SAN LEANDRO -- San Leandro is poised to become a plum spot for innovation and prosperous economic development thanks to investments and efforts made by the city and its partners in recent years, more than 140 attendees of the mayor's State of the City address were told Thursday.
Whether lending funds to the school district to acquire land for a health clinic or laying 18 miles of Lit San Leandro conduit to provide hyper-fast Internet connections, the city is prepared to serve its residents and 21st century businesses, Mayor Stephen Cassidy said.
"If you build it, they will come," he said.
Looking ahead, the opening of the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in the fall of 2014 will bring 2,400 jobs to the area and the City Council will begin an environmental review of the shoreline development project in the next two weeks, which includes the addition of restaurants, hotels and a conference center along the San Francisco Bay.
But not all of Thursday's address was cheery.
Cassidy delivered a sobering message on the dire need for road repairs, an increase in crime since January and millions of dollars in unfunded retiree pension and benefit debts. He said the $2 million spent on road repairs annually is just one-third the amount needed to maintain current conditions.
To create a safer city, Cassidy said the police department is shifting from a by-district system of patrols to "a more fluid approach" in which certain areas "receive greater police resources based on statistical models that analyze, predict likely criminal activity down to the day of the week, time of the day and location based upon past crimes."
Property values and city revenues are rising, he said, but not as fast as expenses for employee benefits. The city is looking at closing a $2 million budget gap next year and an additional $4 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
Cassidy announced more than halfway through the 50 minute speech that the city would pursue a local tax measure next year, either a sales tax or bond measure, to increase revenues.
Cynthia Lopez, who moved to San Leandro in 1999, said it is an exciting time for the city but she would want to know more about any tax measure before supporting it.
"I will certainly look at it closely. You never want your taxes to go up, but you also want success for your community and if that is what it is going to take in order to provide the services people need then we need to look at that," she said.
Michael Pretto, 39-year resident and board member of the San Leandro Education Foundation, said he is "quite happy to invest in the projects that will make my street look better."
Pretto, who works in the utility industry in Santa Clara, said the public-private Lit San Leandro Internet project should attract the businesses the city is courting.
"Once you can get past the broadband connectivity, hey guess what? Land values are pretty low compared to particularly the South Bay, so I see it as real opportunity."
Ashly McGlone covers San Leandro, San Lorenzo and the Washington Township Health Care District. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/AshlyReports.