March Walnut Creek Mayor's Message
Feb 27, 2017 08:43PM
● By Elena Hutslar
Rich Carlston, Mayor of Walnut Creek
The Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce (the “Chamber”) hosts a State of the City luncheon program each year. Both the chairman of the board for the Chamber and the mayor speak at the meeting. This year it was hosted at the Walnut Creek Marriott. The meeting was recorded by the City of Walnut Creek and is available on the city’s website.
Linda Rimac Colberg, the chairman of the board for the Chamber, shared a short video about Walnut Creek (prepared by her talented husband who, incidentally, did a fabulous job) and then provided an excellent presentation discussing the status of business in Walnut Creek. It was then my turn to discuss the State of the City from the mayor’s perspective.
I began my remarks by simply stating what everyone generally knows – that the City of Walnut Creek is doing fine. While we have clouds on the horizon, as does every city, we are preparing to deal with those clouds when they come. The most important aspect of this is that the city has made, and continues to make, fiscally wise decisions.
I followed this up with statistics that most people do not know about Walnut Creek. For example, we continue to grow in population to presently just over 70,000 residents. Annually, our population growth rate is about 1.5% per year. This growth derives primarily from an increased number of members in families within the city. In fact, 2/3rds of the growth derives from our increased family sizes, and only 1/3 comes from new move-ins.
While the state unemployment rate is 5% and the unemployment rate of Contra Costa County is 4%, the unemployment rate in Walnut Creek is only 2.7%.
Our housing market remains strong, but the mix of housing type continues to evolve. Presently, only 51% of our housing stock is single-family residential. Multi-family residential represents the remaining 49%. In the past ten years, 91% of our residential construction was multi-family residential and only 9% was single family residential.
Also of critical importance due to the housing shortage is the fact that the city has invested over $25M for affordable housing in Walnut Creek. Indeed, of the projects in the approval process and/or under construction, 10% of the units are required to be affordable housing. Through this heavy emphasis on affordable housing, we hope to enable more of the work force working in Walnut Creek to be able to live in Walnut Creek.
Well, so much for facts, let’s examine some of those clouds on the horizon. Not surprisingly, housing issues dominate. Several bills are proceeding through the state relative to housing. Of concern is how those bills will affect local regulations, ordinances and codes. Another cloud is the increase in homelessness. This is a regional issue, and we expect to explore the situation and potential solutions both locally and regionally. And, we have our long-term concerns about traffic and parking.
But, as important as those issues are, we have a need to engage more people in our quality of life programs and projects. We will be focusing on educating our residents of those needs and encouraging and facilitating their becoming involved. It is only through service that we can maintain what we have, and it is only through service that our life takes on its most rewarding meaning.