Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson

2023 began with back-to-back extreme weather events that resulted in severe flooding, landslides and other impacts to our roads, neighborhoods and businesses in the mountainous Fifth District. Even as we continue addressing the damage, we are still grappling as a County with the aftermath of the CZU Fire and the storms of 2017.

All told, Santa Cruz County has experienced seven federally declared disasters in six years, which have taken an enormous personal toll on our residents and an enormous financial toll on the County’s budget. 

In the latest report to the Board of Supervisors regarding such expenditures, the County Administrative Office tallied our combined costs for the 2017 storms, Covid, CZU Fire and 2023 storms at $250 million, of which we are still waiting on $160 million in federal reimbursements.

That shortfall has placed huge constraints on our operating budget, requiring the County to borrow money to keep our government in business. It’s not a sustainable situation. Fixing this challenge will continue to be a key focal point of the Board, which is why we voted in December to place a sales tax increase on the March 5 ballot.

Despite the fiscal uncertainty, we accomplished a great deal in 2023, including making progress on long-standing challenges related to emergency access in Lompico and water security in the Big Basin Water Company service area. We continued to promote housing growth through state-ordered changes in land-use rules and planning strategies; further refined effective responses to homelessness and other social needs; and laid the groundwork for multi-agency improvements to Highway 9 in busy parts of Felton and Boulder Creek.

As our Public Works team continues work on alternate emergency egress options out of Lompico canyon, our office supported efforts by residents to explore forming a County Service Area that would address improvements to privately maintained roads that act as the area’s major circulation routes. We will continue the dialogue with residents in 2024.

2023 marked a big shift for Big Basin Water as the Superior Court approved requests by state agencies with jurisdiction over the privately owned company to appoint a receiver who is now managing the system serving around 1,100 people in Boulder Creek. This welcome news came after our office pushed for many years for greater oversight of Big Basin Water, which has experienced frequent supply outages and a failing sewer system. 

The County secured state grant funding to help the receiver address costs related to stabilizing the system and remains hopeful for a future consolidation with the publicly owned San Lorenzo Valley Water District.

The County has approved a new Housing Element and Sustainability Update that are designed, alongside a new unified permitting center, to spur expansion of our housing supply amid record high requirements from the state to build. Meanwhile, our Housing for Health Office has worked with partner agencies to further our strategic plan for addressing homelessness. 

In 2023, the County won a Challenge Award from the California Association of Counties for our Collective of Results and Evidence-Based Investments (CORE) process that distributes other social services funding. The award was among just 14 selected statewide from nearly 400 entries.

In 2024, we will continue participating in efforts by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, Caltrans and SLV school district to improve circulation around the combined campuses in Felton leading into the heavily trafficked downtown. We will also continue supporting progress on the Boulder Creek Complete Streets Improvements.

We will urge additional planning efforts to expand the County Services Area 7 sewer down Highway 236 as a fire-recovery and economic relief project for Boulder Creek. Our office also will continue playing a key role in the countywide master planning processes for adopting the state’s age-friendly policies for seniors and ensuring robust broadband access.

Lastly, to circle back to disaster response, we will support the County’s ongoing climate action and resiliency efforts, which have been underwritten in large part by the success of Central Coast Community Energy, which this year brought on board San Luis Obispo County for a total of 35 agency members across five counties from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara. The agency founded through regional partnerships driven by my office offers customers choices in supporting clean, renewable energy.

I look forward to future columns providing more detail on our 2024 initiatives.

Bruce McPherson is the Fifth District Supervisor for the County of Santa Cruz, including the San Lorenzo Valley and parts of the cities of Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Press Banner.

Previous articleCHP Capt. Ching bids farewell
Next articleScotts Valley Police arrest elder fraud suspects
Bruce McPherson is the Fifth District Supervisor for the County of Santa Cruz, including the San Lorenzo Valley and parts of the cities of Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here