Community Achievements

To create a healthy, safe, and more affordable community, in FY 2021-22 the Board of Supervisors and County staff were resilient, taking action that saved lives, created new investments in county communities, and worked to reestablish the connections, shared values, and inclusivity that will bring a better future.

Below are just a few of the many achievements from FY 2021-22. The 2021-23 Operational Plan provides a complete performance report.

Watsonville Community Hospital

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Watsonville Community Hospital (WCH) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 6, 2021. In order to form a healthcare district and acquire the hospital, urgency legislation — Senate Bill 418 — was brought forward by State Senator Laird and coauthored by California State Assembly members Robert Rivas, Mark Stone, and Senator Anna Caballero. The bill was passed unanimously by the Assembly and Senate, and on Friday, February 4, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the legislation into law.

The Pajaro Valley Health Care District (PVHCD) is a collaboration between the County of Santa Cruz, the City of Watsonville, Salud Para La Gente and the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley. PVHCD recognizes that health outcomes are directly impacted by social determinants of health such as race and ethnicity, living conditions, occupation, documentation status, zip code and income. WCH serves many areas where these factors, if unaddressed, can lead to poor health care outcomes. A balanced healthcare infrastructure in Santa Cruz County, including the long-term viability of WCH, is essential to addressing these disparities.

Pajaro River Flood Management Project

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The City of Watsonville, the town of Pajaro and surrounding agricultural areas face an unacceptably high probability and risk of flooding from the lower Pajaro River and its tributaries.  The existing levees that protect these communities were built in 1949 and have not been significantly improved. Today, these levees provide only an eight-year level of flood protection, among the lowest of any federal flood control system in California. The levee reconstruction project, called the Pajaro River Flood Management Project, will provide 100-year flood protection to the City of Watsonville, the Town of Pajaro, and surrounding agricultural areas by constructing levees and improvements along the lower Pajaro River and its tributaries. The $400 million project will be managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers in partnership with the Pajaro Regional Flood Management Agency (PRFMA) and the California Department of Water Resources.

Congress authorized reconstruction of the Pajaro River levee system in 1966, and re-authorization was granted by the Water Resources Development Act 1990. The Army Corps Headquarters signed a Director’s Report on December 12, 2019, confirming the federal authorization to rebuild and enhance the existing levees on the Pajaro River and Salsipuedes Creek, and effectively ending the 53-year long planning phase for the project. A Design Agreement was executed with the Army Corps on May 24, 2021 that pivoted the project from the planning phase into the design phase. Additionally, over the past two federal fiscal years, the federal government has appropriated $4.615 million to complete the design phase. Finally, on March 29, 2022, President Biden and the Army Corps awarded the project $67 million to begin construction. With enactment of SB 496 in January of 2022, the State of California has agreed to cost-share the entire non-federal cost of design and construction for the $400 million project. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2025.

South County Service Center

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The County acquired a 121,491 square foot commercial building at 500 and 355 Westridge Drive, Watsonville, to serve as a South County Service Center. The South County Service Center will enhance equitable access to essential County services in a modern, accessible, client focused hub and provide net savings by eliminating five (5) leases.

The new hub is the largest investment by the County in Watsonville, and will provide South County residents more direct access to services, community gathering spaces, and a modern, efficient workplace.

Housing for Health

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The County continues to do its share to provide affordable housing for its residents. Ground broke this year on 1500 Capitola Road in Live Oak, a mixed use project that will provide 57 units of low-income and very-low-income housing, as well as a dental clinic and community health center. The County also continues to work collaboratively with cities, non-profit housing partners and service providers, and the community to support the Housing for Health Partnership and reduce the number of households experiencing homelessness by 25%.

Redistricting and Representation

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After every Decennial Census, districts must be redrawn so that each district is substantially equal in population. This process, called redistricting, is important in ensuring that each board member represents about the same number of constituents. The County conducted public workshops, and participation was encouraged through to early availability of tools to capture information on communities of interest. Final maps were adopted on November 16, 2021.

The County also worked with Santa Cruz Community Ventures on "A Santa Cruz Like Me", an effort to look at the County’s representative bodies and recognize the value of a representative government and ensure that the diversity of the government reflects the diversity of the region. The County is now working to create strategies to address variances identified in the report.

Public Defender’s Office

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Kevin Painchaud/Lookout Santa Cruz

The County of Santa Cruz has contracted for indigent defense services with the same main law firm since 1975. Criminal justice system stakeholders agree that transitioning to a public model is in the long-term best interest of county clients and for the sustained health and stability of the indigent defense system in Santa Cruz County. In October 2021 the Board of Supervisors hired the County’s first Public Defender, Heather Rogers, and a new Public Defender’s Office opened its doors on July 1, 2022.

Office of Response, Recovery, and Resilience

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In order to improve our community’s emergency response, elevate our disaster awareness and prepare for increases in extreme weather due to climate change, the Board of Supervisors, created the Office of Response, Recovery & Resilience (OR3) in December 2020. 

The OR3 goes beyond traditional emergency operations to create a full-service division to help our community prepare for disasters, respond during emergencies and assist with recovery