In the News

Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce shares lessons from Santa Barbara
Ideas: Study parking requirements, get community consensus on roads

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 10/16/14

SANTA CRUZ — About 50 people convened by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce gathered Wednesday at the Cocoanut Grove to hear how Santa Barbara dealt with water, housing and transportation problems — all issues in Santa Cruz County.

A show of hands found they expect improvement in next five years is most likely for water woes.

The city of Santa Cruz is under a "stage 3" water emergency while the city of Santa Barbara is under "stage 2" water restrictions.

Engineer Mark Mesiti-Miller, one of 14 people serving on the water supply advisory committee, noted that group has met monthly and is scheduled to make recommendations to the Santa Cruz City Council in May.

Membership in that group is so diverse "if they have consensus, I think the momentum will be there," Mesiti-MIller said.

Chamber chief Bill Tysseling noted a water supply "convention" will begin 11 a.m. Thursday and run until 9 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium, where 40 people will have one minute to present ideas.

Ron Duncan of the Soquel Creek Water District, Mary Gourlay of Barry Swenson Builder and Geroge Dondero of the Regional Transportation Commission, three of the 60 people who traveled to Santa Barbara, shared what they learned.

Duncan made three points:

  • Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water depend mainly on groundwater while Santa Barbara has a diversified water supply, drawing 55 percent from a lake, 27 percent from a reservoir, 11 percent from groundwater, 5 percent recycled water and 2 percent state water.
  • Neighboring water agencies in Santa Barbara uses different approaches.
  • Santa Barbara plans to restart desalination as a last resort.

Asked if there is a countywide water strategy, Duncan said there is "a strong effort to collaborate," with staff of local water agencies meeting monthly.

Gourlay learned Santa Cruz ranked No. 1 in terms of being least affordable while Santa Barbara ranked sixth.

A Goleta study found 7,800 units were needed to balance jobs with housing but that city set its sights on an achievable goal, to build 2,200 new housing units.

"What is that number for our community?" Gourlay asked, calling for research.

Tysseling pointed out the Towbes Group, which manages 2,200 units, found they were "overparked by 25 percent" after counting cars in parking spaces at midnight for three years.

Santa Cruz Public Works Director Mark Dettle agreed parking raises the cost of housing but he had doubts about changing parking requirements.

Dondero said county roads rate 48 out of 100 compared to 66 statewide using a measurement called the pavement condition index. Capitola's streets rate 68.

In Santa Barbara County, 79 percent of voters said yes in 2008 to extend a half-cent sales tax for 30 years for road and transit projects, two years after a similar measure lost. The strategy: Gaining community consensus.

Dondero said county voters will be polled in January.



  • County focusing on rental units as the environmentally superior choice.
  • County considering changing parking requirements based on bedrooms and allowing greater density.
  • UC Santa Barbara long-range plan projects construction sufficient to house 5,000 new students and 1,800 faculty and staff members on campus.


  • Getting ag and urban environmentalists in the room.
  • Using polling results to craft a tax that would get support.
  • Finding out how local funds can leverage state, federal dollars.

Source: Bill Tysseling

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