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December 14, 2019
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Consent agenda: City sells lot to Ow family

Move believed to be a long-term investment in downtown

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council on Tuesday sold the Resetar Parking Lot in downtown to the Ow family for $542,850.

The 40-space lot at 535 Main St., also known as Parking Lot No. 4, is used daily by multiple businesses in downtown, including county-wide nonprofit Community Bridges, which is just two doors down.

Community Bridges CEO Raymon Cancino said the nonprofit tried to buy the lot two years ago, but the City of Watsonville was not interested in selling at that time. The organization also tried to buy the adjacent property but was outbid by the Ow family, which also owns the property that houses Ramos Furniture on the other side of the parking lot.

“The nonprofit gets second priority again…It’s frustrating but it’s not surprising—I get it,” Cancino said. “I’m sure the city is looking at this sale as part of its long-term development plan for downtown.”

The Ow family now owns three consecutive parcels, setting up the possibility of a large-scale redevelopment near the intersection of Main and W. 5th streets.

The staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting hinted at probable plans for the trio of properties, saying the move would “facilitate good planning and maximize options for possibly repurposing” the properties into “more efficient mixed-use retail, office, commercial and/or residential as the Downtown Specific Plan is developed.”

Ow Commercial did not return calls looking for comment on the purchase.

According to the staff report, the City considered the property “unbuildable” because of easements (the right to cross or use someone else’s land for a specified purpose) put in place by the Resetar and Niebling families, who sold the deed to the City in 1960.

“The burden of the easements makes this property unbuildable to anyone other than the adjacent parcels,” the staff report read.

Cancino said losing those 40 parking spots would be a tough blow for Community Bridges, which pays for permitted parking in the lot along with several other businesses in the area. Many people that drive into downtown to use Community Bridges’ services also use that parking lot, Cancino said.

“I understand that the City is trying to spur development and business growth,” Cancino said, “but at the same time we need to have enough parking to support businesses and the people that come to downtown.”

According to a roughly year-long, city-commissioned study conducted by San Francisco-based Nelson/Nygaard Consulting in 2017, Watsonville’s downtown had sufficient parking to support substantial development. 

Patrick Siegman, principal of Nelson/Nygaard, told the Council during an early 2018 meeting that downtown has a “perceived” parking shortage, as curb spots closest to businesses are often full, yet the city’s two parking garages have a “large surplus” and mostly sit “underutilized.”

Also approved in Tuesday’s consent agenda:

Rail Trail Project setbacks

Council approved an amendment to a contract with Rincon Consultants for preconstruction compliance services on the Rail Trail Lee Road Project. The amendment will add an additional $27,834 on top of the contract’s original price tag of $110,904. 

That contract was approved by Council in early 2017, but gaining approval from County of Santa Cruz officials has taken longer than expected, and more work needs to be done to secure approval, city staff said.

That work includes sampling soil for hazardous materials, preparing a site assessment of the condition of the existing soils, preparing a remediation plan for the project site and assisting the City with securing the appropriate permits.

The cost of the amendment will be paid with gas tax funding budgeted for the Rail Trail Lee Road Project, city staff said.

New garbage trucks

The Council approved the purchase of three vehicles for the Solid Waste Division totaling $914,977. 

All three will be purchased from Western Truck Parts & Equipment Company’s Western Truck Center.

Tobacco bans 

The bans on the sale of flavored tobacco, e-cigarettes and vapes and all tobacco products in pharmacies—unanimously passed by Council earlier this month—also received final approval.

The ban will go into effect next month.

Disaster plan gets update

The Council also gave final approval on a new Emergency and Emergency Services Ordinance. 

The new ordinance comes with three changes to the previous one passed in 1971: (1) the elimination of Disaster Council, which has not been formed since before ’71, (2) naming the City Manager the Director of Emergency Services in the event of an emergency and (3) giving the Director of Emergency Services special nuisance abatement powers.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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