News


COMMENTARY: 2011 was quite a year for Pleasanton

As cities go in this financially-pressed state of California, Pleasanton had a very good 2011.

The office vacancy rate that stood at 28.2% just a year ago has gradually come down to 9.8% today. Downtown Pleasanton is even better with a less than 5% vacancy rate.

Jobs are back, too, with several hundred new jobs added at the new, multi-million-dollar Safeway Lifestyle store complex on Bernal at Valley, with more to come as two new restaurants and more retailers open for business. Union Bank already has opened and Wells Fargo Bank's new two story center is framed out at the Bernal Avenue entrance with its opening scheduled for early spring.

Over on Staples Ranch at the city's eastern edge, large construction projects also in the multi-million-dollar range are under way. Ground was broken a few months ago on the Stoneridge Creek retirement community, and work now is also under way on new community parks nearby. Crews just paved part of the new extension of Stoneridge Drive which, when completed, will connect to El Charro Road and Jack London Boulevard in Livermore.

Work is continuing, too, on the new Clorox research and office center off Hopyard Road and Johnson Drive, which 1,100 employees will call home in the coming months. That will add much needed zest to neighboring restaurants and retail shops along Hopyard.

A bit of financial relief has also come to Hacienda Business Park, where Robert Half recently moved most of its operations to San Ramon. Pacific Office Automation has announced that it will lease nearly 20,000 square feet of office space in the Britannia Business Center on Stoneridge Drive.

As the recession winds down, there's also good news for the city government. Because of judicious financial planning when times were good, the city built its "rainy day" reserves to handle fiscal emergencies. It instituted a job and wage freeze, now two years old, and trimmed expenditures that could wait, such as vehicle replacement and capital improvements.

The result is that Pleasanton ends the year with no layoffs or reduction in services, and no need to draw down its reserves. Other cities in the state, including neighboring Dublin and Livermore, had much rougher going, with Livermore forced to close a library and fire station, although both have since re-opened.

Stability on the political scene helped, too, with the same members of the City Council and the mayor in place for the past four years. They're now the "elders" of the Tri-Valley with Dublin having more recently-elected council members and Livermore changing mayors just last month. That will change next November when both Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and council members Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan are termed out after eight years at their posts.

This stability helped the council move through the year in lock-step where it mattered. They worked together to resolve onerous legal issues imposed by the state and Alameda Superior Court after the city's 1996 housing cap was declared illegal.

After hundreds of hours of community meetings and public hearings, the city has finalized a rezoning plan to satisfy its critics. The five on the council also agreed to defend the city from legal suits by developers who wanted to build homes on Pleasanton's eastern hills, even though four had initially favored the Oak Grove development, and they came together to put the rules in place for a Climate Action Plan, also ordered by state authorities.

This was also the year for pension reform, or at least the first efforts to reduce the city's unfunded pension obligations. In addition to cutting $20 million in city expenses since 2008, the council voted to reduce its pension liabilities by 10% and trim personnel expenses as a percentage of the operating budget to 70% from its current 78%.

City Manager Nelson Fialho set the pace for individual commitments to pension reform by voluntarily deducting 8% from his paychecks to go for pension and health care benefits. Other managers followed, agreeing to have 4% of their salaries deducted for pension/health care, with their contribution rising to 8% next July.

Members of the city employees' union also agreed to start contributing 2%, effective last September, which will go to 3% next month and then to 4% July 1. Contracts now being negotiated with the police union and firefighters' union may include much of the same pension contribution reforms.

With sales tax revenue inching up ever so slightly as 2011 comes to an end and property tax revenue holding, the year earns a qualified thumbs up. Nowhere near the robust years of 2007 and before, the year is ending on an upward trend that should make 2012 even better.

Pleasanton Weekly staff.

Comments

Posted by Tennessee Jed, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jan 1, 2012 at 6:18 am

These miniscule contributions are laughable! I spent 30 years in retirement system where my employer matched up to 10% per month, as long as I made an in-kind contribution... that was just the retirement portion. Then we can talk about the healthcare contribution that I also had to make, which was about 15% of my take-home pay after taxes. So for these politicians to gloat about such a wonderful job they've done, is laughable. I for one would like to see real numbers involved here, not these little things they call a grand effort. We need new blood.


Posted by GX, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 9:00 am

Pleasanton Weekly - please help me understand why you give the City accolades to the city for paying down our $120/180M unfunded pension liability by a paltry $1m (a liability that was ZERO before the irresponsible set of contracts were voted in) AND YET PLEASANTON'S UNFUNDED LIABILITY INCREASED BY $16M THIS YEAR???!!! $16 MILLION - A 13% INCREASE!!

This is the city's own data - CONTACT THE CITY TO CONFIRM!. If we were forced to include it in this year's budget, you would have a much more negative view of Pleasanton's finances.

Why does it take concerned citizens to uncover these obvious facts? Why aren't you doing your job as the comunity's news source and doing proper investigation of this?

Why are you allowing city management to continue this slight of hand? The longer this goes on, the poorer future citizens and employees will be.

You owe your constituents more than this.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 1, 2012 at 9:41 am

Stacey is a registered user.

GX,

It's the disconnect between your expectations of what the PW should be and what they actually strive to be. The PW purports to be "community journalism", which is rather distant from the investigative style you're looking for. And since the larger newspapers have been consolidating, it has become more difficult to find that kind of investigative journalism for local. That's why the so-called hyperlocal blogosphere gets an audience.


Posted by GX, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

Stacey - I appreciate your point.

My frustration with PW is that they will weigh in periodically to provide these positive updates on city finances given citizens a false sense of security. In the meantime, overall city finances are eroding at a faster clip.

This incomplete/inconsisent news coverages provides cover for city management/council to push off the necessary significant pension reform that is required.

Net not much has changed and the unfunded liability problem is getting worse, not better.


Posted by Another point, a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 1, 2012 at 9:56 am

Stacey,
The PW's approach to "Community Journalism" as you stated is by censoring as many "conservative" posts as possible...to allow as much leftist journalism as possible.

I for one have posted many factual articles critical of Obama and the Democrat Congressmen only to have the PW delete them.


Posted by observer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

The weekly is really an extension of the City, School District, and the chamber of developers PR department. It is a shame that many readers believe it is a full investigative newspaper. I appreciate the daily paper in the area, Tri-Valley Times, for their investigative reporting and that is why I pay to get that newspaper. I will financially support balanced, real journalism. I demand from a newspaper that they do balanced journalism; without that they are just the weekly gossip, and no different than those tabloids at the checkout counter of the grocery store.

Like GX I am concerned that the liability of the city is increasing at a real fast pace and then the weekly reports everything is great. No different that the school district. They have debt that the weekly never reports on or overcrowding schools as defined by the demographers, but instead report that all is great. The false sense of security.


Posted by Missing date ?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Did I miss WHEN the Stoneridge extension would be connecting to El Charro ? Or was that just much to do about nothing ?


Posted by dublinmike, a resident of Dublin
on Jan 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm

dublinmike is a registered user.

To all of you, the PW is a media that features, in its opinion, local newsworthy stories. It survives by advertising paid by, mostly, local businesses. It's not the National Review, Mother Jones magazine, Weekly Standard, Hoover Institute, Politics Daily, et al.

I like to present two options. #1 Stop reading the online forums if they are extremely upsetting to you. #2 Start up your own online news forum.

So, for those of you that have provided some thoughtful notes, thanks. Even if I don't agree, at least you put some thought into it.

Bless our country. Cheers.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I'm just glad that the PW isn't the kind of community journalism paper that publishes lists of who held a dinner party and who attended. I kid you not, such publications have existed.


Posted by Missing date ?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 1, 2012 at 11:15 pm

GX, the problem was that the overly-generous city was paying way too much toward the 'EMPLOYEE' shares of their contributions. Otherwise, our employer contributions could have been greater at the time....we shouldn't have to drain our funds this year.


Posted by observer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 2, 2012 at 11:22 am

To "Missing Date ?", that is not correct. While part of the problem is the taxpayers/City paying the complete employee share, most of the financial mess is because of lowering the age of retirement, and greatly increasing the retirement payouts, and a retirement system that does its actuarial based on an assumed very high rate of return on their investments with the taxpayer taking 100% of the risk should their returns not meet it. Then you add a retiree medical system that is 100% paid for by the taxpayers/City, with no caps. This all creates a train wreck.


Posted by Sandy, a resident of Valley Trails
on Jan 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm

"I'm just glad that the PW isn't the kind of community journalism paper that publishes lists of who held a dinner party and who attended."

Me, too. I'm thankful that the rich are kept out of the news. Out of sight, out of mind. Or, as my rich uncle used to say, you don't want to be seen counting your money in front of the masses, cuz that might make the poor suckers resentful and ornery. Better that a newspaper concentrate on the outrageous salaries/pensions of 2nd grade public school teachers.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Parkside
on Jan 2, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Sandy, resentful or ornery? Is that what you really think? You're a dem,right? I say that because you never. Insider that the not so rich would want to emulate the rich instead of drag them down to your level.......your faith in your fellow man is pretty pathetic.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Parkside
on Jan 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Damn auto correct.......let's try this again:

Posted by Steve, a resident of the Parkside neighborhood, 0 minutes ago

Sandy, resentful or ornery? Is that what you really think? You're a dem,right? I say that because you never consider that the not so rich would want to emulate the rich instead of drag them down to your level.......your faith in your fellow man is pretty pathetic.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Jane can't wait to read about who is holding a dinner party and who the guests are. There ya go, PW, you got a reader willing to pay for that kind of middlebrow news. LOL!


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Jan 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm

OCCUPY DINNER PARTIES, OCCUPY LISTS...


Posted by sandy, a resident of Valley Trails
on Jan 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm

There's the little girl who posts every salary and pension of every public school teacher in the district, but then, like a good little trained pony, she chortles when someone wants reportage of extravagant displays of wealth among the elite rich. Middlebrow news she calls it; kind of like Romney being a member of the middle class. One wonders from whence such ideational warpage.


Posted by hypocrits, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2012 at 9:16 pm

--applause-- for sandy


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 3, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Congratulations, Jane. Someone believes your lies. Now if only there were such a post of salaries and pensions of every public school teacher in the district to be found on this site, you'd be all set.


Posted by hypocrits, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Oh she's telling the truth- the link was posted and blasted for all to criticize this past school year. You remember, you were in on it.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 3, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Web Link


Posted by FnSuite, a resident of Val Vista
on Jan 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm

here's the math - base comp $120K w/OT $225K side job $50K add a pension kicker - PRICELESS


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