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The following is the slideshow presentation presented by Rick Longinotti of Desal Alternatives during the May Board meeting of the Santa Cruz County Business Council. Mr. Longinotti serves as a member of the City of Santa Cruz Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC). Business Council Vice Chair and Board Member, Sid Slatter, also sits on the WSAC as a representative of the Business Council.
The Santa Cruz County Business Council approved and submitted the following letter to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors supporting the mixed-use Aptos Village Project on May 1st, 2015. The Board voted unanimously to continue moving forward with the project. To learn more about the project click here. To read the latest update about the project status click here.
Dear Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, The Santa Cruz County Business Council has had strong input from our membership, who include most of the large employers in our area urging you to approve the most recent set of modifications, and the final design permit of the Aptos Village Project. This project directly meets the needs of the Aptos community as outlined in Aptos Village Plan of 2010 in creating a centralized commercial and residential town centre, mitigating the potential traffic and neighborhood impacts, and in revitalizing an underserved commercial corridor. Furthermore, the project developer, SCCBC Board Member Barry Swenson Builder, has continuously demonstrated its commitment to community engagement and public input, having held 9 separate public hearings and over 22 neighborhood meetings. The time to move forward in the development process is now. It is our belief that further delay will only hinder the final implementation of the project, while the project itself is unlikely to undergo any significant changes as a result of more public input.
The Santa Cruz County Business Council has written to you previously in support of this project, and believes this most recent set of modifications do not significantly alter the plans. The Aptos Village project, in its current form, would provide substantial benefits to the Aptos community, including the development of 69 much needed housing units, updated retail space that is expected to generate $1.6 million in new tax revenue and over 800 local jobs, and easier pedestrian access to the surrounding areas.
Additionally, careful consideration has been put forward to mitigate any additional water use and traffic impacts that may arise as a result of the development. Barry Swenson Builder has worked closely with both the Soquel Creek Water District and the Santa Cruz County Department of Public Works to ensure project viability on both fronts. The project will be built utilizing the most water efficient appliances and fixtures available, while also offsetting 100 percent of what they expect to consume. The project designs also call for the addition of a left hand turn lane at the intersection of Soquel Avenue and Trout Gulch Road, and an additional road to run parallel to Soquel behind the project’s retail front, which will further improve traffic flow in the area.
We urge you to approve the new modifications, and please continue to support this project as it moves toward breaking ground. This project has widespread community support, and will no doubt promote greater economic vitality in the Aptos region.
Gary W. Merrill
Santa Cruz County Business Council
On Thursday March 5th the SCCBC met for its Annual Membership Meeting, and played host to County Administrative Officer Susan Mauriello as a guest speaker. The meeting started off with a cordial greeting and introduction from Executive Director Gary Merrill, followed by a few words from our Chair, Peggy Dolgenos, introducing our guest.
Susan Mauriello gave an illuminating presentation on the current economic status of Santa Cruz County, focusing on how the city has changed due to the businesses in the area. Highlights include decreased crime rates, current sites of development and the County Administration’s willingness to work along side the Business Council. The presentation concluded with a overall positive outlook for the coming year
The next item on the agenda was a summary of the 2014 annual report, given by Policy Analyst Robert Singleton and Peggy Dolgenos. The report summarized a variety of projects, among which included key updates to the County’s Affordable Housing Program, which created a developer option for paying fees over building on site affordable units. Also outlined in the report was an update on the current efforts to establish a County-wide Broadband system, and the 2014 Regional Transportation Plan.
Lastly, Robert Singleton presented the findings of a survey taken by SCCBC Members before the meeting that very day, concerning our collective views on Council priorities. Results showed that matters of transportation are considered of the highest importance it our members. In addition, the survey exhibited a unanimously favorable opinion on the necessity and effectiveness of the Council as a whole.
Last Tuesday the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted yet again to continue the public consideration of changes to the County’s Affordable Housing program to a later date. The move was initiated by Supervisor Friend in response to a new alternative fee structure affecting smaller developments that was proposed, on the spot, by Supervisors Coonerty and McPherson. The new fee structure came as a surprise to everyone in the room, especially in light of both the Housing Advisory Commission/Planning Commission and the Planning Director already having presented their own fee structures. The new fees almost passed with a motion from Supervisor Leopold, who later withdrew the motion in response to the growing confusion amongst the 10 separate items being considered in one vote. The proposed changes have now been considered during 2 separate Board meetings, as well as multiple meetings of the Housing Advisory Commission and Planning Commission.
The need to update the program was originally initiated over 6 months ago when a series of state court rulings called into question some of the longstanding rules of Measure J, the ordinance governing the County program. In particular, the County needed to amend it’s inclusionary zoning rules for affordable rental housing, and address smaller changes with regard to state wide density bonus requirements. The County also proactively commissioned a nexus study in anticipation of another court ruling, which provided a new tool to assess the potential for additional impact fees on development.
Many of these newly proposed changes and impact fees proved uncontroversial, especially when paired with a proposed “developer option”, which would grant developers the ability to choose between building onsite affordable units, or paying an impact fee. The impact fee for 5 or more units was set at $15.00/sqf, while the fee structure for developments of 4 or less units is still being debated. Initially the proposed fees were met with opposition from both local developers and construction companies, issues that the “developer option”, and tiered fee structure for smaller units were meant to address, respectively. However, the developer option proved to be a sticking point between Supervisor Leopold and Supervisor Friend, a sticking point that ultimately led to the continuation of the ordinance back for another round of hearings at both the Planning Commission, and later again at the Board in mid March.
Based on input from developers and construction companies in the Business Council, we have expressed support for the developers’ ability to choose fees rather than inclusionary units, and we have urged careful consideration of fee levels to prevent barriers to entry. The overarching goal is to increase the number of units built at both market and affordable rates, and private developers have an essential role in this process.
If you would like to offer any additional input on this topic, please feel free to contact Policy Analyst Robert Singleton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday night, February 2nd, the City of Santa Cruz Water Commission heard a limited presentation about the potential for a Water Demand Offset (WDO) program within the department’s service area. The motivation for the “informational” discussion was partly a result of the current work being done by the Council appointed Water Supply Advisory Committee (WSAC), which is exploring a variety of options to meet the water needs of the community. Neighboring district Soquel Creek already has such a program in place, which requires all new development and redevelopment projects to offset 160 percent of their water use through efficiency upgrades. The cost of these upgrades is in addition to the cost of a “system development charge” (SDC), otherwise known as a connection fee.
The consultant’s presentation focused on the hypothetical nature of what a local program could look like by drawing from three case studies of other California cities: Cambria, Moro Bay, and Napa. Each of these three programs varied in the proportion of water required to be offset, administrative models (either by building permit or meter), and the type of applicable development (commercial, residential, industrial, etc.). In terms of residential development, the additional cost to the development of a single family home varied from $1800 (Napa) to $6,800 (Cambria). If a similar program were implemented in Santa Cruz, the added cost to a single family home could be as high as $8,052, depending on the type of offsets required. This fee would be in addition to the current SDC ($12,000), bringing the total cost of a new single family home, from just adding a water connection, to roughly $20,000. For larger developments, such as an 80-room hotel, these offsets could add on anywhere from $200,000-300,000 per project.
In light of these added costs, both the Planning Director, Juliana Rebagliati, and Economic Development Director, Bonnie Lipscomb, cautioned against pursuing an aggressive program before understanding the full impact a WDO program might have on new development. According to each of their comments, a WDO program could adversely affect the City’s affordable housing program through added cost, as well as future commercial projects, especially hotels, in light of the City’s transient occupancy tax incentive program being challenged under the Department of Industrial Relations. Multiple speakers reinforced this perspective and cautioned against duplicating a process that was underway with the Water Supply Advisory Committee, including Bill Tysseling of the Chamber of Commerce and myself.
Ultimately the Commission gave direction to staff to further study the issue, and come back at a later date to be determined with more specifics about how a program might be implemented. Furthermore, multiple commissioners requested to hear from Ron Duncan, the Conservation and Customer Service Field Manager for Soquel Creek.
Last week saw the culmination of months of hard work with the official launch of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP), at their first ever regional economic summit for the tri-county Monterey Bay area.
Entitled “Invent Your Future”, the event brought together hundreds of regional elected officials, business owners and community leaders to highlight the key industries and economic strengths of our diverse region, all while outlining an agenda for facilitating more collaboration. The event also proved to be a vital introduction and much needed opportunity for these same leaders, many of who have never met one another, to share stories and ideas about how to improve the region’s economic vitality and best develop a unique regional brand.
The event started with a networking breakfast, which cordially broke through the normal, insular circles of each County’s usual suspects, and was followed by a stellar, and quite lively economic forecast from Beacon Economics’ Founder, Chris Thornberg. Thornberg, who had mostly good news, provided a thorough overview of national and state economic trends, while briefly offering a comparative overview of how our region was faring versus other areas of the state. The highlights: our national economy is surging, especially in light of what is likely to be a decade of cheaper gas prices; the housing market has picked up substantially; California economic diversity, powered by innovative technology, has seen the state rebound to pre 2008 levels; and while the Monterey Bay region has lagged beyond the rest of the state in terms of recovery, 2015 is likely to be a good year for business and the region as a whole.
What followed were a series of panels highlighting some of the region’s industry niches and key economic sectors, which included participation from Business Council members South Swell Ventures, Cruzio Internet and the Seaside Company, as well as Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend. The panels included such topics as the Emerging Tech Eco-System, Getting a Gigabit Everywhere, the [locally sourced] Blue Economy, Building on our Strength in Agriculture, and Regional Tourism, all of which featured local businesses talking about our region’s strengths and areas for improvement.
The event concluded with a rousing challenge issued by MBEP’s President, Jennifer Dossett, who asked “why are you here?” The implied answer: to leverage our regional assets as business and community leaders and take a pragmatic and data-driven approach to our collective economic vitality. The Santa Cruz County Business Council joined MBEP to link our members with a diverse set of businesses and government officials around the tri-county area.