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'State of the City' – Mayor says great year ahead

250 at Chamber luncheon for annual report on city's progress

With residents and businesses naming Pleasanton as an exceptional place to call home, Mayor Jerry Thorne Tuesday cited surveys and published reports to back up accomplishments of the past year that he said are making for an even greater year ahead.

In his "State of the City" report before 250 community, civic and business leaders at the Doubletree Hotel, Thorne said the city's economy is thriving with a median family income of just over $144,000. Record-high property and sales tax revenue have brought renewed post-recession financial stability to the city government.

"We can be proud of the amenities our city provides as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Callippe Preserve Golf Course, which is now fully paid for, and the fifth anniversary of the Firehouse Arts Center, which is also fully paid," Thorne said.

Citing a recent community satisfaction survey, which the city conducts every few years to assess its strengths and areas for improvement, Thorne said residents continued to express high levels of satisfaction with their quality of life, city services and sense of public safety.

This included 97% who said that Pleasanton is a "good to excellent" place to live, 99% "continue to feel safer" living in Pleasanton and the city's quality of life ratings are among the highest in the state.

"By and large, we're hearing that Pleasanton is an exceptional place to call home and these numbers back that up," Thorne said.

He said Pleasanton has gained a reputation at the national, state and regional level for a reputation for some of the safest streets and neighborhoods, a highly-educated workforce, a strong business community, outstanding schools, exceptional parks and recreational facilities and a historic downtown with a hometown feel.

"If you're going to have a reputation, trust me, this is the one you want," Thorne added. "Given this, it's no wonder that we remain one of the most desirable cities in which to live work and raise a family."

Economy

In 2011, the City Council established a goal of reducing the city's pension liability by 10% over five years. Last June, with the recession over and city revenue soaring, the council prefunded pension-related liabilities by $15.2 million to prefund the city's, which resulted in the city reducing its liabilities by 13% over that five year period.

"We also have $10 million more in our reserves this year, which is more in revenues than the highest year prior to the start of the recession in 2008." Thorne said.

He added that the unemployment rate as of last December is 3.4%, down from almost 9% at the peak of the recession in 2010. Office vacancies are at 9%, down from almost 19% in 2011. With an overall inventory of more than 2 million square feet of retail space, the retail vacancy rate is at 6%, down from 8% a year earlier.

Also in 2015, Stanford Health Care acquired ValleyCare Health Systems, Veeva Systems opened its new cloud-based business, St. Jude Medical brought its global medical device company here through its acquisition of Thoratec and John Muir Health, in partnership with San Ramon Medical Center, opened a new outpatient health service in the Hacienda business community.

On Staples Ranch, Chrysler Jeep Dodge moved here from Dublin, construction began on CarMax, which will open this summer and Pacific Pearl, a new 112,000-square-foot Asian-focused shopping center was approved with construction to start later this year.

With regard to other businesses, the GAP purchased an 180,000-square-foot building in the upgraded Rosewood Commons commercial campus, while Workday, ServiceMax, SmartZip Analytics and Ellie Mae expanded their sites. The new Pastime Plaza opened on Main Street with Starbucks Evening and Sabio's on Main as key street level tenants. Other new restaurants and retailers welcomed to Main Street last year included Tri-Valley Bistro, Frontier Spice, McKay's Taphouse, Drift and Prim POP for kids.

Housing

"The housing issue is probably the most complex and controversial issue that we deal with in city government," Thorne said. "With such a robust economy, it's no wonder that the housing market is also taking off. We all know that finding housing, let alone housing that is affordable, is getting harder and harder, particularly in this region."

The mayor said that towards that end, the City Council adopted an updated Housing Element, which serves as a blueprint for the type and quantity of housing allowed within Pleasanton.

In keeping with state law and past City Council approvals, construction began on five sites for multi-family housing to offer additional housing to meet court-ordered and state mandates.

"When construction is completed on all of these units, Pleasanton will have added a little over 1,200 new housing opportunities for people who want what we have -- a safe place to call home, with great schools and other outstanding amenities.

Also last year, the council adopted a Growth Management ordinance that allows the city to remain in compliance with state law while also metering future growth. For example, Thorne said, in 2015, the city only approved 140 new residential units.

Also last year, the council approved doubling of the amount of housing available to seniors. Construction will start this spring Kottinger Gardens, which will replace Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens with 185 units of affordable senior housing.

"We're very excited to be adding new housing for seniors," Thorne said. "Some of you may not be aware of this, but seniors were sometimes put on waiting lists for up to five years to obtain affordable housing in Pleasanton."

Diversity

Pleasanton's population is also becoming more diverse.

"You may or may not know this, but 30% of Pleasanton residents speak a language other than English at home and 25% of our residents were born outside of the United States," Thorne said. "We celebrate this diversity and are working to ensure that everyone's voice is heard. Everyone has a place here."

Economic Development Zone

At the "State of the City" luncheon, hosted by the Pleasant Chamber of Commerce at the DoubleTree Hotel, Thorne also spoke about plans underway to create the city's first Economic Development Zone along Johnson Drive near I-680 and Stoneridge Drive.

"It's intended to spur investment in 40 acres of mostly underutilized or now vacant land," Thorne explained. "The goal is to encourage investment to create a thriving corridor that will bring new commercial opportunities and generate new tax revenue to support existing programs and provide new ones, such as a new library."

In the next few months, the city Planning Commission and City Council will hold a joint workshop to review the information and community input to date and offer further direction on the project.

Parks

Even with1,400 acres of developed parkland and open space, 44 parks, numerous recreational facilities and 24 miles of trails in Pleasanton, more is coming.

An expanded Bernal Community Park, which Thorne called "a grand park," will open later this year. The park will include three state-of-the-art synthetic multi-purpose sports fields with lighting for evening and year-round play, stadium seating for the main event, and 40 acres of Oak woodlands, walking trails and picnic areas.

Recycled Water

The city secured almost $17 million in low-interest loans and incentive grants from the state in 2015 to start work on a purple pipe infrastructure to deliver more recycled water in Pleasanton.

"This project, the largest retrofitting of its kind in the Bay Area, will deliver approximately 450 million gallons of recycled water a year to commercial water users in Hacienda, Ken Mercer Sports Park and the Tennis and Community Park," Thorne said. "When the project is complete later this year, Pleasanton will reduce its overall consumption of potable water by roughly 10%."

Library/Civic Center

Thorne said an 11-member Civic Center/Library Task Force is meeting regularly this year to study the current needs of both the Civic Center and library with a goal of making recommendations to the council later this year.

"A town's library is like a home's living room," Thorne said. "Our library receives nearly 2,000 visits per day. Built in 1988 as a branch library, the library we have is no longer the library we need, and the Civic Center, simply put, needs to be replaced."

"The patchwork of buildings that comprise our Civic Center does not represent who we are as a city. Nor does it appropriately reflect the level of service and efficiency that this city organization strives to deliver and that this community has come to expect. We have some employees in buildings that are more than 30 years old and without running water."

"Yes, 2015 was a year to celebrate many things," Thorne concluded. "As we enter 2016, we remain optimistic about our future and our ability to remain 'Pleasanton Proud.'"

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Puppetlady
a resident of Foothill Farms
on Feb 25, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Whatever happened to the redo/update of the Pioneer Cemetery? Nothing is mentioned in any of the reports about when that will be started. A Veterans Memorial has been planned and a landscaping build-out was also planned. When will this be started? Have they started selling plots again? I believe this is now managed by the Parks Dept. or is it? Could we get a start date on that?


3 people like this
Posted by Matt Sullivan
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2016 at 10:23 am

It speaks volumes that the State of the City Address is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, that it’s held at a private facility, attended only by business and political elites (no common folks allowed), and that you have to pay to attend. It’s been a Chamber event for at least 20 years and probably much longer. It would be as if the State of the Union Address was given by the President at Goldman-Sachs headquarters on Wall Street instead of the U.S. Capitol (I hope I'm not giving Hillary any ideas!). The State of the City should be held at a public facility, open to the public, free, and televised on Channel 30.

What am I saying!?!? I thought for a moment (erroneously) that our local government was a democracy!


Like this comment
Posted by rrr
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

The Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce is essentially a PAC. Their ads during campaigns say endorsed by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. Matt is totally correct in that the State of the City should be attendable without cost. If this was just the mayor putting together a presentation on his own time, this venue is ok. However, this is a presentation put together by city staff, using taxpayer dollars and taxpayer paid equipment, for the benefit of a PAC.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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