As I begin each new year as your County Supervisor, I like to report back in this column on some of the things we’ve accomplished because of your partnership and communication of priorities. Here is a very small overview of what we accomplished in 2017:
Community Meetings: In 2017, we’ve held 71 open office hours in Aptos, Corralitos, La Selva Beach and Watsonville and held or attended nearly 50 community and neighborhood meetings in Seacliff, La Selva Beach, Aptos, Watsonville, Capitola and Corralitos. In addition, I’ve written over 50 columns in local papers and neighborhood newsletters and sent a number of e-newsletters to communicate with our district about county happenings.
Housing: The Board focused extensively this year on making the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) easier. ADUs (sometimes called “granny units”) are one of the quickest ways to improve the housing stock — especially the affordable housing stock. We adopted the reduction of fees, streamlined administrative practices and regulations and created programs to assist with design, financing, and obtaining a building permit. The Board prohibited these ADUs from becoming vacation rentals to ensure the units become long-term rentals or an on-site living location for seniors aging in place, for example. Additionally, new housing will be coming online soon in the Aptos Village, including deed-restricted affordable housing, with a significant interest list of local residents.
Local Roads: This year saw historic levels of rain and over $130 million in damage to local roads and county facilities (such as parks). We have successfully begun repairs (and completed some repairs) on major damage to Valencia, Soquel, Cabrillo College Drive and other locations in the district. While we anticipate it can take up to five years for all of the repairs to be completed, the majority of projects in our district have been prioritized to be completed in the first three years (and many in 2018).
Additionally, this year we established a five-year work program for local roads as a result of the passage of Measure D. The program, which begins in a few months, includes work in La Selva Beach, Seacliff, Rio Del Mar, Corralitos and other areas in greater Aptos.
Public Safety: This year, with the leadership and partnership of the District Attorney’s Office, we opened the Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center (MDIC). The MDIC is a neutral, family-friendly facility for conducting forensic interviews for child victims of sexual and physical abuse in Santa Cruz County. Unlike the previous model, which requires victims to be interviewed multiple times (often in multiple locations) by multiple agencies, a MDIC works to have the child interviewed once in a more child-centered and supportive environment. Additionally, the Board supported continued funding of the Recovery Center, a joint partnership with the Sheriff’s Office and Janus, to divert alcohol-related crimes away from jail and to a treatment facility.
Economic Vitality and Reserves: The Aptos Village Project continued work, Rancho Del Mar broke ground and improvements began in Seacliff as part of the utility undergrounding and streetscape (village) improvement project. The Sunesys fiber broadband line was completed (which covers much of the urban and some of the rural portions of our district) which we believe will help improve broadband access, speed and costs in many parts of our district in the next few years.
Additionally, the Board has worked to streamline other processes in the Planning Department by increasing electronic plans submittal and reducing times for certain permits. During our budget hearings we again voted to increase our reserves, which has led to improved bond ratings and lower borrowing costs. We’ve received data from state analysts concerned about a potential recession and the Board has wanted to ensure that we have a larger reserve should it come to fruition.
Moving Forward: The above is just a partial list of what we’ve done this year and I know there is a lot more to do on all of these issues in 2018. We made significant progress on cannabis policy, created a new Thrive by Three program to help local kids in their first three years of life, hired a new County Administrative Officer, started a strategic planning process and more. This past year we estimate that we addressed more than 750 direct requests for service to our office on transportation and road issues, neighborhood public safety concerns, storm damage, environmental issues, health and human services, technology services and more – all from your emails, visits during office hours and calls to us.
We’d love to continue to hear from you to prioritize what we do. Call us at 454-2200 and have a great New Year!