KING CITY — City of King officials provided an update on King City’s progress over the past year and presented plans for future developments during the annual State of the City Address.
Co-sponsored by the King City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and the Rotary Club of King City, the Feb. 1 luncheon at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds featured Mayor Mike LeBarre, City Manager Steve Adams and Interim Police Chief James Hunt, who each spoke about the City’s latest efforts and challenges.
A bilingual presentation of the Address also took place Feb. 2 at City Hall.
“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress within the city, but this last year — and a couple years prior with the pandemic — we also had a major fire, severe drought, we’re all feeling the pressure of economic inflation, the city had a failed tax measure, we had a police-involved shooting, and most recently the flooding,” LeBarre said.
The January storms caused about $1.8 million in damages locally, according to LeBarre. Not only did floodwaters cause havoc on area roads and the Salinas Riverbed, but the flooding also took its toll on King City Golf Course.
“It really destroyed the golf course, which is frustrating because we had just put First Tee in as the operator of the golf course, which was going to provide so many opportunities for youth,” LeBarre said.
He added that despite the delay, the golf course “will be back up and running as soon as we can.”
“Working as a team helped us weather those storms, and I’m happy to report that we keep moving forward and making progress for our city,” LeBarre said.
LeBarre also shared some good news on the City’s budget, reporting that they have met its 20% Reserve Fund goal. Following last year’s announcement that they were no longer operating in the red, this is the first time King City has had any reserve funds in nearly two decades.
“This is the first time we’ve had a reserve in 18 years,” LeBarre said.
In addition, LeBarre boasted about the City’s successful pursuit of grant funding. Over the past few years, the City has received 27 grants totaling more than $43 million. He said the City leveraged roughly $6 million of its General Fund budget over those years to bring in that total grant amount.
“That is very, very good for any government agency throughout the state,” LeBarre said. “So we’re making sure your dollars are bringing as much back as we can.”
Adams provided an update on King City’s major priority projects for 2023, but some of the most significant developments are still in the planning and preparation stages.
“We’ve been working for several years now on a number of efforts to try to improve the community and to improve quality of life, and we think we’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “… We’re excited because we think this will be the year where some of these projects will begin to become visible and hopefully begin to transform the community.”
Current inflation problems, however, are “creating some challenges for many of the projects,” said Adams, adding that the project timelines are tentative and will be contingent on the bids received.
The largest portion of King City’s Downtown Streetscape Plan is scheduled for this year and consists of redoing all the corner bulb-outs, crosswalks and medians on Broadway Street, from First to Russ streets. The $4.5 million project, funded primarily by grants, is currently out to bid.
Adams said they hope to begin construction in April and be finished by the end of the year.
Also out to bid is the Downtown Plaza project, a public space to eat, play, relax and enjoy events that will be located on the vacant corner lot at Vanderhurst Avenue and Broadway Street. The $2.5 million project is funded by a state grant, and Adams said they want to start construction in March and have it done before next year.
“We’re hoping it will become a focal point for activity in our downtown,” he said.
Adjacent to the Downtown Plaza, the existing historical building at 110 Vanderhurst Ave. will be renovated and converted to a new Visitor and History Center, which will include the King City Chamber office. Project bids, however, came in too high and were rejected by the City.
“We’re now proposing to work with a local contractor to do the construction in phases,” Adams explained. “We hope to have that underway in the next couple of months.”
Improvements will soon begin at the former Days Inn site at San Antonio Drive and Broadway Street, where the hotel will be turned into permanent supportive housing for those in need. The City received a $14 million grant for the project, which should be operational by this summer under the nonprofit Step Up.
“This project we believe will have a significant impact on eliminating at least a large portion of the homelessness that we’ve been experiencing in King City,” Adams said.
Nearby, across from King City Cemetery on Broadway Street, is the proposed site for Dutch Bros. Coffee and Grocery Outlet, which has been delayed due to a lawsuit against the City’s decision to approve the project without a more extensive environmental impact report. The trial has been set for April.
“We’re very confident that we will win that, and so we are fully anticipating that this project will be underway by this summer,” Adams said.
Currently under construction is the Rava Agricultural Employee Housing Project on Bitterwater Road. The 118 farmworker housing units are being built in two phases, the first of which is nearing completion.
“It’s a really high-quality project, so we think it’s going to be a great addition to the community,” Adams said.
Other housing on the horizon is the CHISPA Mills Ranch Garden Apartments, which is one of five eight-unit low-income apartment buildings planned. Adams said the project is fully approved, but CHISPA is looking for additional funding assistance to begin construction.
Adams also mentioned a few projects, including additional housing, that are on the way over the next few years.
“We believe the housing shortage is really the most significant crisis that’s facing King City right now because it impacts all aspects of quality of life — directly and indirectly,” he said.
According to Adams, developers are proposing to transform the existing Monarch Inn site on Broadway Street into a senior affordable housing project. The mixed-use development would include 42 low-income apartment units for seniors and a few commercial units and parking on the ground floor.
“Since it’s only in the planning stages at this point, we don’t expect to have construction for probably a couple years, but we’re excited to see this move forward,” Adams said.
A 377-apartment complex is also being proposed at a vacant lot at San Antonio Drive and Willow Street. Adams said the project will be built in phases, with a mix of market-rate and low-income units. It is currently in the environmental review and preliminary design stage, with construction starting in a few years.
Thanks to an $11 million grant, the City will be constructing a dedicated bike path along San Antonio Drive, from Broadway Street to Mildred Avenue. Once completed, the path will connect with another one being installed by Nino Homes around the perimeter of the Creek Bridge and Mills Ranch developments.
“So when it’s all complete, you’ll be able to ride your bike … from the northern end of the city, all the way down to San Lorenzo Park,” Adams said. “… It’s the beginning of a bike route plan that we’d like to eventually construct throughout the entire city.”
Final design work will take place this year, with construction in about 18 months.
Another project that is still in the design phase is the City’s new Wastewater Treatment Plant, which would include a recycled water facility to create recycled water for use at all city parks and school fields. The latest project cost estimate is $110 million, the majority of which the City is trying to get funded by the state.
Adams also announced that the roundabout project at the current intersection of San Antonio Drive and Broadway Street is fully designed. The City has turned in an application for grant funding and is waiting to hear back before the project can move forward.
Hunt gave a brief overview of the King City Police Department’s ongoing efforts.
In 2022, the department responded to more than 5,600 calls for service, resulting in 228 arrests and 998 police reports. Proactive policing efforts also resulted in 64 arrests and 568 citations.
However, King City had a total of six shootings, two robberies and 13 sexual assaults last year.
“Numbers we would really like to see come down in the coming year,” Hunt said.
The department also investigated three homicide incidents, the first of which was a triple murder at the end of 2021 with four suspects involved. Over a nine-month investigation, police were able to identify and arrest all the suspects.
The second homicide occurred in January, when a victim was gunned down by two assailants. Police have yet to identify the suspects, Hunt said, but the case “remains open and active.”
A third homicide took place in September after a victim was bludgeoned to death. The suspect was arrested and is currently in jail awaiting trial.
Hunt also provided an update on the department’s 21 employees, of whom 17 are sworn officers and four are professional support staff. He said the only vacancy is for a code enforcement officer.
In addition, KCPD has received a technology upgrade that is “on the cutting edge for law enforcement,” Hunt said.
This includes a new records management system, new tasers, new body-worn cameras and upgraded car cameras with license plate reading technology.