At the annual State of the City address, Mayor Michael Davitt offered morsels of interest for just about everyone in the large lunchtime Kiwanis crowd Wednesday at Descanso Gardens’ Van de Kamp Hall.
Davitt boasted of the city’s low 7% commercial vacancy rate, its issuance of 55 film and photography requests (worth $28,475 to the city, he noted) and said 624 Summer Beach Bus riders rode from La Cañada Flintridge to Santa Monica in 2017.
He also addressed public safety, assuring his audience that it remains a top priority for the City Council. Although there was an uptick late last year and early this year, including a pair of frightening home invasion robberies, the good news, Davitt said, is that the 270 total crimes recorded last year in the city represents a 12% decrease over the past five years.
“That’s a really great trend,” Davitt said. “Unfortunately, we had some spikes. But overall, our crime is down.”
To address public safety in the past year, Davitt said the city purchased an additional automatic license plate reader and funded a Ring residential video doorbell rebate program. It also increased the budget for Sheriff’s directed patrols by $40,000 and added a community services assistant position to the budget, he said.
By the next State of the City address, Davitt said the city hopes to have renovations completed on its new City Hall, to implement technological improvements for the planning and permitting process, and for the Downtown Village Specific Plan to be completely reviewed and updated.
The city has $13,767,900 in its general fund budget, Davitt said, and $13.1 million in reserves — a decrease of $5.4 million from the prior year on account of the $5.5 million payment toward the new City Hall, which will be located in the Town Center.
“We figure once every 40 or 50 years, you can buy a new City Hall,” Davitt said, adding in jest, “and that’s about the frequency that [City Manager] Mark Alexander buys a new car.” (He credited Councilman Jonathan Curtis for the joke.)
Davitt also previewed the ongoing, on-track project that’s expected to streamline planning requests online when it launches in early 2019.
“What that’s going to do is modernize the permitting process,” he said. “It’s going to improve efficiency and ease for residents so they can start a permitting process online and, from beginning to end, check on the status of their permits as they go through the system.”
Target’s anticipated October opening will be good for LCF, said Davitt, while highlighting the retailer’s efforts to encourage shoppers to use the 170 parking spaces on the roof of the store.
“They’re going to put another elevator in so you can access that parking lot,” he said, “and that’s really convenient for people.”
Other projects on the horizon include L.A. County’s plans to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment from behind Devil’s Gate Dam starting, Davitt expects, in September 2019.
There’s also the $1.4 million Foothill Bike Lane and Greenbelt Link project planned in front of the YMCA. That will be funded jointly by the city and the state and scheduled to debut by early 2019, Davitt said.
And there’s the completion of the city’s sound wall project, meant to block sound along the 210 Freeway. In December of 2017, LCF applied for a $10 million grant to fund the last 25% of the project.
The city expects to learn whether it will receive that funding in May, Davitt said.
There’s also the matter coming up for a new moniker for what’s become an annual tradition of a mayor’s hike. Started by Curtis in 2016, Davitt again invited the community on a hike last year, calling the event, “Hike With Mike.”
That title, he pointed out, won’t work as well after a new mayor takes charge at the City Council meeting on April 3.
“You can work on it,” he told current Mayor Pro-Tem Terry Walker.
And as Kiwanis Vice President Maureen Bond gave Davitt a new Oakland A’s cap — his lifelong favorite baseball club — Kiwanis President Chuck Terhune told the mayor: “I learned a lot about the city today, I really did. Thank you so much.”