"Take a look around you," Thorne told those attending the luncheon forum hosted by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. "The state of our city is strong and getting stronger. Our future is as bright as our determination is strong, and your city leadership and staff are committed to that vision."
He said that by paying off the last $20.7 million of bonds used to finance the construction and opening of Callippe Preserve Golf Course, the city not only saved $10.7 million in interest that would have been paid through those certificates of participation maturity date of 2032, but also freed up all construction debt.
Thorne added, "Lee Iacocca, one of the great CEOs of our time, expressed our position beautifully when he once said: 'We at Chrysler borrow money the old-fashioned way: we pay it back!' I agree completely! Happily, unlike Chrysler, the city of Pleasanton will never have to worry about being owned by Fiat."
Thorne reported that the assets of the city exceeded its liabilities at the close of the most recent fiscal year by $857.7 million in net assets. Of this amount, $130.4 million in unrestricted net assets may be used to meet the city's ongoing obligations to its citizens, businesses and creditors; the majority of the remaining amount is invested in capital assets of the city such as parks, the Firehouse Arts Center, sewer and water utilities, and infrastructure.
The General Fund unrestricted fund reserves are $12.9 million, of which $9.3 million is designated for economic uncertainties and $3.6 million is undesignated.
The mayor talked about 2013 being a very busy year for Pleasanton.
During a year that unemployment rates nationally and in California hover in the double-digit to high single-digit range, Pleasanton's unemployment rate was 3.4% as of last November -- when the most recent figures were tabulated. The city's rate of commercial office market vacancy was 11.8% at year's end and continues to improve, compared to 16.3% at the end of 2012 and 17.8% the year before.
This steadily improving market that included Farmers Insurance, Gap Inc., and Zenith moving into vacant offices at the California Center, Spigit Innovation Management expanding from downtown offices to Hacienda Business Park, and T and V Holdings Inc. acquiring 43,000 square feet at Diablo Center West on Hacienda Drive.
Strong demand in Pleasanton's retail marketplace saw the vacancy rate drop below 7% last year, down nearly 2% from the end of 2012. Last year, New Leaf Community Markets moved into the Vintage Hills Shopping Center, and with other new businesses, revitalized an older shopping center that had been mostly empty for years.
The Pleasanton Gateway Shopping Center at Bernal and Valley avenues, where Safeway opened a new Lifestyle supermarket two years ago, was fully leased in 2013. Stoneridge Shopping Center added seven new stores and its owner, the Simon Property Group, renewed for five more years a development agreement for an additional 205,000 square feet of expansion.
New businesses also opened in downtown Pleasanton, where the vacancy rate has now fallen below 6%. These included Workbench Hardware at the vacant former Domus site, Farmhouse Restaurant, Tara's and Mangia Mi. Most recently, a developer has submitted plans to tear down Past Time Pool on Main Street and build a two-story building with a restaurant, retailer and offices, as well as dedicating the corner for a public plaza.
Business license revenue was up last year by 10%, and more guests at city hotels and motels raised the tax revenue in that category by 13% last year to nearly $4 million.
Thorne reported that last year, home values continued to climb with the price for a single-family home climbing by 9% to $900,000. In fact, the combined assessed value of commercial and residential properties in Pleasanton reached just over $17 billion, making it the third highest in Alameda County after Oakland and Fremont, which are both much larger cities. Property tax revenues in fiscal year 2013 were approximately $50 million.
Another big accomplishment of 2013 was the completion of the Stoneridge Drive extension, a project that Thorne pushed since being elected mayor.
"That effort has absorbed more than 20 years of our time and resources," Thorne said.
It now connects Livermore and Pleasanton at a junction where the Outlets shopping center and Stoneridge Creek Retirement Community are located, and also where CarMax plans to build a regional used-car center. The area also features a 5-acre public park and a trail extension that connects the Arroyo Mocho Trail to the Livermore trail system.
To fulfill court and state requirements to provide more affordable housing, Pleasanton also enacted a new housing plan that rezoned 73 acres for high-density apartment projects.
Those included the South Bay Development Corp. proposal for 210 apartment units and 97 single family homes near the Pleasanton Gateway Center, a plan by E.S. Ring Corp. for 345 apartment-style units and approximately 38,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space at the corner of Valley and Bernal avenues and Stanley Boulevard (across from McDonald's), the Nearon Company and Saint Anton Partners plan for an upscale 168-unit multi-family project in the Hacienda Business Park, which is now underway, and a 205-unit transit-oriented development and approximately 7,500 square feet of neighborhood retail at the California Center, across from Archstone Apartments and the Walmart shopping center.
Thorne said a task force worked through the year on preliminary plans for Pleasanton's east side, a largely undeveloped tract east of Valley Avenue at Busch Road. It's unlikely, though, that any development will actually get started there until well after 2020.
With Stoneridge Drive now open and thousands more moving to Pleasanton as major apartment centers are constructed, traffic will be a major concern in the city's future, Thorne said.
"One of our biggest challenges as we move forward will be to maintain the small town character of Pleasanton," Thorne said. "We will continue to implement neighborhood traffic-calming programs, promote the Ride-to-School program on Wheels buses, and work on securing funding to widen State Route 84 to a four-lane roadway between Pigeon Pass and I-680."
Thorne said he will support a revised Measure B regional transportation tax measure if it is placed on the November ballot with a "sunset" clause that requires going back to the voters in the coming years for re-approval. It was the lack of a sunset and the intent to make the measure last in perpetuity that caused Thorne and others to oppose Measure B, which lost by a narrow margin.
"In the new version of the measure, there is a 30-year sunset clause," Thorne said. "I realize that 30 years is 'in perpetuity' for most of us, but that is how long it will take to collect the dollars required to complete all of the projects in the measure at the proposed tax rate."
This year will also mark the start of major improvements at Bernal Community Park. These will include more lighted sports fields for baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse and rugby, as well as a spacious oak woodland consisting of major tree plantings, lighted pathways and a rambling waterway.
Also ahead will be the redevelopment of Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens with new housing for low-income seniors. The buildings there now will be demolished in stages for the new two- and three-story homes and community center.
Thorne said California's drought also will be vigorously addressed this year, even with the recent rains. The City Council has asked residents to reduce their consumption of water by 20%, and the city is moving forward quickly to extend pipes that carry recycled water to curb the use of potable water for park and landscape irrigation.
Thorne noted that the public, in recent surveys, gives high marks to Pleasanton for its parks, police services, schools and government.
"A whopping 97% of those polled considered Pleasanton an excellent or good place to raise children, and that is one of the most important results to us because deciding where to raise children is one of the top decisions a family will make," Thorne said.
He added, "So, with the combined results of the community survey and our new performance measures, we are going to take a quantifiable leap into the future. We'll be checking to see if the resources are properly allocated, and that we continue to maintain the high standard that Pleasanton residents expect.
"We won't be satisfied with just keeping the lights on. We want to keep the lights on and moving the needle forward."
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