Regional economic vitality is something that benefits everyone who lives or works in the area. A strong local economy allows attraction of quality employers; a high level of services from local municipalities; and better amenities and services, ranging from specialty retailers to gourmet restaurants. It would be easy to equate rapid growth with economic vitality, but undirected growth can make an area less desirable. Fortunately, the businesses, citizens, and City of Pleasanton are working together to ensure that the area's current vitality not only sustains itself but grows.
Pleasanton is known as the "City of Planned Progress," and the slogan holds true with regards to economic development. The City of Pleasanton is acting decisively to maintain a healthy business climate.
The City created the Economic Development Advisory Committee in 1993 to assess the city's business climate and offer suggestions and recommendations to the Council to help maintain and continue to promote a strong local economy. This committee was soon expanded, the name changed to the City of Pleasanton Economic Vitality Committee-an advisory commission to the City Council-and members went forward working with the city staff to develop the city's first economic strategic plan. It was approved by the Council in July 1994, is updated annually, and continues to be regularly reviewed, most recently with the 1999-2000 recommendations.
The volunteer committee of the business community, residents, business organizations and city staff focus on general economic trends and issues in attracting and retaining businesses and meet regularly four times a year with special meetings in between. The meetings are open to the public.
Planning helps to manage inevitable change and create a sustained economy. Gail Gilpin, Pleasanton's economic development manager, is enthusiastic about the strategic plan and the many participants.
"The Council is looking for the advice coming out of the business community, because it is a perspective that they need and want. It's good to have newcomers as well as old timers on the committee because they both bring a new perspective and the mix is really wonderful," she says.
"The one thing they have in common is that they are really passionate about Pleasanton. They are not there just as a voice of enterprise; they are there as a voice of Pleasanton and what's best for this community."
When the EVC looks at Pleasanton's assets, it finds many. For the business community, the city has high-quality business parks and state-of-the-art infrastructure. The city is centrally located in the Bay Area, has transportation accessibility, a highly educated and skilled workforce, and excellent schools. It's a safe community with a high quality of life, a range of quality housing, good shopping and an excellent civic reputation.
That's not to say that the area faces no challenges, however. The committee notes several: a limited inventory of available improved land, office and light manufacturing space; increasing development impact fees, wastewater issues and a high percentage of people who commute to Silicon Valley work sites. Limited housing supply is increasing costs. The city needs additional cultural arts, meeting and convention space; and the cost of living is increasing as is traffic congestion.
Wanting to maintain a good employment base, the committee recommends attracting new businesses such as corporate administrative headquarters, professional services, software, telecommunications, and light manufacturing and sales offices in the areas of scientific and biomedical devices and computer equipment.
To build on Pleasanton's assets and to address the challenges facing economic vitality, the committee developed four major goals.
The main goals of the EVC program are to continue developing the city's economic base with abusiness retention and expansion program; help connect employers with residents who want to work locally; to reassess the business attraction program; and provide greater emphasis on Pleasanton's infrastructure advantages and available land.
To emphasize the city's infrastructure advantages and available land, a survey of vacant land parcels was conducted and is updated three times annually on the city's web site. Local businesses now have increased exposure as the list of local business licenses has been installed on the city's web site with hyperlinks for companies that requested them.
This goal includes creation of a new permit center at city hall; streamlining the development review process; providing more cultural and arts opportunities; and working with the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, the Pleasanton Downtown Association and the Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau to make best use of convention and meeting space and look for expansion opportunities."What's nice is when we renovate the city hall, there will be a real permit center," says Gilpin. "It will be configured in a much more friendly way than it is right now. Renovation could begin in July."
The new facility will combine, in one place, the functions of the planning, engineering and building departments and streamline the permit process.
To enhance customer service to the community, all the city employees have been trained in the best practices of customer service.
The cultural arts component has taken the form of a plan that was completed and approved with the suggestions and ideas from dozens of local people representing many areas including performing and fine arts. From this have come new performing arts programs, public art projects, children's theater program, the selection of a poet laureate and development of an arts web page.
Workforce housing is an important issue not only in Pleasanton but the entire Tri-Valley area. The Economic Vitality Committee is working cooperatively with other Tri-Valley cities to develop a subregional element in their general plans to address housing and to support the efforts of the Tri-Valley Affordable Housing Committee.
Transportation issues loom as well. The committee will look at solutions that include additional funding for local and regional projects. The Transportation Systems Management Program, "Commendable Commutes," will be marketed more actively to employers, an effort that has already increased enrollment by over 25 percent.
"When employers sign up for Commendable Commutes they will receive help in planning, implementing, marketing and monitoring a program to promote commute alternatives with the goal of better serving their employees needs," says Gail Gilpin, Pleasanton's economic development manager. "The city will help employers every step of the way."
Another traffic mitigation effort is the School Traffic Calming program, first introduced at Mohr School in 1999. The program is a partnership between the school district, city, parents, WHEELS and RIDES. Soon every school in Pleasanton will be involved in the program that encourages carpooling. Making a key contribution to this element of the plan is RIDES for Bay Area Commuters, which has established a separate database for matching students and carpool drivers, at no cost to the program.
The City has also worked closely with CalTrans to publicize the I-580 flyover project to commuters and employers to smooth commutes.
Downtown parking was studied by the city and a sub-committee of the Pleasanton Downtown Association. Out of the data came an action plan of short-range and long-range methods to increase parking capacity, and evaluate the costs for future parking lots and structures. The Downtown Specific Plan Committee will review the parking strategies and projects.
The fourth main goal is to be ready when economic changes occur. This means ensuring that capital facilities that are planned can be built and working with Tri-Valley cities to ensure subregional economic growth. The city prepared a long-term capital financing plan to meet the General Plan buildout. The Economic Vitality Committee worked with the Tri-Valley Business Council on the Vision 2010 plan and the proposed business assistance center. The committee recommended continued participation in and support of the Chamber of Commerce Technology Marketplace and the Economic Development Committee.
Representing the city in the creation and implementation of the Strategic Plan are Gilpin, Pleasanton city manager Deborah Acosta, and a number of city staff. Economic Vitality Committee Hacienda members include Joe Callahan, Callahan Property Co.; Rita Lynne, ValleyCare Medical Center; Kristi Rocha, Interim Career Consulting; Michael Sisario, Lucent Technologies; and Valerie Smith, Pacific Bell.
Also working on implementing the plan are the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, Pleasanton Downtown Association, Tri-Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Tri-Valley Business Council, Pleasanton City Council members, and educational institutions.
For more information on the Economic Vitality Committee or any of its activities, contact Gilpin at (925) 931-5040. There's also information available at the City's web site at www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us .
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