The five mayors of the Tri-Valley came together Thursday for their annual Mayors' Summit where they discussed individual and collaborative projects going on within the region as well as their visions for the future.
Hosted by the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce, the summit was held in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
More than 300 guests representing all five communities filled the amphitheater lawn at Wente Vineyards to hear the mayors speak, including other city officials and staff, county officials, chamber representatives, business leaders, law enforcement officials and residents.
The event was the first for the five current mayors together as Livermore's Bob Woerner, Dublin's Melissa Hernandez and Pleasanton's Karla Brown are all new to the role, having been elected in 2020, while San Ramon's Dave Hudson and Danville's Renee Morgan have served as mayors for their respective communities in previous years.
The conversation -- moderated by KQED's Guy Marzorati -- covered various topics, including pandemic recovery, housing, employment and redistricting, among other issues.
Morgan was the first to answer one of the leading questions about the economic impact of the pandemic. In her response, she highlighted the fact that the shift to conducting business and town meetings virtually pushed Danville "into the future."
"With Zoom, I was able to be more productive, attending so many meetings online with less miles traveled on the road, less greenhouse gas emissions and so many other things," Morgan said.
She also said that overall, the town saw an uptick in the community's civic engagement, and that as a result, the town plans to shift their meetings to a hybrid model of in person and virtual beyond the pandemic.
In response to the same question, Hernandez highlighted that Dublin is in "great financial shape" as a city, which she attributed to "so many years of being fiscally conservative" as well as having "great leadership" on the councils of the past and present.
The mayors also addressed the initiatives they launched to help businesses recover in their respective communities and the region as a whole, including their work with Visit Tri-Valley to encourage shopping small and local across all five communities.
"I'll speak for all five cities; we are here, we're easy to get a hold of," Brown said, addressing the business owners and residents in the audience. "If you're struggling, call us and we're here to help."
Hudson echoed Brown's comments, also noting that he is most proud of San Ramon's improved Meals on Wheels program that has helped support seniors throughout the pandemic. "We went from a Meals on Wheels program that was virtually non-existent to providing 43,000 meals to seniors," he said.
"When we talk about your job as a leader, it isn't just for the people that have, it's the people that have not. And I think we did a tremendous job on that," Hudson added.
Woerner's response spoke to the resilience of Livermore's business community. "In downtown, we lost 11 businesses but gained 13, we lost a certain number of jobs but gained more," Woerner said, adding that sales tax has also recovered after taking a substantial hit earlier in the pandemic.
Woerner said that housing would be the area where the city will see the most changes, with prices increasing, particularly as suburban areas with more open space and larger homes have become more attractive to families who have transitioned to working from home.
"Prices have gone up in Livermore, now the average is over $1 million and that's a 25% increase," Woerner said. He also noted that the ongoing housing crisis has prompted more emphasis on affordable housing.
When asked about their collaborative efforts as a region, all five mayors agreed that the Valley Link commuter light rail system is a priority to move forward.
"The five of us came together and said the priority is Valley Link, and we're going back to Washington D.C. to get money," Hudson said, adding improvements to Interstate 680 as another example.
Valley Link proposes to add seven new passenger light rail service stations along a 42-mile corridor between the eastern Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station and the planned Altamont Corridor Express North Lathrop Station. Once in service, Valley Link would provide 74 daily round trips and is expected to carry more than 33,000 daily riders by 2040.
"Valley Link has to get going; it can't be on the backburner. It has to be the priority in this decade," Hudson said, followed by applause.
The collaboration between the five communities came up again during a discussion about redistricting, a once-in-a-decade process in which local, state and federal governments use new data from the 2020 census to redraw their district lines to reflect how local populations have changed.
"We are stronger in numbers, we're stronger when we're together," Morgan said. "Our greatest gift is the partnership that we share as Alameda County and Contra Costa County."
In reference to recent draft maps from the California Citizens Redistricting Commission that indicate parts of the Tri-Valley could be divided into different districts, Morgan said that she does not want the region to be separated.
"I would hate to see all of us as a collaborative group -- from the Tri-Valley mayors and the Tri-Valley region -- to be split apart and not have this partnership," she said.
Hudson, Woerner, Brown and Hernandez all echoed similar sentiments, expressing a desire to keep the Tri-Valley together.
The mayors closed out the approximately hour-long conversation with a discussion looking ahead to their long-term visions, including the Innovation Tri-Valley 2040 Vision Plan, which is a proposed plan for expanding and accelerating economic growth in the region.
While there is no formal action on the vision plan yet, Hudson cited climate change as one of the key areas of focus for the region. He also said that he wants to hold a retreat in San Ramon dedicated to reimagining the community.
Woerner mentioned Livermore's ongoing General Plan update process, Morgan reiterated Danville's efforts to prioritize more virtual and digital options to engage the community and Hernandez highlighted reinvesting in Dublin's existing facilities and infrastructure and moving in the direction of becoming more green.
Brown spoke of expanding broadband throughout the city of Pleasanton to improve telecommunications and continuing to support the collaboration with the city's hospitals, Sutter Health and Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare. She cited the thousands of COVID-19 vaccinations that were distributed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds as a successful example of the partnership.