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Capitola Wharf repairs leave some area businesses shuttered as summer begins

Capitola businesses still struggling as wharf repairs drag on
Capitola businesses still struggling as wharf repairs drag on 03:39

The slow repairs to the January 2023 storm damage that shut down the Capitola Wharf are continuing to impact area businesses.

For a second straight summer, Dave Morris has been displaced -- unable to operate his family-owned bait and boat rental business on the Capitola Wharf.

"Here it is a year and a half later and we're still not open," Morris said during a brief guided tour of the waters off the Santa Cruz County coast.

In January of 2023, a powerful storm pummeled the city of Capitola. Beachfront businesses were flooded. Many were knocked right off their foundations.

But the worst damage was reserved for the city's historic wharf. The storm's onslaught -- gusting winds and a wall of water -- clawed a giant section out of the wharf. Overnight, the wharf was inaccessible and unsafe. And Morris's business, Capitol Boat and Bait, was suddenly out of commission.

"Yeah, that part of it is frustrating. But I understand that we can't tackle Mother Nature and not get bit," he said.

Morris says the long road to recovery -- now spanning more than 18 months -- has him questioning how long he can stay afloat financially.

"We're losing two seasons out of Capitola Boat and Bait. And that's devastating as far as that shop. This store here will carry some of the employees, but it doesn't carry all of them. We've lost 10 employees," Morris explained.

Prior to the storm, city leaders in Capitola were already planning a major renovation of the wharf to make it more resilient and less vulnerable to climate change.

They decided that it didn't make practical or financial sense to immediately repair the storm damage and then launch a major renovation a few months later. Instead, they rolled the repairs and renovations into a single project in the fall.

"We've been working on that project for a long time with a real goal of making the wharf more resilient to the effects of climate change, to make it better able to withstand the impact of these storms," said Capitola City Manager Jamie Goldstein.

Morris says the delayed reopening has severely hurt his business. He was forced to cut staff and rely on his second location in Santa Cruz. He's made it work -- barely.

"I am frustrated. But on the other hand, we can't beat Mother Nature," he said.

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