is really amazing news and great for our community. There is such a shortage of housing in Watsonville that I applaud the local government to get this approved and going. Everyone that I have talked to, residents and neighbors of Watsonville is thrilled about this news that will help the local economy. Also, per the article there will be a lot of affordable housing available as well!

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    • Only 20% of the housing units will be affordable. The rest will be costly and homes costing 800,000 will be not affordable to the majority of Watsonville’s residents. Do the math.
      Plus, the contaminated soil isn’t being removed deep enough. I remember when many people in the Second St area got cancer from contaminated soil due to Chevron polluting their lot and the soil pollution spread to other areas. Chevron had to pay many out large settlements. Two of my friends who lived in the area got cancer, with one having two different ones from the soil pollution. Now, the city will be responsible for the pollution that will spread for sure. Did someone take a kickback to approve this stupidity?

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      • Hey, Pa, I was just listening to the blather about CEIBA’s rezoning. That same Chevron site is now being morphed into a playground for the CEIBA students. If you doubt me, look at the video. Those kids would be in real jeopardy if you had a clue. And, again, I am sorry that you are chronically unemployed and rely on the public dole for your dismal existence.

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        • Now you insult retired people and accuse them of being on the public dole. It seems that you are the one who is confused and angry that we retired people get to sleep in, do what we want and get a big check every month to keep doing it. By the way, I make more in retirement that I did working as I saved one quarter of my earnings in my retirement account. I love retirement Smellen. Eat your heart out.

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    • the spread of cancer in the soil of these new homes does not help the community, it hurts it. what you cannot see in the soil CAN hurt you. do not be misled by fake promises by the builder. the builder keeps changing the narrative as to what they intend to do to keep this project safe for home buyers.

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  4. I wonder why the article does not mention the stipulation that if the toxics do in fact become a hazard, the homeowners would have to pay the enormously expensive remediation costs.

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    • Frank, was that information in the agreement for the builder to start building? If so, the city of Watsonville is setting up prospective home buyers for a disaster.

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  5. Gee, Frank, the answer is pretty clear If you know anything about the subject, there are no toxics on the site that can become a hazard and therefore there will not be remediation costs–enormously expensive or not. Grow up.

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    • the toxics are buried deep in the ground. they resurface on a regular basis. you can”t suppress them. they must be removed and buried in a pit that has a non-permeable membrane to encase them. .
      it is clear you never took chemistry in school. go do some research and get wise.

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  6. WHAT nonsense!
    this is from the National Geographic website: ” toxic wastes are less likely to travel.” the CRUSTVIEW ESTATES acres are filled with toxic waste that the builder ORIGINALLY promised to , at a depth of 3 feet, have trucked to a pit in Bakersfield unless the entire area is capped with clay, which the builder will not pay for, it will bubble up to the top. the fact that the builder wants to put topsoil only 9 inches down , in a pit on the site, covered by a thin layer of God knows what, is a danger to anyone who buys property there. $800,000 grand for the opportunity to contract cancer ? REALLY STUPID IDEA. i do not support really stupid fake science. that is why i was endorsed by the Sierra Club in 2018 for city council.
    class dismissed, Ellen and What. you have homework to do.

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    • Rupert Murdoch owns the Nat’l Geographic so take any advice from his publication with a grain of salt.

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  7. Let’s talk about toxic chemicals in Watsonville realistically. For years farmers sprayed Chlordane, DDT and the fumigants still being used by the berry growers feet from our schools.
    Where do you think these toxins went? Did you guys ever look at the water coming out of your faucets? The corrosion from these chemicals eat up anything they touch faucets, toilets, sinks.
    Why does everyone drink bottled water?
    The proposed site is probably the best option for this community. And why send contaminated soil to Bakersville? People live there too! Why not send the soil to an inclination plant approved by the EPA
    Water is clean in Texas Steve with beautiful weather


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  8. The pit in Bakersfield was lined with more than just clay. and it was specifically designed to contain toxic soil.
    Texas is so filled with oil and gas waste , it’s water is a carcinogen in and of itself. and don’ t even bother fresh water fishing in Texas, as the fish are so filled with toxic chemicals, they will kill you.
    and there is a tornado watch , one of many , scheduled for north Texas, in the immediate future. none here. and sunny weather will return later this week. the drought is not completely ended, but well on its way.

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  9. I want to apologize for all the mean comments I’ve made to everyone. I’ve said disgusting things and spread hate to all of you.

    I’m just sad because my rash got worse, and doctors diagnosed it as scabies.

    Have pity on me.
    Ellen Martin

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    • Like the game show to Tell the Truth, I am the real Ellen Martin. The message above from Steve Troll-jillo, or a similarly deranged individual, is a fraud. The reference “pity” should be directed toward them.

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