Pleasanton's economy: A very good year for City of Planned Progress

"Pleasanton continues to be well-positioned to sustain and grow its economic base," outgoing finance director says

Wrapping up her work as Pleasanton's finance director for the last 4-1/2 years, Emily Wagner has given an upbeat assessment of the municipal government's last fiscal year and an even more optimistic report on the year ahead.

The accomplishments are byproducts of fiscal and economic policies executed by City Manager Nelson Fialho and his executive team, with the support of past and present mayors and city councils.

Wagner's report, presented at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, shows that the city's General Fund revenue climbed to $96.5 million last year, an all-time high, and could top $100 million this fiscal year.

"Some 84% of our revenue comes from property and sales taxes," Wagner said, "so I watch those revenues very closely."

Property taxes, which represent about 53% of the city's revenue, reached $50 million last year and are expected to climb another million dollars or so by July 1, which also will set a new record.

Sales taxes, which suffered the most in the recent recession, are also bouncing back to an estimated $21.7 million.

Across the board, Pleasanton is experiencing significant growth, with a population now at 72,230 and average median household income at $123,509. Those compare to a population of 84,852 in Livermore, where the average median income is $103,351, and Walnut Creek, with a population of 66,900 and an average median household income of $88,257.

"When I came to work in Pleasanton in 1977, we had about $5 million in total annual revenue, compared to the near $100 million today," Wagner said. "As you can see, we've changed dramatically over the years."

Careful planning through the city's General Plan is largely credited for this by ensuring various land-uses can sustain long-term basic services to the community, such as public safety, parks and streets maintenance, and library services.

Along with tax revenue, residential and commercial growth have added to the city's assessed valuation. It stands at $18.7 billion today, compared to Livermore's $14.2 billion and Walnut Creek's $12.2 billion. In fact, Pleasanton's assessed valuation is now the third highest in Alameda County, behind the much larger cities of Oakland and Fremont.

"Pleasanton's continued success is its location, our quality of life, and a diverse commercial and residential land base," Wagner said. "Financially as a city, we are in a very enviable position."

The city also has a solid reputation for being politically stable with a strong management orientation.

The diverse land base, with one-third commercial and two-thirds residential, makes the city less impacted by any sudden downturn in one particular sector of the economy -- again thanks to the proper forethought of the city's General Plan.

"We have a great location, compared say, to the city of Martinez that's in a location which depends on often-gridlocked Highway 4," she said. "Pleasanton has great access to the Silicon Valley, we have BART to San Francisco and we aren't all that far from Sacramento."

Pleasanton is also an employment center with 53,000 coming to jobs here every day. Robust economic initiatives that continue to attract growing companies such as Workday, Clorox, and Roche Molecular have contributed to this success.

Calling Pleasanton "the Orange County of Northern California," Wagner attributed the city's strong finances to a "very conservative" and stable City Council, city management and the fact Pleasanton has had only five directly elected mayors over the past 32 years.

In 2014, Pleasanton had one of the highest median household incomes in the U.S. among cities from 65,000 to 249,999 population, resulting in high-end residential investments that have new appraisals and higher property taxes.

Although Livermore picked up several million dollars in additional sales tax with the opening of the outlet mall, Pleasanton stands to gain lucrative sales tax dollars from increased automobile sales this year. Stoneridge Chrysler-Jeep, moving here from Dublin, will open this summer on Staples Ranch in a new auto mall that will include CarMax and possibly a third company.

Also boosting their Pleasanton sales appeals are Mercedes (which replaced its older showroom building along I-580 with a 72,000-square-foot showroom and service facility), Lexus with its new 83,000-square-foot expansion, and renovations underway at the Mini and BMW dealerships.

An Asian-focused retail center on Staples also will increase sales tax revenue. Retail stores in the Stoneridge Shopping Center, as a group, contribute the largest percentage of sales tax revenue to the city, along with Walmart and the Macy's Furniture store in Rosewood Pavilion. Also in 2014, most of the retail space was leased in Gateway Center, where the new Safeway Lifestyle supermarket opened two years ago, adding more sales tax revenue.

With an inventory of more than 2 million square feet of retail space, vacancy is extremely low at approximately 8% and lease rates have jumped by more than 20%. The current retail vacancy rate in downtown Pleasanton is around 5% with only a few Main Street locations available.

Also on the rise is Pleasanton's hotel occupancy tax. Many hotels are now sold out during the week, an indication that corporate business has rebounded. The 292-room Hilton Hotel at the I-580/I-680 interchange was re-branded as a DoubleTree hotel this year and underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. The hotel owner is exploring options for expansion.

Pleasanton also received several accolades in late 2014: 24/7 Wall Street ranked the city fourth on its list of America's 50 Best Cities to Live, and Money Magazine ranked Pleasanton 31st on its 2014 Best Places to Live and ninth on its Top Earning Towns.

"With such a breadth of activity across all sectors, Pleasanton continues to be well-positioned to sustain and grow its economic base," Wagner said.

Wagner's successor, Tina Olson, formerly the director of finance and administration for the city of Pittsburg, assumed the duties of director of finance in Pleasanton last Monday. She joins an organization led by Fialho that will continue to implement city's strong financial and economic initiatives into the future.

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Like this comment
Posted by bdg
a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Feb 5, 2015 at 7:28 pm

"Some 84% of our revenue comes from property and sales taxes," Is that a good thing?

Like this comment
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Feb 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

With all that money, why don't you give your people that work at the theater and in the arts a raise??

Like this comment
Posted by lll
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 6, 2015 at 10:40 am

While income is up, employee expenses and liabilities are up even more. I was at the talk of Wagner when she said our reports do show the unfunded liabilities of pension but not employee medical and if it were to show unfunded employee medical, we would have a negative balance sheet (i.e., the liabilities are greater then the assets of the city).

Shouldn't have been surprised in the article but Wagner did talk about some of the challenges and problems in finance but that was not reported in this article; completely one-sided article.

Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 6, 2015 at 11:17 am

The article only seems to talk about revenue but what about our expenses? Are the expenses in line with revenue? Going up down? What are the projections.

Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

Just saw the answer in the weekly. It says we took in 97.1 million in revenue and spent 97.1 million

Like this comment
Posted by lll
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Yup, we spent all the income and the unpaid pension and retiree medical liability continues to go up.

4 people like this
Posted by Sal
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 6, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Calling Pleasanton "the Orange County of Northern California," Wagner attributed the city's strong finances to a "very conservative" and stable City Council...

Where do I even start? Wagner talks as if Orange County is the standard of excellence. You mean the same Orange County that doesn't have one Fortune 500 company, miles of soulless stucco homes and strip malls, and the most vapid materialism know to mankind? That sounds so superior to the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Those “very conservative” masterminds in Orange County used their infinite conservative wisdom to bankrupt their county in 1994 (“fiscal conservatism” at work). If only Pleasanton and Alameda County could be so lucky! When I hear people like Wagner, I wonder if she even wants Pleasanton to be part of the Bay Area. I see this attitude a lot around here. Nevermind that the Bay Area is one of the cultural and technological centers in the world, lets strive to be the next Plano, TX or Tustin, CA. Aim high Pleasanton, aim high.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr Ptown
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 7, 2015 at 1:51 pm


Why in the world would anyone want to be Oakland, Hayward, union City, Fremont, milo it's or San Jose for that matter. Pleasanton is a wonderful town and should stay as independent of those other cities as possible. There is a reason why people move to Pleaaanton from those cities and not from Pleasanton.

On the other issue Orange County is flourishing and has Disneyland and their own desalination plant. Plano Texas is wonderful city and was voted by CNN as the number city to live in 2006,2007, and 2011. It is also headquarters to many major corporations, including Toyota which just abandoned California.

2 people like this
Posted by lll
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 7, 2015 at 2:41 pm

And if the council and developers have their way, Pleasanton will look like Orange County.

2 people like this
Posted by caywen
a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 12, 2015 at 2:36 pm

caywen is a registered user.

Pleasanton rocks. If you're looking for great schools, reasonable commute, and houses prices that haven't quite yet hit total crazy, this is one of the last places left on the map. And what a find it turns out to be, because it's a beautiful, clean town.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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