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Tri-Valley mayors optimistic about growth

Each city stepping up partnership efforts with businesses and residents

Partnerships -- with businesses, with residents and with each other -- were the common themes for all five city leaders at the Tri-Valley Mayors Summit, held Wednesday at Bridges Golf Club in San Ramon.

For his part, Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne touted the city's open space, its downtown, new construction and schools, noting that Foothill and Amador Valley high schools have the highest SAT scores in the Tri-Valley.

Thorne told the crowd of about 200 people that Pleasanton's biggest challenge for the near future is keeping Pleasanton looking like Pleasanton.

"I think our challenge moving forward in Pleasanton is to maintain our small-town environment," Thorne told the crowd. To do that, he said, the city needs to partner with residents "to make our town as good as it can be."

Thorne also talked about one problem that's common to all five Tri-Valley cities of Pleasanton, San Ramon, Dublin, Danville and Livermore: traffic.

He said improvements are being made to signals that should speed traffic entering and leaving Interstate 580 at Foothill Road, and at the Interstate 680 ramp at Bernal Avenue. Additionally, he told the crowd, new HOV lanes to be completed in 2015 should help speed commuter traffic in the area.

Thorne also backed Livermore Mayor John Marchand's commitment to bring back a rewritten Measure B that would have added a half-cent to Alameda County's sales tax.

That measure failed to pass by the required two-thirds majority. Marchand told the crowd a new measure that would expire rather than run forever is likely to be on the 2014 ballot and may be the only way to pay for a BART extension into Livermore.

"I do believe in the new Measure B that eliminates the perpetuity clause," Thorne told the crowd, largely made up of civic and business leaders from across the area.

Thorne also discussed new construction, pointing out that the Gateway Center at Bernal and Valley avenues is fully leased. He added that housing and a park in that area are also moving ahead, as are other housing projects across the city, totaling nearly 2,000 new homes and apartments.

Growth was on the mind of the four mayors of other cities, too. San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti said libraries in both cities will be expanded while Marchand and Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich said sales tax revenues have bounced back to their highest levels since the recession.

In addition to an expected housing boom in Pleasanton, Sbranti said Dublin is moving into two buildings it recently bought, using one as a new police headquarters and sharing the other with the Alameda County Fire Department as a maintenance yard, along with new construction near BART.

Sbranti said a new aquatic center, with indoor and outdoor facilities will be Dublin's "crown jewel."

Marchand said Livermore has approved 600 new business licenses in this year alone.

"It's hard to think of the negative side of economic recovery," Marchand said, "but I did get an email recently from a citizen that said restaurants are too crowded."

He said unemployment there has dropped to 4.8%, that the outlets will soon begin phase two that will add between 500 and 1,000 jobs.

Clarkson said the new city hall project was just approved, with no cost to San Ramon, and said new construction at City Center is expected to begin as well.

"Next year, we'll be returning to the black and putting some money into our reserves," he said. Clarkson also said the city is working with East Bay Regional Parks to link trails and with the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District.

Arnerich said Danville can only expect to add about 30 residents a year. Instead, it's focusing its efforts on maintaining its downtown, adding small businesses and high-end housing.

"Looking in the rear-view mirror is not the best solution," Arnerich said. He said the town is working with AT&T to improve connectivity for businesses, noting that there are more software companies in the Tri-Valley than anywhere else in the country, including Silicon Valley.

Arnerich called business "a very fragile environment," and said the main challenge for Danville is asking businesses, "How can we help?"

Sbranti said in addition to working with businesses, Dublin has been working with the YMCA and Hope Hospice, along with a veterans housing project and regular engagement with Camp Parks.

Marchand said Livermore is reaching out to residents, pointing to a recent effort to clean up school campuses that drew 4,000 people.

Each of the mayors was asked to provide a tidbit of personal information.

Thorne revealed he was a drum major in college; Sbranti and his wife are expecting a baby girl in April; Arnerich met his wife the first day of kindergarten and just celebrated their 40th anniversary, Marchand recently played a mayor in Carmen and Clarkson ran and completed a number of triathlons, including the Iron Man in Hawaii as well as the Escape from Alcatraz swim.

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