After California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis bought several slices from Pizza My Heart in Capitola’s storm-ravaged Esplanade on Wednesday for herself and the retinue of City, County and State officials accompanying her, she turned, slice in hand and quipped, “The only thing that would make it taste better is if I had gone surfing first.”
Kounalakis is the latest governmental official to visit the Mid-County tourist destination, whose staggering damage has become a backdrop for public officials’ efforts to bring the area federal and state recovery funds.
“Capitola is one of the jewels of the California coast,” Kounalakis said. “It has an energy and a vibe and a community that draws people from around the world. And it’s real important to us that Capitola has the tools to build back better.”
Those tools, she said, include providing evacuees a place to go, and providing emergency dollars to businesses so they can rebound.
But the state also has a long-range vision to help mitigate the effects of climate change, which could lessen the impacts of sea level rise and future atmospheric river storms.
“California is experiencing first-hand the impacts of a warming climate,” she said. “We have followed the science for decades on this, which is why we have the most rigorous emissions reduction program in the country, and it’s why we have the most progressive goals. Our 2045 goals to transition to a clean energy future are the gold standard in the world.”
Capitola Mayor Margaux Keiser said that she hopes the visit will help reignite the village’s image as a tourist destination, as the hardest hit restaurants—Zelda’s, Sand Bar, Paradise Beach Grille—struggle to rebuild.
The damage to the City is estimated at $2.6 million, with repairs to the Capitola Wharf ringing in at roughly $9 million.
The City was already planning on a massive renovation project on the Wharf, including possible widening, pylon repair and upgrades to the bathrooms, before the storm hit. That was paid for by a $3.5 million grant secured by Congressman Jimmy Panetta.
Now, with a much larger project on the horizon, the City has received an additional $1.9 million in state funding from the office of Assemblyman Mark Stone. Additional funding will come from Measure D, the City’s quarter-cent sales tax approved in 2016 and reauthorized in 2018 to fund City Services.
The City will also look to FEMA and its insurance provider to fund the project, which City Manager Jamie Goldstein hopes will begin in August.