Wednesday morning, Santa Maria city leaders and community members gathered for the annual "State of the City" presentation to discuss notable accomplishments in the past year and goals for the coming one.
Among the many topics covered during Wednesday's event, Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino and city manager Jason Stilwell addressed their efforts to tackle the ongoing housing crisis, their plans for revitalization of the downtown scene, and other goals targeted at improving the overall quality of life for the community.
"Number one is always public safety, and we will continue to focus on public safety," said Mayor Patino.
The president of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, Rob Himoto, was one of the many community members in attendance.
"The railroad is really intertwined with the city economically, so it is really important to see which direction we are going," Himoto said.
He says Wednesday's event allowed for his business to see what is being done locally to address recent issues his company has been facing.
"Homeless, they seem to gather around the railroad tracks," Himoto said. "It is a really big problem as it brings in vandalism and crime."
Stilwell said in the coming year, the City will continue its efforts to combat public safety issues like these by bringing on more members to the Santa Maria police and fire departments.
"We are seeing an increase in property crime consistent with crimes across the nation," Stilwell said. "Crimes against people are down except for robbery and the explanation for that is that in 2020, people were staying at home, in 2021 they started coming out, and in 2022 they are back out on the streets."
On the housing front, Mayor Patino touted the many units currently under construction in Santa Maria, as well as the city's additional plans to develop more affordable living options.
"We have taken a lot of the old motels on North Broadway and made efficiency apartments out of them. We have been trying to convert things as we go along, as we have the needs," Mayor Patino added.
She says in 2023, the City will resume its requirement to accommodate space for over 1,700 low-income housing units by 2031.
Meanwhile, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce president and CEO also remarked on how the needs of local businesses have shifted as COVID-19 restrictions have lessened.
"As we have come out of it a few businesses have been able to reopen and reestablish their operations, the concerns really are shifting more to the recession potential and how the inflationary pressures are impacting prices and get product in a timely way," said Chamber of Commerce president Glenn Morris.
Other topics that were brought up during the event included details on the City of Santa Maria's installation of fiber optics cables in town, as well as their goals of converting the Santa Maria Regional Transit public buses to a zero emission fleet by 2024.
Next month, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce will be holding a "Small Business Saturday" event, where for every $100 spent at a local business, $67 will remain in the local community.