Wow! I mean just wow! If you're anything like me, I bet you sit around all year waiting for this day to finally come around. And here it is... Groundhog Day! So, just the mere fact that you guys are skipping all those wild parties to be here with me today...on actual Groundhog's Day just really touches my heart!
Good afternoon. As a 16-year member of the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce, I would like to thank them for inviting me to speak here today.
I was born and raised in this crazy town and I've seen it boom and grow, develop, decay, and begin to redevelop over the course of my lifetime. I am deeply rooted here and have been actively engaged as a city official in various capacities for almost two decades… even though I'm just barely that old. Needless to say, the thrill of finally becoming the elected Mayor and having this opportunity to deliver my very first State of The City Address is...ridiculously overshadowed by the stress of wanting it to be just perfect.
So, I draw upon something I learned in a previous life while I was still working in corporate America as an entry level sales rep for a publicly traded industrial lighting company. The sales process was technical and involved calling on professional engineers and getting them to specify products into their design blueprints. Half the sales force came from a marketing background and the other half came from an engineering background. I once asked the National Vice President of Sales which group ends up being the best and he said it's a toss-up, but what he looked for the most in new hires, in addition to solid core qualifications, anyways, was a certain sense of "insecurity" that drives people to keep performing at a high-level day in and day out. It was all about having that mental quirk which doesn't allow you to stop and enjoy your past successes because you're too busy trying to figure out how you're ever possibly going to top them in this lifetime. On that validation, I went on to become a successful salesperson for the company. And based upon that same premise, I intend to overcome my fear of public speaking in front of large audiences… one day… hopefully...
Garden Grove has had its own insecurities. Up until recent years, we have been somewhat of a Rodney Dangerfield city: no matter what we did, we just couldn't seem to get any respect around the county. But that is changing. Fast.
We enjoyed an initial heyday way back in our formative years as our gardens and groves were rapidly developed in the post World War II boom era, then we experienced an extended period of stagnation as other newer cities around the county learned from our mistakes and did a better job of master planning their communities, and now we are immersed in an exciting period of revitalization. In recent years, Garden Grove has faced its identity crisis head-on and we have been proactively working to "re:imagine" what our future might look like.
At this point in time, the stars have aligned for Garden Grove to experience a whole new renaissance era in the years to come and, as I learn a thing or two about leadership and adapt to my new role as the Mayor, I am comforted in knowing I will be surrounded by an outstanding City Council, a larger than life cool City Manager, a gifted group of Department Directors, and a vibrant entourage of highly qualified Staff Members to help keep everything in check and moving forward.
Mayor Pro Tem Phat Bui, Kris Beard, John O'Neill, Thu Ha Nguyen, Stephanie Klopfenstein, Kim Nguyen, Scott Stiles, Dept Directors, All City Staff Members.
Garden Grove is once again becoming a pretty COOL place to be! It's a cool place to live, a cool place to work, a cool place to visit as a tourist AND it's also a cool place to park your hard-earned money as an entrepreneur or as a value investor!
We are a living, breathing microcosm of the global economy magnified into a 180,000-population city. We are a rich and harmonious mixture of many cultures from across the world living together in a relatively confined space.
Looking forward, we're going to choose our own way and not attempt to mimic what any other cities are doing. Among our most sacred core values are: We are authentic; we are compassionate; we are welcoming; and we are planning to keep things very, very "real" in The GG.
This type of thinking is what I, and many others, refer to as "placemaking." Garden Grove exemplifies the inclusive nature of "placemaking" as a way for us to celebrate our rich past and craft a promising future for the city. It's a way of thinking that is taking us from an "old" economy to a "new" economy, as we continue to Re:Imagine Garden Grove.
I want to introduce you to two people who have cornered the market on placemaking: Aaron Paley and Shaheen Sadeghi. By background, one is an urban planner and the other is a clothing designer. They each have completely unique perspectives about what it takes to move cities to the next level and yet they both share a similar view about why they see Garden Grove as a city where all the key elements are coming together.
Aaron Paley was the Co-Founder and Executive Producer of CicLAvia and is a Principle at Community Arts Resources, or CARS. I first met Aaron after participating in his 3rd CicLAvia event in Los Angeles. CicLAvia is now the largest, car-free, open streets event in the United States, temporarily turning streets into places for people to walk, bike, socialize and celebrate their city.
Shaheen Sadeghi is the most highly sought after retail developer in Southern California, as evidenced by his well-known projects: The Lab and The Camp in Costa Mesa, and The Packing House District in Anaheim. He is the "Curator of Cool." His company, LAB Holdings, which stands for Little American Business, develops eclectic restaurant and retail centers by adding active programming elements, such as art exhibits and alternative music performances, to create an environmentally conscious shopping experience. Shaheen practices what he refers to as the four "C's:" Community, Culture, Consumers, and Consciousness.
Let's take a look at a video that features both of these pioneers.
During the recent election cycle, I felt an overwhelming outpour of love and support from all-across town. Some people even told me, "I know you're going to make a great Mayor!" Based upon those assurances, I started out by doing what any great and visionary leader would naturally do first: I Googled it! lol.. and here are some of the key takeaways that the World Wide Web had to offer:
"Oftentimes, Mayors require more persuasion skills than decision skills," --- which is another way of saying that my title, and $10, will get me and whoever I am trying to persuade… a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Or, from another perspective, that I better remain humble, likable, and utilize my intrinsic gift of de-escalating tensions and bringing people together if I want to get things done.
"A Mayor should only promise what he or she can deliver within his or her control. Although good intentions are laudable, an honest Mayor knows that there are many people involved in every key decision." --- So, in attempt to be a good Mayor, I intend to focus on facilitating a collaborative vision for the future of the city and then promoting that vision to the public without regard for who takes credit. However, the one thing I will promise right here and now is that by the end of this speech I'm going to reveal the one special ingredient that is going to pull everything together for the future of our city… so, hang in there and I'll circle back around to that later!
"A Mayor should have good communication skills, especially the ability to listen, and always remember that he or she is not capable of learning while he or she is talking." --- So, I'm gonna be a good listener and then I'm gonna focus on putting the people who have good ideas together with the people who can implement those good ideas and make good things happen.
And, I want to point out that during the campaign season, my signs did not say Steve Jones "for Mayor," but instead they said Steve Jones "for Garden Grove." This is strictly an act of community service for me, a demonstration of my love for this city, and I intend to pour myself into serving and supporting the residents, business owners, city staff, city management, and my fellow councilmembers, in attempt to make some great things happen that we can all be proud of together.
If we are able to realize even just a fraction of what we already have in our pipeline, let alone all the fresh new ideas that are about to come forward from our new city leaders, our future accomplishments will be phenomenal.
One of the changes that is preparing us for the future is our transition to District Elections. We're changing the way we govern, and more importantly - we are deepening the dialogue within our community. Governance by district will give us the opportunity to embrace heightened accountability and suggest ways in which we can restructure our local government to better serve our residents.
Let's watch a short video that introduces your new City Council leadership team.
Our newly elected 7-member City Council is off to a great start and I can already tell we are going to have the most cohesive group of public servants in as long as I have been involved with this city.
Let's talk about the "Old Economy" versus the "New Economy" in Garden Grove. Thanks to the grand opening of Great Wolf Lodge within the past year and our re:imagine campaign efforts, Garden Grove is on the right track. But sometimes, even if you're on the right track, you're gonna get run over if you just sit there…so, we have to keep the momentum moving forward.
Today, what's important is being rich in talent and ideas and attracting educated people. Before, people followed jobs, and locations were selected primarily based upon access to transportation and availability of raw materials. Today, talented, well-educated people choose desirable locations to live first and foremost, then they look for a job. They look for places where a high quality of life matters most and they look for a clean, green environment, proximity to restaurant and retail options, and recreational opportunities.
The recent hiring of Lisa Kim as the Director of Community and Economic Development exemplifies our renewed commitment to business attraction and retention. I'd like to highlight a number of new business openings all around town, just to give you a snapshot of what we've got going on:
JP Cali Foods recently bought an industrial property and took over an existing mom-&-pop eggroll manufacturing operation. With the help of our planning department, they will soon employ some rather innovative technology, which will allow them to ramp up production capacity while also preserving freshness and improving product quality.
Another exciting new business in town is 7 Leaves Café. Started by four brothers: Sonny, Vinh, Quang, and Ha Nguyen, 7 Leaves strives to become "The Asian Starbucks" and has aggressive expansion plans in the coming year. 7 Leaves is headquartered in Garden Grove and currently has two of its nine total locations in town, one at Euclid & Trask and the other at Westminster and Kerry.
The successful opening of Walmart at the Promenade has attracted gourmet and healthier fast-food offerings, all wanting to take advantage of destination-oriented shoppers. So, we now have Blaze Pizza, Chipotle, Wingstop, Panda Express, Yogurtland, and coming later this year, an Aldi Market.
In addition, we are also adding Starbucks, Nickel-Nickel Arcade, Smart n' Final Extra a UFC Gym & a Gold's Gym.
On the other end of town, we have the upcoming grand opening of West Grove Fitness on February 18th. Regardless of your starting point, West Grove Fitness offers a vibrant and friendly environment for getting back in shape or even training for the Spartan Race or Mud Run. So, go see Mat and Sarah Paz over there and take that first step towards bringing sexy back and becoming the new you!
On the residential development front, we have been blessed with an overwhelming amount of activity since coming out of the Great Recession, and I would like to take a few minutes to highlight just a handful of key projects that the city is thankful to have in the works:
Brookhurst Place Apartments, located at Garden Grove Boulevard and Brookhurst Street, (aka: The Brookhurst Triangle) is moving forward, with Phase I opening in July of this year. When completed, this project will add 180 Class-A rental apartment units to Garden Grove's inventory. Phase 2 of the project will include 400 new "for sale" condominiums and 200,000 square feet of restaurant and retail uses. This project is expected to bring nearly 600 additional jobs to Garden Grove!
The Catholic Diocese has purchased the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, which has been undergoing some major renovation work. And now the former Saint Callistus Church property at Lewis and the Boulevard is in the process of being transformed by Shea Homes into a new community consisting of 70 brand new single family detached homes.
In addition, the new Jamboree Housing development and the Mariman Company Apartment rehabilitation project, which we discussed with you last year, are nearly completed and ready for occupancy.
City Planners love "mixed use" projects, and the planner geek inside of me is happy to announce that we have two different live-work projects coming to the downtown area soon. One is being developed by Tony Lam and the other by Far West Industries.
We also have a lot of great new entertainment, mixed-use and hotel projects under way:
On Main Street, the Festival Amphitheatre may soon see a changing of the guard, with a proposal in the works by Jon Reiser, Viet Tran, and Angel Zaragoza to modernize the facility and program fresh new concerts and events year-round that will be geared to attract the coveted "millennials" to our downtown area.
My favorite of them all is an adaptive reuse project within the Civic Center area being developed by none other than Shaheen Sadeghi, called "Cottage Industries." The site is comprised of a fragmented collection of old Craftsman style homes, which will be repurposed into possible retail and restaurant uses, including art galleries, breweries, yoga studios, coffee shops, wood fired pizza kitchens, and/or micro-offices.
Shaheen believes he can do something here to celebrate the local culinary artisans who reflect the fabric of our community. The plan is to preserve each of the existing buildings and bring this mixed-use neighborhood to life. When Shaheen told me this is going to be the coolest project he's ever done, I GOT GOOSEBUMPS! We can expect to see this project take shape and form over the course of this year and be open by sometime in 2018.
We also have some impressive growth happening within the Grove District Resort Area, along Harbor Boulevard.
The Great Wolf Lodge Southern California has been so successful right out of the gate, for the first time in our history, Transient Occupancy Tax will exceed Sales Tax as the city's largest single revenue source!
Adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel, we are assembling land to develop a new full service Nickelodeon themed water park hotel.
Just south of the 22 Freeway along Harbor Boulevard, the BN Group recently closed escrow on a piece of property and is planning a Home2/Hilton Hotel with 120 rooms, adding another 100 jobs. This is a $50M project that will generate an estimated $600,000 per year in Transient Occupancy Tax revenue for the city.
In early 2016, Investel bought the 660-room Hyatt Hotel at Harbor and Chapman and they are planning to perform a major renovation to this existing hotel. They are also in the planning stages to introduce a 35-story expansion tower consisting of an additional 800 rooms, which could create over 1,000 construction and permanent jobs.
And, lastly I'm excited to announce the single largest, and hands-down the most exciting development project Garden Grove has ever seen. On the east side of Harbor Boulevard, just south of the existing Target Store, construction of a $450M project is about to commence that will consist of 3 hotels with 769 rooms. By comparison, Great Wolf Lodge was a $285 million project.
The financial state of our city is solid. When redevelopment agencies were abolished at the State level back in 2011, the result was an abrupt and unanticipated $6m hit to the city's otherwise balanced budget. Since that time, we have persevered and decreased the deficit year after year, while still managing to provide modest increases in public safety and department spending. With a continued focus on Economic Development, there is great reason to believe our deficit will be short lived.
For our capital budget, infrastructure, and long-term projects, it is important to note that our fiscal discipline has resulted in the city's bond rating remaining impeccable, thus giving us the flexibility to respond to opportunities as well as meeting the city's fundamental needs.
As green shoots grow into money trees, a top priority of this City Council will be to allocate much needed funding resources to help bring our Police and Fire Departments up to a more respectable staffing level in alignment with the rest of the County.
At this time, I would like to solicit a round of applause for all of those working in our Public Safety Departments who have helped us maintain an exceptionally high level of service for years on a relatively tight budget.
While the future of our community is bright, there are still some daunting regional issues that need our attention. A sad reflection of our growing economic disparity is homelessness. If you've had an opportunity to visit any of the offices at the County of Orange in recent years, or driven south on the 57 Freeway, you've seen this growing epidemic.
Our Police Department's Special Resource Team (SRT), led by Master Officer Brian Hatfield, actively engages in street outreach to combat homelessness. The focus is to help reduce the number of homeless, and police responses involving the homeless and mentally ill, through relocation efforts and connecting homeless individuals to service providers.
Finding better ways to commute enhances the quality-of-life for our labor force, residents, and visitors. That has led us to collaborate with the Orange County Transportation Authority and our neighboring City of Santa Ana. The 4-mile OC Streetcar system will soon be under construction and will connect the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center, through Downtown Santa Ana, then passing through the Willowick Golf Course, and ending up at the south-east border of Garden Grove, with the possibility of continuing on up Harbor Boulevard towards Fullerton in the future. Operations are expected to begin in early 2020. (Thanks to OCTA, Miguel, SA, etc)
Supporting our residents' healthy lifestyles is a priority for our City. That's why we've initiated a Parks, Recreation and Facilities Master Plan to guide our strategic decisions. As we assess our community's evolving needs and public demand, we will simultaneously develop funding strategies enabling our city to implement the plan's recommendations over the next 15 years.
We've already started on the basics. Just this month, we replaced an outdated playground at Eastgate Park, which follows the installation of outdoor fitness equipment just last summer. This year, we'll be placing a new quarter-mile walking trail around Eastgate Park as well.
These improvements have all been possible thanks to grant funds from the Center for Disease Control, which has allowed us to continue expanding usable open space throughout our city. Last fall, we installed 15 pieces of outdoor fitness equipment at Garden Grove Park. We also installed a new LED marquee near the Festival Amphitheater, as well as 10 new park signs that will improve our ability to promote citywide programs and events. We've installed new sports and security lighting, and in many locations, we've been able to convert our lighting fixtures to energy-efficient LED lighting.
Supporting that effort, we're working with the Garden Grove Unified School District to increase joint-use agreements that will allow residents to use school green space as open parks during non-school hours.
I want to give a special thanks to our Community Services Department, led by Kim Huy, John Montanchez, Janet Pelayo, and many others for all of their hard work and dedication to enhancing the livability of Garden Grove.
Many other investments by our city have already paid big dividends; one great example is in Information Technology. Last year, our Police Department replaced its Records Management System, and this year our Fire Department is replacing its legacy system. These upgrades increase efficiency, allowing our Public Safety professionals to continue to quickly respond to the needs of our community.
But we're not just stopping there. In 2017, we're making plans to adopt Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP. This system will allow us to enhance transparency while simultaneously creating financial efficiencies within each department of the city. The new system will improve the accuracy, consistency, and security of data.
Garden Grove's Information Technology Department was recently recognized with two important awards, one in IT Practices and one in Innovation. Let's all give a hard reboot round of applause to Charles Kalil, Anand Rao and the rest of our IT crew for keeping the rest of us from having computer meltdowns day in and day out!
As your City Council, we must anticipate, embrace, and be prepared for what happens next…the next big retailer, the next big employer, the next big entertainment event. We need to be forward looking in our planning efforts, particularly by providing a more accommodative and sustainable infrastructure.
Today's consumers are choosing transportation modes that fit their lifestyle demands. Whether that be zero-emission vehicles, public transit, biking, or walking, we need to stop being slaves to our own automobiles and create more adaptive and flexible forms of mobility going forward.
Here's an awesome quote from a book called, Walkable City, by Jeff Speck: He says, "Get walkability right and the rest will follow. In the absence of any larger vision or mandate, city engineers, worshipping the twin Gods of smooth traffic and ample parking, have turned our downtowns into places that are easy to get to but not worth arriving at."
So, to support a multi-modal future, the City has drafted its first ever Active Transportation Plan, and we will now utilize that Plan to change outdated mindsets that revolve around traffic counts and parking requirements in order to pave the way, or perhaps rather to unpave the way, towards creating a more vibrant and better connected community environment in the years to come. Who knows…in the not too distant future, perhaps your car will drop you off at work and then go make you money by driving other people around all day instead of just taking up a $14,000 piece of land by being unproductively parked in one spot…
Erin Webb and Alana Cheng, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your passionate work efforts in this space!
Which leads me to a shameless plug for our next Open Streets event, coming up on Saturday, April 1st. Building upon the success of our first two Open Streets events, we will once again be "taking our streets back" and featuring hands-on workshops, action sports demos, live music performances, interactive arts, zip-lines, and alternative forms of transportation. And then, at night, we'll once again be lighting up Main Street with a beer garden, live music, and a downtown block party. So, don't be a fool on April 1st- come out and help us continue to re:imagine Garden Grove!
This month, we roll out a new image campaign entitled, "Garden Grove is your Market." The purpose of this campaign is to promote Garden Grove as a city that offers distinct appeal, advantages, and amenities for those looking for a community in which to live, buy a home, raise a family, work, or just visit.
At the same time, the campaign is designed to raise community pride by reinforcing the great choice of living and working in Garden Grove. Let's take a look at this creative video produced by our own GGTV3. This video, and all of today's videos, were produced by our Awardwinning Cable division, Garden Grove TV3, who were also recently honored with top awards at the state and national level, and received two Emmy nominations.
Please acknowledge Jeff Davis and Marie Moran for making GGTV3 such a shining star within our city!
Let me close by saying emphatically - the state of our city is strong and vibrant. Districting is, and will be, a positive change towards blending our communities together by strengthening our local focus. Your City Council and City staff are united in serving this community, and are working to create a Re:Imagined Garden Grove; a Garden Grove that truly is YOUR Market.
For those of us who already live and work here, we take great pride in our community's engagement in the many ways we've negotiated the challenges and opportunities of Orange County's growth and development.
For many young families looking for a community in which to live, buy a home, and raise their children - Garden Grove stands out for its wonderful charm and offers an optimistic future value proposition. We have professional career opportunities, a great education system, a high quality of life, and a beautiful range of housing choices.
Garden Grove is where business and community meet, and that's thanks to all of you in this room who are dedicated to our journey of self improvement. Thank you for making our great city what she is today. And thank you for your continued support as we continue to head in a positive direction.
I would like to conclude with a call to action for community leaders at all levels. It goes something like this… I don't care how many fancy titles you've got, how many millions of dollars you may have, or even how sexy you think you are: Get over yourself! Please! There's lots of work to be done here, so please set egos aside and let's all roll up our sleeves and work together to turn this town around.
If you're walking down the street and see a piece of trash, bend over and pick it up. If you see somebody who looks hungry, feed them. If you've got a good idea with the best interest of this City in mind, follow through, put some back into it, and let's make it happen.
Garden Grove is in a unique position to accomplish great things in the years to come. Embrace that! Be part of it! And we will all share in the rewards of our collaborative efforts in due time.
Ok, so do you wanna know what the secret ingredient is to getting things done in Garden Grove?? Well, I'll tell you right now! It's… it's.. it's.. Here, let me just show you instead:
There is no secret ingredient! We don't need one! To make the future of Garden Grove special we just have to pull together and believe it's going to be special!!!
Thanks for coming and enjoy the rest of your afternoon!