CAPITOLA >> Capitola City Council members said Thursday that they were open to new youth sports partnerships with the city of Scotts Valley and Soquel Union Elementary School District. 

As part of the council’s annual budget process each spring, the council narrows a list of priorities to focus the city budget and staff time. During Thursday’s meeting, the council chose about 11 projects from a list of roughly 30 compiled by council members and city staff. 

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Scotts Valley City Manager Tina Friend asked Capitola City Manager Jamie Goldstein about the possibility of Scotts Valley youths’ participation in Capitola recreation programs this summer, Goldstein told the council. Budget cuts in Scotts Valley have minimized youth programs in that city, Goldstein said, and the programs could be more efficient under one administrative team. The downside could be a crunch on city staff time, Goldstein said. It’s not yet clear how the money arrangement would work. The two cities already share a building official. 

Capitola councilmembers Margaux Keiser, Jacques Bertrand, Kristen Petersen and Vice Mayor agreed to explore the partnership. Mayor Yvette Brooks also agreed to explore but expressed some reservations.

“I have concerns about expanding too much before we really focus on our families and our kiddos here locally,” Brooks said. “But I do support the (potential) contract and see where it goes.” 

Goldstein said that work on the partnership would be more worthwhile if a partnership lasted beyond this summer. 

Separately, Soquel Union Elementary School District leaders are interested in a city partnership to build a regulation-size soccer field with a track and softball field at Monterey Avenue Park near New Brighton Middle School. Goldstein said funding would be a challenge as well as the configuration of the playing fields and track. 

“That’s actually a question that we’ve talked to the school district about answering: Can we fit these three uses?” Goldstein asked.

Mayor Brooks said she liked the idea. She said she wanted to continue conversations with school district leaders but said she was wary about funding it. Councilmember Petersen said she wanted to get community feedback. 

The council’s other priorities included:

  • Consider installing picnic tables in Monterey Avenue Park
  • Explore implicit bias training for city staff
  • Expand emergency response planning including at city hall
  • Have city council set priorities for community grants
  • Make free feminine hygiene products available in all public city restrooms
  • Explore grant opportunities for public safety, a generator for city hall, Community Development Block Grants and programs in capital improvement, outreach and environmental policies
  • Prioritize affordable housing and building community relationships
  • Install signs from Pacific Cove parking lots to Capitola Village and the beach
  • Administrative policy updates

Council members and staff said they plan to deal with an extension and possible changes to the “parklet” program that has allowed Capitola restaurants to use parking spots for outdoor dining near the Esplanade. The program is set to expire May 31. 

“We won’t just have everybody take the tables out and not have a plan or a process in place,” said Goldstein, the city manager. 

The council disagreed on whether to deal with outdoor dining on parking spots at the same time as a review of parking meter fees in the city. It decided to have city staff come back with a recommendation on whether to bundle or separate them.

Most Capitola parking meters are $1.50 an hour and generate about $500,000 annually for the city, Goldstein said. 

At Mayor Brooks’ suggestion, the council also agreed to prioritize the review of affordable housing opportunities at Capitola Mall and direct staff to build relationships with affordable housing providers.

Memorial plaque program expansion

In other news, the council voted unanimously to have city staff study an expansion of the city’s memorial plaque and bench program to Cliff Avenue, Depot Hill and the upper Esplanade area. Council.

Capitola has about 230 memorial benches and 270 memorial plaques, said Larry Laurent, assistant to the city manager. Space has nearly run out and the in-demand ocean view locations are full, Laurent said. 

Because some of the plaques have been destroyed by storms and some of the new locations have erosion and weather exposure problems, Councilmember Petersen said future plaque sales should contain warnings. Plaque replacement is now paid for by the families that buy them, Laurent said.

Petersen also said staff should consider allowing restaurant owners to opt in to the plaque program. The council is expected to consider details of a potential program expansion at a future meeting.

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Stephen Baxter is a co-founder and editor of Santa Cruz Local. He covers Santa Cruz County government.