Santa Cruz gala celebration to offer glimpses of downtown future
A gala fundraiser event set for Friday night, at $100 a head, aims to celebrate Santa Cruz’s downtown while wooing key business stakeholders.
Organizers of the so-called The Downtown 2017 Party, billed as the “soiree of the season,” aim to draw up to nearly 200 business owners, property owners, community leaders, city leaders and others on a tour of five downtown sites.
For their entry fee, participants will be given snacks and drink and time with downtown businesses owners, Mayor Cynthia Chase, Police Chief Andy Mills, city Economic Development Department representatives and more. The event is designed to focus on the downtown’s positives, including highlights of major upcoming developments and new programs such as Santa Cruz Fiber, the new bike share and Downtown Streets Team programs, arts and culture opportunities at the Museum of Art and History’s Secret Garden, major public renovation projects and more, Downtown Association Executive Director Chip said.
At times, the ongoing positives of the downtown are lost amid criticisms of its shortcomings, Chip said during an interview Monday.
In an atypical moment of public frustration, Chip, who said this week he regretted his outburst, pleaded with the Santa Cruz City Council last month to help engage the community. He said this week that many downtowns are facing similar pressures, ranging from online retail competition to homelessness.
“We’re struggling downtown. We have people who are questioning whether or not they want to renew their rents,” Chip said at the meeting. “We have a lot of difficulties with the businesses. We need to invest in our downtown.”
Last month, Chip sought city co-sponsorship for the event, in order to use a city parking lot to gather. Though that site ultimately turned out to be too complicated and costly, he said, the partnership request brought what otherwise might be a quiet business community event under public scrutiny. Chip was questioned on the gala’s impact to public downtown streets and more when he appeared before the Santa Cruz City Council on Aug. 22.
“Downtown is something that we can’t take for granted,” Chip said Monday. “We as a community, as city leadership and as the business community need to be mindful about how we invest in the downtown and how we support the downtown.”
Referring to a city staff report on the downtown event, resident Ron Pomerantz said last month that if the city is cosponsor to an event, it should be open and marketed to all.
“But what I read here is it’s a narrow, elite, select group that’s going to be invited,” Pomerantz said. “That’s a problem — everyone’s entitled to be invited to the event.”
Chip said there would be no street closures and each stop would be indoors, not restricting downtown public access. While the gala is being marketed to and for downtown business leaders, it is open to others, he said, with tickets still available for sale online.
Several people also commented about the event’s high ticket cost on the party’s Facebook event listing.
Responding to ticket pricing criticisms, Chip said fundraisers such as Friday’s helps support free downtown community events such as the holiday parade, Dance Week, the information kiosk, Church Street Fair and more.
During the council meeting, Chase said she valued the opportunity offered by the gala to engage the public in an ongoing city discussion of housing shortage solutions. The fact that the event was happening around the downtown, rather than in one location, is what gives the gala a “different feel,” Chase said.
“But I think it’s an important thing to do,” Chase said. “I also understand the intention of this and we are partners and I think it’s important for us to be partners on something like this.”
2017 DOWNTOWN PARTY
When: 6 to 9 p.m., Friday.
Where: Downtown Santa Cruz. Details provided to ticket-buyers.
Details: Downtown Santa Cruz fundraiser with snacks, downtown tour, city officials describing upcoming downtown projects.
Cost: $100 per person.
Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 18, 2017 6:53pm
Author: Jessica A. York
Read More: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/government-and-politics/20170918/santa-cruz-gala-celebration-to-offer-glimpses-of-downtown-future