By Bruce McPherson, Supervisor, Fifth District
As we approach together the first anniversary of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, it’s hard to imagine any other year in recent memory that tested the resilience of our County so deeply.
The fact that we weathered the most devastating fire in our history in the middle of a pandemic is hard to believe. But we did — and we continue to work through the process of recovery one step at a time.
Community members have planned an event called “Coming Together A Year Later” at the Brookdale Lodge, 11570 Highway 9, starting at 6 p.m. Aug. 18. The evening will feature opportunities to participate in community art and see an art installation called “From the Ashes” by Lille Aeske, as well as enjoy music by Wolf Jett and Post Folk Revivalists.
I will be there along with other County representatives and members of the Long-Term Recovery Group that is working with fire survivors to provide financial assistance and other resources.
Meanwhile, rebuilding efforts are under way, with at least 21 single-family dwelling sites able to break ground in addition to the nearly 300 building permits issued to date for other structures covering 235 individual parcels.
The County’s dedicated Recovery Permit Center has also issued nearly 700 pre-application clearances for three health and safety categories: fire access, septic standards and geologic hazards.
With the possibility of debris flows, the latter of those clearances has proven to be a challenge for some survivors.
In response, the Board of Supervisors approved a deferral process in late June for survivors to choose to evaluate geology after a building permit is issued, and the Board will consider a further exceptions process this fall.
Meanwhile, the County is undertaking a flood study of the fire zone, funded by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County to get a better handle on risk levels. We hope the study will reduce the number of parcels that need to be further evaluated.
In addition to the fire recovery work, the County is still managing the local response to COVID amid an increase of cases stemming from the Delta variant of the virus. The fact that there is a more contagious strain nearly 18 months into the pandemic underscores the importance of administering as much of the vaccines as possible.
As of late July, about 56 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated, and it is our hope that more will avail themselves of the vaccine in coming months to slow the spread of the disease and support our local economy as it continues to recover.
In Scotts Valley, there is an upcoming closure, not an opening, That is worth noting. The Scotts Valley Branch Library is expected to close July 31 for renovations that are part of the systemwide Measure S funding approved by voters in 2016. The improvements — which will include seismic retrofitting, new carpet and paint, as well as reworking the entrance, children’s area, and fireside room — are expected to be completed in the spring of 2022.
In other Scotts Valley news, I want to congratulate City Manager Tina Friend on her new job as city Manager in coronado, near San Diego, which she will begin in September. Tina has done a great job at the helm of Scotts Valley, shepherding the city through some very difficult financial challenges, which were improved by the passage of Measure Z in March 2020 to increase sales tax and avoid significant budget cuts. Her professionalism and creativity will be missed at City Hall and throughout the community.
Lastly, I am excited about the upcoming Scotts Valley Art, Wine and Beer Festival on Aug. 21 and 22. It will be great to gather with community members again and enjoy arts and crafts, along with locally made wine and beer. The event presented by the Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce at a new location, Siltanen Community Park, will also feature a car show and a bunch of great music.
I hope to see you there and that you enjoy the rest of summer.
To buy tickets for the Art, Wine and Beer Festival visit svartfestival.com.
I always appreciate hearing the community’s ideas on how we can support you. District 5 residents can send any comments or questions to me at bruce[email protected] or 831-454-2200.