Community Affairs

The Santa Cruz Chamber offers many ways for member businesses to influence public policies that affect business and community life throughout Santa Cruz County. The Community Affairs Committee works to identify issues affecting our community and develops forums and programs to examine and act on those issues at the local and state level.

The Community Affairs Committee meets monthly to review local, county, state and national legislation which directly or indirectly impacts our Chamber members, business community, and the community as a whole. Whether it is an individual Chamber member-business or an entire industry, legislation which positively or negatively impacts either is a major concern of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce.

  • Effective Communications: The Chamber provides mechanisms for efficient and effective communication within the economic community and with policy makers and the electorate. Communications focus on positive economic development, building efficient markets, shared understanding of policy decisions and economic forces creating a positive working and living atmosphere.
  • Decision-Maker Networks: The Chamber works with business, government, and community leaders to strengthen ties within the community through events, communities of interest, and online networks.
  • Policy: The Chamber influences public and private policies affecting community economics in its areas of interest, including transportation, housing, water, education, economic development, and health care. The Chamber monitors proposed policies and their application, representing its constituents in supporting or resisting those policies having significant impact on community economics and quality of life.
  • Implementation: The Chamber identifies areas for policy initiatives, evaluates and makes recommendations regarding policy proposals, formulates recommendations regarding those policies, and disseminates those recommendations.
  • Entrepreneurship: The Chamber initiates and collaborates with others to encourage technology transfer, the commercialization of new technologies, and the nurturing of local entrepreneurship.
  • Information Access: The Chamber collaborates with media, policy makers, and larger businesses on issues affecting business, government, nonprofits, and the residents of Santa Cruz.
  • Santa Cruz Brand: The Chamber leads a local effort to improve and extend the brand recognition of the community and its principal industries both among residents and the suppliers, customers, investors, and industry peers through California, the U.S., and the world.
  • Capital Attraction and Formation: The Chamber collaborates with the university, local governments, local investors, and others interested in the investment of capital in Santa Cruz to facilitate such investments.
  • Worker attraction and retention: The Chamber collaborates with public and private organizations to attract, develop, and retain a strong, diverse, and skilled labor force in Santa Cruz.

Please contact the Chamber if you would like to get involved with the Community Affairs Committee or have a particular public policy need or interest. 

Issue: Economic Development

Background

The Santa Cruz region has a rich economic history. Tied closely to its natural resources, physical environment, and regional economy, the existing economic base has evolved over more than 200 years. Our 21st century economy is a complex network of tourism, agriculture, education, research, technology, consumer goods and services, government and the professional and business services that support them.

The Chamber believes in a market-driven economy — one that is guided by the needs and demands of customers and investors. We recognize that political balance sustains communities large and small and appropriate regulation consistently applied is necessary to insure safety and equity. We believe that the most successful local and regional economies are driven by successful businesses and entrepreneurs, supported by a working public/private partnership. And, we know that human capital is one of the keys to our success, now and into the future.

Position Statement

Principles:

The Chamber prioritizes and evaluates its economic development efforts by the following principles and benchmarks:

  • Competitive environment. Business should be conducted on a level playing field providing both established enterprises and new entrepreneurs opportunity to compete for customers and resources. Through this competition we seek to insure a high-value environment for businesses and consumers in which a competitive price/quality of goods and services fosters a high quality of life and a vital business environment.
  • Compatibility of existing uses. We recognize some industries and land uses cannot thrive in close proximity to other industries and land uses. While in general we believe businesses should be permitted to compete for access to resources including land, we also recognize that on occasion it is desirable to segregate some businesses from others and may result in restricting access notwithstanding market forces.
  • Workforce Development. The development and maintenance of a skilled, productive workforce provides a competitive advantage for Santa Cruz. Excellence in education attracts both employers and employees. It is the core of workforce development, and reduces the economic drag of chronic under-employment and the need for and cost of social services.
  • Environmental impact. Our economy continues to rely upon our natural resources and environment to draw workers and businesses to our community, to sustain our tourism industry, as the basis for our agricultural and food businesses, and as a key element of the Santa Cruz brand. Environmental costs must be weighed against economic benefits in evaluating each business opportunity.
  • Economic Efficiency. We will be proactive in monitoring the direct and indirect costs of doing business in the Santa Cruz region. These costs may be direct fees and taxes on local businesses, delays and indirect expenses imposed upon businesses or their customers, or constraints and disincentives that make Santa Cruz a less attractive or less competitive place to invest capital. We will also support economic development initiatives, opportunities and programs in our community that encourage economic efficiency and cultivate a business-friendly environment.
  • Technology Transfer. The commercialization of new technologies developed at UC Santa Cruz, Cabrillo, and other public and private research and development institutions and organizations takes best advantage of the resources of the Santa Cruz Community and its tradition of creative experimentation. The Chamber will encourage this experimentation and continue to support those who are developing new products and services for the marketplace.

Chamber Roles:

The Chamber’s resources can best be utilized for economic development in the following areas:

  • Branding. Developing and disseminating a community brand identity, shared by many segments.
  • Policy. Participating in the development and modification of economic and public policy.
  • Advocacy. Organizing support for worthy projects and proposals.
  • Education. Providing and supporting continuing education for business professionals.
  • Networks. Developing and facilitating communities of interest and practice.
  • Attraction & Retention. Recruiting and supporting business investment.
  • Support. Providing information, connections, and counsel to businesses.

Opportunities:

The The Chamber recognizes the following key opportunity areas for development:

  • Computer technologies and their applications
  • Marine science and its technologies
  • Biotechnology
  • Design including digital media
  • Lodging and conferencing
  • Life-style industries and recreation
  • Agriculture and foods, including wineries, specialized foods, and organic products
  • Knowledge industries and the Creative Class
  • Educational programs and resources including our major institutions Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz

Policy Adopted September 28, 2010

Issue: Education

Background

The Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce values both a healthy and productive economy and the highest quality of life (1). Consistent with theses values is our understanding that the quality and accessibility of public education is critical to the health and prosperity of the Santa Cruz economy. Not only does the continued productivity and competitiveness of our businesses and organizations depend on the ability of our workforce to acquire and apply new skills and knowledge, but also, the long-term vitality of the Santa Cruz economy requires the creation of new knowledge, new technology and new means of application. To that end, the future success of our children is dependent on the quality, rigor, and relevance of the education they receive each year and in each class.

Establishing and maintaining high quality educational opportunities from all available resources (2) is a cornerstone element contributing to the quality of life in the community. Today's quality education drives tomorrow's success in the business community. The provision of relevant training that supports a strong and diverse workforce must include means to develop fundamental and advanced skills and knowledge relating to: leadership, ethics and responsibility; language and other basic proficiencies; specific vocational training and entrepreneurship.

Position Statement:

The Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce supports investment in quality education. Further, we support a forward looking approach where disciplined innovation and creativity foster new enterprises with, as yet, untapped benefit to the community.

In order to make appropriate and financially sound educational investments, the Chamber advocates:

  • establishing consistent and ongoing communication and collaboration among all education providers and the private sector; and
  • creating and expanding cost-effective opportunities across the full spectrum of needs and training; and
  • building partnerships with education providers including the K-12 school districts, Cabrillo College, adult education and UC Santa Cruz; and
  • good education policy and investment decisions will depend on these collaborative partnerships.

(1) Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce Strategic Plan, Article 1
(2) Resources include, but are not limited to: Santa Cruz Elementary and Secondary Schools, Pajaro Valley Elementary and Secondary Schools, Cabrillo College and other Adult Education Providers, UC Santa Cruz, CSU Monterey Bay, and Private Sector, Government and NGO Training Initiatives

Issue: Water

Background

The economic viability of Santa Cruz County and its businesses depends on the availability of an uninterrupted supply of water in all hydrologic conditions.   The infrastructure necessary to deliver that supply must be maintained and continually improved to promote safety, welfare and commerce.  The supply of water and the capacity of the water treatment and delivery system must be sufficient not only for today’s population but also for future growth.  Limiting growth through constraints on water supply in an environment prone to drought is a strategy that threatens the community’s economic vitality, quality of life, and, in extreme drought, the health and safety of residents. Such a strategy should not be tolerated.

Circumstances:

The sources of water in Santa Cruz County are essentially the same as in 1972. Virtually every water system in Santa Cruz County is plagued with the same two problems:  aging infrastructure and inadequate supply for drought conditions.  Even with the development of new water supplies through the construction of the proposed 2.5 million gallon per day desalination plant, the supply will not be sufficient to accommodate reasonable growth. .

The urgency of the water shortfall is clear:

  • The existing infrastructure is insufficient to accommodate even the modest growth projected in the City of Santa Cruz's General Plan adopted in 1993.
  • Proposals for development contained in the Draft General Plan currently under consideration and the University's pending Long Range Development Plan cannot be implemented until the water supply is increased.
  • Overdrafting of the wells South County has led to seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers; efforts to improve the management of these resources have been stymied by political deadlock.
  • Depressed groundwater levels in Mid-County are a precursor to seawater intrusion – a critical situation for a system that is dependent almost entirely on wells.
  • The North Coast, which relies primarily on groundwater, also faces declining groundwater levels.
  • While the impact of climate change is not clear, one very possible scenario is reduced average rainfall in Santa Cruz County.

All of the water agencies are vulnerable to some degree to drought conditions. In particular, the City of Santa Cruz, serving from mid-County to just south of Davenport, takes most of its supply from surface water — local streams and rivers. It has adequate surface supplies for its current needs, but only under normal rainfall conditions. In drought conditions it faces serious shortfalls.

To varying degrees, water agencies in the County have relied on conservation efforts to stretch available water supply. Particularly in the City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District, conservation efforts have resulted in per capita use in the residential sector that is among the lowest in the State.

However, current successes in implementing conservation measures significantly limit the ability of the community to respond to drought emergencies through further reduction of water use. An important element of water policy in this environment is a well-informed electorate that understands the limits of conservation under these conditions. The absence of ?excess capacity? jeopardizes the health, safety, and well-being of both residents and businesses.

The Chamber supports the development of a seawater desalination facility that is a joint effort between the City of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District, to augment their existing resources. While seawater desalination is a more costly supply alternative to operate than others that have been considered in the past, it has the advantages of being drought-proof. It is not substantially more expensive to build than other alternatives and, most importantly, it has the support of Santa Cruz City Council and the Board of Directors of the Soquel Creek Water District, offering the best chance of being permitted and built in a reasonable time frame of any of the current alternatives. In addition, the proposed desalination facility has the potential to be expanded at some future time — a relatively straightforward process technically, and more economical than the initial phase.

It is time to direct energy and resources to this issue. The Chamber acknowledges the complex environmental, geological, political, financial, legal and technical issues surrounding water supply and services, and also appreciates the exhaustive long range planning efforts already undertaken by both the Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek water agencies. These agencies are to be commended for their willingness to engage in mutually beneficial collaborative projects. Current conservation efforts must be accompanied by the development of new water supplies and the continual improvement of water infrastructure to secure our safety, welfare and commerce.

Position Statement:

The Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce supports current and future actions that:

  1. Protect and preserve current ground water supplies including steps to prevent, stop, or reverse seawater intrusion.
  2. Maintains existing sources including the preservation of surface water rights.
  3. Maintain and improve the infrastructure to minimize water loss, protect water quality, and optimize its distribution
  4. Increase the supply of water to:
    1. Protect water users from the impacts of catastrophic drought, and
    2. Provide water supplies sufficient to accommodate future growth and appropriate reserve capacity for business and community needs.
  5. Encourage continuation of the collaborative efforts and research of the various water districts within Santa Cruz County to better integrate water resource management policies and distribution systems.
  6. Continue exploration and development of seawater desalination alternatives as proposed by the City of Santa Cruz and the Soquel Creek Water District.
  7. Engender broad, flexible, diverse, and politically feasible approaches to solving water needs which may include off stream water storage, finding new underground water sources, and expanding uses for reclaimed and recycled water.

Policy Adopted June 24, 2008

Issue: Transportation

Background

In September 2001, the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (SCCRTC) plans to adopt the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). This plan directs transportation planning, projects, and funding for the coming 25-year period. During this period, SCCRTC estimates receiving in excess of $1.97 billion in funding. Of that total estimate, $371 million will be under local control.

It is understood that economic, educational, social and other needs of the population of Santa Cruz are severely impacted by the congestion and gridlock of Highway 1, major arterial streets and county roads. The impact of this congestion spills over, impacting neighborhoods.

Recent polling, conducted over the past 18 months, indicates that an average of 76% of our county's traveling population use their automobiles to travel to work, doctors, shopping, and recreational activities. During commute periods, 81% of those using Highways 1 and 17 do so with a single occupant in their car. Given the options of an ideal bus system, light rail transportation, bike and pedestrian paths, 70% indicate their continued preference for using their automobiles. An additional 15% would continue to use their car four of five workdays of the week. Our Chamber of Commerce represents the 76-81 % of all county residents who prefer to drive and suffer the consequences of traffic congestion.

Policy Statement

The Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce supports the concept of a multi-modal approach to address transportation needs. However, we recognize that automobile driving is and will continue to be the preferred choice of county residents.

The Chamber of Commerce will proactively represent highway users, including automobile, truck and commuter traffic, at appropriate meetings of the Transportation Commission, Board of Supervisors, and City Council. Our Chamber will represent motorists in an effort to ensure that important congestion-relieving projects such as: the widening of Highway 1; increasing roadway capacity; and improving safety and maintenance become the highest priority for action and funding. The Chamber of Commerce will actively coordinate efforts of roadway user groups to ensure that the voices of local motorists are heard.

Issue: Housing

Background

The lack of relatively affordable housing continues to be of chronic concern to Santa Cruz County residents and employers. It threatens not only the area's overall quality of life, but its economic vitality as well. Today, according to the California Association of Realtors, only 16% of county residents can afford a median-priced home. Due to growth that has already occurred, many local residents find themselves priced out of the market by untenable rents and home prices.

The lack of affordable housing in Santa Cruz County severely constrains the capability of the area's employers to attract and retain employees. It is a deterrent to drawing new businesses to our area. It debilitates our community by making it almost impossible for teachers, police and fire personnel, and service workers to live where they work. It causes a number of businesses whose markets are outside of Santa Cruz County to leave the area. As more growth occurs, however slight, the situation will continue to deteriorate unless something is done.

Position Statement

Our community is suffering from the cumulative impact of twenty years of neglecting housing needs. The Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce recognize the solution to this problem will require sustained commitment and action over a long period of time.

The Chamber supports increasing the number of housing units in Santa Cruz County, with a focus on serving moderate to low income individuals and families through increased-density, mixed-use developments.

The Chamber understands that in increasing the number of housing units, impacts infrastructure issues, such as water, transportation and land use. Solutions to these and other infrastructure issues must be pursued simultaneously to housing issues.

The Chamber supports achieving an increase in the number of housing units that:

  • Meets the broad spectrum of community needs
  • Increases density
  • Promotes affordability for moderate to low income-level households
  • Provides for mixed uses and mixed income within a neighborhood.