Plans are underway for a storage locker facility to be built on this large parking lot next to Watsonville Community Hospital. —Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council on Jan. 17 unanimously approved the construction of a new self-storage facility to be located in the long abandoned, weed-choked parking lot between Watsonville Municipal Airport and the Community Hospital.

Located at 70 Nielsen St., the facility—called Crocker’s Lockers—will offer 1,072 self-storage units in six buildings, both one and two story. It will also include a manager’s office with a live-in apartment on the second story.

The Council also approved a mitigated negative declaration for the project, which is an agreement by planners and developers that the project will not have a significant environmental impact. 

It will include landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, lighting and several security cameras.

In addition, the project required a special-use permit because plans for the 149,769 square feet development calls for just 21 parking spaces, far short of what the City’s general plan requires for projects of similar size.

Watsonville Principal Planner Justin Meek said that aspect of the project is justified because the shorter stay by the people using the storage spaces averages only 20 minutes.

The only objection to the project comes from the Watsonville Pilots Association, which has in the past objected to other development near the airport, including Pajaro Valley High School, and the school’s long-awaited athletic facility that opened in 2021.

The group says that the City approved the project without adhering to the strictest standards in the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook, and without incorporating those standards into its General Plan.

Attorney Bill Parkin, who represents the WPA, says the City is required to follow the handbook, which sets standards for development within airports’ safety zones that largely are based on density of the proposed use.

The self-storage project is located in three of Watsonville Airport’s safety zones:

• Zone 2–Inner Approach/Departure, which allows warehouses and light industrial uses

• Zone 5–Sideline, which allows industrial uses and most low to moderate intensity uses, with some height limitations 

• Zone 6–Traffic Pattern,which allows residential use.

The handbook does not specifically mention self-storage facilities.

In its consideration of the project, Parkin says the City used a more lenient standard for determining the number of people who will be on the site than they should have.

“This isn’t just whining,” he said. “The safety zones are important for preservation of air safety for pilots. passengers and the public on the ground.”

Attorney Kevin Siegel, who works with City Attorney Samantha Zutler, says that the City disagrees with WPA’s interpretation of the handbook’s rules.

The WPA, Siegel says, is applying density rules for retail and office use in making its objection to the project.

“For a storage facility, that’s not apt,” Siegel says. “There are rules for warehouse uses, which are much more akin to the type of project at issue. The city believes it has applied applicable standards from the handbook, and done so in a strict and awful way. WPA points to standards that we don’t think apply.”

Parkin says that the City is still approving projects in its land use decisions, despite not having incorporated those standards into its General Plan. This includes a 21-unit housing development at 547 Airport Blvd., the site of an old metal fabrication business, which the WPA is currently challenging.

The WPA successfully sued the City in 2010, Parkin says, alleging that its 2030 General Plan did not identify airport safety in making future housing development plans.

Siegel says the city is moving forward to adopt a General Plan update pursuant to state law, and in the meantime is duly following the standards of the handbook when making development decisions.

The project is proposed by brothers Ted and Dick Crocker, Watsonville natives who built the City’s first mini-storage facility in 1973. Crocker’s Lockers will be their fifth.

The Crocker’s parents operated the Pronto Pups restaurant on Main Street and the A&W restaurant on Freedom Boulevard.

Councilman Jimmy Dutra praised the project developers for having garnered support from the both business community and Watsonville Wetlands Watch, the latter of which has pushed back against development in the vicinity of the watershed.

“People see the history you have with the community, and I think that’s why people decided to stand up,” Dutra said.

Developer Ed Boersma said that the project is a safe choice for the area. A different type of project, he added, would likely bring a greater risk. 

“There is a real strong reason why you see self-storage near airports,” he said. “They present a really low risk.”

Mayor Eduardo Montesino said that projects such as Crocker’s Lockers are essential in a city that needs to grow, but is limited in its outward expansion by Measure Q—the law approved by voters in November that keeps outward growth restrictions approved by voters in 2002 in place through 2040.

“That’s a big question that this community is going to have to come to answer, because we’re not being able to grow at all,” Montesino said. “We can’t grow out, we can’t grow in.” 

As the City works to grow within its boundaries, Montesino said its leaders should question the value of Watsonville’s airport, whose restrictions have limited the number of businesses willing to establish themselves near it.

“That conversation will come in the future about what we do with the airport, because in my view we should decommission the airport because it doesn’t provide any benefit to our community,” Montesino said.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


  1. “That conversation will come in the future about what we do with the airport, because in my view we should decommission the airport because it doesn’t provide any benefit to our community,” Montesino said.
    You’re right Mr. Mayor. Let’s close the airport, protect the hospital and open many acres for a new shopping center, clean businesses and flood-free housing.
    Let the noisy, poluting hobbist pilots and sky divers find another place to play.

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  2. I am appalled that the Mayor would even suggest that the Watsonville Airport doesn’t provide any benefit to the community. He must not have been around after the Loma Prieta earthquake when all roads were closed and the only access to Watsonville was the Airport. And I’ll bet he was in the head of the line to greet President Biden when he flew in to inspect the Santa Cruz County flood damage last week. The Airport has been one of Watsonville’s greatest assets since the Navy built it during World War Two. It needs to be preserved and improved, not closed.

    Rex Clark, Councilman Emeritus
    City of Watsonville

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    • Because everyone drives airplanes right? Your president flew in a chopper than doesn’t need an airport to land, could have landed at the Hospital. What benefits does it truly provide for our community? We need a true small shopping center/outlets in Watsonville to keep our tax money in town….. There would be no need to spend those dollars in Capitola, Salinas, Monterey, Gilroy…etc

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  3. Some points, Watsonville airport is better prepared to respond to a disaster today than 1989. It has been a fire fighting staging and refueling facility, it provides training for jobs inside and outside the community, it exposes youth to STEM opportunities, it provides medical evac capability in mass casualty event, it is a business destination given the frequent charter flights, and it is a leader in California for migrating to unleaded aviation fuel. The airport has benefit to the City of Watsonville and Santa Cruz County.

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