Santa Paula: Special Council Session on Economic Development

by Sheryl Hamlin

The City Council held a Special Session on the topic of Economic Development prior to the regular meeting of May 20, 2020. The meeting was not televised, but it was managed through Zoom, so citizens could request a code for the meeting. There were 15 Zoom attendees including staff and council.

An announcement was made about 33 minutes prior that the State of California had approved re-opening of Ventura County, which was posted on Facebook. Mayor Araiza said that all restaurants must re-register and understand the “modified dining options”. There would also be retail “customers in stores” with rules, he said.

Community and Economic Development (CED) Report

The Community and Economic Development division presented a detailed plan for economic development. According to City Manager Singer, this work was an outgrowth in the work started previously by Assistant City Manager Taumoepeau. when he coordinated the PBID (Property Business Improvement District) for downtown. Citing much progress, City Manager Singer said the plan incorporates the Chamber and the PBID.

Strategies of an Economic Development Plan

In developing the plan, the planners first looked for common themes between council goals, General Plan requirements and SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses. Then strategies were developed to accomplish these commonalities. Finally detailed programs with names of organizations were identified to be associated with the strategies.

General Plan Goals

Two goals from the newly approved 2040 General Plan are shown below. Note that the Economic Development Section of the General Plan was added in 2020. Attached to these goals is an Economic Development Action Chart.

Source: CED staff report

Downtown Atlas in Three-Dimensions

When Director Michem presented the Downtown Atlas, there was an increased level of engagement. Director Michem explained that using a GIS platform (Geographic Information System) the staff is mapping the entire downtown. By clicking on a mapped asset, one can see it in three-dimension. Council Member Sobel, said, “Cool, visualize your business downtown!”. Eventually, said the director, the entire town could be in the atlas. As the new Housing Element is developed, this will aid in viewing the placement of new housing and how it would coordinate with the surrounding area.

Downtown Atlas, source staff report


Council Member Sobel noted that Attachment A (ATTACHMENT A – Intersect Analysis) stresses “enhanced sales tax revenue”, but he felt there could be peripheral drivers to sales tax in those businesses which do not generate sales tax, but he did not elaborate. He also suggested that a CEO who moves to Santa Paula could move the entire company. Council Member Sobel said the 2020 ballot measure to change Prop 13 (Split Roll) could “shake up” Main Street and we might “lose businesses” who would have to pay higher property taxes, so we need a backup if the Split Roll passes.

Director Mason said Santa Paula had perfect executive homes that even include horse privileges. He said, regarding the Prop 13 change, there were property owners who paid little property tax, so used downtown buildings for storage or living. The city needs investors like Rabalais or Garman, he said.

Council Member Sobel said there should be planning for a multi-year COVID effect. He also suggested a Small Business Incubator class partnering with SPUSD and the VCCCD. Director Mason included the VC Economic Development Collaborative.

Vice Mayor Juarez said that several years ago there was a business council which met with new businesses to offer help and ideas. Director Mason said that some businesses have been successful during COVID, so we need to share this expertise.

Council Member Crosswhite asked about Historic Preservation with respect to Economic Development. Director Mason said that cities like Savannah, Georgia capitalize on their historic resources, so the question is how to maintain development without jeopardizing historic assets. Council Member Crosswhite reiterated that she doesn’t want to lose historic elements and can see how the historic elements play into development. She noted that she has met people who come to Santa Paula to enjoy the historic elements which gives them a break from the hustle/bustle of Los Angeles.

John Marquez, Executive Director of the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce, asked about funding, to which Director Mason said “Main Street”, federal programs and historic preservation grants. Director Michem said that funding is an on-going effort.

Mayor Araiza said that they must continue to look for grants. Some people see “historic” as extra money, giving the example of the empty Citizens Bank. There was no mention of the Mills Act, which could help owners with taxes and which Santa Paula has only partially implemented. Mayor Araiza then suggested that East Area 1 would help with the “numbers” bringing more people to town. No mention was made of the lagging sales in East Area 1.

Director Mason mentioned the Cal Northridge study about tourisim as an economic driver. All of those recommendations are still valid. Read that study here: Cal Northridge Study

Social media, which was highlighted in the Cal Northridge study, became an active topic with Mayor Araiza stating the Punch Bowl phone app describes the hiking trail as “upper Ojai” which is incorrect and should be “Santa Paula Canyon”. Has anyone asked for a correction, said Council Member Sobel? Council Member Crosswhite said there is advertising in hiking apps, which Santa Paula could deploy. John Marques said indeed, all it takes is a budget.

Marketing was unfortunately not one of the goals of the PBID when it was established. There was a suggestion in 2011 to designated 126 as a Scenic Hiighway which would put the area into major tourism searches, but this went nowhere. Read that letter here: 126_scenic_highway

Council Member Sobel said that even though younger people like apps, AAA magazine advertising has a huge reach. To which, John Marquez of the Chamber asked who is the target audience?

Economic Development Beyond Downtown

The new General Plan includes overlays for two mixed use corridors, both of which will provide opportunities for economic development, according to the staff report.

Mixed Use Corridors, source: staff report

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Historic preservation means long waits on developments. Higher costs for developing or renovating the building in downtown. Ceilings falling in, bad roofs. Water damage.

The amount of time and investment it takes to renovate the building I reside is exactly why my landlord is reluctant to make any actions on the property.

Sheryl hamlin

Santa Paula missing opportunities for economic development in historic preservation.

National level