Published February 17, 2015
Volume 23, Number 2

Economic Development Activity in Pleasanton is Healthy and Growing

Past Time PoolJohn MuirPleasanton Economic Assets 21stMercedes Benz DealershipBRE

By Pamela Ott
Economic Development Manager, City of Pleasanton

While business leaders often report that community and commercial resources and the quality of schools are important when choosing where to locate their companies, they also turn a keen eye on economic vitality indicators as a deciding factor.
In Pleasanton, our economic development activity offers tangible evidence of financial achievement and a strong local economy. Thanks to valuable partnerships between the City of Pleasanton and such organizations and individuals as the Chamber of Commerce, members of the Economic Vitality Committee, and our Downtown Association, Pleasanton continues to be the right address for business.
Commercial Activity
Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne is proud of our city’s business climate: “Our economic development activity continues to attract new companies to our city, as well as to support the expansion of others who already call Pleasanton home. Vacancy rates continue to decrease, retail sales are growing, and consumers are feeling confident about the economy.”
The numbers tell the story: Pleasanton’s economic health is strong as the city’s commercial office vacancy rate dropped at the close of 2014 to 13.9%, down from 16.4% at year-end 2013. This rate is expected to decrease further to single digits as refurbished Class A space becomes available at the former California Center, which is being upgraded and repositioned as Rosewood Commons.
Overall, new business tenants and expanding firms moved into available commercial space throughout Pleasanton. Two key examples are the 105,000 square feet leased in 2014 by mortgage software provider Ellie Mae, and over 37,000 square feet leased by Astex Pharmaceuticals, both in Hacienda.
BlackBerry and TriNet HR Solutions also became new Pleasanton tenants, along with the corporate headquarters of Specialty’s Café who relocated from San Francisco. We were pleased to see the renewal of Rimini Street’s lease and the expansion of both NeoTract and BeneSys, Inc.
In addition to leasing, sales of commercial property were also strong in 2014 with the purchase of several large office buildings in Hacienda and other commercial centers. Topping the list was the purchase by Swift Real Estate Partners of the former California Center, representing more than one-million square feet. In addition, San Ramon Regional Medical Center and John Muir Health partnered to purchase a 92,000 square foot building on Owens Drive that will be converted to an outpatient medical facility.
The absorption of industrial space is another sign of economic strength with 97% of Pleasanton’s 2.7 million square feet of industrial space occupied.
Looking ahead, two noteworthy projects will soon boost Pleasanton’s strength as a regional business center: The city has approved Workday’s plans to build a 430,000 square foot six-story building as its state-of-the-art headquarters, along with two parking garages. The campus will be located between Stoneridge Corporate Plaza and the BART station. This development brings with it a shared Pleasanton/BART police substation, traffic circulation improvements, and the addition of gateway features for the BART station. In the next five years, Workday’s employees in Pleasanton are projected to grow from 1,500 today to several thousand.
The second project is a pilot program to create an Economic Development Zone situated along Johnson Drive near 680. Prompted by the sale of the former 14-acre Clorox Tech Center, the city recognized the need for flexible zoning and other accommodations to promote development within the pilot area. While the program’s guidelines have been drafted, final elements will be considered by the City Council later in 2015.
Another sign of our strong economy is the significant activity among Pleasanton’s auto dealerships. Following Mercedes-Benz’s development of a new showroom and service facility on Owens Drive, the Pleasanton Auto Mall has upgraded the Mini and BMW facilities and is now replacing the existing Lexus building with a new showroom and service facility. Similarly, a new Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge dealership and a new CarMax dealership will be developed on the Staples Ranch site in northeast Pleasanton near I-580, along with the Pacific Pearl shopping center and room for more dealerships interested in situating in Pleasanton.
Retail Activity
Pleasanton saw strong growth in retail throughout 2014. With more than 2 million square feet of retail space, vacancy is extremely low at 6% and lease rates have jumped by more than 20%. Property owners and tenants are upgrading retail sites, including the remodel of two formerly vacant restaurant spaces that now house Specialty’s Café and Black Bear Diner. Stoneridge Shopping Center continues to perform well economically and has opened several new stores, welcoming national retailers Uniqlo, Lego, Lululemon Athletica, and Lush, among new shops and restaurants.
The current retail vacancy rate in downtown Pleasanton is excellent at just above 3%. Only a few Main Street locations are available as the downtown continues to attract new businesses. Promoting this growth is the work of the Pleasanton Downtown Association and the city’s progressive Downtown Hospitality Guidelines.  
Perhaps the most visible sign that the downtown is thriving is the demolition of the old Pastime Pool building. In its place is a fully-leased two-story building and public plaza that will serve as the future home of a restaurant, a new-concept Starbucks Evening, and a Sotheby’s real estate office.
Residential Activity
Pleasanton is a desired location for young people, many of whom grew up here and wish to raise their families in their hometown. In fact, according to last year’s U.S. Census, more 22-year-olds live in Pleasanton than any other age group. To accommodate this next generation workforce, adequate and affordable housing is a must.
To that end, in 2012 the City of Pleasanton re-zoned nine sites for future multi-family housing. We’re now seeing the outcome as several of these sites are currently in development, including residential construction across from BART on Owens Drive, retail and residential development at both the west and east ends of Valley Avenue, and apartment complexes on West Las Positas Boulevard.
The future of East Pleasanton has been a key topic among city leaders. Preliminary planning by a task force is moving ahead to ensure that the East Side reflects our motto as a “City of Planned Progress.”  Because our community values thoughtful growth and preserved open space, plans call for reasonable housing units situated among parks and open space.
And the city recently received from the state its certification of our Housing Element, which is a significant accomplishment for every community in California. City staff, the City Council, the Planning Commission and the Housing Commission worked closely together to realize this important goal.
Economic Vitality Committee Initiatives
Contributing to our city’s economic success, the Economic Development Strategic Plan was developed through the good work of the Economic Vitality Committee and adopted by Pleasanton City Council in 2013. This plan guides the city’s efforts in maintaining a business-friendly environment and positioning Pleasanton as a center of innovation.
To that end, the City of Pleasanton—with support from Hacienda, the Chamber of Commerce, Innovation Tri-Valley, and i-Gate—assisted with the launch last October of a new business accelerator: Innovate Pleasanton. This accelerator hosts entrepreneurs in a dynamic environment with access to investors, a network of mentors, and start-up resources.
A related outcome of the strategic plan is the Economic Assets Report that highlights our many attributes, including access to major markets, talent, innovation, business centers, and quality of life amenities. This professional document serves as an excellent positioning piece for business decision-makers who are considering a move to Pleasanton.
After the launch of our initial business survey in 2012, the Economic Development Department of the city working with guidance from the EVC will conduct a follow-up survey in coming months. This second survey will assess changes in business perception and needs, including assessment of broadband connectivity.
After the survey is completed, the city will review the results which will contribute to an assessment of broadband infrastructure. With the participation of the EVC, public and private sector interests will be convened to review our current infrastructure, identify gaps and propose solutions. Access to broadband for all businesses and residents is essential to support a thriving community.
Community Recognition
Pleasanton received several notable accolades from national publications in 2014. 
Money Magazine ranked Pleasanton 31st on its national list of Best Places to Live.  Among the 50 factors evaluated in choosing the top cities were public safety, the local economy, the housing market, healthcare, and schools. The magazine also ranked Pleasanton 9th in Top Earning Towns, with a median family income of $144,132.
Pleasanton was also ranked number 4 on List of America’s 50 Best Cities to Live In, as determined by the website 24/7 Wall Street. The list was profiled in the business section of USA Today.
And that’s not all. In late October, the consumer/finance website Nerdwallet.com included Pleasanton in its Top 20 Best Cities for Young Families in Northern California. Interestingly, according to the website datingadvice.com, Pleasanton ranked 14th on its list of the 15 Best Small Cities for Singles. So along with appealing to young families, we offer opportunities for single people to connect at such venues as First Wednesday, the Farmers Market, or Friday Concerts in the Park.
Last month we earned yet another ranking, this one by Apartmentlist.com. Among the best cities for raising children we are ranked second in California and 27th nationally. And in its 2015 Niche Rankings of school districts, content startup www.niche.com rated Pleasanton Unified School District third best in the San Francisco metropolitan area and 16th in the state.
Other Economic News
While commercial, retail, and residential activity are all indicators of an economy’s health, another measure of success is hotel occupancy, and Pleasanton’s many hotels have seen greater occupancy as corporate business has rebounded. Reflecting this increased activity and confidence in the business and travel market, Pleasanton’s 292-room Hilton hotel underwent a multi-million renovation. Rebranded as a Doubletree hotel, the facility is exploring options for future expansion.
Thanks in large part to the marketing efforts of Visit Tri-Valley, the increased hotel occupancy—along with all of the growth in our economic activity—has boosted city tax revenues available for parks, police and fire, our library, and many city amenities we enjoy in Pleasanton.
Other good news for Pleasanton is the recent partnership between ValleyCare Health System and Stanford Health Care. This merger strategically positions ValleyCare to address both current and future challenges in health care for Tri-Valley residents.
Managing resources that ensure long-term sustainability for the community is of critical importance to our businesses. To that end, the city is working collaboratively with water retailers in the region to determine a long-term water storage plan for potable water to safeguard against drought. We also adopted a Recycled Water Master Plan that includes agreements with Dublin San Ramon Services District and the City of Livermore to provide recycled water supplies for landscape irrigation. Val Vista Community Park was first to get recycled water and work is currently underway to broadly implement recycled water at Hacienda.
The passage of Measure BB on last November’s ballot will generate nearly $8 billion to improve and maintain roads and other transportation infrastructure in our county. This includes alternative transportation and supports Pleasanton’s goal of creating a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly landscape. In the past two years, several miles of new bicycle lanes were added to our roadways, helping to earn Pleasanton a Bicycle Friendly Community award by the League of American Bicyclists.
To save energy and promote safety, the city replaced all of its 5,400 street lights with LED bulbs, including those in Hacienda. The new bulbs will save the city $200,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs and will last five times longer than the previous street light bulbs. 
The City of Pleasanton understands that our greatest asset is our engaged citizenry. We recognize the importance of a two-way dialogue with our residents, businesses and visitors. We want you to easily find information you need from us, and we also want to hear from you. As such, we have launched two new web-based initiatives:
The new Mobile Citizen app allows you to notify us about issues such as potholes, graffiti, broken water sprinklers, clogged storm drains, streetlight outages, and more. This app can be downloaded for free to an Android or Apple smart phone.
We have also launched our new website at www.cityofpleasantonca.gov. The site is easier to navigate, has a contemporary look, offers quick access to city services and information, and integrates with popular social media outlets. Please visit us online.
Pleasanton’s economy and business environment is healthy and growing. Located at the crossroads of Interstates 580 and 680, we are home to both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. We have all the attributes for business success thanks to a highly educated and skilled labor pool, proximity to major markets, access to BART, excellent schools, a thriving arts community, a charming historic downtown, an engaged community of citizens and business leaders, and a progressive outlook that listens and responds to the needs of our corporate community. Pleasanton is the right address for business.   


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