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state of the city 2015

2015 State of the City Address 
Presented by the
Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce and the City of Elk Grove 

Featuring Mayor Gary Davis
March 27, 2015
The Falls Event Center
8280 Elk Grove Blvd.
11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Click HERE to view the State of the City Address

City of Elk Grove

Mayor Gary Davis

2015 State of the City Address

Good afternoon.  Thank you for joining us here today and to our Chamber of Commerce for hosting today’s event.  

While we have many specific and individual projects and ideas to talk about, one of the things that I am most proud of about our City is its ability to see the forest for the trees, or the City for the buildings, streets, bridges, open space and trails. It is this kind of BIG Picture thinking that has allowed Elk Grove to survive and, more importantly, thrive in response to the challenging economic climate of recent years.  We are able to pursue big picture ideas because we stand on a solid foundation that supports a very high quality of life.

Today, we will be discussing BIG Picture concepts, including recent successes and future dreams and goals, and Keith Young, a local artist who is an Elk Grove resident, will be helping us to illustrate our City’s BIG Picture by literally sketching today’s speech in real time. If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Keith may help me in considerably lengthening this speech.

Dreaming Big

Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Our City’s past and present is filled with people—from young students and student-athletes to entrepreneurs and community leaders—who dared to dream bigger for our community. 

The City of Elk Grove and this Council believe in dreaming BIG and supporting the BIG dreams of its residents and business owners. 

Has anyone here heard of a man named Lance Briggs?  Lance is a former Elk Grove High School football star who dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. After his days as a member of the Thundering Herd, he pursued that dream at the University of Arizona where he was a two-time All-Pac 10 player. Lance was selected by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft to make his dream come true, and he will be entering his 13th season as a linebacker for the Bears later this year.

But Lance also dreamed of owning a restaurant and last year, with his childhood friend Cameron Lee, he opened the Double Nickel Smokehouse. Not in Chicago or Arizona, but back HOME in Elk Grove, where he grew up and where everyone knows him as much for playing for Elk Grove High School as they do for playing for the Chicago Bears.

Inspired by stories like these, Elk Grove’s City Council is committed to a vision that builds upon our community’s past accomplishments, fosters creativity, innovation and collaboration, and maintains Elk Grove as the safest, smartest, and best place to dream BIG…and to call HOME.

The City of Elk Grove is more than just boundaries drawn on a map; more than just thousands of residents living near one another and being serviced by local agencies and businesses; more than just a few zip codes. The City of Elk Grove is HOME. It’s my home and it’s your home.

No home can stand without a foundation. Conversely, no City can thrive without a solid foundation built both with infrastructure such as roads and bridges as well as communally on neighborhoods and neighbors. While we have always had our share of highways and roadways, designated neighborhoods and shopping areas within the City, 2015 is a year focused on Infrastructure and Neighborhoods.

Looking Back at 2014

Arnold Palmer once said, “The road to success is always under construction.” And while that may be the case, I believe that our efforts in 2014 have set a firm foundation for a bright future in Elk Grove. We’ve built bridges and removed barriers, replaced light bulbs, opened doors, and put out the welcome mat to make Elk Grove a place that both residents and businesses will want to call HOME.

We bridged the great divide known as Highway 99 with the opening of the Elk Grove Creek Trail Crossing at State Route 99. What started as a dream of the City’s trails committee became a BIG reality when the 1,300-foot-long, 14-foot-wide span opened last March. Elk Grove’s first pedestrian and bicycle freeway overcrossing over Highway 99 connects the community and its residents like never before. The new bridge improves the safety and accessibility for those walking and biking east and west of Highway 99 and extends our trail system for those who have taken up the City’s year-long fitness challenge to “Join the Movement” toward an active, healthier lifestyle. And we are not the only ones who think that our big dream turned into an outstanding reality as Roads & Bridges Magazine recognized the Elk Grove Creek Trail Crossing as 2014’s Number 7 bridge in the country.

We’re greener than ever before thanks to the opening of the City’s Special Waste Collection Center last April. This award-winning, sustainable business facility was the first of its kind in the nation to be powered by solar energy, and accepted more than 300,000 pounds of recyclable materials that were diverted from local landfills. It has been used by nearly 6,000 residents to dispose of paint, cleaning supplies, electronics and other household recyclables and its re-use room is connecting residents with products that can be re-used and re-purposed turning one person’s trash into another’s treasure.

And, speaking of bright ideas, the City completed the first phase of a Citywide LED Streetlight Retrofit Project in February. Working with SMUD, we converted nearly 10,000 streetlights from conventional to LED bulbs in a move that is expected to reduce our City’s power consumption and save us as much as $400,000 per year. We are still dreaming BIGGER and the use of alternative energy and environmentally conscious construction techniques have become part of our legacy for future generations.

For the last several years, I’ve been an advocate in support of strong and connected neighborhoods. One method to help accomplish that was by holding multiple Neighborhood Summits. The last one was held in the fall, and provided neighborhoods the opportunity to exchange ideas, share best practices from neighborhood associations and HOA’s, and learn more about available resources at City Hall. As you will hear in a few minutes, we will  be taking neighborhood engagement to a whole new level in 2015.  

Stronger neighborhoods are built in part through the people within those communities. In 2014, the City adopted a new Housing Element and rezoned land to ensure that our housing stock is as diverse as our residents’ needs.  And we’re helping more of our residents achieve the American dream: Six First-Time Homebuyers received down payment assistance loans to buy homes in Elk Grove last year and the program continues to grow. 

Schools are also integral to Elk Grove’s strong neighborhoods. Working together, the City and the Elk Grove Unified School District formed a new School Traffic Safety Committee to address the unique traffic issues surrounding school facilities. This will ensure that our students and teachers travel safely to and from school.

Safety obviously extends far beyond safe routes to school, and our Police Department continues to stand out as a leader in community safety. Elk Grove was the first city in Northern California to implement the national safety database, Smart 9-1-1, to improve 9-1-1 services for residents. Smart 9-1-1 allows residents to create a Safety Profile of vital personal and household information that is viewable by 9-1-1 dispatchers when a resident places an emergency call. This safety profile provides valuable details that first responders need in order to save lives that may not otherwise be readily available during a crisis. The City of Elk Grove’s  public safety personnel should be recognized and thanked for making and keeping our City and neighborhoods a safe place to live, work, and visit.  Thank you! 

Elk Grove is well-known for its parks and recreation offerings. Working in partnership with the Cosumnes Community Services District, we opened our latest playground and recreational area in Laguna Ridge last December. Island Park is a 2.3-acre site that is just the latest space for our children to play and establish friendships in their community. It is one of more than 90 parks in Elk Grove, and more are on the way to improve and strengthen all of our neighborhoods for residents of all ages. 

Children are not the only active residents in Elk Grove. This last year, we studied the needs of our four-legged friends and conducted an Animal Shelter Needs Assessment Study.  The result of that study showed that our current efforts are good, but more is needed. Our staff will be looking for ways to partner more closely with the County to get the best value for our dollar, as well as look into land or existing buildings here in town to meet our animal sheltering needs.

All of these accomplishments that make our City and our neighborhoods great are also good for the environment, beneficial to our community, and attractive to prospective businesses.  And businesses ARE noticing Elk Grove.

This fall, we celebrated a project 5 years in the making when California Northstate University welcomed its first pharmacy school class to their new home in Elk Grove. CNU’s presence here not only marks progress toward our goal of bringing higher education to the City, it demonstrates the potential for growth in our local medical sector.  We look forward to partnering with CNU and seeing how we can encourage their students and graduates to dream bigger in Elk Grove to create start-up companies and attract new medical technology firms right here.

And it shouldn’t go without mention that the very place we gather today represents another new business in Elk Grove. The Falls Event Center opened this fall and introduced a new level of sophistication and elegance for those seeking a place to gather and celebrate major milestones. I’d like to thank Tony Goularte and his staff for their hospitality today and thank Noah Corporation for their investment in Elk Grove. 

Where We Are

We have made great progress in improving our City. 2014 witnessed promising growth in the form of new and improved infrastructure to build a great place to live, work, and play. While we can tout our greatness as a City and community, the unsolicited opinions of outside parties by way of national surveys and research carry a greater unbiased weight. So, it is with great pleasure that I share with all of you some objective indicators of Elk Grove’s ranking as a great place to call home.

WalletHub recently identified the most ethnically and linguistically diverse landscapes among 350 of the most populated U.S. cities and announced the results of their diversity rankings in February. Our city was ranked 7th in “Racial and Ethnic Diversity” nationally according to their research. We take pride in being a diverse community with a vast array of different racial and ethnic backgrounds that we can celebrate together as one city.

The sum of all of our varied parts make Elk Grove one excellent whole. It also makes our city a great place to raise a family. ApartmentList.com confirmed our beliefs. The website ranked Elk Grove as the third best city in California and 33rd in the entire nation to raise a family based on safety, housing cost, school quality, and number of children.

I personally rank Elk Grove No. 1 for families as a biased mayor, father, and husband. Heather and I have enjoyed all that the city has to offer for 11 years, and we believe that our three children (Grace, Adam, and Eli) have benefited from growing up in the City of Elk Grove with its residents whom we consider to all be our neighbors.

Like my children continue to grow, so does our City. Many of you have probably noticed we are still growing up.  We are still a young city by most standards turning only 15 this year.  And that noise coming from the south? It’s the sound of growth and progress.  The building of new homes and businesses is on the upswing and that’s great news for Elk Grove. We approved 581 new single family residential permits in 2014, an increase of more than 200 permits and better than a 50% percent increase from 2013.  Additionally,  a new multi-family residential project now completing construction will add 64 new units for families to call home. 

All of our planning is not just about adding homes and buildings.  The City is working with residents in the rural area to plan appropriately for open space retention and to preserve Elk Grove’s heritage.

Elk Grove residents in both the rural and suburban areas have long appreciated the Farm-to-Fork movement. I think it’s safe to say it has moved beyond being a fad to become a phenomenon where people want more locally-produced food available in their backyard and at local eateries. This month, Elk Grove’s aspiring home-grown food providers got some help for their green thumbs with the opening of the Green Acres Nursery on East Stockton Boulevard. And new restaurants have also opened to hungry customers including Lola’s Lounge, Cream, Double Nickel Smokehouse, Nothing Bundt Cakes, and Vampire Penguin. One of Elk Grove’s farm to table favorites, Boulevard Bistro, was even named one of the top 100 restaurants in the country by Open Table.

More restaurants and food-related businesses are slated to open in 2015 to increase the city’s dining and drinking options including Jack’s Urban Eats, Black Bear Diner, Blast 825 Pizza, Smart and Final, and Total Wine and More.

The addition of businesses like these is among the many ways that our city continues to move forward.

Speaking of moving, Elk Grove continues to make strides in getting residents and visitors around the community. Our public transportation ridership on e-tran grew in 2014 and we added three new buses to our fleet to keep pace with increased ridership in the future. In partnership with the Senior Center of Elk Grove, we transitioned their riders to the City’s e-van service to more efficiently get seniors around the community. We will continue to seek input on how we can do a better job moving people throughout the City. 

Where We Are Headed

So where are we going? Earlier this month, the Council and management participated in a special workshop session to fine tune our BIG picture. This was the first such meeting in more than 5 years, and it provided the opportunity to review and reinforce goals set by the Council in 2009 and to reaffirm the City’s vision and priorities moving forward. 

Keeping in mind that some of the plans and goals discussed in that workshop will still require further study and discussion in official meetings, we reaffirmed the following as some of the Council’s priorities moving forward.

We plan to complete construction and open the Aquatics Complex and Veterans Hall next summer. We have approved the allocation of funds for the design and construction of these facilities at the proposed civic center site.

We will reevaluate the overall Civic Center Plan to determine Phases 2 and 3, so that we retain a consistent vision and plan for other amenities to be developed for the use and enjoyment of the entire community.

We plan to begin “turning dirt” on our top transportation project, Kammerer Road Widening and Extension, within the next two years to provide needed relief to the traffic congestion through our core area.

We recognize the need for alternative transportation services to reduce our reliance on cars, so we will expand transit service to our residents through either an extension of light rail into the City or bus rapid transit service. 

And we will expand Elk Grove’s excellent recreational opportunities with the construction of multi-sport tournament fields at Grant Line Road.

A major planning and economic development project taking shape is the Southeast Policy Area, or SEPA Plan. Located at the southern end of the city, the Southeast Policy Area is a 1,200 acre master plan designed to support aggressive jobs creation and housing diversity.  The area is Elk Grove’s first city-initiated master plan since incorporation in July 2000 and the last large-scale development area within the city. 

Regionally, the Southeast Policy Area is the first employment-focused development plan.  We expect it will create five jobs for every one unit of housing. The Southeast Policy Area builds upon the city’s long-term goal of extending light rail to Elk Grove and promotes using alternative transportation through an extensive trails system. With the SEPA Plan adopted and the supporting environmental impact report now certified, we are looking forward to major infrastructure improvements that will provide enhanced traffic circulation, effective storm water drainage, and the utilities necessary to support the economic vitality of the area.

On the retail front, the mall has been re-approved with the goal of providing regional shoppers an outlet-focused development to buy locally. And we’re exploring new business models that foster innovative businesses and entrepeneurs to set up shop here like Steve Barnett (here today) and the founders of InnoGrove, a tech based co-working group preparing to launch a hub for technology-based businesses in Elk Grove this summer.  Elk Grove residents are a welcoming group and nowhere is this more apparent than our hospitality sector.  In partnership with local hotel operators, we have established the Elk Grove Tourism Marketing District. This district will collect money to specifically attract and promote tourism through Visit Elk Grove.  I look forward to partnering with Visit Elk Grove to put “heads-in-beds” as more people come for youth sports, festivals, events, and increased retail and business activities and experience the small town charm that our community has to offer.

Events and festivals have long been a part of Elk Grove’s community identity. Last year, local festivals attracted more than 170,000 guests to celebrations that acknowledge our agricultural heritage from the Western Festival and the GIANT Pumpkin Festival to GO Fest, the City’s new fitness festival.

The Council values how events and festivals add to Elk Grove’s quality of life. And we’re working with community partners to introduce and expand entertainment options that celebrate what Elk Grove has to offer the region. 

I am pleased to announce a new event partnership between the City, the Old Town Elk Grove Foundation and the Rotary Club of Laguna Sunrise to launch Boots on the Boulevard, a new outdoor concert featuring Nashville country artist Craig Campbell in our Old Town district on May 15.  Scheduled the night before the Chili Festival, Boots on the Boulevard will salute our soldiers and a portion of the proceeds will benefit veterans programs. Tickets go on sale today and flyers are available at the front table for those interested in experiencing the latest Elk Grove entertainment option.

Very often we pair food with our entertainment in Elk Grove. I am happy to share that our City won a hard-fought battle with the State of Nevada to attract a valuable employer. Nina’s Mexican Foods, a Texas-based food distribution company that is a branch of Ole Mexican Foods is coming to Elk Grove and will begin operations shortly in the old Bimbo Bakeries building that has been vacant since 2013. We are very happy to welcome Nina’s Mexican Foods as well as its western region director of operations, Jose Flores, who is an Elk Grove native.

Jose has joined us today and I, along with the Council and City staff, are very excited about this new business relationship with one of Elk Grove’s own.  The Nina’s Mexican Foods site will produce corn and flour products, including tortillas, chips, tostadas, and wraps. Tenant improvements are set to begin soon, and the Nina’s food distribution site is expected to bring more than 100 new jobs in 2015 with a goal of up to 300 jobs added when the site grows further. Welcome Nina’s and welcome home, Jose.

Because we want the commute home for Jose and all of our residents to be quicker and free of congestion, we are working with Sacramento Regional Transit, and numerous local and regional agencies to find ways to improve not only Elk Grove’s transportation infrastructure, but also regional roads and highways that affect our City.

The City is currently studying the feasibility of building a new train and transit center on the southern end of Elk Grove near Grant Line Road and Highway 99. A new Multimodal Station could offer alternative transportation options, relieve traffic on Highway 99 and Interstate 5, serve as a stop for Amtrak’s San Joaquin passenger train system, and eventually connect residents to the state’s high-speed rail trains.

While we’re talking about speedier service, the City will conduct an analysis of local and commuter bus services and routes to determine the demand for, and configuration of, a limited stop express or bus rapid transit service. This service route would operate at a faster interval than the City’s e-tran routes, and would also provide a connection from the Elk Grove outlet shopping center development to Cosumnes River College. This would efficiently connect our residents with Phase II of Sacramento Regional Transit’s Blue Line Light Rail scheduled to open this September. 

As a City, we are very pleased that Light Rail has extended to Cosumnes River College and will be open in 2015. However, we want to prioritize and push future phases of light rail to come into Elk Grove. The extension of light rail service from CRC to our future Outlet Mall will provide key multimodal opportunities for our residents, students, as well as employees and future employers.

The final transportation project that remains a priority for this Council is the planned Capital Southeast Connector. We will continue to work with regional agencies and other local cities like Folsom and Rancho Cordova to ensure that the 35-mile highway that will connect Interstate 5 south of Elk Grove to Highway 50 in El Dorado County helps to reduce congestion and spur economic investment in and around Elk Grove.

As we continue working on these and many other important projects, we recognize that the plans for our community, which were born out of incorporation 15 years ago, are due for a check in.  That’s why the city will be embarking on the first comprehensive update to our General Plan, the primary policy document of the city, since 2003.  We look forward to the conversations about Elk Grove’s future that it will generate and what the next 15 years, and beyond, have in store.

We have talked a lot about infrastructure improvements and major projects underway and in the works to make Elk Grove an even better place to live.  But the strong commitment to caring for one another is what truly makes Elk Grove a special place to call home.

The Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Resource Team (EG HART) is about to embark on a program that has been successful in 80 cities around the country called "Circles."  This program goes beyond giving families emergency help by providing them with the counseling and the education they need to break the cycle of poverty.  On Thursday April 23, the coordinator of the Circles program in Carson City Nevada will present an introduction to the program for community, church, service group and business leaders at Elk Grove United Methodist Church. Flyers about these sessions are available in the foyer.

This Council believes in a City that is welcoming and enjoyed by all of its residents, and we believe in a safe and involved community. That is why I am very excited to announce an expansion of Elk Grove’s neighborhood engagement and community involvement program.

The police department is taking the lead in this effort, building on its existing Neighborhood Watch Program. Neighborhood Watches are block-level programs and there are 240 of them in Elk Grove. The Watches themselves aren’t changing but are being reorganized into a “neighborhood-based, community policing” initiative that will be supported by EGPD’s Crime Prevention Unit, which will be expanding starting this year.

Additionally, we are introducing a partnership with “NextDoor” a special social media network to which a few Elk Grove neighborhood groups already belong. Neighborhoods create their own NextDoor websites, accessible only to those living in the area and the officers that work their neighborhoods. Officers can post public safety messages to neighborhood residents and answer questions. Neighbors can use the site to exchange information about babysitters, plumbers, lost pets, as well as reporting suspicious activity.  They can even use it to arrange meetings and exchange information – keeping the conversation during future neighborhood summits going – even after the meeting has ended.

We’re very excited about this new neighborhood initiative and invite you to watch for the official roll-out next week.

Closing

As we celebrate 15 years as a City, our dream is that the City of Elk Grove will continue to grow stronger—whether it is through the opening of civic facilities and new businesses, the improvement of our transportation and other infrastructure, or the grassroots community involvement beginning at the neighborhood level—to become an even better place to live, work, and play. I believe that we can do that TOGETHER.

Look around the room and around the City, and you can see it. You can see the BIG picture for Elk Grove in our goals and vision, and now you can see it in the artwork being completed by our own Keith Young, who has so beautifully illustrated today’s address, summarizing thousands of words into Elk Grove’s BIG picture. As you can see, the BIG picture for Elk Grove is one that is positive, hopeful, and ambitious. The State of our City is strong.