Over chicken, Caesar salad, carrots, broccoli and cake, concerned La Verne citizens listened to Mayor Don Kendrick reflect on 2016 and look forward to 2017 in the State of the City address at the Meeting House at Hillcrest in La Verne on Thursday, Jan. 27.
It was a folksy affair, with the mayor noting that he knew practically everyone in the room, which included city staff, school officials, local business leaders, and police and fire representatives.
The mayor proudly recalled how far the City had come from the dark days of 2009 when sales tax revenues dropped $1 million during the Great Recession. To illustrate his point, he said the median price of a La Verne home is now $585,000, surpassing the 2006 pre-recession high.
“Things just keep getting better,” the mayor said, adding that vacancy rates along the city’s major corridors are at 6%, a seven-year low, and that 93% of La Verne citizens indicate they are pleased with the level of services the city provides.
Kendrick further remarked that in the previous four years restaurant receipts have more than doubled from $3.8 million to $8 million.
Meanwhile, while managing a $54 million budget, the city has grown its rainy-day reserves to $12.3 million.
On the business front, Kendrick declared that the city saw 88 new businesses open their doors in 2016, including the opening of Aldi grocery store and the Sleep Train Mattress & Bed Store. Gilead, the international health and pharmaceutical giant, is expected to complete construction of its roughly 400,000-square-foot facility below Arrow Highway this summer. When fully operational, it will employ some 500 employees, earning $75,000 on average, wages that should favorably impact the local business and housing economies.
More housing also came to La Verne, covering the spectrum from luxury – 25 new homes off San Dimas Canyon Road – to entry-level affordable — 36 subsidized apartments serving low-income families and transitional age youths under the auspices of David & Margaret Youth and Family Services.
Physically, the city, which was incorporated in 1906, continues to change, including the display of a new city seal, carved by Ruben Guarjardo, who also crafted the magnificent oak door greeting visitors to the La Verne Public Library.
The new seal exchanged rays of sunshine peeking over mountains for scenes of the University of La Verne (education), two clasped hands of different skin colors (friendship), orange groves (agriculture and commerce) and Brackett Field and the Metrolink (two of the city’s key transportation links).
The seal also will be featured on new city street signs.
Notwithstanding the recent rains, the city has promoted a draught-tolerant agenda, resulting in the conversion of eight football fields of luscious lawns to water-sipping landscapes and savings of 13 million gallons of water.
Conversion to more energy-saving LED lighting in 2017 will further help the city cut its energy costs by an estimated $200,000 a year, the mayor said.
And the city will likely gain an extra $600,000 a year after the passage last November of Measure A, the Los Angeles Countywide 1.5 cent per square foot parcel tax to help build new parks and maintain existing one, and Measure M, the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan that will bring the Foothill Gold Line to town in 2025.
Foodies were delighted to hear about several new anticipated restaurant openings, including Foodie Cube, a Japanese bento box style restaurant at the former Bakers Square-Garden Square location on the northeast corner of Foothill and Wheeler, and Tensui River Taiwanese Cuisine, expected to open at 2855 Foothill.
And going into the retail space formerly occupied by Sinfully Sweet Apple Company in the Stater Brothers Shopping Center is Nothing Bundt Cakes, where customers will be able to choose from 10 luscious Bundt flavors and 40 unique cake designs. Whether the ill-fated Marie-Antoinette actually said, “Let them eat cake,” matters little as La Verne appears to be in line for its fair share of the ring-shaped deserts.
Lastly, the mayor simultaneously struck a sad and celebratory note. He marked the passing on Aug. 29, 2016 of Kirk B. Johnson, who earned a law degree from the University of La Verne and ran a successful real estate business in downtown La Verne for two decades. Another of Kirk’s love was youth baseball, a passion that will be enshrined when his name is permanently attached to Pelota Park Little League Park. The ceremony will take place will Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. at the park.
Legacy, leadership and lots to look forward to — a full menu for those who turned out for the annual State of the City address.
The State of the City was sponsored by Hillcrest, the La Verne Chamber of Commerce and the La Verne Rotary.
The Real Dirtt is a regular feature brought to you by long-time La Verne Realtor Colleen Bennett.