Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne highlighted key city achievements and public and private projects from the past year, as well as touched on important goals for the year ahead, during his State of the City address Wednesday afternoon.
"2016 was a great year and together we got an awful lot done, and we are well-positioned as we head into 2017 to build on our past accomplishments and create our future together," the fifth-year mayor said toward the end of his 35-minute speech.
Thorne delivered his State of the City to more than 250 city officials, regional government representatives, business professionals and other community members at a luncheon event sponsored by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Pleasanton at the Club.
It marked the first address of Thorne's third term, after being re-elected by Pleasanton voters in November.
"I am proud to be your mayor in a city that is defined by its character and its commitment to the members of our community, which is increasingly diverse," he said early on Wednesday. "And we stand strong in our commitment to diversity and we embrace what makes us culturally unique."
Thorne soon moved into an overview of key Pleasanton accomplishments from last year, beginning with the local economy.
"We have a very, very healthy economy, thanks in large measure to careful planning, strong fiscal management and a robust business community," the mayor said.
Pleasanton is home to more than 56,000 employees at more than 4,000 companies, plus boasts more than 2,000 in-home businesses, Thorne said, praising the local economic base. There were also more than 1,100 patents issued to Pleasanton inventors last year alone.
Thorne singled out new and ongoing corporate expansion projects such as Workday, Roche Molecular Systems, CarMax, Ellie Mae and ServiceMax.
He also said he's looking forward to hearing later this year about development concepts for the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone.
As for city government economics, general fund revenues were up over $7.5 million last year compared to the prior year, driven by sales, property and hotel taxes, and city expenditures were down, resulting in almost $4.5 million in surplus funds to be used for future improvement projects, increased reserves and paying down unfunded pension liabilities, according to Thorne.
"Infrastructure projects can be big or small, but they all add up to a sizable impact on the quality of life that we enjoy," the mayor said.
Thorne highlighted the city's ongoing bridge maintenance program, including recently approved repairs to Old Bernal Bridge, and work done to retrofit "purple pipes" to allow more than 450 million gallons of recycled water per year to be distributed for city landscaping.
Thorne also noted the city's record on water consumption amid the drought that plagued water levels in the area before the winter rainstorms.
"We not only met but far exceeded the state mandate of an overall 25% reduction in water consumption," he said. "And though it appears to be nearly over for now, the drought can't ever be far from our minds because that's the nature of the place where we live."
"I know this doesn't come as a surprise to any of you, but the 580, 680 and State Route 84 corridors continue to be some of the busiest in the Bay Area," Thorne said. "Solving our transportation and traffic issues requires a regional approach and a long-term view, and we continue to make significant strides."
Thorne noted that the environmental review is ongoing for the final stage of Highway 84 widening, to Pigeon Pass, and the addition of express toll lanes on I-580 helped improve travel time during peak commute hours on that freeway.
He also said extending BART to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) train remains a top priority.
In terms of city projects, Thorne pointed to new traffic signals in front of Amador Valley High School, completed improvements to the Bernal Avenue/I-680 intersection, adding more than 40 new parking spots downtown and continued work to update the city's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.
The effects of courts overturning Pleasanton's former housing cap, enacted by voters, continue to impact the housing situation in Pleasanton, in part because the ruling caused Pleasanton to "play catch-up" and help meet its share of regional housing needs, Thorne said.
"We spent many years and many resources on this, and once the housing cap was overturned, we faced a backlog of development, which is what you see being developed around the city today," he said.
But now, the city "is back in compliance, I believe, and we've got our state-approved Housing Element ... And we have created the development parameters to meter our growth while meeting our state obligation at the same time," he added, referencing the city's current permitting limit of 235 housing units per year.
Affordable housing is also a priority for the city, Thorne said, noting ongoing construction for an affordable senior housing development at Kottinger Gardens and a budding opportunity for Sunflower Hill to potentially provide affordable housing for adults with special needs near the new Irby Ranch development.
2016 saw Pleasanton complete several marquee projects outdoors on public land.
Thorne singled out the opening of Bernal Community Park's second phase, calling it "the crown jewel of our parks system" with its oak woodlands, walking trails and state-of-the-art synthetic sports fields.
He also commended the new off-leash Cubby's Dog Park at Lagoon Road and Bernal Avenue as well as the new Veterans Memorial at Pioneer Cemetery.
The year ahead
Downtown planning will be a key talking point over the next year or so, Thorne said.
He noted work done by the Civic Center/Library Task Force to create a plan for a possible new civic center, library and police station complex at Bernal Community Park.
Hand in hand with that effort is work set for this year to update the Downtown Specific Plan, including options for what to do with the current civic center site downtown, Thorne said, encouraging residents to get involved with the downtown plan update and other city efforts in the year ahead.
"When I look back on the past year, two things strike me: How much we got done and how much we value and need the partnership and input from all of you in order to make it happen," Thorne said to the audience. "And this coming year, we're going to need your voice and your partnership again because we've got some important planning for the road ahead."