Published February 19, 2013
Volume 21, Number 2

Following a Strong Showing in 2012, Pleasanton is Poised to Continue as a Center of Economic Vitality    

Pamela Ott, above, is the City of Pleasanton’s Economic Development Director.

Economic development is an important barometer of community health. It provides insight into the strength of existing businesses, the confidence of investors and entrepreneurs, the hopes for future employment growth, and a host of other interrelated facets of the regional economy. In surveying the economic development scene in both Hacienda and Pleasanton, the signs are good. Despite the challenging conditions of recent years, the economy is on the rise.

That is the prognosis offered by Pamela Ott, Pleasanton’s Economic Development Director. “While we know it may still take time for some businesses to fully recover from the recent recession, there are certainly signs that economic recovery is underway.”

Commercial Activity
“Pleasanton’s recent economic development activity has been positive for the residents and businesses that call our community home,” says Mayor Jerry Thorne. “We have seen companies locating and expanding in our business parks leading to a decrease in vacancy rates, while we’re also seeing increased retail sales indicating consumers are feeling more confident about the economy.”

Citywide, the commercial market continues to strengthen as Class A office vacancy rates have decreased from 16% to 13% over the past year, with much of this growth taking place in Hacienda. Continuing a positive trend that began in 2011, the park saw increases in leasing through all four quarters. Contributing to this progression was a lease of 35,000 square feet at the California Center by Gap Inc., as the company prepares to relocate its IT function from San Francisco. Other significant moves included ServiceMax Inc. signing for almost 17,500 square feet in Hacienda West, Gregg Jeffries Sports Academy taking more than 12,000 square feet in Bernal Corporate Park, and Club One occupying almost 17,000 square feet. The park has also seen construction activity as Mercedes-Benz of Pleasanton, a long-time Hacienda presence, has embarked on the building of a new, 112,000 square foot facility due to be completed this June.

Along with this activity, a handful of additional projects exemplified Pleasanton’s ideal environment for headquarters and regional operations. The Clorox Company is nearing the end of its renovation and expansion to its now 400,000 square foot campus on Johnson Drive. Tenant improvements to existing buildings and the addition of a new R & D building are making this a state-of-the-art center that reflects the corporation’s commitment to sustainability, as well as an anchor of the Pleasanton business community.  Employees from the existing Clorox Tech Center were joined at the new facility by employees relocating from Oakland, bringing Pleasanton-based Clorox workers to more than 1,000 strong.

Joining Clorox in retaining a long-term presence in the community was web-based software powerhouse Workday. Already located in almost 200,000 square feet near Stoneridge Shopping Center, the company’s success has led to rapid growth and the need for more space that will now be resolved as it expands into Stoneridge Corporate Plaza, a 5-building, 559,820 square foot, Class A office complex near the West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station. Workday currently employs 1,000 people in Pleasanton, with that number anticipated to reach 4,000 over the coming years. 

There is a similar positive trend for retail as citywide vacancy rates in that sector continue to drop, dipping below 9% at the end of 2012 for the city’s inventory of 2.1 million square feet. The big story is the success of new retail space in the Tri-Valley, and the Pleasanton Gateway shopping center highlighted that demand by commanding some of the highest rents seen in the region. The center was fully leased within a year of its October, 2011 opening and is already adding to its footprint with a Safeway fuel station, as well as drive-through Starbucks and CVS locations.

Even with a few businesses opening and closing over the past year, downtown Pleasanton remains a sought-after destination for retailers, restaurants, and small professional firms. With a vacancy rate of about 5.5% for more than 402,000 square feet of retail space, the downtown’s place as the social and cultural heart of the community keeps the district in a fortunate position. Such positive indicators are the result of investment by the City as well as property owners. “As just two examples, consider the renovation of the building at 234 Main Street that houses a retail store and is soon to welcome a new restaurant – Mangia Mi – later this spring,” says Ott. “And a block north on Main Street, the outdoor patio at Stacey’s Café is being renovated to provide an enhanced outdoor dining experience for those who want to take advantage of Pleasanton’s mild climate and be part of the local scene.”

To encourage hospitality in the downtown district, late last year the City wrapped up a 14-month process to develop Downtown Hospitality Guidelines that would help create an inviting environment for hospitality that balances both commercial and residential interests. A task force reviewed a range of issues related to ongoing activities, special events, and encouraging more nightlife, and the resulting Guidelines were formally adopted by the City Council and are now being implemented by City staff with the support of the Pleasanton Downtown Association.

Residential Activity
The landscape for residential housing has also changed over the past two years. More than 100 acres have been rezoned to allow for new residential and mixed-use developments that will add to the city’s stock of workforce housing. A key sustainability consideration in the location of these projects has been an emphasis on transit-oriented development (TOD) and improving the physical and functional relationships between local jobs, housing and transit.

New Hacienda projects will provide close to 500 apartments plus retail space across from the East Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, 205 multifamily units, with about 7,500 square feet of neighborhood retail on the California Center campus, and 168 multifamily units on the property at West Las Positas Boulevard and Stoneridge Drive. Elsewhere in Pleasanton, projects have been proposed for the property on the southeast corner of Valley/Stanley/Bernal Avenues (345 multifamily units, with 38,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space) and on land behind the Pleasanton Gateway shopping center (210 multifamily units and 88 single family units). “These developments provide new workforce housing to the Pleasanton community, and those new residents are sure to patronize local companies and add to the strength of the economy,” adds Ott.

Pleasanton’s economic development overseer is also impressed with the fast progress being made on a new senior continuum of care facility at Staples Ranch, a development from Continuing Life Communities. “I would imagine that anyone traveling by the Staples Ranch site has remarked how quickly that project is coming out of the ground,” she says. Construction is well underway, with the opening of Phase I anticipated for fall 2013 with future phases already in planning. When complete, the development will include a range of housing options, with a mix of 635 condos and homes, 60 assisted living units, a skilled nursing facility and an on-site health center, not to mention a full range of amenities including dining and recreation. “With this project, we are adding to the range of options that allow our older residents to remain in Pleasanton,” she says.

Economic Vitality Committee
All of this activity does not happen without a healthy business environment, and that takes both forward-focused planning and on-the-ground support. The City’s Economic Development Department staff along with the Economic Vitality Committee is focused on such efforts.

“The Economic Vitality Committee serves as an important link between our elected officials and our business community by assessing the city’s business climate, to offer suggestions and submit recommendations intended to maintain a strong and diverse economic base in Pleasanton,” explains Ott. The EVC’s membership includes a broad range of 22 industry sector representatives and community stakeholders that reflect the composition of the local business community.

In 2012, the EVC undertook several notable projects including the production of a business assistance brochure and a business needs survey. The brochure was developed to offer businesses that are making a decision to locate or expand in Pleasanton an overview of the developments services process along with programs and resources to provide needed support along the way.

The business needs survey was conducted to solicit direct feedback from Pleasanton’s companies about the positive aspects of locating in Pleasanton and, just as importantly, to learn about opportunities to improve the city’s business ecosystem. The survey process was designed to include focus groups, telephone, and online surveys. “Overall, the results are affirming as nine in ten businesses report being happy with their location and rate Pleasanton as a good or excellent place to do business,” says Ott. Companies also gave a high marks to the city’s infrastructure and services as well as city amenities, especially local schools and community events.

“While overall these results reflect our companies’ positive mind-set about Pleasanton as a business location, certainly there are areas in which we can work toward improvement,” says Ott. “This feedback informs our staff and decision-makers about where to focus efforts to further position Pleasanton as an excellent location for commerce.”

The EVC is working on several new projects for 2013. A primary initiative is a comprehensive update to the City’s Current Economic Development Strategic Plan, which was last revised in 2006. “This document is prepared to assess the opportunities and challenges within Pleasanton’s business environment — highlighting where we should play to our competitive strengths and where we need to build capacity — and then guide the City in implementing policies and programs to achieve the desired results within the context of the City’s General Plan,” says Ott. The update process is just beginning, and much of the initial emphasis will be to collect data to assess Pleasanton’s economic strengths and opportunities within the region relative to current market conditions. That information will then be used as the foundation for developing strategies that support local businesses’ and the city’s long-term economic health, including continuation of programs to attract and retain companies that are a good fit with the Pleasanton community. Ott anticipates a draft plan will be ready for presentation to the City Council in early fall.

Other projects are also in the works. The City is hoping to add to its business attraction and retention program elements, based in part on the results of the business needs survey. “Companies told us they desire more city-to-business connections so we’ll be going on more business visits and creating avenues for companies to learn more about what’s happening and whom to contact to get information,” says Ott. Add to this plans for a report on local economic indicators to highlight Pleasanton’s competitive advantages, an online roadmap of the development services process, and benchmarks that highlight the city’s commitment to a timely review process.

Ott says to be on the lookout for the springtime launch of a new online resource — www.inPleasanton.com — designed to promote the city’s retail, restaurant and entertainment venues that attract residents and visitors alike to enjoy an array of experiences, great dining, and unique shops for every taste. “The message behind inPleasanton.com will be that shopping locally is good for our economy, environment and community,” she says. “Our unique combination of businesses makes us special and gives us a strong sense of loyalty to our city. The more exceptional we are as a community the more we attract, which benefits everyone.”

Ott is quick to point out that all of these efforts are made in collaboration with local business partners such as the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, the Pleasanton Downtown Association, Hacienda, the Tri-Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Alameda County Fairgrounds and Stoneridge Shopping Center. “Working together creates new and exciting connections with other community–based organizations as we all work to sustain the extraordinary quality of life we have here in Pleasanton, which attracts residents and companies alike.”

In 2013, Ott is pleased to report that the city continues to possess the key ingredients for positive growth. “Pleasanton has all the attributes for business success,” she says. “We have the infrastructure, the commercial space to fit most any need, a highly educated and skilled labor pool, and proximity to major markets. Add to that a progressively planned community in which residential and business interests are integrated, and the result is a prime location to support a company from start-up stage to Fortune 500.”

Also in this issue ...