The Southwest Riverside County Association of REALTORS® (SRCAR) held its fourth annual City Managers’ Breakfast on Thursday, June 19 in Murrieta.
Kimberly Parker, SRCAR’s 2014 Legislative Chairperson, welcomed Grant Yates (Lake Elsinore), Gary Nordquist (Wildomar), Rick Dudley (Murrieta), and Aaron Adams (Temecula) to address an assemblage of local REALTORS® and other interested parties. Moderator Gene Wunderlich, SRCAR’s Government Affairs Director, noted that this year all guests are repeat speakers as opposed to last year when four out of five were new in their positions.
Despite the lack of redevelopment agency funds and vehicle license fees taken by the state, every city is in recovery mode from the recession. They are moving forward with infrastructure improvements, revitalization projects, park openings and job attraction.
Public safety and education are among the best in the nation. New home development and commercial development plans are also going strong. Attracting hotels was a common theme as the Transit Occupancy Tax nets cities a larger percentage than other sources (ten percent versus 1-2 percent for sales tax and 6-7 percent for property taxes). Murrieta and Temecula have turned their former City Hall buildings into business incubators to spur local business and job growth.
City Manager Rick Dudley reported that Murrieta was ranked the second safest city in the nation (eighth for cities over 100,000 population) based on all eight categories (four for property and four for crimes against persons) of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting annual ranking. Murrieta has ranked in the top ten the last five years. The city now has paramedics on every fire engine and a response time of five to six minutes.
Murrieta schools are among the top five in Riverside County; all three high schools rank in the top ten per cent in the nation. The Murrieta Valley Unified School District has a 94.5 percent graduation rate. In 2012, Murrieta Valley High School won the World Robotic Competition. Murrieta Mesa High School is the only one in the county to teach Mandarin. A team of seven fourth and fifth graders from Cole Canyon Elementary travelled to Iowa State University May 27 to 30 and won this year’s World Finals Tournament in the Odyssey of the Mind international competition. The competition included thousand of teams from throughout the United States and 25 other countries.
Parks and events contribute greatly to Murrieta’s quality of life. The city has 50 parks, three sport parks, an equestrian center and an extensive trail system. The city sponsors a large number of events; there are also a number of citizen-sponsored activities.
The city is fiscally sound – despite losing 25 percent of its employees and revenues – and sales tax revenues are at pre-recession levels.
The city’s primary effort is economic development to build a strong local economy to weather the next recession. The focus of this effort is primarily job creation, especially in the North Murrieta Technology Corridor and the South Murrieta Business Park. There are also efforts underway to attract additional retail/restaurant developments as well as hotels. The Triangle project’s revised plan (at the intersection of I-15 and Hwy 215) was approved: reduced retail to 640,000 square feet, 1.7 million square feet of office.
There are plans for mixed-use commercial buildings in historic downtown.
Residential housing plans include: The Vineyard, 1000 units a school and park on the west side; Hubter’s Ridge, 115 units; SunCal , 500 units; and 500 other single family residences. Apartments are also planned near Vista Murrieta high School and near Murrieta Hot Springs and Via Princesa.
Dudley noted later in the Q & A period that Murrieta has been discouraging the use of Community Facility District special assessments (CFD’s) by developers. Murrieta is also not considering the annexation of Winchester; an incorporation study is under way for that area.
Murrieta was named the fourth “Best City for Young Families in California” by Nerdwallet. Dudley also cited an electronic newsletter as saying “Murrieta is one of the best places for military families to move to.”
City Manager Grant Yates has lived in the area since 1991; he has been city manager for 1-1/2 years and is still amazed by the beauty of the area. Lake Elsinore – 43 square miles – is regarded as the fastest-growing city in the state. The city is only 30 percent built out with 1200 acres of undeveloped freeway frontage. During the recession they were averaging 235 new homes per year; since 2011, they have been averaging over 700 per year. There is new development throughout all areas of the city: Canyon Hills, Pardee, Summerly.
The outlet mall is undergoing a $5 million renovation to “create a sense of place.” The city is considering two new hotel applications.
Lake Elsinore has a $26 million Capital Improvement Plan. This includes infrastructure projects: drainage and facilities; parks; alignment studies.
The I-15/Railroad Canyon Ultimate Interchange consists of five intersections within a half-mile that the Federal Highway Department called “one of the most complicated west of the Mississippi.” It is considered a perfect candidate for a European-styled nexus that Yates says “will look like Autopia in Disneyland.” This 2.2 million dollar project looks more feasible compared to the $70-80 million dollar alternatives.
Other projects include a deceleration lane at Railroad Avenue, the I-15/Central Avenue interchange, the Main Street Interchange, revitalizing downtown and historic Main Street, the east Lake Plan, lake conservation, a Walmart supercenter on Central Avenue, the Diamond project (to create a destination with hotels, dining, retail).
“Our motto is ‘Dream Extreme’,” said Yates, “We’re living the dream!”
City Manager Gary Nordquist’s remarks began with “We’re open!” signifying their survival through the recession as the newest city (six years) in the area. Wildomar’s population is 33,716 within a 24 square mile area with 30% under age 18. The city is only 62 percent built out. City staff is nine employees with many services contracted out (Sheriff’s Department, CalFire, PV Maintenance).
At buildout, Nordquist expects Wildomar to have a population of 53,000; 6000 new homes; 500 acres of commercial development; 260 acres of business parks and industrial. He believes this is fiscally sustainable; the challenge is to get to that future.
The city is projecting $1.4 million in sales tax revenue, and $3.2 million in property tax revenues. They lost $2.8 million in vehicle license fees to the state, but the passage of SB69 should restore about $1.9 million to the city coffers.
On April 12, Wildomar opened its city parks after three years of being closed; over 450 community members had joined in to plant 5000 plants/trees and the city hydroseeded the fields.
Residential developments include Lennar at Andalusia; Palomar is under construction; CV communities has a project. There is a 312-unit apartment project at Oak Springs Ranch. Oak Creek at Bundy Canyon is planning 270 units. Shea Homes is planning 1290 single-family residences in a gated community.
Commercial projects include: Bundy Canyon Plaza, Rancon Medical Offices, Baxter Village, Wildomar Square, Westpark Promenade (322 condominiums, a four-story office building, two restaurants on a 27-acre site). A Walmart Supercenter is planned at south of Bundy Canyon and east of I-15. A satellite San Jacinto Community College campus is under discussion for 88 acres of county land on Clinton Keith between the I-15 and Hwy 215.
A notable achievement was the opening of the Clinton Keith/I-15 overpass.
City Manager Aaron Adams noted that this is the City of Temecula’s 25th Anniversary. A balanced operating budget has just been approved and projects $62 million in revenues; 43 percent of the expenditure side is allocated to public safety, which remains a top priority. Temecula remains on the FBI’s list of safest communities in the nation.
Business license applications have shown a positive trend in the last five years. Unemployment is down to 5.6 percent compared to the County of Riverside at 8.3 percent and the State of California at 7.3 percent. There were 1000 new jobs created in the last year in Temecula; Temecula Valley Hospital accounted for 450 of those new jobs with an annual payroll of $40 million.
Sales tax trends are also trending positive; the forecast is for continued incremental increases. The new Mercedes Benz dealership will also have a positive impact; they sold 94 cars in their first month of business.
There are over 100,000 square feet of new mixed-use construction in Old Town that provide office, retail, and restaurants; this includes the new Class A office space in the Truax Building.
Projected residential construction includes 1500 units in the proposed 270-acre Altair project on the west hills of town which necessitates the construction of the western bypass; 250 condominiums in the Wolf Creek/Deer Hollow area; and 1,377 units on nine other sites.
There is a possibility of a Comfort Inn Suites in Old Town. Toyota of Temecula is also being expanded.
Some infrastructure projects were recently completed: Butterfield Stage Road is now connected to Murrieta, the Main Street Bridge is open, Phase I of the French Valley Parkway is open. Phase 2 – the I-15 overpass –is becoming a higher priority, but is only one-third funded. The city is working with CalTrans on the project. Temecula has just broken ground on a new “Special Needs” park for children. An expansion for Pennypickle’s workshop and upgrades to Sam Hicks Park are also in the plans.
The city tries hard to maintain the sense of community and the small town feel; there are over 110 special events each year.
The Temecula tourism industry remains strong at an estimated $625 million annually.
The development of the Jefferson Corridor to attract and create jobs is a top planning priority.
Adams later responded in the Q & A session that Temecula is not considering the annexation of Morgan Hill or French Valley. “It didn’t pencil out,” said Adams, “There wasn’t sufficient tax base to support the services.”
“Temecula is transitioning from a growth city to ‘maintenance mode’,” said Adams, “much thought and long-term strategic planning are needed for the preservation and replacement of city assets.”
Moderator Wunderlich noted that 65 percent of local residents commute 30 minutes or more to a job and that it was important to address local job growth for both quality of life and local economies. The potential for the area is great; “in 2001 to 2006, the area was considered the fastest-appreciating community in the nation.”