City staff were given credit by all five members of the Pleasanton City Council for high ratings on the city's 2021 community survey of residents' satisfaction with city services and quality of life, following a presentation at last week's council meeting.
Presenting an array of questions about their perceptions of the city's overall quality of life, top concerns facing Pleasanton, attitudes toward city government and contact with city departments and facilities, the annual survey found "that city residents remain very satisfied with the quality of life in Pleasanton, again producing some of the highest ratings in the surrounding area."
"It has been a tough year and a half as we coped getting through COVID, with our city staff going through COVID," Mayor Karla Brown said after receiving the results on Oct. 19.
Brown praised city employees for continuing to provide services for residents during the pandemic such as online inspections for permits "or working for a library by standing outside in the parking lot giving books out," she said.
"This, and also city staff handing out meals at the Senior Center for those in need. It's been a tough year and a half, and it's really nice to see that residents appreciate all that's been done by staff," Brown added.
Councilmember Jack Balch said the high marks from residents are "a reflection of the dedication of the staff of the city of Pleasanton and the leadership team."
"You're asking what more you can do and I think that's a reflection of the survey results we're seeing, so my heartfelt appreciation today," Balch said.
Now in its 25th year, the survey was conducted by an Oakland-based consulting firm both online and by phone, from Sept. 20 to Oct. 5, and "provides baseline data for the performance of city staff both in terms of the ratings of departments and in the evaluation of the overall professionalism, courtesy and competence of city employees," according to a staff report. A total of 996 residents completed the survey, which produced results with plus-or-minus 4.0% accuracy.
Besides assessing the community's satisfaction with city services and facilities, survey results are also used by staff "to determine what facilities and services were lacking in the community and what facilities and services were of a high priority to the community in the future."
The information is also helpful to the council and staff when setting the city's annual operating budget, capital improvement program, and other long-term planning.
Councilmember Valerie Arkin said the survey will be "useful to look at this going forward, but other input's very important as well."
"I want people to understand this is one data point for us, as we use this as a tool or use as information as we make decisions," Arkin said, adding the number of respondents is "a statistically valid sample size but there's a lot of things that can affect answers."
The 21-page report lists housing costs and lack of affordable housing as the top "most serious issue facing the residents of Pleasanton" (16%) that respondents said they "would like to see the city government do something about, while crime and traffic both matched at 12%, as well as education/public schools and too much growth and development (10%).
Respondents also listed the economy and jobs (7%), not enough growth and development (6%), water quality and drinking water (6%), and homelessness (5%) as pressing issues for the city, while another 5% said they either don't think Pleasanton has any problems or listed none.
When asked, "what is the most important thing the city of Pleasanton can do to improve city services for the people who live and/or work in Pleasanton," 17% of respondents chose "accessibility/responsiveness/communication," followed by traffic and traffic safety (9%), more police patrol (8%), affordable housing costs (8%), and jobs/economy (7%).
Rounding out the top 10 responses was controlling growth and limiting building (6%), access to services online and technology upgrades (5%), better planning and development (5%), road maintenance and infrastructure (4%), and water quality (4%).
"One of the things that I take away from this as we look at new development, I think we got a pretty clear message that police and crime, parks and open space are all super important considerations to our community if we were to consider adding a new project or development in our town," Councilmember Kathy Narum said.
Narum also said the results from residents about water and sewage are "a little bit eye-opening," but that "I'm happy to see it, it kind of backs up some of the actions that we're taking with our PFAS treatment" in the city's wells.
Vice Mayor Julie Testa said "the outcomes were solid" in this year's survey, and that she felt "really good that our community has been paying attention to some issues."
"I feel good that we have been able to communicate our concerns about our water and that we are working on it," Testa said. "It reinforces the need that we have just approved in going forward to create infrastructure for better water quality."
Brown said, "We'll have to get that communication message out and make sure they're very aware that the water that's delivered is clean and safe, and they don't need to worry because we're going to make sure it's clean every time, every drip."
Testa and Arkin both said traffic results were related to the pandemic, including the increased uptick in satisfaction with parks and trails from previous years and more people agreeing with traffic being not as important.
"I think that probably is COVID-related and those responses, and that's why we saw those results," Arkin said.
Testa said, "The traffic comments are clearly reflected as resulting from the COVID lack of traffic. Certainly in the past traffic was one of the greatest concerns, and it will be again because traffic will evolve back to high levels, it's already getting there."
Both council members also gave feedback about the survey itself to the consulting firm for future consideration.
"What it did not ask was how do you feel about growth and development related to ensuring water in schools," Testa said. "I think we would've seen a very different message from a level of concern if we asked specifically about maintaining our infrastructure water in schools."
Arkin said, "It would be nice to know why somebody had no opinion" on certain items listed on the survey. "If there was a way to delve into that a little deeper, would have been good."
However, Arkin said the survey confirmed "the things that were really high and important" to residents such as preserving open space, protecting the environment, and water quality and safety, "were all things that resonated with me, and those are things that I hear for a lot of residents as well, so that was pretty obvious to me, and I'm glad to see those things are important."