Quick Take:

In her weekly roundup of news and notes from the Santa Cruz County business community, Jessica M. Pasko details Watsonville’s Downtown Specific Plan ahead of a city council vote and notes a recall affecting Santa Cruz-made electric skateboards, plus milestones for local businesses, dates to save and more.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and its lingering effects on economies everywhere, we’ll be taking a closer look at the movers and shakers, the growth of industries, and what’s really driving the Santa Cruz County economy. I’ll be spotlighting some of the biggest areas for opportunity, updates on local development and all things underpinning the regional business scene each Wednesday.

The column will be off on Wednesday, Oct. 11, but I’ll be back on Oct. 18 with more local business news for your perusal.

Got ideas? Send them my way to news@lookoutlocal.com with “Business news” in the subject line.

Watsonville city council to weigh proposed Downtown Specific Plan

As cities around the country look at how to revitalize their downtowns, balance pedestrians and vehicles and foster sustainable growth, a new comprehensive plan for the future of Watsonville’s downtown district is getting closer to reality.

The plan was developed over the past few years by Watsonville city staff, elected and appointed officials and community leaders with public input. It lays out a long-term vision for future growth in the city’s downtown area, including a path for streamlining zoning and making permitting processes for projects easier. It’s designed to help encourage growth and development, while also creating a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly space.

After getting the green light from Watsonville’s planning commission, it now goes to the city council for a vote at the council’s regularly scheduled meeting next Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Read my longer story here on what the plan includes and why.

Onewheel recalls all electric skateboards after multiple incidents, including four deaths

A Onewheel electric skateboard
Credit: Via Future Motion Inc.

The Santa Cruz-based manufacturer of Onewheel electric skateboards is recalling 300,000 products, in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Onewheel line features self-balancing, single-wheel electric skateboards. The voluntary recall is due to problems with the boards’ balancing capabilities. They can stop balancing the rider if the boards’ limits are exceeded, posing a crash hazard that could result in serious injury or death. Future Motion has received dozens of reports of incidents involving the boards, including four deaths that occurred between 2019 and 2021.

The recall applies to all models, including the original Onewheel, Onewheel+, Onewheel+ XR, Onewheel Pint, Onewheel Pint X and Onewheel GT. Consumers with the Onewheel GT, Onewheel Pint, Onewheel Pint X or Onewheel+ XR can update the firmware on their board through the Onewheel app to fix the problem; updates for other models are anticipated to be released soon. Owners of the original or Onewheel+ model will be eligible for a refund upon confirmation of disposal of the skateboard. Full details about the recall, including instructions for how to implement the software update, are available on Future Motion’s website here.

Future Motion was founded in 2013 and the original Onewheel was launched via Kickstarter campaign in 2014. The company has been headquartered in Santa Cruz since 2015, and the boards are assembled at Future Motion’s facility on the Westside.

Read Lookout’s full story on the recall here.

Berries continue to lead Santa Cruz County’s agricultural economy

Crops in Santa Cruz County were valued at almost $667 million last year, according to the latest crop report released by the county’s agricultural department Friday. That represents a 1.5% growth from the prior year.

The top valued crop was berries, especially strawberries, accounting for 60% of total agricultural economic activity. Lily Belli took a deeper look into the numbers here.

Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with the county’s agriculture commissioner, David Sanford, about the state of the local ag economy, including a discussion of how the sector was affected by this winter’s storms and what farmers are preparing for next.

Increased Downtown Association fee passes city council

scenes from downtown Santa Cruz
Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Last month, I reported on the first proposed increase to the assessment fee paid by downtown Santa Cruz businesses in 30 years. The city council has voted to move forward with increasing the fee from $0.47 per square foot to $0.54. The fees help pay for the various programs and services the Downtown Association offers, including cleaning and visitors services. The increased fee goes into effect in January.

UCSC nonprofit offering web services for small businesses

If you’re a small business looking for help with your company’s website, check out GetVirtual. The nonprofit organization was founded by UC Santa Cruz students and staff as a program of the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development. Students get hands-on experience; businesses get affordable assistance with expanding their web presence. That includes everything from website development to starting up social media accounts. They’re now accepting businesses for the fall quarter, starting Oct. 23.

Ch-ch-changes: Openings, closings and other developments

  • New owner for Watsonville’s Miyuki Japanese Restaurant: Retired Santa Cruz County sheriff’s sergeant Paul Tashiro has taken over the reins at the East Lake Avenue restaurant, which has been in business since 1982. Former owner Chris Ishikawa, who’s owned it since 2016, will stay on in a part-time capacity.
  • Kelly’s Books to close: After 12 years in business, Kelly’s Books in Watsonville will close its doors Nov. 4.

Got hires, promotions or departures to report? Send them to news@lookoutlocal.com with the subject line “Career changes.”

Save the date

  • Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 7-8: Get a closer look at many of the county’s farms during the annual fall Open Farms tour. Tickets and details available here.
  • Thursday, Oct. 12: The Aptos Chamber of Commerce will host Assemblymember Dawn Addis at its monthly luncheon at Seascape Resort. Reservations are required and it’s $35 to attend. Register here.

Add your business or networking events to Lookout’s free public calendar, BOLO. Click here to add your event.

Looking at the numbers

  • 100 years: That’s how long Sambrailo Packaging has been in business. The Watsonville company has provided packaging and resource management solutions for the agriculture industry since 1923. The company was started by current president and CEO Mark Sambrailo’s grandfather, Charles Sambrailo.
  • $20: That’s the new minimum hourly wage for fast food workers in California starting in April 2024. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation raising the rate from its current $16.21 per hour.

Business news worth reading

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Jessica M. Pasko has been writing professionally for almost two decades.She cut her teeth in journalism as a reporter for the Associated Press in her native Albany, NY, where she covered everything from...