"We accomplished plenty in 2019, and there is still much work to be done in the last nine months of my tenure as your mayor," said Thorne, who is in his last year in office due to term limits.
"This may be my final State of the City address and these my final months as mayor, but there will always be work to do to retain the special character of this great city," he told the nearly 300 government leaders, business professionals and other residents at the State of the City event. "Every contribution is valuable as we all collaborate to build a Pleasanton community that openly reflects the breadth of our residents and businesses."
==B Local economy
Another strong economic year propelled Pleasanton to success in 2019, Thorne said during the sold-out luncheon event sponsored by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce in a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel ballroom on Feb. 25.
"The state of your city is very strong, and also the state of your economy is very, very strong," the mayor told the audience.
Thorne commended the city government's fiscal situation as sound and well-managed, saying general fund revenues are projected to reach $127 million this year compared to $121 million in estimated expenditures.
"Not only is our budget balanced, but we've also sharpened our pencils to meet our financial obligations and set aside money for a rainy day," he said.
Short- and long-term fiscal sustainability remain a priority for the city administration.
Over the past year, officials increased the city's general fund operating reserves from 20% up to 25% -- all while preparing a 10-year infrastructure and facilities replacement plan and supporting its new pension trust fund to address long-range costs related to retired city employees.
"The city is focused on the future to ensure our commitments are fulfilled and community service levels are sustained well into the future," Thorne said.
The city government's positive fiscal situation has been buoyed by "robust economic vitality" in the private sector across Pleasanton, according to the mayor.
Overall, Pleasanton has maintained a healthy 8% office vacancy rate, a data point demonstrating employment stability in town, he said.
He also called out several corporate highlights from 2019, starting with the grand-opening last May of the new Workday headquarters campus on Stoneridge Mall Road.
"This new LEED platinum building houses 2,200 of its 4,600 employees, affording many of them the ability to work and live in Pleasanton or use BART," he said. "You can step right out of the BART station and onto Workday property, which I think is really neat."
Thorne pointed to Pleasanton's growing life sciences industry as well.
"Last year we helped to host the second annual Tri-Valley Life Sciences Summit to continue to support the game-changing biotech and medical device industry that we are building right here in Pleasanton," the mayor said.
==B Living in Pleasanton
"While Pleasanton means home to us, others also acknowledge this special place that we've built," Thorne said when praising Pleasanton as a great place to live, work and play.
He called out Pleasanton being ranked highly last year by Money Inc. among the 20 best places to live in Northern California as well as Wallethub naming Pleasanton as the second-best small city in the state.
Effective leadership at the local governmental level is one main reason Pleasanton has achieved these honors and others, Thorne said. He pointed to support from his fellow City Council members, city commissioners and city employees, as well as the city's cooperative relationship with the Pleasanton Unified School District to accomplish shared goals -- and he teased more city-PUSD collaborative projects will be on their way soon.
"There really is no place like Pleasanton, and many of us are fortunate to call this place home," Thorne said, adding: "But we know that housing in Pleasanton and in the surrounding Tri-Valley cities is certainly not getting any less expensive."
Pleasanton remains committed to doing its part locally to be part of the solution to the affordable housing availability problem that persists statewide, according to Thorne.
He cited two examples of city-supported projects that reached milestones in 2019: Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch, with 31 apartment units for adults with special needs that broke ground in May; and the second phase of Kottinger Gardens senior housing, which became fully leased last summer.
But the City Council is also keeping a close eye on proposed housing solutions coming out of Sacramento, to ensure those proposals align with Pleasanton priorities, as well as Tri-Valley regional priorities.
At the forefront is maintaining local control in the face of many "one-size-fits-all" ideas being introduced in the State Legislature to impel housing development.
"I've used this analogy many times before. It's like the government goes out and does a survey: 'What shoe size does everybody where?' And he comes back and says, 'Well, the average shoe size is an 8-1/2, so everybody's got to wear a size 8-1/2 shoe," Thorne said, adding:
"Well, Pleasanton is not San Francisco, it's not Oakland and it's not San Jose. And we don't want to look like those, so we have to stay on top of this legislation that's coming down from Sacramento."
The mayor specifically spotlighted the recent defeat of Senate Bill 50, a proposal by San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener to spur rapid housing development by relaxing standards for many residential projects and overriding local zoning regulations near transit stations and jobs-rich areas.
Pleasanton leaders advocated against SB 50, opposing provisions such as allowing higher-density developments near the ACE Train station in downtown and granting the right for any vacant residential lot or existing home to be converted into multi-unit housing (up to a four-plex).
"Senator (Steve) Glazer was one of those No votes, and he stood up for his constituents and went against his party's recommendation, which I really think took a lot of guts and courage, particularly when he's up for re-election," Thorne said. "We are being heard, and we have some good people representing us."
"By far the debate is not over," the mayor added. "But at least we will continue to be at the table engaging in substantive dialogue on housing solutions appropriate and balanced for Pleasanton."
As part of the housing conversation, the city is also focusing on support for people experiencing homelessness locally -- which despite perception is in fact a reality in Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley, according to Thorne.
"By the way, there is a myth, I think, rampant out there that the people that are homeless here in Pleasanton come from some place else. No, a majority of them are our residents," the mayor said. The city has worked to partner with Tri-Valley public agencies and nonprofits to help homeless residents.
"Our police department has also created a 'Homeless Outreach Team' dedicated to working alongside with other city departments to help connect our homeless people with city departments and needed services and shelters," he added.
==B City programs
Supporting the Pleasanton Police Department's "community policing" approach to public safety remains a top priority for council members.
That includes familiar programs like Coffee with a Cop, National Night Out and one-on-one meetings with residents and businesses, but also new efforts to increase visibility on the north end of town -- namely partnering with BART to open the new joint police services center last year in the parking garage at the West Dublin-Pleasanton station and across from Stoneridge Shopping Center.
Thorne also highlighted Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department enhancements such as the new ladder-tiller truck stationed at Fire Station No. 3 on Santa Rita Road.
"Pleasanton was ranked by Safewise as the 10th-safest city in California and it's among the top 30 safest cities in the entire nation. And that is something we all need to be very 'Pleasanton Proud' of," the mayor said. "This would not be possible without the dedicated police and fire departments."
Another key project completed by the city in 2019 was adopting the new Downtown Specific Plan.
"The updated plan will serve as a long-range framework to guide future development and preserve the city's downtown historic district, while also encouraging continued commercial advancement," Thorne said.
Among the most popular destinations downtown is the Pleasanton Public Library, which the mayor praised for its new "Pop-Up" events that started last fall to bring library programming to other locations in town to increase access.
"Additionally, in following library policy trends nationally, and to further grow our connection with the community, the city has eliminated daily overdue library fines to remove barriers to information access and eliminate penalizing patrons for overdue materials," Thorne added.
On parks improvements, the mayor mentioned the new multi-generational swings at Hansen Park, renovations of the big slide at Mission Hills Parks and plans to develop the city's first all-abilities playground.
Creating a positive community for youth was also the motivation behind the council's decision last month to support a full ban on sales of flavored tobacco, electronic smoking devices and related vaping paraphernalia in Pleasanton -- a new policy driven significantly by the efforts of student advocates and the city's Youth Commission, according to Thorne.
"With the participation of our city's youth, we benefit by better decision-making when it comes to policies impacting youth and we are helping shape future leaders of this community and this country."
==B Things to come
Looking ahead to the rest of 2020, his final year in the mayor's seat, Thorne said he is happy that the council recently reapproved the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone, "which means projects like the hotels, Costco, and area transportation improvements can now move forward."
He is also anticipating the council will discuss comprehensive plans proposed for the redevelopment of the Stoneridge Shopping Center site, updates to the city's Climate Action Plan and taking a closer look at the East Pleasanton area.
Thorne said he is hopeful to see the proposed Valley Link project -- a commuter light-rail system to connect commuters from Livermore and the San Joaquin Valley to the eastern Dublin-Pleasanton BART Station -- continue to gain momentum despite some initial funding setbacks in 2019.
"And before my term as mayor is over, I will have done my part to make the widening of Highway 84 from Pigeon Pass to I-680 a reality," the mayor added.
The highway project, managed by the Alameda County Transportation Commission, is on track to see final designs approved in the next month or so, with right-of-way contracts to be signed by April and heavy construction to begin in spring 2021, according to Thorne.
"I am holding to the plans for a fall groundbreaking (in 2020)," he said, hoping that event will put a symbolic bow on his mayoral tenure in the weeks before he terms out in December, since Highway 84 expansion has been a top priority for him.
Winding down his more than 25 years of service to the city government, including the Parks and Recreation Commission, the City Council and now in his eighth year as mayor, Thorne ended his State of the City address with a call to fellow residents to get involved with community service.
"It has truly been an honor to serve a community with such tremendous character -- one with 125 years of rich history and one comprised of residents and businesses and business people like all of you who are committed to making Pleasanton the very best city in which to live, work and play," he said.
"Now as I stand before you in my last nine months as mayor, I ask each of you to find your passion, find your cause, find whatever motivates you to get engaged in the community," Thorne added. "My hope is to be sitting where you are today, eager to hear your journey and how you made a difference in the city of Pleasanton. There's no other place like it."
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