Scotts Valley City Leaders Give State of City Address

On Saturday, November 4th, the State of Scotts Valley City Address was given by Mayor Randy Johnson, City Manager Jenny Haruyama, Police Chief Steve Walpole, and new Fire District Chief, Steve Kovacs. The meeting took place at the Old Mill Meeting Room at the Montevalle Senior Community in Scotts Valley.

The following is a synopsis of what I learned and took back from the meeting, which was very well attended and well put together.

City Mayor, Randy Johnson
Johnson discussed some of the past projects that had been either spearheaded or supported by the city such as our weekly Farmers Market, our beautiful library, and more. He talked about doing more with less. A couple of recent upgrades discussed was:

The upgrading/updating of the restrooms at Siltanen Park and also the section between Scotts Valley Drive and Vine Hill Road that was recently updated. I know, I see it many times as I walk my dog a few times per week and my wife and I noticed it recently.

Johnson also discussed new hotels such as the upcoming Lexington Hotel scheduled for completion in… well, who knows when really, and also the 1440 Multiversity which is now renting rooms and having numerous activities and learning centers, and how it would bring to Scotts Valley in addition to more business for local businesses, 10% of the daily room rates that go to the city every time a room is rented. I have heard that each hotel should be bringing in about $250,000 per year in revenue and the city is counting on it to make an impact on city revenue which in turn gets used for other city projects, public facilities, etc.

There was also discussion about how vibrant the Victor Square Shopping Center has become with restaurants such as Jia Tella’s, Next Door, the new place Two Doors which is a fav of ours, along with Steel Bonnet Brewing Company, Los Gallos Taqueria and Sushi Garden. With a Starbucks also in that location, the Scotts Valley Market, and for those who need a fast food fix, the Carl’s Jr., the shopping center has indeed become more active on a daily basis. I know this first hand as my office is in that shopping center and most of the time I can’t park in front of my office due to customers going in and out of the center for various reasons. Not complaining at all, great to see so much activity. Just stating facts.

There was also discussion on the impact that Kaiser Permanente made by coming in across that shopping center, as well as UCSC coming into the previous Borland Building with about 400 employees. All in all, the above should be bringing in more and more business for local merchants and restaurants. But also bringing in more traffic, which is notable in my opinion. Yet you can’t have one without the other and you take the good with the bad when the good outweighs the bad, which it does in my opinion.

There has been a lot of chatter about Google also looking to get into the Borland building by other leasing a good portion of it or purchasing it outright. Google can do either as it has shown in Silicon Valley if it wants.

So I posed the question to City Manager Jenny Haruyama and asked her if she could comment on the matter. Her response was, “It’s news to me.” I have to think that she means she has not heard from Google or the people that own the building because there has been a lot of talk in town and on numerous social media platforms about it. And really, numerous discussions happen on a daily basis without the knowledge of a city manager between businesses and buildings about possible comings and goings because most businesses don’t always need the permission of the city manager to discuss and move forward on projects.

In regards to Google coming and where this info is coming from, I have also spoken to numerous informed individuals in town who have told me that discussions have been taking place between the principals, but so far I have not heard anything concrete has been agreed to. I am not saying it is happening or not happening, but where there is smoke many times there is fire. More to come on that one… And more to come on Haruyama’s update below.

There was also the discussion about the Town Center plans off Mt Hermon Road by Skypark, with not much updates other then The Hangar at Skypark is coming next year and many think that will be the segway for more to come in regards to having a Town Center. The Town Center for me is a dream at the moment for many. I hear a lot of chatter and talk to a lot of people who tell me that something is coming, but like the Lexington Hotel being completed, I will believe it when I see it. The key to me is how The Hangar will do and I think that the upcoming restaurant is going to do well. Well enough to attract more attention for a Town Center? Depends on who the builder for the development is and where they are coming from. If they are more local, maybe. If they are big time developers in bigger areas, that’s a tougher one as many have bigger fish to fry then little ole’ Scotts Valley. Just my opinion.

There was also discussion and the more I attend meetings and speak to city leaders, the focus seems to be shifting or at least given attention to the housing crisis that exists in our area. Mayor Johnson talked about new home construction focusing more on smaller units, apartments and smaller homes and condos so that more families or individuals could afford to buy here. It is good to see this trend and thinking by Johnson, it is long overdue.

Speaking of housing, it is noted and it has caught the attention of the city leadership along with locals how the Silicon Valley housing market has affected and continues to affect our local market as more and more buyers get squeezed out of that area and are coming here in search of good schools, lower crime rate, less congestion, and all within 30-45 minutes from Silicon Valley with many employers offering transportation to and from work. It is here, in case you have not noticed. This is something I have been reporting on for some time now. Whether you like it or not, the wave is here…

Scotts Valley Police Chief, Steve Walpole
Walpole discussed the increase of volunteer reserve officers from three previously, to now six reserve officers. The reserve officers must complete the same training as full-time officers so we are not talking about security guards being used as officers. It was also interesting to also note that Scotts Valley now has the largest amount of reserve officers in the entire county, according to Walpole.

In addition:

The Police Explorer Program is now up to 10 Explorers. This is a program for youths who are interested in learning more and maybe becoming a police officer in the future. More info on the Police Explorer Program here.

Guns shops were a topic of discussion with Walpole sharing that 3 gun shops were burglarized within the past 45 days, and the need to make sure that any gun shops in Scotts Valley are safe, with security cameras, safes, and practicing other safety measures.

The Scotts Valley Police Department along with the Scotts Valley Fire District have been conducting training together in order to better respond to emergency situations. As can be the case, many public emergencies do involve both agencies so the need to work together as a unit, yet still separately is of utmost importance.

The police department also is working together with the Scotts Valley Unified School District to ensure proper protocol when responding to an intruder into the school, and an “active shooter.” Hate to even discuss this, but as we all know, it can happen unfortunately. I am happy to hear that there is a plan in place and both the SVPD and SVUSD are working together on this.

Body Cameras are coming to SVPD in the near future. “Not that is is needed”, said Walpole, but it is more because it is becoming the norm in police departments locally and nationwide.

Scotts Valley Fire District Chief, Steve Kovacs
Kovacs talked and gave me some insight that I did not know and that is that the Fire District is funded through property taxes. As a property owner here in town, I think that it is a well spent use of a portion of my property taxes.

Kovacs stated that the fire district was receiving about 2,200 calls per year, and the district is conducting a facilities study the current facilities were outdated and appeared to be in need of updating. The completion of that study is expected sometime in May or June of 2018.

The fire district is also looking to ramp up its Facebook presence as more and more people go to social media for information, with a new website also in the works.

Kovacs also expressed that the community should know that they offer CPR training, and that 662 kids had been reached by the district in a push towards teaching safety in many aspects including fire safety.

According to Kovacs, 1/3 of the district’s work force will be retiring in the next 5 years so there will need to be a recruiting campaign for more firefighters and personnel.

One of the things that was discussed was how firefighters were at a higher risk of cancer, and how much of a concern that was. Which sadly, makes sense as firefighters are exposed to smoke inhalation, with some of the inhalation being from chemicals, rubber, and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

The importance of keeping your house safe from outdoor fires AND indoor fires is a must. Kovacs talked about having a plan for you and your family in the event of an emergency or fire. And I could not agree more and am guilty of not having a concrete plan. In times of an emergency, we do not always think straight and panic sets in. EVERYONE should have an emergency plan and not always rely on first responders coming to the rescue because a few minutes could be the most precious minutes of your life.

Nixle was discussed and the importance of having it cannot be overstated. Nixle is a free subscription based service that gives you information from public safety agencies, schools, and more. During an emergency or when a very important message needs to get out, it does so instantly with you receiving the alerts on your phone. If you have not yet done so, sign-up for Nixle at www.Nixle.com when you have a moment. Trust me on that one.

Kovacs’ also encouraged everyone to register their cell phone with a 911 service so that when you call, the responders have your info as many times you are in a rush or panic and may not have all the info at hand. With a cell phone, when you call 911, you need to provide your address or location that you are in. That is why we personally still have a landline, for calling 911. But something tells me that that will no longer be the case once we register our cell phones to our home address.

Of course, if you are on the road and have to call 911, that is a different story and would have to give your location info regardless. But registering your cell phone to your home address is a no-brainer and I can’t believe we have not done that yet. Great tip!

You can register your cell phones at www.Smart911.com

City Manager, Jenny Haruyama
Haruyama discussed the importance of working towards a financially secure future for Scotts Valley. And I think she means business.

Haruyama also spoke about the proposed housing development site in the Aviza – Watkins Johnson site that has been discussed for some time now. As it stands, according to Haruyama, an environmental impact study has been or is still being done and we should be hearing more about it come December. This is a housing development that would require rezoning of the current site which it to the right of Skypark at the end of Kings Village Road.

I have ever really connected with Haruyama because we both lead crazy busy schedules trying to save the world, but I just think that she has a plan and is out to make it happen. Haruyama is a mixture of some old school when it comes to hard work, and new school when it comes to understanding what is happening today, here and now.

A classic case is how she is spearheading an updated website to keep locals informed and her use of social media which includes a survey that had over 800 responding to a request for public input on the future of Scotts Valley. That is just awesome to me. If you do not get the importance of Social Media, you just don’t get it period when it comes to serving others and keeping relevant. Same thing goes for new Fire Chief, Steve Kovacs. Good for him for recognizing it and working towards a more efficient Internet and Social Media presence.

She did not say much more other then the above, and answer my question, but you do not always need to speak more, you need to do more. That is why God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth.

Scotts Valley Water District General Manager, Piret Harmon was asked to come up and say a few words which she did. Most of the information she shared was minimal and with all due respect, I do not believe that she was part of the program but graciously accepted an invitation to come up and sit at the table with the rest of the city leaders and public agencies and answer questions. I believe that Harmon deserves a personal interview or platform to discuss the happenings at the water district as that is a topic and discussion all to itself. But never-the-less, she was, as always, graceful and willing to answer any questions. More on the water district in the near future.

I did not stay until the last question, but did for most of it.

Overall it was a good meeting. Not an incredible amount of information, but just enough very good info to keep everyone interested and awake. 🙂

 

Robert Aldana
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robert@robertaldana.com

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Scotts Valley City Leaders Give State of City Address
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