|TO:||HONORABLE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL|
JOAN MALLOY, CITY MANAGER
SIX MONTH PROGRESS REPORT ON THE STRATEGIC PLAN AND A REINFORCMENT OF CITY COUNCIL PRIORITIES FOR FISCAL YEARS 2021-2022 AND 2022-2023
Staff recommends that the City Council accept this as an informational report on progress between August 2020 and February 2021 to achieve the City’s strategic plan and provide comments as needed. This report will also reinforce the City Council’s adopted priorities as the biennial budget process commences for Fiscal Years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.
STRATEGIC PLAN ALIGNMENT
Goal E. Build strong connections with community partners, residents and employees.
- Strategy 3: Create and implement a plan for conveying progress and outcomes from the City’s Strategic Plan to employees and the community at large.
The City Council adopted its five-year strategic plan in October 2019. For the purpose of aligning the strategic plan with the budget cycle, Year 1 is considered Fiscal Year 2020/21. Consistent with staff’s commitment to provide the City Council with two progress reports a year, this report is the second progress report for Year 1.
In August 2020, the City Council heard the first progress report for F2020/21 and also voted on Council priorities. These priorities include:
- Goal A/Strategy 1: Establish a comprehensive fiscal stability and sustainability plan to address the General Fund’s long-term structural deficit.
- Goal A/Strategy 2: Determine the level of authorization of a Utility Users’ Tax and develop an informational plan.
- Goal A/Strategy 4: Develop a plan to reduce the costs and increase revenue for Community and Recreation Services.
- Goal C/Strategy 2: Facilitate the build-out of the greater Station District Area through the construction of the Quarry Lakes Parkway, upgrades to the BART Station, completion of the pedestrian rail crossing and the sale and development of City-owned land.
- Goal C/Strategy 3: Develop a multi-departmental approach to address homelessness through coordination with staff, community organizations and Alameda County.
These priorities, along with other strategies underway in the strategic plan, will guide the biennial budget process for Fiscal Years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.
Since the August 2020 retreat, staff has continued to make major strides in accomplishing the City Council’s priorities, along with many of the 59 strategies laid out in the strategic plan. These strategies are accomplished through our day-to-day operations, policy and program development and implementation, land-use planning and most importantly, fiscal planning. However, many challenges, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, can hamper staff’s ability at times to pursue the City’s goals as identified in the strategic plan.
This report will provide a six-month progress report (August 2020 to January 2021).
COUNCIL PRIORITY: Goal A/Strategy 1 - Establish a comprehensive fiscal stability and sustainability plan to address the General Fund’s long-term structural deficit.
The City has undertaken several fiscal strategies over the last year of this plan with the aim of establishing fiscal stability and more long-term fiscal sustainability. The City has carried out numerous budget reductions over the last year, which have the implementation of the management audit, the closure of Fire Station 30, the reduction of library and community center hours and the elimination of community policing officers and school resource officers, and the freezing of all non-essential hiring. These cost-reduction measures have saved the City several millions of dollars; however, have caused significant strain on staff resources.
In the last six months, new revenue generation efforts have been achieved by way of securing the passage of Measure WW and expanding cannabis zoning into Union Landing. The result of this extensive work leads the City to its upcoming biennial budget process for Fiscal Years 2021/22 and 2022/23 where staff anticipates no need to make additional budget cuts at this time. However, new projects, programs and needs will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. While new projects, programs and needs will be evaluated on a case- by-case basis, staff recognizes there will be several cost increases stemming from existing City contracts for services and software, and insurance premiums.
While these cost-cutting and revenue generation efforts have created financial stability for the short-term, the City Council must continue to carry out disciplined long-term planning to address the long-term structural deficit. This disciplined planning will include preparing for the expiration of the half-cent sales tax in April 2025, along with other potential options. To assist the City Council in this next chapter of fiscal sustainability, staff is considering strategies for more City Council and citizen engagement.
COUNCIL PRIORITY: Goal A/Strategy 2 - Determine the level of authorization for the utility users’ tax and develop an informational plan.
After a loss at the ballot box in March 2020 of the renewal of the public safety parcel tax, a City Council ad hoc committee quickly moved to study next steps to plan for the expiration of the public safety parcel tax in June 2021. Measure WW, a 5% utility users’ tax, was subsequently placed on the November 2020 General Election ballot, and a robust communication effort was carried out. Measure WW was passed with 57% of voter approval.
An implementation effort is underway and staff expects to begin receiving revenue from this tax in April 2021. In addition, the establishment of a citizens’ oversight committee and the implementation of independent audits by a third party, as required by law, are also underway. Staff commits to continued education on the use of resources related to Measure WW to maintain public trust and confidence.
Goal A/Strategy 3 - Reduce costs associated with the City’s fire contract with Alameda County.
In November 2020, the City executed a five-year agreement the Alameda County Fire Department (ACFD) for continued fire and emergency response services. The signing of this contract includes the following cost reduction commitments:
- A provision that the ACFD will continue to explore a new model for providing emergency medical services with the aim to create added efficiency in response to medical calls for service.
- The operation of three fire stations in Union City staffed by three personnel per shift and two and half positions that administer fire inspections, prevention and code compliance.
- A continued minimum payment by the City to the ACFD of $201,688 annually to help pay down about $9.1 million in retirement liability costs. As of today, the City has contributed just over $1.5 million towards this liability. In addition, the City has deposited $1,479,107 into an internal PARS savings account that can be conveyed to ACFD at the City Council’s discretion as payment toward the OPEB obligation.
Staff also continues to take part in a county-wide discussion where other agencies (including Alameda County and other cities) are exploring alternative models of emergency medical services.
COUNCIL PRIORITY: Goal A/Strategy 4 - Develop a plan to reduce the costs and increase revenue for Community and Recreation Services.
Staff provided a high-level briefing to the City Council in August 2020 on the status of the Management Audit, which recommended the evaluation of Community and Recreation Services to determine if there were changes to the service model that could identify significant General Fund savings. During that presentation, staff summarized that the biggest opportunity for generating more revenue was to reduce the general fund subsidy of fees. Staff will be returning to the City Council this spring with specific recommendations for fee increases and a report on the feasibility of leasing community facilities to private entities as profit-making enterprises.
Goal A/Strategy 5: Implement the City’s cannabis program to attain anticipated new revenue with a commitment to adapting where necessary in light of evolving Statewide trends.
The City Council approved amendments to the municipal code to allow one cannabis dispensary use in two subareas of the Union Landing Commercial (CUL) District, which included the Subregional Commercial Development area and the Subregional Specialty Commercial Development area. Since taking effect, an application process is underway, and staff anticipates making a recommendation on the single dispensary permit use for Union Landing at the February 23, 2021 City Council meeting.
Here is an update on all current and anticipated cannabis permittees:
Grupo Flor, to be recommended to the City Council on February 23 for a declaration of intent to award a cannabis permit, has minor tenant improvements at their proposed Union Landing location and is expected to begin operation in early FY 2021-22. As reported by Grupo Flor, their expected cannabis business tax revenue is $279,000 in FY 2021-2022; $736,000 in FY 2022-23; $834,000 by FY 2023-24; and, $859,000 in FY 2024-25. Grupo Flor anticipates committing $100,000 annually in community benefit payments to local nonprofits and city programs.
Jiva Life has overcome leasing obstacles at their Union City Boulevard location and entered into a partnership with Cookies, which is providing capital funding. They expect to begin operation by early FY 2021-22 with an expected cannabis business tax revenue of $240,000 in FY 2021-22; $258,000 in FY 2022-23; $277,000 in FY 2023-24; $298,000 in FY 2024-25; and, $320,000 in FY 2025-26. Jiva Life also submitted its annual community benefit payment of $3,000 to the Union City Police Department to go towards marijuana drug recognition training for police officers and $4,500 towards Youth and Family Services programs.
Eden Campus Holdings has the most complex site and tenant improvements at their Union City Boulevard location of all the permittees. The grading and building permits are ready to issue. The applicant is working through some final matters on their end.
Goal A/Strategy 7: Reduce staff costs and increase staff efficiency by increasing the public’s access to self-service options.
The City’s I.T. Department has continued to work with departments to increase access to self-service options. The COVID-19 pandemic has once again showcased the resiliency of the City organization and its employees to quickly modify how it delivers services to the public.
The Economic and Community Development Department (ECD) has modified the way business is conducted in order to maintain quality services, while also ensuring the health and safety of employees. An online form was launched in order to efficiently facilitate outdoor dining and personal services during the pandemic. In addition, an online program was launched in September 2020 to process grant funds in the categories of small business, residential rental assistance and food aid for qualifying nonprofits. The ECD Department has also instituted an on-line scheduling service that allows community members to book appointments for virtual planning assistance since City Hall is currently closed to the public.
A Public Works online service request form was recently established to provide the public an easy and quick way to submit public works-related requests on a range of topics, including potholes, tree trimming, and illegal dumping. Prior to the creation of this online request form, the City lacked a centralized approach to tracking and responding to inquiries. Since the form launched on June 25, 2020, there have been nearly 650 requests placed by the public (as of early February). The majority of requests are about trees, street light outages and illegal dumping. This is a notable first step in also achieving Goal E/Strategy 5, which is to build a customer relations plan for public works and code enforcement.
Currently, the City’s I.T. Department is working with the Finance Department to review and assess which forms and services can be moved online for self-service options.
Last, the Community and Recreation Services Department has continued to expand and maintain its virtual recreation center amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The courses have been held via Zoom and have strived to serve youth, adults and seniors in the community.
Goal B/Strategy 1: Align the provision of critical city services and Strategic Plan implementation with current staffing levels.
In September 2020, the City Council continued its support to restructure the City organization to better support the implementation of this plan. To address the challenges that the City is facing, the Information Technology Manager was reclassified to Chief Technology Officer, Human Resources Manager to Chief Human Resources Officer and Communications Manager to Assistant to the City Manager. These positions are critical to accomplishing the strategic plan, in addition to supporting the backbone of day-to-day operations.
IT integration into all operations of the City has continued to be a top priority. We have witnessed the core importance of technology through the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to move to virtual operations, consistent with Goal A/Strategy 7. Further, security of the City’s technology systems is paramount as we continue to recover from the September 2019 cyberattack.
Human Resource operations are imperative to succession planning and staff development and training as the City confronts typical staff turnover that has been compounded by the retirements of long-term staff and unforeseen vacancies has employees have adjusted to Covid-19. As the Council is also aware, with the COVID-19 pandemic, this division is responsible for the City’s response and communication with employees.
The City Manager’s Office continues to serve as the cornerstone for communications, emergency management and key City initiatives, including the implementation of the City Council’s priorities. In the last several months, the City Manager’s Office has been at the forefront of managing and meeting public relations demands, which have included establishing an emergency operations center and joint information center to ensure rapid response to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, a multi-week community engagement process in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and leading the City through the successful passage of Measure WW in November 2020.
Goal B/Strategy 2: Establish professional development plans for each employee to optimize staff resources, support their growth and demonstrate commitment to employees’ careers through a mentoring program and cross-training assignments.
The constant state of emergency in the last couple of years has hampered the City’s ability to expand professional development comprehensively across all City departments. However, Human Resources and I.T. are currently working together to implement an employee tracking system that will allow Human Resources to keep track of training and performance reviews, which is a significant foundational step in expanding further on the City’s commitment to develop its employees.
In addition, Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci secured three scholarships to Harvard Kennedy School’s executive education courses. These scholarships were granted due to her work with the Bloomberg Foundation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As the City’s mid-management and senior management continues to shift due to staff attrition, preparing the next generation of leaders with educational opportunities, like this, is paramount to the City’s long-term sustainability.
Goal B/Strategy 3: Implement a new system of electing councilmembers by district and establish protocols for governance.
The City held its first by-district election in November 2020 for District 1. Districts 2, 3 and 4 will hold by-district elections in 2022.
The City Council also adopted Council Norms in January 2021, which are an agreed upon set of behaviors or procedure that all council members will demonstrate for the benefit of the organization and to serve as an effective policy team.
An overall transition of City Council retreats to an outside facilitated format and a transition to holding them in August each year has also helped to ensure that each year the City Council has an opportunity to fully understand the City’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; and, gain consensus on priorities.
Goal C/Strategy 1: Analyze the feasibility of transforming warehouses to attract high-value industrial and commercial uses for the benefit of the community.
A report went to the Economic Development Advisory Team (EDAT) this month on potential options for a comprehensive warehouse strategy. Options included: 1) prohibition or additional zoning controls on warehouse uses, 2) addition of design standards to facilitate construction of new industrial buildings that can accommodate a variety of industrial uses, and 3) an update to our Business License fee structure to increase fees for warehouse uses, which would require approval of a ballot initiative by the voters. EDAT members provided feedback and requested some additional financial information regarding the Business License fee update. Staff will be providing the City Council an overview of the options and a summary of the EDAT feedback as well as the additional financial information requested. It is anticipated this will occur in the March/April timeframe.
COUNCIL PRIORITY: Goal C/Strategy 2 - Facilitate the build-out of the greater Station District Area through the construction of the Quarry Lakes Parkway, upgrades to the BART Station, completion of the pedestrian rail crossing and the sale and development of City-owned land.
The Alameda County Transportation Commission authorized the release of funding to complete the design of Quarry Lakes Parkway (QLP) in November 2020. Staff anticipates there will be enough funding to complete the construction of phases one through four (over the next six years or so). There are five total phases for the QLP project. The fifth phase straddles the Union City and Fremont boundaries and links the Caltrans site to Paseo Padre Boulevard in Fremont. This final phase will require working closely with Fremont.
Staff is currently completing a process for the California Transportation Commission to convey the Caltrans property to the City of Union City. Once completed, the City of Union City will then market the property to a nonprofit housing organization as is required by State law.
Windflower 2 development expects to pull building permits in 2022. COVID-19 has brought volatility to the construction markets, which has slowed development.
If Woodstock Development does not proceed with pulling building permits for the three office parcels by December 2022, as required by the option agreement, the City Council will need to consider the appropriate use of its remaining city properties given that the city will receive minimal land sale proceeds due to a change in State law that requires conveying approximately 84 percent of land sale proceeds to taxing agencies. Union City will only receive approximately 16 percent of the land sale proceeds. Staff is recommending a pause as we assess the impact of the minimal land sale proceeds combined with the uncertainty of how the pandemic will change the use of office space moving forward.
Staff still anticipates the pedestrian crossing leading into the Union City BART station will be completed by 2022.
COUNCIL PRIORITY - Goal C/Strategy 3: Develop a multi-departmental approach to address homelessness through coordination with staff, community organizations and Alameda County.
Union City has seen a significant uptick in complaints from the community related to homelessness such as, garbage accumulation, dumping, discharging of waste into storm drains, petty crimes, the unhoused wandering neighborhoods, and loitering and camping in shopping centers and in open space areas. The complexity of addressing the needs of homelessness is vast and spans city boundaries. The City has been reactive in its response to the unhoused due to limited resources to create a comprehensive approach. A comprehensive report was provided to the City Council in November 2020 detailing outside funding availability, and a draft homeless outreach engagement plan that was put together in order to secure funds from Alameda County through an incubator grant program.
Since this report was provided, staff has learned that Alameda County did not approve the City's grant application for homeless incubator funds that it had applied to in October 2020. Despite not receiving those funds, the process raised the visibility for the need in Union City within the region. The City also applied at the end of December to use its allocation of State Permanent Housing Allocation Funds to support CAREavan and potentially a portion of a Homeless Coordinator position. The application is still under review by the State. Staff has also served as an integral part of the Point-in-Time project management team; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision was made not hold a Point-in-Time Count for 2021.
This City Council strategy remains largely on hold because of the lack of resources. Staff analysis has shown that at least one to two full-time additional positions are needed to comprehensively develop an approach to addressing homelessness in the city.
Goal C/Strategy 4: Enhance the City’s partnership with Union Landing property owners and tenants to grow the vitality of the business district and revenue to the City.
Economic Development efforts have been heavily focused on Union Landing with the goal of preventing deeper impacts brought on by COVID-19 and the trend of overall sales tax revenue loss at the shopping center. Economic Development activities to support this strategy over the last six months have included:
- Continued support of the Union Landing Property Owners Association and maintaining the center nonprofit status, IRS and State tax filings
- Renewal of the Property Business Improvement District (PBID) – 5 years, three police officer positions, police substation, marketing, and promotion budget
- Supporting business survival during COVID crisis – challenges and opportunities
- First-ever website, coordinated marketing and promotion efforts
- Coordinating Day Porter and Landscaping Services
- Single Tow Service Contracts
- Installation of Union Landing banners reflecting the center’s new brand – creating a pageantry through the center to increase navigation through the center
- Installation of new regulatory signs and removing obsolete cluttered signage
- Installation of parking Lot IDs Signage
- Redesigns of gateway walls, pending funding for upgrades
- Design proposal for pylon signs underway
- Union Landing Retail Study and Zoning Update underway – the study will look at tenant mix to ensure that it respond to the transformation of retail shopping centers
In addition, Economic Development has focused its efforts to provide pandemic relief and resources to businesses at Union Landing and throughout the City, which have included:
- On-going business communications regarding resources, county orders and compliance guidance, survival strategies
- Launched City’s Road to Recovery Loan Program – 18 businesses awarded loans/grants'
- Promoted Alameda County CARES Grant with Supervisor Valle’s office and the Alameda County Assessor’s Office – 259 business applied; 57 business awarded grants
Goal C/Strategy 11: Complete the Decoto Industrial Park Study Area (DIPSA) Specific Plan (Station District Specific Plan)
In September 2020, the Planning Division wrapped up a robust public outreach process related to different land-use alternatives for the Station District (formerly referred to the as DIPSA) Specific Plan effort. The plan is currently under development now. In addition, the City just kicked off the environmental review process and held a community scoping meeting on February 11, 2021 associated with that effort. It anticipated the Plan and related EIR will be brought back to the decision makers in Winter / Spring 2022.
Goal C/Strategy 13: Align public safety services with community needs based on a data driven decision-making approach
The death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 sparked engagement on the issue of use of force and race and policing in cities around the United States, including our city. A multi-week process was held to engage the community on this topic. As a result of that effort, qualitative data was collected and used to establish recommendations for reimagining policing in Union City, which were adopted by the City Council. Police Chief Jared Rinetti and Councilmember Emily Duncan have moved forward with the establishment of working teams to further study, gather feedback and support the implementation of the recommendations. These recommendations aim to enhance public safety service delivery and align policing with community needs in the areas of accountability and transparency, hiring and training, mental health and social services, and community policing.
Goal C/Strategy 14: Update the police department strategic plan.
The police department is working to create an implementation plan for the reimagining policing recommendations in the form of a new five-year strategic plan. This process will include both internal and external engagement to gain additional perspective on the recommendations and police department priorities. The new strategic plan will eventually be presented to the Mayor and City Council for adoption. Captain Victor Derting is leading the Department’s strategic plan update.
Goal C/Strategy 16: Assess the feasibility of using a private provider to add high-speed internet with the goal of enhancing business attraction.
Staff is in the final stages of negotiating a contract with Verizon to allow small cell deployments that will enable 5G service. Staff anticipates coming to the City Council with an update in Spring 2021.
Goal C/Strategy 17: Create a plan for leveraging the social services resources in Union City and the County to make efficient use of all limited resources.
A new Housing and Community Development (HCD) Manager, Francisco Gomez, was hired and has had to step quickly into a major role in facilitating the City’s Road to Recovery program amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has included small business grants, residential assistance and food aid grants. HCD Manager Gomez is also coordinating with Alameda County on its updated Coordinated Entry Plan, which enables the City to leverage partnerships within the County to access social services.
Goal E/Strategy 1: Conduct outreach and community education about the City services, financial resources, areas of cost, and impacts of failed ballot measures on city services.
Physical distancing guidelines from Covid-19 fast-tracked the expansion of digital outreach and community education around Measure WW and City finances. Since the August retreat, there were several communication measures undertaken, including:
- Dozens of virtual community meetings were held to educate the public on city finances and Measure WW.
- Five mailers were distributed leading up to the General Election.
- A city finance/Measure WW video was produced and streamed to UCTV daily, and to the residents of Masonic Homes, Tropics, and Acacia Creek.
- Two virtual town halls were held in September and October 2020 providing a comprehensive update on city services, city finances and projects.
- Two short educational video series were launched across social media to conduct city finance education and Measure WW outreach. The first series highlighted the work of Falck; Youth and Family Services; and Community and Recreation Services. The second series featured one-minute videos highlighting City services, including Public Works and the Ruggieri Senior Center.
- Following the passage of Measure WW, a ‘thank you’ video was produced and disseminated. A post-WW financial outlook update was provided to the community and unions, via digital communications platforms.
- A post-election General Fund Outlook video was produced and launched across all social media platforms in January 2021 to keep the public engaged and to build confidence in the City’s next steps.
- A post-election General Fund Outlook presentation was provided to the City Council and all labor unions to keep all parties engaged and informed on next steps.
Goal E/Strategy 2: Improve the delivery of and employee and community access to the annual State of the City Address.
The 2020 State of the City Address was held online due to Covid-19. The Address was streamed on Blue Jeans and on Facebook Live, garnering a total reach of approximately 1,200 viewers. A recording of the State of the City Address was shared across all digital platforms, as well as UCTV and the City’s intranet (for employees). New to the event in 2020 was the use of an American Sign Language translator, as well as a live ‘Q&A’ segment with online viewers.
Goal E/Strategy 3: Create and implement a plan for conveying progress and outcomes from the City’s Strategic Plan to employees and the community at large.
In coordination with IT and Communications departments, a dashboard is in its beginning phases of testing and implementation. The dashboard will allow for ease and accessibility of tracking and reporting Strategic Plan progress. In addition, the City’s current biennial budget process brings an opportunity for alignment of resources with the strategic plan.
Goal E/Strategy 4: Enhance the role boards and commissions play in communicating the City’s interests through training and routine engagement.
COVID-19 has caused significant impact to Commission engagement, with some Commissions not meeting as regularly as they would pre-COVID-19. Yet, there has been steps taken to enhance the role of boards and commissions, which include:
- The Policing and Community Engagement Committee (a joint City Council – Human Relations Commission committee) was established in June 2020 to engage the community about policing. This resulted in the adoption of eleven recommendations for reimagining policing.
- The Human Relations Commission participated in active shooter training with the Police Department.
- The Human Relations Commission will also soon take part in a public services needs allocation process tasked with making recommendations to the City Council on recipients of General Fund and Community Development Block Grant funds.
- The Human Relations Commission provided guidance to the City throughout the COVID-19 pandemic on community needs and resources.
- A process is currently underway to develop commission guidelines and a new code of conduct. Staff expects to come back to the City Council this summer.
- A process is also currently underway to appoint commissioners to a newly-formed tax oversight committee, which will meet two times a year to review and annually report on the revenue and expenditure of funds from the City’s voter-approved Utility Users’ Tax and Sales Tax.
Goal E/Strategy 7: Enhance digital engagement to improve ease of access and the quality of information, emphasizing information of particular interest to businesses and residents.
COVID-19 has expedited work in this area due to a community demand for information. The City’s I.T. and Communications Departments have partnered to significantly enhance digital engagement, to include:
- Transition to virtual City Council meetings, townhalls and community meetings;
- Expansion of community and recreation services online;
- Expanded use of UCTV, social media and live stream channels;
- Expanded production and use of video;
- A dedicated webpage for Covid-19 webpage, which has received 30,621 views since it was established on March 10, 2020.
An environmental scan was conducted at the end of 2020 to assess the quality of city information and brand consistency. Data from the environmental scan was used to develop a strategic communications plan which is aimed to address gaps in community outreach and communication and further support this plan.
There is no fiscal impact for providing this report.
Staff recommends that the City Council accept this as an informational report on progress between August 2020 and February 2021 to achieve the City’s strategic plan and provide comments as needed. This report reinforces the City Council’s adopted priorities as the biennial budget process commences for Fiscal Years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.
LAUREN SUGAYAN, ASSISTANT TO THE CITY MANAGER
LAUREN SUGAYAN, ASSISTANT TO THE CITY MANAGER