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Strong 2013 has officials feeling good about city’s state

The stage may have been dark, but the Candlelight Pavilion was abuzz with activity on Wednesday as Claremont officials and business folk crowded the Foothill Boulevard landmark for the yearly State of the City address.

In addition to good food, guests of the annual event have been treated to favorable news in recent years as Claremont officials move forward with increased citywide improvements thanks to better than expected city finances.

This year was more of the same. Following 2012’s $1.8 million surplus, Claremont again saw an increase in city finances of more than $1.3 million, primarily thanks to reduced spending, streamlining the city’s approval processes and increased economic development in city shopping centers.

“With a strong economic base, the city has realized a healthy increase in sales tax revenue,” said Claremont Mayor Opanyi Nasiali. “When I ran for city council three years ago, I campaigned on the slogan ‘Living Within Our Means.’ At the time the city was facing a $3 million deficit caused by a state seizure of local funds, the impact of a failing economy and unsustainable expenses such as employee pension costs...I am pleased to say the state of the city is positive.”

In 2013, dubbed the year of “moving forward,” the council did just that, progressing in housing development as well as in areas deemed as top priorities to the council such as economic development. After years in flux, shopping centers like the now flourishing Auto Center Drive have become a significant contributor to the city’s improved economic stability.

Auto Center has become known for much more than the cluster of auto dealerships from whence it draws its name. While Norms proved an important addition to the promenade, the opening of the Super King grocery store in late 2011 proved to be particularly fortuitous. Since July 2013, more than 11 businesses have come to call the Auto Center mini-mall home, from dentist offices to dining destinations. Today the center is at 97 percent capacity and growing. City officials hope to mimic the success of the revitalized shopping center as they focus on filling vacancies at the freshly renovated Peppertree Square.

As economic development booms, city officials expect to see the same boost in the city’s housing market thanks to the advancement of several housing projects over the past year. Developer Taylor Morrison held a grand opening ceremony last week for its Citrus Glen complex, a cluster of 50 townhome-style dwellings located on the corner of Padua and Base Line Road. In the next several years, Claremont residents can expect to see as many as 694 new housing units, many of which will be townhomes, as other developers follow suit.

Despite the surplus, city officials asserted continued fiscal responsibility as a top priority in 2014. With several pricey items on Claremonters’ wish list—expansions at the Joslyn Center, a new police station and potential water acquisition among them—city administrators are making advance preparations for city spending with the creation of several master plans. Among the blueprints in progress are master plans for the Wilderness Park, police station, Joslyn Center and Foothill Boulevard, currently in the public input process. More information is available on the city’s website.

The Claremont team also recently completed a notable update to the city’s sustainability plan, which councilmembers note includes not just energy-efficient practices, but financially sound decision making. As Claremont continues with the potential acquisition of the city’s water system and other potentially costly expenditures, officials maintained a commitment to continuing to evaluate financial costs to the city and its residents.

“We will continue to focus on living within our means and consider the financial impact of these decisions on our budget,” Mr. Nasiali said. “The city council and staff consider our financial health to be a top priority.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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