The Mayor has provided his words here:
State of the City Address
Chamber of Commerce Installation Luncheon
January 7, 2014
Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here to participate in today’s Board of Directors’ Installation and to be able to share with you some of the exciting things going on in our community.
First, I would like to recognize and thank Skyline College for hosting today’s luncheon for the second year. We truly appreciate the partnership with Skyline College that makes this beautiful venue available for our community. This just one of the ways that Skyline contributes to San Bruno. We are also fortunate to have many more organizations in our community that, just like Skyline, contribute in many ways to making San Bruno the special place it is to live, work and do business.
As I have often said, I am Jim Ruane, the proud Mayor of the wonderful City of San Bruno. It is an honor to serve our community in collaboration with my fellow City Councilmembers, all of whom are here today – Vice Mayor Rico Medina, Councilmember Irene O’Connell, Councilmember Ken Ibarra and Councilmember Michael Salazar. Together with our dedicated team of professional staff, several of whom are also here today, we are committed to provide our businesses and residents the broad range of services that are vital to our community’s well-being at the highest possible level. My comments this afternoon will showcase the City’s important events and achievements of 2013. Looking forward, I also want to focus on some of the significant opportunities on the horizon for 2014.
As we enter the New Year, 2014, I’m excited to announce that this will be a very special year for San Bruno. On December 23, 2014, our city will celebrate its Centennial anniversary of incorporation. When San Bruno officially incorporated as a municipality in December, 1914, this was a small rural town of about 1,400 residents. Many of these early residents first arrived here as refugees from the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. Finding this place to their liking, they stayed to build a new community. Early San Bruno’s primary business was agriculture, with ranches providing food, dairy products and flowers for the urban San Francisco population. Today, with our 42,000 plus residents, San Bruno is known as a community with a heart renowned for our beautiful parks and friendly well-kept residential neighborhoods, as a regional transportation hub, and now, as a thriving high-tech business center. The City has come a long way over these past 100 years!
This Centennial Year is a wonderful opportunity to recognize not only San Bruno’s history and heritage, but importantly, it is a time to celebrate what San Bruno has become and where we are going. Our first major initiative in celebration of the City’s Centennial is our Culture and Arts Commission’s work to commission a mural to be installed late this year on the walls bordering Sneath Lane.
A wide range of events and programs will be held throughout the coming year including a Community Day at City Park this summer and a Centennial Gala tentatively scheduled for early December. Within the next few weeks, a full calendar of events will be available on the City’s website. On behalf of the entire City Council, I invite and encourage you to attend the events and programs over the coming months and join us in celebrating the rich past and promising future of our city.
To begin this year-long Centennial celebration, we have some special items here today. I hope you will take a moment to enjoy the photographs around the room showing San Bruno “Then and Now”. At each place at your tables, take a look at the San Bruno history and trivia cards. This will give you a head start for participating in the exciting events and activities that we are planning for our celebration this year.
Looking back now at 2013, we see that the recent past sets the stage for an even more robust future. Improvement in the overall regional and national economy has provided growth and contributes to the strengthening financial outlook for the City. Increases in the City’s sales tax and transient occupancy tax revenues demonstrate growth in the City’s retail and hotel sectors. Signs of a recovering real estate market emerged throughout the entire community. Both residential and commercial developers are expressing renewed optimism and the City is receiving numerous inquiries from developers seeking sites for rehabilitation and new construction.
In our downtown, the City is working closely with an experienced Bay Area developer, Signature Properties, who is preparing an application to redevelop the former Cinema building on San Mateo Avenue at the El Camino Real gateway with a mixed-use, residential and commercial project. We anticipate completing planning, design and permitting this year for a three-story building with some commercial space on the ground floor and a total of 60 or more residential units. Redevelopment of this site has been a long time coming, with some disappointing false starts over the recent years. It continues to be a high priority for the City and for our downtown so we are especially looking forward to seeing this project move forward as a first step toward implementation of our plans for comprehensive revitalization of our commercial area.
This comprehensive vision for our community is captured in the San Bruno Transit Corridors Plan that was adopted by the City Council this past year following several years of work and public engagement. This Plan describes allowed land uses, development standards and architectural guidelines for future development and redevelopment along our City's major commercial corridors, including El Camino Real, San Bruno Avenue, San Mateo Avenue, and Huntington Avenue. With full implementation, this Plan will transform our City's commercial core in many positive ways and will encourage the development of attractive and architecturally interesting mixed-use buildings, vibrant shopping areas, new housing, and bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly plazas and pathways. Our next step toward full realization of the Plan’s vision will include the City Council’s consideration to place a measure on the ballot to establish new standards for building heights, parking garages, and residential densities. As we move forward in 2014 on this exciting project, your interest, involvement and support as business leaders in this important community discussion will be critical.
Other parts of our city’s commercial area also saw very positive new activity in 2013. The City is now processing an application for an approximately 68,000 square foot building in the Bayhill Business Park to house the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Credit Union. This project, at the site of the former TGI Fridays will complement and continue the strong presence of major businesses in Bayhill, where not only larger high tech businesses like YouTube and Walmart.com have their headquarters, but where many smaller successful technology businesses including Responsys, and Ironport along with others, both large and small find an attractive and welcoming environment for their business home.
The City continues to progress toward the long-anticipated development of a select service hotel on the vacant, 1.5 acre, City-owned parcel adjacent to Jack’s at the Crossing. The hotel is expected to be five stories in height, feature approximately 150 guest rooms and 3,000 square feet of meeting space. We expect to process the needed approvals for the hotel in 2014, with construction to begin right away thereafter. This project is important to San Bruno because it will provide much needed space for events, parties and other business and social gatherings. This type of public space is not readily available in San Bruno, creating a real void for San Bruno residents and businesses who would like to be able to schedule their events right here near home.
In the residential sector, we are pleased to see that activity is also picking up. The final 12 units planned in the Skycrest neighborhood next door to Lunardi's are now under construction. These beautiful new luxury homes will complete the 24 unit subdivision as it was originally planned and half way developed several years ago. Across the street another project planned a few years ago at Glenview and San Bruno Ave. is now moving forward as well. The City is processing an application for a new neighborhood of 31 single-family homes at this location and is anticipating the start of construction late this year. The 14 unit subdivision at Cedar and Pepper, the Cedar Mills project, has been completed and all of the homes are sold and occupied. We are especially pleased to see the beautifully renovated 308 unit Pacific Bay Vistas Apartment complex now being occupied. This luxury living environment with one and two bedroom apartments and many lovely new community amenities completely transforms the vacant and deteriorating complex that previously occupied this site at the top of the hill on Skyline at Sharps Park Rd. into a place that any of us would be proud to call home.
In order to support new development and continue to position San Bruno for the future, the City is active in constructing infrastructure in several key areas of the community. We are most excited to now be seeing the final stages of construction of the CalTrain San Bruno Grade Separation. It is wonderful to have this project, over a decade in the making, now finally almost complete. Our nearby residents and businesses have been patient through the many years of disruption this heavy construction has brought, so it was a welcome historic moment some months ago when trains first began running on the elevated structure, vastly improving safety for passengers, motorists and pedestrians alike. Today we are only a few short months away from opening the new San Bruno station and full operation of this new gateway to San Bruno. As we speak, CalTrain is completing the station platform, ramps and staircases along with new, lush landscaping that will put the finishing touches on the modern station. As part of the project completion, the City will dedicate an improved Posy Park in a new location with a magnificent water feature that is destined to become a popular gathering point at the northern entrance to our downtown.
Elsewhere throughout the community the City continues its commitment to work toward revitalization of our public infrastructure. In 2013 we completed the first phase of a comprehensive City-wide sidewalk repair program to improve the quality and accessibility of sidewalks in our neighborhoods. Due to tree root growth and ground settling, sidewalks lift and become uneven, so this is a continuing issue for us. Our goal for 2014 is repair of over 1,000 additional locations. Last year we were also able to give the Civic Center a face lift by repainting City Hall, the Library and Fire Station 51. This was small project in the overall scheme of things, but an important one to demonstrate our community pride not only in the appearance of our neighborhoods and businesses, but in our civic facilities as well.
Less visible, but even more critical to the community’s overall well-being is our continuing work to rehabilitate and replace our aging water and sewer systems. The City Council approved a comprehensive Water System Master Plan last year and is in the final stages of completing Sewer and Stormwater System Master Plans. These plans outline critical priorities for necessary system rehabilitation to be completed over the next several years as well as a long-term vision for system improvements to support the long-range growth of the City as envisioned in the General Plan. To ensure system reliability, we have begun rehabilitation of the College Water Pump Station which delivers water to Skyline College and surrounding neighborhoods. We have also begun design for rehabilitation of the Olympic Wastewater Pump Station serving northern San Bruno as well as for replacement of water storage tanks serving the western neighborhoods of the community. 2014 will see additional progress toward our goal of replacing critical water and wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years.
Part of what makes San Bruno so special is not just our history or our heart but our commitment to strengthening our community through our actions. Countless hours are volunteered by services organizations and individuals throughout our community to support youth sports, senior programs, recreational activities and City commissions, committees and boards every year. This year, through the volunteer effort of the San Bruno Lions Club the Beckner Picnic Shelter at City Park was reroofed and given a complete facelift.
As part of San Bruno’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship, and continuing the community’s tradition of leadership in environmental initiatives, the City took two important steps forward in 2013. San Bruno, along with cities throughout San Mateo County, adopted an ordinance limiting single use plastic bags to better protect waterways and wildlife. This month, in coordination with Recology San Bruno, the City is rolling out an organics recycling program to all households and businesses throughout the community.
As has been the case over the last 3 years, the final portion of my remarks today cover the considerable continuing work effort and the abiding focus that the City is devoting to the full rebuilding and restoration of our community in the wake of the devastating September 9, 2010 PG&E gas transmission pipeline explosion in the Crestmoor Neighborhood. For San Bruno it is not just the physical rebuilding of the neighborhood that is critical – we remain dedicated to assuring the community’s full recovery from the impact of the disaster including the critical priority that we do everything possible to assure that what happened that terrible day in our community never happens again anywhere, ever.
Thinking again about our community Centennial, I am struck by the coincidence that exists in the fact that San Bruno, having originally established itself as a community in the wake of another devastating tragedy in 1906, is now, on the eve of our 100 year anniversary, again facing the daunting challenges of recovery and rebuilding from tragedy. This time though, there are a very different set of issues. What happened in San Francisco in 1906 was, for those pioneers, truly unpredictable and unpreventable. What happened here in 2010 could have, and it should have been prevented.
In 1956 PG&E installed junk pipe of unknown origin underground in San Bruno to transport flammable natural gas under high pressure. Without knowing what they had in the ground, for the next 50-plus years PG&E failed to properly operate, inspect and maintain that pipe, dangerously compromising the safety of our residents. The California Public Utilities Commission, the CPUC, whose responsibility it is to regulate utilities in our state, failed to enforce proper regulatory and safety standards that would have raised necessary questions about the integrity of that pipe and could have prevented the tragedy we experienced. Instead the CPUC chose a lax enforcement strategy that prioritized a cozy relationship with the regulated utility over the safety of the very residents they are responsible to protect.
We expect that within the next few months the investigative and penalty proceedings on the explosion that have been on-going at the CPUC for over 2 years will be completed. That conclusion will happen when the Commission decides what amount of fine PG&E should pay and what additional new safety standards should be put into place as a result of what happened here and what has been learned since the explosion.
You have probably seen the City of San Bruno in the news as a tireless advocate for reform of the CPUC to sharpen their regulatory focus on safety and for their action to hold PG&E fully accountable both for their past failures and for full correction of the problems that led to the explosion. The City of San Bruno is strongly advocating that the largest possible fine be imposed. This will send a message on behalf of the citizens of California, that future negligent utility management and operational practice will not be tolerated. We are also advocating that an independent monitor be established to assure that safety becomes a true priority in the CPUC’s regulatory process.
Our goal is to make tangible improvement that will ensure the same problems that led to tragedy here cannot happen again. San Bruno’s future safety and that of other communities throughout California depends on this. Our team of dedicated legal and other experts continues to work with our staff on an every day basis on these initiatives because we believe that real change is needed to assure real safety. This is the positive result that needs to come from our experience. We have all been immersed in the metrics of the processes in place that were and are supposed to keep us all safe. The studies, investigations, hearings, oversight or lack thereof in assuring that the safety of conveniences and necessities we should all be able to take for granted have consumed our time and attention. We owe it to those that lost their lives and those that have suffered so much to continue to be diligent and aggressive.
In the Crestmoor neighborhood itself, the City continues to support the residents who have chosen to rebuild their homes and return to the neighborhood. Of the 38 homes that were destroyed 17 beautiful new homes have been rebuilt and the families have moved back home. Four additional homes are in varying stages of construction. Nearly all of these returning homeowners have participated in the City’s Rebuilt it Green Program that provides grants for energy efficiency upgrades. Two homes are qualified as LEED Platinum, our Nation’s highest level of building energy efficiency.
There are currently ten vacant lots remaining in the neighborhood that are owned by the City or by PG&E and are planned for development of new homes. The City has recently completed a competitive solicitation and selection process to locate a qualified development company to build on these lots. In one of its final formal actions of 2013, the City Council selected Castle Companies to construct the ten new homes. These homes are anticipated to be completed and ready for sale and occupancy by early 2015.
Right about this same time, the City expects to complete our on-going work to rebuild the entire Crestmoor neighborhood infrastructure. New underground water, sewer and storm drain pipes have been completed in the fire-damaged area and are now being constructed throughout the remainder of the neighborhood. This work will be followed by another project to resurface the streets and install new streetlights and other above ground improvements, including the replacement of the small neighborhood park that was destroyed. The PG&E ungerground gas transmission line that exploded has now been finally and forever rendered unusable. Between Sneath Lane and San Bruno Avenue, the pipeline was been filled with concrete slurry so that it can never be used again.
Lastly, in December the City was pleased to host a reception to celebrate the inaugural meeting of the San Bruno Community Foundation Board of Directors. Since achieving a precedent-setting victory with our negotiation of a $70 million settlement with PG&E in 2012, the City has worked to establish the Foundation which is charged with responsibility for assessing community needs and determining the use of the settlement funds for the long term benefit of the entire San Bruno community. The City completed an extensive outreach process to identify community members to represent the community on the Foundation’s inaugural Board of Directors. After careful review of the 82 applications we received, the City Council selected 7 persons to serve the community’s interests in this exciting new capacity. As articulated in the Foundation incorporation documents, the Board’s work will be guided by its underlying purpose to “benefit the San Bruno community through enduring and significant contributions to, and investments in, charitable and publicly-owned community facilities and programs over the long term.” In the weeks and months ahead the Foundation will be seeking community input on goals and initiatives for use of the funds. We encourage you to participate. With this positive opportunity for community benefit we look forward not only to the Foundation’s work over the next year and beyond, but to our continuing progress down that long road to full community recovery.
In closing, our continuing partnership with the Chamber and with our business community is vital to the future of San Bruno. I look forward to working with you in 2014 and in the years to come and I encourage you as leaders in our community to remain engaged as we explore and capture the opportunities that lie ahead. You can be confident that our City team of staff, our dedicated volunteers and the City Council remain fully committed to the well-being and continuous improvement of the community we are proud to call home.
Once again, thank you for your commitment to San Bruno and for the invitation to speak with you today. I wish you all a very prosperous 2014 Centennial Year.