FEMA chief Deanne Criswell (center) during her January visit to Seacliff State Beach.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: FEMA delays costing county millions, riverfront dining ahead and wary about water

Chilly greetings, Lookout friends. It is Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Santa Cruz County will close out the first month of 2023 under mostly sunny skies, with temps in 50s and another cold night ahead.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency is on the ground around the region in the wake of this month’s storms, but, Christopher Neely reports, delays in aid the feds promised after 2020 CZU fire and amid the COVID pandemic have forced Santa Cruz County to take out millions in loans to meet basic expenses. “We’re not whining for the sake of whining,” the county’s budget chief says. “This is really dramatic for us.”

Elsewhere in post-storm recovery news, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has given more than $100,000 in grants to restaurants rebuilding in Capitola Village, part of an outlay that’s already passed the half-million-dollar mark. We’re keeping tabs on stories from around the county, and you can find it all in our newest section, Storms 2023: Road to Recovery.

Downtown Santa Cruz’s facelift is proceeding apace, and the space along the San Lorenzo River is slated to be a big part of the area’s new look. Lily Belli has the latest installment in our series of stories about the redevelopment along Front Street, examining where new food and drink options will fit in among the various projects.

And in our Community Voices opinion section, former Santa Cruz mayor Mike Rotkin delivers a primer on the area’s water supply and explains why we shouldn’t get complacent about it even after this month’s deluge.

Tuesday’s headlines also include an update on the weekend shooting that left a Soquel 18-year-old dead and the latest local COVID news and data; let’s get to it.

With FEMA back, Santa Cruz County asks: Where is the $68M reimbursement for pandemic, CZU fire expenses?

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, center, views damage to Seacliff State Beach with state and local officials.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Still waiting for $68 million in FEMA reimbursements from the pandemic and CZU fire, Santa Cruz County has had to take out nearly $50 million in loans to cover basic operations. Details here from Christopher Neely.

MORE: ‘No simple fix’: Watsonville’s most vulnerable seek answers, assurances in flooding aftermath

Paseos to the future? New Santa Cruz Riverwalk may open up 10 new restaurant spaces — four on the river

A rendering of the 530 Front Street project at Soquel Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Via City of Santa Cruz)

It might take 10 years, but the changing face of downtown Santa Cruz could offer the kind of vibrant community spaces for recreation, tourism and nightlife that have marked successful riverwalk projects in cities such as San Antonio, Austin, Chicago and Detroit. Lily Belli reports.

SIX BLOCKS: Our ongoing series on the changing face of downtown Santa Cruz


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And that’s what I know this last day of January. Not that Lookout is done for the day, of course; among what’s still in the pipeline is the latest Lily Belli on Food, arriving in inboxes in just hours. Sign up here for that and all of our newsletters, not to mention breaking news alerts. Don’t forget to follow Lookout on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay in the know with what’s happening around Santa Cruz County.

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Stay warm, be cool, and I’ll see you back here Wednesday.

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz