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Mayor Thorne delivers annual State of the City address

Local economy, transportation, infrastructure, housing among key topics

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

"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."

Transportation

"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.

Housing

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.

Great outdoors

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."

Comments

4 people like this
Posted by Ptown KH
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Feb 23, 2017 at 9:23 am

For those who may have attended the address - Did Mayor Thorne address the school district issues at all?


28 people like this
Posted by why
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 23, 2017 at 10:17 am

Why is the city even thinking about moving the police station to the Bernal property? The current location cost a lot of money to construct and meets our needs. Don't take away space from our park for the police station. Even if we do not have all the space designated on the Bernal Property, let our children have some space to plan. The Bernal Property is an important piece of land for all the residents of Pleasanton to share. It should not be used to park police cars, or put in a grant city hall for the public employees who already receive some of the best pay and a pension system that is untouchable compared to what the taxpayers receive.


Like this comment
Posted by JustHere
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 11:06 am

The city really has nothing to do with schools or the school district.


27 people like this
Posted by Hotslide
a resident of Oak Tree Acres
on Feb 23, 2017 at 11:31 am

What is the state requirement we have to meet regarding housing? Almost all available land in this city that was once a beautiful wetland and bird flyway is now bricked-in to the point that water runoff from recent storms crashes the mud sidewalls of the creeks and fills the bay with thousands of tons of mud and debris. Where was the EPA that overwhelms farmers when they try to build a farm pond? Traffic is a mess all day long, heading towards $10 to cross a bridge. So this is something we should ALL agree is wonderful progress. There is no place to go with more building than up or expanding into the hills (something we all know is just around the corner). Growth here in the last 20 years has been nothing short of astounding. I can only imagine what this place will look like in 10 years. But hey, pedal to the metal, I guess someone has and endgame in mind. But, we are diverse (repeat 10 times), this makes it all good, we all agree.


Like this comment
Posted by Mary Claire Sites
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2017 at 12:45 pm

I think priority should be given to a downtown parking structure.


11 people like this
Posted by I Miss the OPen Space
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Feb 23, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I definitely miss the open space where Oak Tree Acres now covers.......


12 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

JustHere, the budgets of the entities are separate, but they must work together on growth, school sites, and school locations. They also negotiate with developers.


5 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 7:03 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@Hotslide,

I wouldn't have considered Pleasanton 20 years ago. The growth has been mainly good in my book. There wasn't even a BART station. No Ranch 99, etc.

Traffic? I just drove Bernal to Vineyard at 6pm, as I do on most weekdays, and traffic was light. Same way at 6:30 am this morning. Most weekends it isn't bad. Seems you want empty roads all day. There are still towns where you can find that. Have you looked?


Like this comment
Posted by JustHere
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 7:51 pm

Kathleen: They have separate budgets, separate leadership and very different goals; and only coordinate with the city on rare occasions. the Mayor has no responsibilities to the school district or direction. Certainty some with new developments, but it is NOT the city's responsibility to ensure classroom available; that is clearly with the school district. And I believe limited to what builders pay to the 'school fund' which then only the school district has control.
State law governs that.


12 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 24, 2017 at 9:15 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

JustHere, Both entities meet on a regular basis to determine areas of collaboration and to keep each other informed of projects, traffic, and other issues. The Mayor and Council indeed have responsibilities to its citizens; you cannot build on every spot you *legislate* available with no consideration and collaboration with the Board of Education to house the students those structures bring. In fact, there is Government Code (I don't have it at my fingertips) that allows the Board to negotiate (and delay) with the City and developers until that growth is mitigated. Sometimes it's fees; sometimes it's land. The truth is the Council and City Manager treat the Board and Superintendent not as partners or equals (which they are), but in recent years have marginalizes their input. I would agree, though, that means the Board needs to step up its game and claim the power they already have.

I saw a young couple yesterday looking at the new apartments on Stanley/Bernal. Handsome little son, probably 4 years old, and a newborn in tow. Families are coming to these units for the schools, primarily, and for what they see is a nice community.

I don't mind smart growth, but it comes with the requirement that ALL services have to be in place, from water and drivable streets to classrooms. As the people paying for all this, it means we also need to speak up.


37 people like this
Posted by Save Pleasanton
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 24, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Why... I agree with your comment. The City DOES NOT NEED TO MOVE the existing government buildings (including the possibility of moving the school district buildings) or police station over to the Bernal Property. If the City is going to use the old "dangling the carrot" trick by stating to us that "we'll be getting a Wonderful, New Larger Library," to go along with a new Civic Center on the Bernal property, then why not just build a new Library on the Bernal property and add a Community / Arts Center with an open meadow/space concept to this property (which is the original plan for this property)? The City can then use the existing library property on Old Bernal (and the adjacent empty lot) to build their "impressive and notable, sense of prominence and hierarchy of scale" building (as stated in the Civic Center Master Plan). We do not need to trade-off the Bernal Property for a $200 MILLION government building, money that the City doesn't have for this huge project. The only way the City is going to get the $200 Million to fund this project, is to REZONE the existing property as residential and sell the properties to developers. The existing properties will then be turned into HUGE high-density (NOT "low-cost housing") projects (STACK & PACKS) by these developers to recoup the $200 million price tag. The same type of high-density housing projects that are located next to Dublin Bart and the HUGE project across from Dublin Target on Dublin Blvd., right in Pleasanton’s downtown gateway area (which will add more traffic, crowded schools, crime, etc.)! Also, the City receives large "in-lieu of fees" from these developers to “waive the requirement to make 15% of their projects low-cost housing.” What does the City do with the "fees" they've received from these developers? Why doesn’t the City use the large “in-lieu of fees” that they've received from these developers towards the building of more schools, better City infrastructure, adding more police officers, etc. to our City. THIS IS WHAT THE CITY OF PLEASANTON NEEDS and NOT a $200 MILLION GOVERNMENT BUILDING and MORE HIGH-DENSITY HOUSING PROJECTS!


3 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Parkside
on Feb 27, 2017 at 7:21 am

How much “in-lieu of fees” did Summerhill development pay the city so as not to have to have low income units in this new project on W. Los Positas. Or any other developer for that matter?
I agree with Save Pleasanton, where DID this money go?


4 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:28 am

The City Hall buildings are an embarassment. Where else do you see a city government working out of portables?? It is inefficient and not a testament to how great our town is. It is about time that the city buildings reflect the city.


Like this comment
Posted by justwondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:31 am

John,

The Summerhill condo project on W Las Positas is providing 9 or 10 (can't remember exact number of units) for sale below market condos. They were not allowed to pay fees instead of providing below market units.


24 people like this
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:57 am

Pleasanton students are housed in more than 115 portables.

Schools are a major piece of infrastructure planning for a city. it is not responsible to build housing without building schools. It is not in the best interest of Pleasanton residents to approve housing that is not required or necessary. When it comes to schools: current residents will subsidize the impacts of new growth. Every Pleasanton school is overcrowded, every Pleasanton campus already exceeding General Plan guidelines. Where there are “significant and unavoidable impacts”  as we often hear about traffic and air quality, no amount of money can correct the impacts. Citizens are bearing the indirect costs of lost time in traffic, more crowded schools, a burden on water supply, etc. In the past Pleasanton schools were able to get built because of the joint cooperation of city/PUSD.

State LAW requires coordination between cities and school districts related to planning for school siting, long range master planning for school sites. Government code 65302 and 65350.
The Pleasanton General Plan is the City planning constitution. It is meant to be a “comprehensive, long-term” plan. It is important that the City coordinate with the School District. “The current target is 600 students per elementary school, 1,000 students at each middle school, and 2,000 students at each comprehensive high school, with a 10 percent contingency planned for each site,”


1 person likes this
Posted by justwondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2017 at 11:17 am

I've read lots about building a new elementary school and having money in the recently passed bond to construct a school. I applaud the Trustees for looking hard at the Neal site since they own it and wouldn't have to come up with funds to purchase another site. BTW, I also understand the City has identified several potential school sites for the district.

It is my understanding that to open the doors of a new elementary school, the overhead cost is $400,000 to $600,000 for administration, utilizes, maintenance, janitorial, etc. What I don't hear any one discussing is where are the funds going to come from to cover this overhead cost? On tomorrow night's agenda are layoffs of several positions in the district. So this district is not flush with cash. Before we go too far down the path of building a new school, shouldn't a conversation take place as to how the operating costs of a new school are going to be funded? Maybe if parents realized the tradeoffs they would question the need for a new school--not sure but the conversation needs to happen sooner than later!!


12 people like this
Posted by yawn
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2017 at 11:38 am

The reason the Neal school has not been built yet is because the teacher's union fought it tooth and nails. Simple reason. The unions want ALL of our money and building a new school has some necessary overhead plus a new school only helps the students. It does not help the union.

Agree with above comment, lets get our kids out of portables before we even think about getting any public employees out of portables. Our students are more important. As for portables, the only city staff that are in them are the parks and rec department. You could move that department to the park without the rest of city hall going there. Or you can move the library to the park which frees up a building and we can get rid of the portables.

Unless you are a city employee, enhancing city hall will not improve our quality of life in Pleasanton. Make a deal, public employees give up their excessive pensions and medical benefits, and then we can start conversations on improving their workplace. The first move is with the employees. Until they negotiate this, I say we should not even be considering enhancing city hall. All of city hall could be run out of portables and it would not affect anybody's live in Pleasanton.


12 people like this
Posted by Save Pleasanton
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 27, 2017 at 12:31 pm

JustWondering... Kids crammed into portables at our schools are an embarrassment to our City and NOT the government portables. The government should stay in those portables until there is enough funding to build new schools! We don't need a $200 Million government building, we need more schools! As stated in my prior comment, how the City would get the funding for their new $200 million building would lead to more high-density projects and more kids crammed into portable classrooms! The City received $4.5 million "in lieu fee" from the developer of the Vintage Village complex on Bernal. Of that, the City deposited $1,041,421 of the fee to its “Lower Income Housing Fund for future affordable housing purposes." The City of Pleasanton has already met and exceeded the State’s affordable housing requirement, which means our City does not need any more funds going towards low-income housing projects (or even anymore high-density housing projects)! The City was also given $1M by the developer of the Irby Ranch project "to support affordable housing on the site," specifically for the Sunflower Hill project, which, unfortunately, may never happen. If Sunflower never gets developed, where will the $1M and the $4.5 million fee from Vintage Village fees go from just these two projects alone? It seems that would answer our "where are we to find funds to build new schools" question. Those large fees would help go towards building of a much-needed new school for our children and NOT a $200 million government building or more low-cost housing that isn’t needed/required in Pleasanton. Also, where is the School District getting the money to fund their current agenda? Shouldn’t that money also be used towards our schools and not for political use/gain? Something is way out of kilter with our City government and School District (hope they’re not listening to Jerry Brown too much).


3 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 27, 2017 at 12:37 pm

@Julie Testa - [Removed] There is NOTHING in either of those Government Codes that mandates a City work with a School District.

Furthermore, the City cannot force the District to build new schools. The city bends over backwards to try to help the schools, but without decent stewardship at the helm of the district, there is not much the city can do.

Julie - your irritation is misplaced. The District needs to build a school. Focus your energy there [removed]


3 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 27, 2017 at 12:40 pm

@ Save Pleasanton -

You should take some time to educate yourself on statutory limitations of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Schools are not an allowable use. Please do not continue the confusion regarding City $$ and District $$.


1 person likes this
Posted by justwondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2017 at 12:45 pm

SP, I'm just asking the question about funding operating cost of a new school not necessarily saying we don't need a new school. Don't you think the district should identify how those costs are going to be met?

The City budgets and the school district budgets are completely separate. Not sure how low income housing fees would/could be put towards a new school or new city building--I think that's a bit of a stretch!

if you're referring to the item on the school district agenda tomorrow night to make the district a sanctuary, I'd have to agree with you. There is so much on their plate already, like finding a new long-term superintendt for the district that I don't understand how they have staff time to address it.


19 people like this
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Feb 27, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Operating costs of a school come with the students ADA dollars. 500-600 students support operating costs of a K-5.

While City and school districts are separate in funding and governing, the joint cooperation has been how our schools have been built in the past. The City has paid half the cost of gyms and fields, creating joint-use agreements that include covering the cost of maintenance of those facilities to make it more affordable for PUSD to build and operate schools. Funds are not fungible, but there are ways for the two bodies to work together since that is what has worked in the past.

Julie, have you read those GC's? It does require cooperation in planning schools if the district requests it, complete with 15 and 45 day timelines. I did not say that either body is required to build schools. That is why the cooperation has been necessary in the past to get it done, that cooperation would not have happened without community advocacy.
I would be happy to meet with you to clarify any misunderstanding, I am confident that I am being accurate. Of course, that would remove your ability to make anonymous attacks.


1 person likes this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 27, 2017 at 2:23 pm

@Julie Testa -

Yes - I have read those Government Codes. And frankly, I just read them again to see if I actually missed the part where you say "State LAW requires coordination between cities and school districts related to planning for school siting, long range master planning for school sites."

I don't see it. Could you cite it exactly? Or cut and paste it here?

I apologize if you feel I'm attacking you; since I couldn't find the cite you mentioned, I'm simply questioning your motivation since I can't locate your source.


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