City Council considers Depot lease with Chamber that could bring business group income

March 31, 2000
Santa Paula City Council
Crafting a partnership between the city and Chamber of Commerce could be done with a unique agreement regarding the rental of living space at the Depot, a plan that brought objections from a councilwoman. The City Council considered a report by City Manager Peter Cosentini at the March 20 meeting that noted the city is “trying to get leases with entities in all city buildings,” including the chamber as well as the Santa Paula Society of the Arts. The latter was displaced from the Depot when it started to undergo rehabilitation and is awaiting a move back into the historic building, where the chamber has its business offices.Ownership of the Depot - as well as another historic building, the site of the Santa Paula Theater Center - was transferred to the city by the Community Fund several years ago.Cosentini said there are two options for the chamber, a straight lease agreement at market value or one a “little more creative. . .tourism is best done with the chamber walking arm-in-arm with the city.” He suggested the chamber receive free rent in exchange for tourism-related services and even a way to generate income.Grant funding for low and moderate housing has been put aside to renovate the apartment on the second floor of the Depot, he added, and the chamber could use the proceeds of the rent to boost the tourism effort.Councilman Jim Garfield was enthusiastic, noting the importance of “getting people off the train and into the stores.”Councilwoman Robin Sullivan, a past two-term chamber president, said the city used to fund a portion of chamber operations, which included a weekend staffed visitor’s center.Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa noted that the “numbers aren’t there yet,” to justify an arrangement based on tourism. “Because of the large Community Development Block Grant and Redevelopment Agency money put into the Depot it seems that rental money is far more important to the city to replenish those funds. . .RDA is diminishing very quickly and has not been replaced.” Espinosa said the option to let the chamber rent the upstairs of the Depot and keep the income should be discussed at a later date when tourism numbers would justify same.
Sullivan said the city historically provided about $2,500 each quarter to the city and if the Depot apartment rented for $400 to $500 “that would be pretty good. . .it’s really important that the city and the chamber work together on tourism and the Heritage Valley together, it’s better not to be divided.”“To just charge [the chamber] rent and take that check every month would not do what should be done for tourism,” said Garfield. “We’re talking about delegating a lot of responsibility to the chamber.”Espinosa said the chamber has already assumed responsibility for some tourism related efforts. “I wonder if the increase of additional duties for the chamber would mandate more staff. . .we need what would most financially benefit the city at this point.”John Macik, representing the chamber, said the business group has been proactive in the tourism effort including paying for a trolley, among other ongoing efforts. He supported the agreement where the chamber would not be charged rent and, in turn, derive income from renting the Depot apartment.

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