In his annual "State of the City" report, Mayor Jerry Thorne said 2014 was a very good year for Pleasanton, a year of planning, with the prospects for this year even better as those plans are put into place.
These include major apartment projects, millions of dollars in new business developments and a new Asian-focused retail center on Staples Ranch.
Thorne presented his 30-minute report at a sold-out luncheon Wednesday sponsored by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce at the Doubletree-Hilton Hotel.
Tri-Valley Community Television (TV30) will broadcast Thorne's remarks starting at 6 p.m. tonight, followed by repeated broadcasts at 4 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday, noon on Tuesday, Feb. 24, and at 2 p.m. next Wednesday, Feb. 25. Additional broadcasts will be aired during the next month with Video on Demand also available from the TV30 website through Sunday.
"Last year was a very good year for Pleasanton with our city receiving several notable accolades from national publications," Thorne said. "Money magazine ranked Pleasanton number 31 on its list of Best Places to Live, citing our city's public safety, local economy, the housing market, healthcare and schools as among the country's best. We also Number 9 on the magazine's list of Top Earning Towns, with a median family income of $144,132."
In addition, Thorne said Pleasanton was ranked Number 4 on the website 24/7, Wall Street's List of America's 50 Best Cities to Live, as profiled in USA Today, and among the Top 20 Best Cities for Young Families in Northern California by the consumer/finance website Nerdwallet.com.
"Interestingly, Thorne noted, the website datingadvice.com ranked Pleasanton No. 14 on its list of the 15 Best Small Cities for Singles.
"So, not only do we appeal to young families," Thorne said, "we offer opportunities for single people to find Mr. or Ms. Pleasant-(on) at the many events we have, such as First Wednesday, Farmers Market and Friday Concerts in the Park."
He said that among the reasons why Pleasanton is gaining national accolades are the city's excellent schools, diverse housing opportunities, a good job market and quality of life.
Pleasanton is fortunate to have an excellent school administration, talented teachers and an engaged community partnering together for the benefit of its students. In addition, Las Positas College partners with the school district to provide concurrent class opportunities for high school students. It also serves a large component of students who attend Los Positas after high school, then transfer to four-year colleges.
Although Thorne reiterated that he is not a fan of having the State Legislature meddle in local land use issue and policies, he said the city has now meet state housing requirements. As a result, the city just this month received state certification of its Housing Element, a significant accomplishment after more than two years of public planning under a court order to provide high density, affordable housing here.
"There were some hard negotiations that took place with those that sued us to retain our ability to apply local standards to project approvals and retain our PUD process," Thorne said. "To that end, we re-zoned nine sites for future multi-family housing in order to meet our state mandate of affordable housing units.
Some of the sites Pleasanton rezoned to comply with state and court-ordered requirements are currently in progress, including the Essex Property Trust, formerly BRE Properties, on Owens Drive and a high density apartment building nearing completion by St. Anton Partners on West Los Positas Boulevard.
"So, we will face the challenges that this new growth brings," Thorne said.
"But keep in mind that it is the right thing to do because we are creating opportunity for a new generation of young people to make Pleasanton their home too," Thorne added, citing a Census Bureau reports that shows there are more 22-year-olds in Pleasanton than any other age group.
"A lot of homegrown Pleasanton kids want to return here, many of them bringing spouses and young families to enjoy the traditions that they grew up with," he said.
Thorne said the economy in Pleasanton is very robust, with the unemployment rate of 2.8% the envy of many other parts of the state and country right now.
He cited a recent article in the San Francisco Business Times that profiled Pleasanton as an emerging destination for biotech firms.
"We offer more affordable rents than South San Francisco while still providing access to the rest of the Bay Area," he said. "This growing success is the result of both our strategic location and a concerted effort to market to this industry sector by the city's economic development team, the Chamber of Commerce, and Hacienda.
Coming here in the next year, Thorne said, will be CarMax, Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge and Pacific Pearl Asian market center in Staples Ranch, with Workday is also expanding in Pleasanton after making this its headquarter city. Mercedes Benz and Lexus, two of the city's popular luxury car dealers, underwent large renovations to their showrooms and facilities last year.
According to Thorne, Pleasanton's commercial office market vacancy rate was 14.2% at the end of 2014, compared to 15.4% two years ago. There were two large lease transactions at Rosewood Commons by Ellie Mae and Astex Pharmaceuticals, a relocation by Morgan Stanley to Hacienda Terrace and Specialty's Cafe's relocation of its corporate headquarters to our city n the past year, as well as Blackberry's entry as a new tenant to the market in the Bernal Corporate Park.
In downtown Pleasanton, the vacancy rate at the end of 2014 was just above 3%, down from 6% in 2013. In that time, several notable changes have taken place, including the new development that will replace the Pastime Pool building on Main Street.
"Construction has started on this project that will be home to a wine and tapas bar called Sabio on Main, the new concept Starbucks Evening and Sotheby's Venture International real estate office, as well as a new public plaza," Thorne said. "All this is complemented by several new restaurants that will open in the coming months in the
There were some important investment sales of commercial real estate over the past year as well, starting with the one-million-plus square-foot purchase of the California Center campus by Swift Real Estate Partners and a 92,000 square-foot building at 5860 Owens Drive that will be converted to an outpatient medical facility for the partnership of San Ramon Regional Medical Center and John Muir Health.
Also on the health front, Thorne cited "more good news" with the acquisition of ValleyCare Health System by Stanford Health Care, an arrangement that is expected to receive final approval March 17.
"This merger will have a profound impact on maintaining a high quality of health care in our region, and we are very grateful to all those involved in bringing it about," Thorne said.
As a member of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, Thorne worked to secure funding to widen State Route 84 to a four-lane roadway between Pigeon Pass and I-680. The passage of Measure BB on last November's ballot now makes that a priority.
Also, consistent with the city's General Plan, a new off-ramp has been completed at I-580 and Foothill Road with a second one under construction at I-680 and Bernal Avenue.
Thorne said bicycle and pedestrian safety are also among improvements being funded by Measure BB. In the past two years, 3.6 miles of new bicycle lanes have been added, an accomplishment that didn't go unnoticed.
"Last year, Pleasanton was named a "Bicycle Friendly Community" by the League of American Bicyclists," Thorne said.
Although 2014 was a busy year, it was a dry one as well. The current drought is historical and one for the record books, Thorne said, telling the luncheon audience about researchers from the University of Minnesota that claims the current drought is the worst California has seen in more than 1,200 years.
"I think most of us would agree that the ongoing drought has changed the way we think about using water," he said. "A broad public outreach effort by the city to encourage water conservation was successful in 2014. We asked our water users to save 25% and they went even further and saved 27% over the previous year."
"Unless it rains soon, and rains a lot for a long time, we can expect another year of drought," he added. "Water conservation is likely to be our new norm.
Thorne also said that the city is working collaboratively with the other water retailers in the region to hammer out a long-term water storage plan for potable water "so that we are prepared in the future."
Pleasanton also adopted a Recycled Water Master Plan last year that includes agreements with agencies in Dublin and Livermore to provide recycled water supplies for landscape irrigation. Val Vista Community Park and the Staples Ranch area are already receiving recycled water for irrigation purposes.
"Soon, we'll have the pipes and pumping capacity in place to be able to use recycled water to irrigate the Hacienda business park and Ken Mercer Sports Park," Thorne said.
In closing, Thorne said that while 2014 was a year of planning, the city expects to see the implementation of those plans with expansion scheduled to start this spring at Bernal Community Park and construction underway on major commercial, office and retail developments.