Capitola to allow five surf schools

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Capitola Beach Co. surf instructor Paul Johnson carries a board across Capitola Beach on Friday. (Kevin Johnson — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

CAPITOLA >> Cliff Hodges, owner of Adventure Out, has been offering surf lessons in Capitola for 10 years.

He was involved in discussions in 2008 resulting in the city deciding permits would be issued to, at most, four surf schools. In February, he was surprised to learn he would be unable to operate because four permits already had been granted under a new process created by the city.

He took his case to the Capitola City Council Thursday night, getting support from fellow surf school operators Matt Arthur and Ed Guzman, and a unanimous vote to allow him to apply for a permit.

“Being lucky isn’t the way it should be,” said Arthur of the Capitola Beach Co. “The process was supposed to be in place prior to the end of 2014. It wasn’t implemented. Nothing was made public.”

Guzman of Club Ed said he renewed his permit Jan. 6 after getting a message from his office manager. He hadn’t heard about a change before that.

“I hope we can work out a compromise so it works out in a fair fashion,” added T.J. Welch, a surfer and planning commissioner who worked on the surf school regulations with Hodges, Guzman and Richard Schmidt of Richard Schmidt Surf School of Santa Cruz.

Police Chief Rudy Escalante outlined the new process, detailed in a proposed policy authorizing him to grant four permits based on the surf school’s history of compliance, past operations and the “local vendor” preference, criteria the council supported.

After receiving more inquiries about surf school permits in 2013, Escalante discovered laxity in the process.

“There was a $52 fee; we had not been collecting it since 2008,” he said. “There was not a permit. There was not an application.”

Outside vendors were conducting lessons without permits, he Escalante.

In May, formal permits bearing a Dec. 31 expiration date were issued to Arthur, Guzman, Schmidt and Hodges.

In December, after receiving more applications than permits he could grant, Escalante decided a policy was needed “so people can understand what
process is.”

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Capitola Beach Co. owner Matt Arthur stands outside of his shop Friday in Capitola Village, where he offers surfing lessons. (Kevin Johnson — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The four who got permits for 2015 are: Arthur, Guzman, Schmidt, all returneees, and Jason Alaniz, a surfer who founded Capitola Surf and Paddle.

Councilman Michael Termini proposed to allow a fifth surf school just for 2015.

“We sort of changed the process and just neglected to tell anybody,” he said, contending the decision should be based on past performance rather using a “first come-first served” policy.

To allow a fifth school, City Attorney John Barisone will write an uncodified ordinance applying only to 2015. The ordinance will be presented to the council on March 24 and April 9. If approved, the fifth permit could be issued May 9.

“I’ll be here at 9 for an application,” Hodges said.

The city rule saying eight students at most can be in the water at one time still holds, so it will be up to surf schools to cooperate so as to remain in compliance.

Welch said the 2008 ordinance does not address rotating permits although that topic came up.

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