The former West Marine building at 500 Westridge Drive is the new home of the South County Government Center.

Three years after the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase the former West Marine building on Westridge Drive, a convergence of city and county officials gathered at the site Tuesday to celebrate its new incarnation.

The 121,000 square-foot South County Government Center at 500 Westridge Dr. holds the Human Services Department, Agricultural Commissioner’s Office, County Clerk/Elections, and Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office and a “floating counter” where other services can intermittently be found.

The new site consolidates several services, allowing South County residents to access needed services in one place. It will also make it easier for county employees who live there to get to work, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion on Highway 1.

“We recognize that it’s important for local government to serve the community, and make it easy to access the services, particularly in underserved populations,” said Supervisor Felipe Hernandez. “This is a key to equity.”

The county purchased the property in 2021 for $15.6 million. Renovations included seismic upgrades.

County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said that, when he was city manager from 1996-2015, he saw that Watsonville did not receive the same services as North County.

“I had a deep feeling—a sense of, frankly, anger—at the fact that I didn’t feel our people were being served in the same way,” he said. 

The new facility, he added, will make a big difference in addressing that disparity.

“It represents not only real services to the community to those who most need it, but it’s also a symbol of the county’s investment in south county and inWatsonville.”

And that investment, he said, will soon continue at the Freedom Campus with a new health clinic, dentist and public health services.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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