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July 25, 2021

County will purchase West Marine building, consolidate Watsonville services

WATSONVILLE—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to purchase properties on Westridge Drive in Watsonville, and to relocate several county services there.

The move, which will consolidate five separate departments into a building at 500 Westridge Drive, is expected to save the county $1.7 million annually in combined rent. It will also reduce the county’s annual long-term lease payments, which are currently $2.8 million.

The move is also intended to reduce the number of car trips by county employees who live in South County, thus reducing traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.

The building currently serves as the headquarters for West Marine. It is not clear where that company plans to move. 

West Marine Regional Marketing Manager Lorene Frank said that the company has recently opened an office in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., but added that it hopes to stay here.

“We are committed to maintaining a West Coast presence and are currently looking at options for an alternate location,” she stated in an email.

The 121,491-square-foot building will eventually hold the Human Services Department, the Department of Child Support Services and the Agricultural Commissioner. It will also include the Adult and Juvenile Probation Department, which is currently housed at the County-owned Freedom Boulevard campus.

The Auditor-Controller and Planning departments will also be located there.

In addition, it will feature a service counter offering several high-demand services.

“Once fully operational, this new facility will serve as a one-stop center for South County residents accessing county services,” Supervisor Greg Caput said. “Not only will we be able to make existing services more accessible, but we will also be able to bring additional critical services to residents of the Fourth District.”

County spokesman Jason Hoppin said that the move will be complete by the end of 2023 to allow current leases to expire.

County Administrative Officer Carlos Palacios said the plan is a culmination of several months of work.

“This purchase meets the county’s Strategic Plan objectives by making it easier for residents to access essential services, while assuring that those services are equitably distributed between North and South County,” he said. “It also assures we are providing our own workforce with an improved and updated work environment, while saving taxpayer dollars in the long run.”

The purchase for the 500 Westridge Drive location will cost just over $15.6 million, while the parking area at 355 Westridge will cost $810,000. The county will pay for the properties with two series of tax-exempt lease revenue bonds, which will be payable over 30 years.

Supervisor Zach Friend praised the move, which he said will make a “huge difference” in the way the county serves the Watsonville area.

“This is the most significant investment in South County that’s been made in decades,” he said.

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