In his inaugural State of the City address, San Ramon Mayor Dave Hudson outlined the goals and anticipated challenges that lie ahead for his city, with the most prevalent issues discussed involving housing, transportation, climate change and the city's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sponsored by the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce and held at the San Ramon Marriott, the address marked one of the first city-approved in-person gatherings since the coronavirus pandemic began well over a year ago, an occasion that Mayor Hudson saw as an optimistic indication for the future.
"The focus now needs to be moving forward. COVID is past. Let the mission statement be 'Better than before' and that focus needs to include doing it the San Ramon way," Hudson said at the beginning of his roughly 30-minute address.
"Our city is primed to move ahead in this decade because of the planning in Sacramento, the good planning regionally and at the local level. San Ramon is represented on every transit, transportation board and authority and is in a position to help advance projects and programs to keep San Ramon among the leaders in California," he added.
With vaccines rolling out throughout the country, Hudson had time to reflect on the city's response to the pandemic, stating that, while the city didn't always have control over regional health measures, city staff did an exemplary job in keeping residents informed on COVID-related regulations.
"(I want to) commend the great job that staff has done to keep the communication lines open during the pandemic. In particular city manager Joe Gorton and Steven Spedowfski and many others," Hudson said. "People were kept updated on any and all changes from the county health officer ... If you weren't sure of something, you knew a way to find out something for sure."
According to Contra Costa Health Services, as of Wednesday 71,648 residents have contracted the coronavirus while 818 have died throughout the county. In San Ramon, a reported 2,175 have tested positive for the virus while 21 have died.
For vaccination rates, countywide 717,950 people, or 72.7%, have become fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. San Ramon's numbers are slightly higher than the county average, with 74.4% of residents being fully vaccinated.
The economic losses resulting from the pandemic will present certain budgetary challenges according to Hudson, who advised residents to expect slow revenue growth initially as the city seeks to restore its pre-pandemic level resources.
Touching on one of the most pressing issues facing communities throughout the Bay Area, Hudson said that the city is going to need to prepare to accommodate a potentially large increase in housing developments due to state legislature seeking to tackle a state-wide housing crisis.
Hudson said that the state's Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle -- which governs the amount of homes communities are expected to approve for development -- is estimated to mandate that San Ramon approve 5,111 new homes over a period of eight years.
"Now, most normal people wonder why anyone would approve more housing in San Ramon," he said. "Don't we have enough congestion?"
While that number will be finalized within the next year, Hudson has advised residents to prepare for growth required by the state.
"Santa Clara is clearly the problem. They are the most populous county in Northern California… (and) has been under-built for 25 years that I know of with certainty," Hudson said, explaining that communities like San Ramon might have to accommodate housing for other cities that may not have been as responsible with their own planning and development.
"(RHNA) is mandated through climate change legislation that has melded transportation and housing planning to reduce greenhouse gasses," Hudson added,
A longtime advocate for infrastructure developments that improve transportation issues suffered by commuters and local residents alike, Hudson says that collaboration with other Tri-Valley communities will be key to bringing funding for regional transportation issues.
"We're crossing district lines to give you seamless mobility and collaboration is the key," Hudson said. "As the Bay Area moves forward on constantly evolving plans critical to seamless travel, we are ready. The electric bus is a key part of our future in San Ramon and a major component of the express bus planning along the 'Innovate 680' corridor (a county initiative to eliminate traffic issues). Bus on shoulder is becoming a closer reality."
"We are saying and we are staying 'clean and green'," he added.
Autonomous vehicles are also on Hudson's agenda for the future of San Ramon, saying that the city is ready to host them and they will translate to less vehicle miles traveled -- a key aspect of California's efforts to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"The laws in California are focusing on two things for climate change, renewable energy and reduced vehicle miles traveled," Hudson said, adding that future multi-family housing units will be developed with solar plants and be located near transit hubs or job centers to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
Touching on how efforts against climate change will influence future planning in the city, Hudson said that efficiency that promotes decarbonization will be a priority for buildings and appliances -- adding that taking this route in planning can lead to increased funding opportunities for the city.
"The city that moves in this direction will get the early money. There are grants, which means there are strings. But there is money," Hudson said.
Previously San Ramon's longest serving council member with more than 20 years of experience in local government, Hudson was first elected to serve as mayor in 2020 -- replacing longtime civic partner and outgoing Mayor Bill Clarkson who termed out and was unable to run for re-election.
Since then, Hudson has maintained his top priorities are to manage San Ramon responsibly, while using his extensive experience to navigate transportation, housing and environmental issues, many of which Hudson says are interconnected.
Mentioning some personal news that affected his family over the past year, Hudson closed by saying that he celebrated the births of two grandchildren, Taylor Head on April 4, 2020 and Savannah Hudson one year later on April 3, 2021 (4/3/21).
"I wonder what her passwords are going to be," Hudson laughed. "Anyways COVID wasn't all bad. Thank you all for coming and listening today."