Five infrastructure issues facing Santa Cruz

Photo of UCSC-Santa Cruz Business Council lunch.

The second annual luncheon with the Santa Cruz County Business Council attracted a big crowd, including many alumni.

Traffic, water, housing, internet connectivity, and workforce development. Those five topics were the focus of the second annual "Partners in Economic Vitality" luncheon with the Santa Cruz County Business Council and UC Santa Cruz on Tuesday.

Turnout was great—more than 100 people showed up, including local business owners, nonprofit administrators, elected officials, and faculty and staff from campus. A number of alumni were in the room: County Supervisor Zach Friend, Volunteer Center Executive Director Karen Delaney, realtors Lee Slaff, developer Doug Kaplan, Santa Cruz County Bank Vice President Mary Ann Carson, land use consultant Owen Lawlor, and Cruzio President Peggy Dolgenos.

Peggy Dolgenos was one of five speakers, each of whom did a great job discussing the challenges and opportunities in their areas. I learned something from each presenter. Peggy talked about internet access, and she was kind enough to acknowledge the campus's role bringing high-speed internet service—"dark fiber"—to the central coast, which I appreciated. But clearly, as a region, we have a ways to go. She likened dark fiber to a backbone, saying we need a coordinated strategy to build out the system of "pipes" that will extend service to remote and underserved areas. Zach Friend is championing a countywide "dig once" policy, which would capitalize on any road construction to simultaneously install cable infrastructure. Sounds smart to me.

Architect Mathew Thompson discussed the role of changing demographics in exacerbating the housing crunch and some needed changes in city and county policies; George Dondero of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission discussed the traffic council report and what it could mean for the county in the next decade; and Kim Adamson of the Soquel Creek Water District emphasized that the multiple water districts in our county need to work together to solve our regional issues.

In my own remarks about higher education and workforce development, I reminded the audience that experts predict that California will face a shortfall of 1 million college graduates by 2025. I don't like that scenario and urged attendees to join me in asking the governor for more robust support for the University of California. If we don't make the case, I'm afraid we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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