Q&A With Victor Spano, New President of Chamber of Commerce
By Vanitha Sankaran
Who is Victor Spano?
I am 52 years old, I lived in Vallemar briefly during the early 1980s, buying a home here 10 years ago with my wife Carmen and son John in the Fairmont district of Pacifica. John is currently a sixth grader at Ocean Shore School. I graduated from San Francisco State University in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and in 1997 from the University of Southern California in Real Estate Development. I began a 22 year career in local government with City of Pacifica and San Mateo County Planning Departments in 1990, retiring from local government in 2014 after a long stint at Daly City in several positions, most notably Economic Development and Redevelopment.
Now that I am retired, I like to hang out with my family and have a growing real estate consulting practice. I am involved in several community organizations and their boards, I serve or have served as past president of Pacifica Rotary Club, Vice President of Fogfest, former Chair of the Pacifica Economic Development Committee, and Vice Chair of the Jefferson High School District Bond Oversight Committee. I recently became a new member of Pacifica’s Moose Lodge. I joined the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce two years ago to continue my Economic Development experience, and joined the board a few months later. I have been involved in nearly all chamber activities. The highlight of my service with the Chamber of Commerce has been our organization of several “Aspiring Entrepreneurs Mixers,” which links those interested in opening a business in Pacifica to resources and individuals who can help them make their dreams a reality.
Q: You have experience in different organizations around Pacifica. What has that taught you and how will your Chamber role be different?
A: When I was in real estate school, one of my professors told me, if you want to be successful, you need to know how to push. Having fun and getting things done are needs that persist in my core. People in volunteer organizations either do things on their own, or need a gentle reminder. I have been in the Fogfest Festival and have organized contests and sponsorships. Fogfest is a monumental undertaking, it is the sum of many parts. With Rotary I help and have helped keep our local and community projects going, such as the Oceana Boulevard Landscaping that is underway, among others. As Chamber president, I will build upon my past experience of gently pushing projects along. The main duty is presiding over board meetings, and representing the chamber along with Jamie Monozon, our CEO on a wide variety of issues on a wide variety of forums, such as the City Council.
Q: How long have you lived in Pacifica and what changes have you seen in that time relative to local businesses?
A: I have lived in Pacifica and the surrounding communities all my life. I remember old days when Pacifica had the Seavue Twin Theater, several auto dealers, and further back unique shops such as the Amused Carrot on Palmetto Avenue. I remember that Fairmont Shopping Center was once an enclosed mall and all the shops were locally owned. If anything, our business community has become less “mom and pop” locally owned and more “corporate”. The environment here to do business, from getting building permits through staying open, is very difficult and not everybody survives. Fewer “mom and pop” merchants has affected our chamber, and I know the same can be said about chambers all across the country. The “mom and pop” businesses participate in chamber activities, the corporates are not so much engaged to do so. I am making the theme of my year, “Grass Roots Economic Development” and we will continue assisting new and existing businesses formed by Pacificans to complement what the city’s Economic Development program and staff are doing. We want to continue to attract people to Pacifica, to stay and play here and buy goodies at our shops! We want to continue to sustain our chamber and international outreach with our unique and popular events, such as Taste of Pacifica, Oktoberfest, the Christmas Tree Lighting, educational programs such as “Eggs and Issues”, among others.
Q: What challenges do you see facing Pacifica right now?
A: It is quite obvious for a very long time to most that follow Pacifica politics that the city is economically challenged. We have a small local and visitor serving business community that provides a modest income stream to the City, but we do not have Oracle or Facebook here, so with such a modest income stream, we have a crumbling infrastructure, an embarrassment of a city hall and functionally obsolescent libraries. The city needs to ask, “to be or not to be?” Without the taxes that businesses generate, we are somewhat at a loss, compared to other cities, and very limited as to what we can accomplish, in terms or providing first-rate city services. Our residents are adverse to new taxes, as demonstrated by Measure V a few years ago. Something has got to give, to pay all the bills, it is in the interest of our business community to have a well-funded city government. We have long supported economic development, from new business formations, to celebrating our environment as an attraction to our prosperous hotels and restaurants and will continue to do so.
Q: What changes would you like to see in the next year?
The chamber membership is a reflection of the community at large. There is polarization in the community along the lines of “environment” versus “business”. Our members are either on one side of the fence, or the other, or “on the fence.” The Quarry proposal was soundly defeated. The council composition now reflects a rejection of Highway One widening. There is some skepticism about improvements to Palmetto and the Beach Boulevard site and the library initiative did not receive a super majority. The Chamber will encourage the council and management to keep lines of communication open with the community. Within the chamber itself, I’d like to see more representation and advocacy from those in the “Environmental Family” for more balance. I would like the chamber to sponsor a ‘Green Business Symposium” that highlights Pacifica green businesses and practices. Our membership asks the Chamber to advocate for the business community to local, state and federal authorities on a wide variety of issues that affect not only Pacifica businesses, but all Pacificans. I am hoping our membership becomes more vocal and instructing to our board as to what to speak up about on their behalf!
Q: And in the long term?
A: Our new CEO, Jamie Monozon has brought great new ideas and energy to the table in the short time she has been here. We recently held the Taste of Pacifica, and it was a great success. Our membership is growing and becoming more activated. We will revisit past ideas and come up with new ones with the purpose of energizing and engaging our members, the business and wider community as a vital component of Pacifica.