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State of the City 2008

Post Date:06/12/2008

State of the City 2008
Mayor Gina Papan
June 12, 2008
As presented at the annual
Millbrae Chamber of Commerce
State of the City Breakfast

Good morning and welcome to the State of the City Address.

First and foremost, let me say that it is a pleasure and honor serving as your Mayor this year. We really have a lot to be proud of. In this Address, I am going to share with you some of this year's accomplishments and let you know what's on the horizon for the coming year.

But before we get started, I'd like to thank the Chamber of Commerce for once again hosting this annual State of the City breakfast, and thank our sponsors: Comcast, PG&E, and South San Francisco Scavenger Company.

Fiscal Year 2007-2008 Accomplishments

In reviewing our highlights and accomplishments, the City of Millbrae has shined as a leader. Many of our achievements are the result of a City whose leadership is willing to think outside the box for creative solutions, build bridges with others, take calculated risks, and do the right thing. We are a City that consistently strives to move forward and seek new heights.

The Budget
We have overcome the setbacks of the past. Just three years ago, we anticipated a shortfall of $2-3 million. Today, I'm pleased to say we find ourselves in significantly better shape, with a balanced budget for the coming fiscal year and more than $4 million in General Fund reserves.

We have achieved fiscal balance while negotiating new contracts with police, fire, and staff; a truly collaborative effort for which I thank City staff and each of the member unions for working together to achieve this common goal.

Our financial turnaround is partly due to our pioneering success in sharing a variety of public safety and other services with our neighboring cities. In a time when most cities were resorting to layoffs and service cutbacks, we took the innovative approach of sharing services which not only saved $900,000 annually, but we've improved our service delivery, provided more training, and greater opportunities for staff to advance.

Because of this innovative thinking, we were honored to receive a prestigious Program Excellence Award from the International City/County Management Association for our groundbreaking work. The National League of Cities has also taken note of this accomplishment and invited us to apply for their Municipal Excellence Award. Locally, we were recognized by SAMCEDA, the San Mateo County Economic Development Association, with awards for our management innovation in sharing services as well as our leadership in sustainability.

Sustainability has been another part of our success.

  1. Banning Styrofoam - This year, we were the first city in San Mateo County to pass an ordinance banning the use of all polystyrene - including Styrofoam. Working with the Chamber and local businesses, we banned these products from restaurants, schools, and City facilities. Our program is one of the most comprehensive ordinances in California. As a model for cities and counties, it requires that all food service ware be biodegradable, compostable, reusable, or recyclable.
  2. Solar Rebate - We also implemented a solar rebate program to reduce greenhouse gases and reliance on fossil fuels.
  3. Climate Smart - We were the first city in the County and the second city in the State to sign up for PG&E's Climate Smart Program to offset our carbon footprint.
  4. Green Businesses - Our businesses are going green, too. My fellow City Councilmembers and I recently awarded certificates to the first four certified green businesses in Millbrae - rewarding them for pollution prevention, waste reduction, water conservation and energy reduction.

This year, we have led the way with new, efficient ways to approach governing:

  1. Police Vehicle Maintenance - An example of our entrepreneurial approach to doing business occurred when we turned over maintenance of police vehicles to the Police Department. They decided to outsource the maintenance to local shops at a savings of $80,000 per year. The cost savings has enabled us to afford seven new patrol vehicles on a lease-to-purchase arrangement.
  2. Fire Engine Purchase - By the way, we also secured a lease-to-purchase arrangement for the new fire engine delivered last fall, which was funded by development fees.
  3. Success through Grants - We continued our success through securing grants totaling almost $2 million. They include:

    $50,000 for after school teen programs
    $21,000 for senior & youth transportation programs
    $5,000 from the United States Tennis Association for tennis courts
    $300,000 for transit-oriented development
    $438,000 for the El Camino Real Grand Blvd Project
    $124,000 for Skyline Boulevard repaving
    $356,000 for crosswalk signals & pedestrian crossing enhancements
    $60,000 from Safe Routes to Schools allowing us to illuminate a crosswalk at Richmond and Geraldine
    $100,000 law enforcement grant for detective work, community service officer, tasers, bullet proof vests
    $6,000 for the Click It or Ticket program
  4. Grant Sharing with Brisbane

    We're sharing a $240,000 homeland security grant with the City of Brisbane for public safety equipment. This grant money frees up funding to do things we otherwise would not have been able to do. Last October, we outfitted our new police cars with a host of advanced technology features including wireless digital video cameras linked to laptop computers that are integrated into the police equipment.

Economic Development
Efficiency is just one way we've improved our City's financial condition these past few years. Another strategy has been to promote economic development to generate new revenues.

Our new hotel sign along 101 helps attract tourism and increase hotel tax revenues. Friendship Plaza opened next to 88 South Broadway and includes new restaurants, a bank, and a drug store. The old BART building at 979 Broadway has opened and is about two-thirds occupied featuring a fitness club, a day spa, and soon an Indian restaurant.

The City's positive financial condition is exemplified by the number of new businesses coming to Millbrae, and particularly by the number of new banks in Millbrae. If the chocolate companies start coming too, we may be known as the new Switzerland.

The Belamor housing project at the old Millbrae theater site on El Camino will feature 142 condominiums with ground floor retail. This kind of mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development in the downtown and along El Camino is the smart growth that all cities are looking to emulate. With gas prices continuing to soar, housing developments along transit corridors will make it easy for people to get out of their cars and onto public transportation. The project is consistent with the Grand Boulevard initiative and transit-oriented development in promoting community vitality and environmental goals.

Affordable Housing
While affordable housing remains one of the biggest challenges facing Millbrae and the Bay Area, we are making strides in finding creative solutions.

This past spring, our Redevelopment Agency negotiated a deal with a non-profit housing developer, Bridge Housing, to purchase and renovate the 27-unit Dolores Lia Apartments on El Camino Real for sale to moderate income members of the area's workforce.

The City has also exercised options to buy units in the new condominium projects being built in Millbrae, for sale to moderate income buyers who work in the City but now commute long distances just to get to and from work.

A Sense of Community
Fostering a sense of community is an important goal of your City Council and staff. We cherish our diversity. From the Greek celebration following my swearing in as Mayor to our Recreation Department, we're doing an outstanding job of sponsoring events to bring the community together in fun and engaging ways that celebrate our diversity. Millbrae's Lunar New Year festival grew exponentially this year and will probably continue to grow. It is the largest Lunar New Year celebration in the Bay Area outside of San Francisco.

With grant money from the Packard Foundation, our Recreation Department opened a new teen center to provide after-school activities for middle school students. Since it opened in January, dozens of teens spend their weekday afternoons there doing activities like games, art projects, and making healthy snacks for sale to participants. We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish this year but we still have many great things to come.

What Will the Next Year Bring?

That brings me to the second part of this Address.

Schools and Kids
As we eagerly await the results of Measure P, let me assure the School District, the parents and our students, that the City is committed to supporting our schools and our students, both during and after school.

Teen Center
An important goal of mine is to secure a permanent site for the Teen Center by forming a public-private partnership to renovate the Lions Scout House on the grounds of Taylor Middle School. Currently, the Teen Center is located at the Recreation Center, adjacent to the school, which we're already outgrowing. With 40 to 50 kids a day, it's getting crowded. The renovation of the Scout House will be a real asset to our residents - providing a place for teens in the afternoons and weekends, and community classes and meetings in the mornings and evenings. It will also free up current meeting space in other facilities to make room for new programs.

I'll be establishing a Mayor's committee which will include the Lions, Rotary, and Soroptomists clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, and our local businesses joining with the City in renovating this important facility.

Today is the day - before you leave here today - drop your business card and make a commitment to join us in making this project a reality.

Athletic Fields
I'm very excited about our recent partnership with the School district to renovate the athletic fields at all five school sites. This is an 18-year agreement in which the School District will have exclusive use of the fields during school hours and specific events, and other groups in the community will be able to use the fields outside of school hours.

This is a real win-win for Millbrae, enhancing quality of life by enabling our residents to get the greatest use possible out of public facilities. The City and the school district will share equally in the costs to refurbish and operate the fields, which will be the best fields around.

Tennis Courts
Speaking of getting use out of public facilities, after 15 years, you will no longer have to bring a flashlight to play tennis at night at the Community Center tennis courts. Because of a United States Tennis Association grant, this summer we will fix the lights, resurface the courts, replace the screens, and add new benches to the courts.

Also on our agenda for the coming year is to work with the Arts Commission to present an Art in Public Places Policy to the City Council. This policy will serve as a first step toward expanding art in Millbrae. We will explore the possibility of displaying art in public buildings, businesses, and outdoor settings, as well as expanding cultural arts classes and performances. Let's be clear - this is public art, not graffiti.

I am announcing a zero tolerance policy regarding graffiti. Following up on the recent arrest of a minor and his accomplices, we will arrest, prosecute, and seek restitution from parents for the thousands of dollars in damages caused by kids who tag or deface property with graffiti.

More Efforts to Come Together as a City

We are looking at creative ways to help our residents find out what is happening in their community.

Hi-Tech Communications with Citizens
We'll be launching a new format for the City's website to make it more user-friendly and informative. Staff is laboring hard to go live by Labor Day. We're really doing as much as we can to take advantage of email and the Internet as low-cost ways to keep our community informed. If you haven't already done so, be sure to visit our website to sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter to residents. It's a great way to stay up-to-date about what's going on.

Recreation Department Activities
The Recreation Department expanded classes and programs for adults and kids. Both physical and educational programs can be accessed on-line. Summer camp enrollment is up 22%, likely because of increased gas costs, people have chosen to stay close to home.

The Recreation Department has also begun meeting with community groups to work on a Spring 2009 special event. The goal is to bring everyone together to celebrate Millbrae, get to know their neighbors, and support our many community organizations.

Technology as a Cost Saver to Achieve Safety

Red Light Cameras
We continue to take advantage of advanced technology and additional red light cameras will be installed at El Camino and Millbrae Avenue and at the southbound 101 off ramp and Millbrae Avenue.

Safe Routes to Schools
Through a Safe Routes to Schools grant, we'll be installing solar powered crosswalk lights in the school crossing at Geraldine and Richmond Avenues.

In the next six months, we'll start saying goodbye to hand-written moving violations. Unfortunately, the violations aren't going away, just the hand writing is. In its place will be citations from hand held computers called "Autocites." These devices will be able to connect to the Internet and search for outstanding violations or warrants.

People Making Millbrae Work
As helpful as new technology can be, it will never fully replace the need for real human beings. We are very grateful to the huge volunteer force serving our Police Department. We're the only City in the area that extensively uses help from volunteers. Soon we'll be expanding the program to put some of those volunteers on bicycles to patrol the downtown and to conduct welfare checks on seniors and shut-ins.

Consolidating Services
This year, we can expect to see even more developments in the area of shared public safety services. This past year, we teamed with San Bruno, Hillsborough, and Burlingame to study further opportunities for sharing fire services. The study revealed a potential $1 million in annual savings by consolidating the Millbrae and Burlingame fire stations into a single fire station at a new location, with virtually no impact on response time.

Additional cost savings are projected if we were to consolidate administrative functions either with San Bruno or the Central County Fire District. We'll be making some decisions on that during the first quarter of the upcoming fiscal year.

Further Green Plans
We are continuing our leadership in the area of sustainability, too. We are seeking to certify City Hall and the Library as green buildings, and we are going to establish green building standards for construction within the City limits. In the interim, we encourage all new buildings to include green standards.

We're in negotiations with the garbage company to provide curbside recycling of plastic bags. That's a pretty innovative request, but worthwhile considering how much plastic ends up in the Bay and the ocean, harming the wildlife that eat them thinking they are jellyfish.

We are obtaining hybrid and electric vehicles for police and fire.

New Efforts - Promoting Product Stewardship
We will work with businesses to encourage extended producer responsibility or product stewardship. If they sell fluorescent lights, they should also take them back for recycling.

Water conservation is going to be especially important this year. Just last week, Governor Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought, warning that residents and water managers must immediately cut their water use or face the possibility of rationing next year if there is another dry winter. The City already offers a variety of programs and incentives for water conservation, but this year our community will have to kick it up another notch. I challenge everyone to conserve water now.

Our biggest project of all is rebuilding our aging wastewater treatment plant, which was built in 1952. The new, state-of-the-art plant will greatly enhance our ability to meet EPA standards and perform maintenance work, and it will reduce the potential for sanitary sewer overflows. Construction should begin in late spring or early summer of 2009. With an estimated price tag of $32 million, this is the biggest project the City has ever undertaken.

The project is being financed by bonds. We are proud that the City's bond rating is up. We received the highest Standard & Poor's rating available for this financing category, indicating a great level of confidence in our ability to refinance this debt. This is yet another positive sign about our financial future.

Economic Development - New Businesses
Another positive indicator is the vibrant economic development in the works for the coming year. We're anxiously awaiting the arrival of, an online home improvement retailer that has selected Millbrae as one of only a few new locations in the Bay Area. They expect to build operations in the next four to five months. We wish them great success. This is a potentially high sales tax generator, so we hope to see a substantial increase in sales tax revenues.

Our local Safeway plans to remodel and expand its store by 50 percent, adding features like a pharmacy and florist. We also plan to further beautify Millbrae by installing hanging flower pots downtown this summer and removing the chain link fence running along Skyline Boulevard.

The old Clarion Hotel site recently went on the market and is currently under contract. The brokers said it's the best site on the Peninsula with a location next to BART, Caltrain, and the 101. We had originally anticipated three new hotels in its place, but plans have changed. Staff has met with the new developer and conveyed our desire for a high quality project including a 175-room hotel and over 300,000 square feet of office/retail space. We are also urging them to construct as green a building as possible to reflect Millbrae's commitment to sustainable development.

The World Journal is looking to rebuild their site, which is located next to Caltrain on the Burlingame border. With Millbrae as their West Coast headquarters, they will continue printing operations, but they plan to rebuild their cultural center and administrative offices and add a couple of stories for business and condominium space.

We continue our efforts to develop the premier site in the City, the BART Station area we call "Site One." If nothing concrete has been finalized by early July, we will explore other development options.

The new 37-home subdivision at One Alp Way is almost ready. This is the City's first new single-family residential development in decades. Called "Millbrae Estates," these will be high-end homes priced in the $1.5 to $2 million range. We are working with the developers to dedicate a street in the development to the memory of the late Congressman Tom Lantos.

In closing, I feel fortunate to serve as Mayor at a time when so many positive things are happening in our community. Through revenue generation, sharing services, and technological efficiencies, we are well-positioned to take on the future. We have $4-5 million - or 25 percent of our budget - in reserves. Our infrastructure is better than it has been in years. At a time when other cities are resorting to layoffs and eliminating positions, Millbrae has a bright future.

This is a team effort. Our City Council came through by selecting the right leadership and policies to guide us. Our City Manager and staff came through too, sticking with us and finding creative solutions that work. I can't think of a better gift for the City's 60th birthday.

Yes, Millbrae is 60. We're still going strong and will continue to do so.

Thank you.

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