The state of Santa Maria is healthy and strong with “a lot of activity going on,” especially when it comes to construction, city leaders said Wednesday morning.
“The state of the city, I think, is healthy and we want to get healthier,” Patino said.
Both the city manager and the mayor covered a broad spectrum of topics, but construction projects came up often — for a good reason.
“We’re seeing the excess of $200 million in new investment in the past year in new development,” Stilwell said, referring to commercial and residential projects.
The city’s new construction valuation through September hit $140 million, up from $70 million for the same time in 2021.
They ticked off several of the projects now under construction or in the approval pipeline, including Santa Maria Studios with 160 units.
» Centennial Gardens Apartments on the southwest corner of Battles Road and Depot Street with 160 affordable housing units.
» Elements Apartments, near the northwest corner of Highway 135 and Skyway Drive. It’s part of the Lakeview mixed-use project with 160 units of apartments and 11,000 square feet of commercial space.
» Centennial Square at the southwest corner of Miller Street and Plaza Drive with 184 units.
» Park Edge mixed-use development with 140 apartments and retail space at the corner Santa Maria Way and Miller Street.
» Avante Apartments with 86 units proposed for the southwest corner of Blosser Road and Carmen Lane.
A couple of single-family home developments with a total of 112 residences also are planned off Santa Maria Way. Additionally, since 2018, the city has approved more than 1,000 accessory dwelling units, or granny flats.
“With the bigger lots in town and the state facilitating the construction, we’ve seen a lot of them,” Stilwell said. “Those have helped out housing situations but also impacted street parking and other impacts that we’ve seen in the community.”
Two ag-support businesses, the Maxco Box Facility and Seaside Packaging, also have expansion plans. A new Holiday Inn Express is planned for the north end of the city near three other hotels.
A number of projects remain under review, including Betteravia Place, part of Betteravia Plaza with residential, commercial and office space planned along with a gas station.
Blosser Ranch, 145 acres on the southeast corner of Stowell and Blosser roads, will bring single-family residences, apartments, retail space, a new school and a sports complex. In total, the developer plans 1,105 residential units and, in a twist, proposes building housing and accessory dwelling units at the same time, Stilwell said.
That’s not the only unique feature.
“An interesting component of this development is Canfield Development intends to maintain ownership of all the residential development, including the single-family residences and offer the units as rentals,” Stilwell said. “So, it’s a different concept we’ve had in town but one that seems to have demand.”
The downtown area also has a number of mixed-use projects that will transform the area, Stilwell said.
The Vernon Property Group purchased the old Fallas store with plans to convert it into 100 apartments. The same firm has entered into a development agreement with the city for partnership to turned “underused areas” into mixed-use projects.
Stilwell also revealed the Richards annexation proposal filed by the property owner seeking to have 45 acres near the intersection of Highway 135, Orcutt Road and Union Valley Parkway into the city. They propose to build a shopping center with restaurants, a grocery store, retail shops, mini-storage, a gas station, a car wash and 400 residential units, Stilwell said.
“Even the Santa Maria Cemetery’s growing with a new administration building planned,” Stilwell said, adding that a co-worker astutely noted, “If we’re growing, they’re growing.”
Three key revenue sources have risen with the sales tax up 16.1% or $4.3 million, the property tax up 5% or $1.1 million and the transient occupancy tax up 32% higher.
“We’re just seeing more people coming to town,” Stilwell said.
Patino urged community members to attend upcoming workshops on the Santa Maria General Plan, the blueprint for future growth in the city. The document envisions 16,000 new housing units by 2045, she said. The city will explore annexing land into the city for future growth, which raises a key question.
“Do we want to grow out, or do we want to grow up?” Patino asked.
She restated her irritation at the state rules that limit local control.
“We want to build and we have the political will to build, but we want to do it our way and the state is not allowing that. That’s what bothers me,” Patino added.
Last year, Santa Maria opened its 28th park, Robert Acquistapace Park, she said.
“We have more parks than Santa Barbara — a lot of people don’t realize that,” she added.