'State of the City' is excellent, says mayor
Pleasanton weathering bad economy well, from finances to businesses to parks
Mayor Jennifer Hosterman delivered her last "State of the City" address Wednesday, and what a way to go out.
Talking about the city's achievements over the past eight years she has held the mayor's post, her message was one that mayors in most cities would give their right arm to emulate.
The city's finances weathered the recession in good order, with millions of dollars still in reserves and at a time when both sales taxes are increasing and property tax revenue has stabilized. New businesses, including Safeway and Clorox, as well as those recently opened in Stoneridge Shopping Center and downtown Pleasanton, have added to shopper choices and job opportunities. At year's end, the unemployment rate in Pleasanton was 5.2%, well under the state's overall jobless rate of 11.1% and the country's 8.3%.
Hosterman said the 124-acre underdeveloped land at the far northeast corner of the city, called Staples Ranch, was annexed into the city, and work is now under way on its first major development, the multi-million-dollar Stoneridge Creek retirement community that will offer as many as 650 homes and apartments in a full-service housing, health and recreation center.
Despite a sluggish economy during the last few years, Hosterman said the office vacancy rate has dropped below 20% and is near zero downtown, where vacant stores dotted the landscape only three years ago. Nordstrom and the Pleasanton Hotel underwent major renovations with a number of new restaurants moving to Pleasanton. These include Handles Gastropub and others downtown, the Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang's, Buckhorn Grill and an expanded California Pizza Kitchen at the mall, and the popular Hamburger Hamlet at Gateway Center, which is part of the new Safeway complex.
Housing issues dominated much of the City Council's business in 2010-11, Hosterman said, with task forces, commission and council members spending hundreds of hours in public meetings and hearings to meet court- and state-ordered mandates to provide more housing for low-to-moderate income families, so-called workforce housing.
She recalled that once satisfied with a slow-growth strategy after the housing boom of the 1980s and early '90s, voters approved a housing cap of 29,000 housing units in 1996 with the council slowing the pace of new building permits to 350 or less per year.
Hosterman said that after Urban Habitat, an affordable housing coalition, successfully sued Pleasanton for failing to meet its fair share of needed housing, the council rescinded the housing cap and met the court's order earlier this month, rezoning 73 acres for enough high-density housing to accommodate another 3,200 residents.
Even so, she worked hard during her two terms in office to make sure public amenities continued to improve with more parks put to use. These included the restoration and opening of the Alviso Adobe Community Park on Foothill Road, renovation of both the Amador Theater on Santa Rita Road and the Veterans Memorial Building downtown and, of course, the construction and opening of the $10 million Firehouse Arts Center, also downtown.
An avid environmentalist, who co-chairs the U.S. Council of Mayors' Water Council, Hosterman also took credit for leading the adoption of a Climate Action Plan two weeks ago and, before that, the launch of a Solar Cities program to educate the public about the benefits of solar energy. Even electric vehicle charging stations were added to the environmental mix several months ago.
"Who would have thought when I was elected mayor in 2004 that one day there would electric vehicle charging stations in downtown Pleasanton and at City Hall?" she asked.
"As you can see, the work of your city continues, even in these challenging times," Hosterman said. "It has been my greatest pleasure to serve as your mayor for the past eight years. I feel confident that at the end of my term, we today have a better, stronger and more self-sufficient Pleasanton than we had in 2004."
"We have been through a lot and learned a lot together," she added. "Thank you for giving me this remarkable opportunity."
Because of term limits, Hosterman's time as mayor ends next Dec. 4 when the winner of the Nov. 6 mayoral election will be sworn in to succeed her.