Leaders highlight housing, economy, and infrastructure among the top priorities at the State of the City

A look at the work done to improve and maintain city services and infrastructure over the past year. Plus plans for future growth.

Leaders highlight housing, economy, and infrastructure among the top priorities at the State of the City
Mayor Eddie Tejeda speaks at the annual State of the City event on September 14, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of Redlands Chamber of Commerce.

REDLANDS, Calif. – The annual State of the City is an opportunity for the city of Redlands to reflect on the past year's success and look toward future goals.

The sold-out event, organized by the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, took place on Thursday, September 14, at the Fox Event Center in Redlands.

Mayor Eddie Tejeda delivered the annual State of the City address. Fellow Redlands City Council members joined him in highlighting their districts and sharing future objectives.

The city of Redlands has done work to improve and maintain city services and infrastructure over the past fiscal year from July 2022 - 2023. Here's a look at those accomplishments. Plus, how the city plans to address housing availability, economic development, and climate resilience moving forward.

The Redlands City Council members met at the annual State of the City event on September 14, 2023. (L-R) Mayor Pro Tem Paul Barich, Council member Jenna Guzman-Lowery, Mayor Eddie Tejeda, Council member Denise Davis, and Council member Mario Saucedo. Photo: Courtesy of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce.

City labor deals and staffing keep Redlands working.

The mayor reported the city's financial state "continues to be resilient and strong" despite looming economic indicators such as high inflation and a slowing labor market.

The unemployment in Redlands is 3.70%, compared to 3.30% last year. This is lower than the long-term average of 4.86%. The regional unemployment rate for Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario is at 4.90%.

Tejeda said a fully staffed city hall has helped maintain reliable city services and credited Measure T with sustaining the city's financial stability.

Labor contract agreements were completed this year. After months of negotiations, the agreements provided salary increases and enhancements in healthcare benefits for city employees.

"Our culminating achievement was reaching an agreement on new contracts with all bargaining units," said Tejeda.

Local development and economic progress

The city of Redlands took significant steps in ushering in a new era of development in Redlands.

The City Council adopted the Transit Villages Specific Plan in October 2022, which designates how the city will develop the "transit villages" around the three new train stations.

The city of Redlands also advanced development plans on the site of the old Redlands Mall. The State Street Village plan, approved by the City Council in July 2022, will add a total of 700 new dwelling units and 84,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space at 101 W Redlands Blvd.

In addition, the City Center and The Grand will add about 280 additional dwelling units to the downtown core.

Tejeda points to the potential economic benefit of the developments by "creating a fixed customer base that will likely create a self-sustainable business environment in Downtown Redlands."

The mayor also acknowledged rising concerns over parking in the downtown area and said the city is "developing a plan that will support your parking needs when
the time comes." A downtown parking study was completed in June 2023 and will be considered by City Council this fall.

City Council members also plan to focus on business development in North Redlands.

Tejeda, Councilmember Jenna Guzman-Lowery, and Councilmember Mario Saucedo spoke about the need for continued economic development to support their districts on the north side of town. Initiatives include aesthetic enhancements and programs to support small business development.

Maintaining and improving infrastructure

The city has improved transportation and utility services. Some notable improvements include replacing 3.5 miles of water lines, 4.5 miles of sewer lines, and thirty-seven lane miles of streets that have either been repaired or resurfaced.

The first of two wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation phases was completed last year. This improvement came after the plant was on the verge of failing in 2017. According to Tejeda, city staff is finalizing plans for full facility rehabilitation, projected to cost $110 million.

In September, Redlands was awarded over $164,000 by the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District for water conservation efforts last year. Tejeda credited the work of the Municipal Utilities and Engineering Department with this achievement.

The city also worked to secure locations for a new city hall and the Redlands Police Department. The new city hall at 300 East State Street is expected to open in 2025. The new police station off Alabama and Redlands Blvd has a projected opening of 2027. The city has also picked out locations for two new fire stations.

Councilmember Denise Davis highlighted improvements made to Redlands Fire Department with two additional fire trucks and increased daily paramedic capacity.

Housing continues to be a challenge.

The issue of homelessness and housing affordability was one of the most talked about issues at the event.

Addressing Homelessness

Tejeda and his colleagues reported that Redlands is making progress in addressing homelessness.

"We are determined to do our part to mitigate this crisis and become a model city for addressing homelessness," said Tejeda.

In April 2022, David Rabindranath filled the city's new Homeless Solutions Coordinator position.

One of the main accomplishments referenced by the City Council was the Step Up in Redlands permanent supportive housing project. The project broke ground in August 2022. Six months later, the first residents moved into the former Good Night Inn. The development now houses 120 residents who were experiencing chronic homelessness in Redlands.

Additionally, the city recently secured a $4.5 million grant that will be used to address highway encampments by collaborating with partners in the nonprofit sector.

Mayor Pro Tem Paul Barich and Davis also emphasized the success they've seen after years of advocating to provide services to the unhoused in Redlands.

"Nine years ago, when I first ran for City Council, I promised to address the issue of homelessness, and we've made a lot of progress," said Barich.

Despite these efforts, the issue remains challenging to tackle. The 2023 annual point-in-time count revealed the number of unhoused in Redlands jumped 76% in one year.

Tejeda said the city will continue to improve the shelter system, housing, and wrap-around services to meet the needs of the unhoused population.

Guzman-Lowery also shared her vision for an increased mental health response in Redlands to support, in part, unhoused residents.

Meeting the need for affordable housing

Adjacent to the rise in homelessness is the persistent challenge of providing enough affordable housing for residents.

According to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the need for low-income housing in Redlands is rising faster than the need for higher-income housing. In Redlands, construction of affordable housing cannot keep up.

"There's a sense of urgency in Redlands about providing affordable housing, and we are focused on that as well," Tejeda said, offering some ways the city has worked to address the need for affordable housing.

In October 2022, Redlands City Council adopted the 2021-2029 Housing Element, which outlines the plans to meet the need for additional housing.

In June 2023, the City Council passed an inclusionary housing ordinance to increase the number of affordable units in Redlands. The new development rules require developers to build affordable housing units alongside market-rate housing or, in some cases, pay a fee.

Housing Authority starts construction on the second phase of the Valencia Grove development, which will add 238 affordable housing units, said Tejeda.

Facing the climate crisis.

The need to address the climate crisis and improve local air quality was brought up by members of the City Council.

Tejeda pointed to Measure J as a funding mechanism to address climate resilience. The measure, passed by voters in 2022, increased the distribution warehouse business tax rate from .04 centers to .10 cents. It is expected to add over $500,000 to the city's general fund. Tejeda said this money could be used to fund climate-related initiatives.

The Climate Policy Council, developed by Davis, explores ways Redlands can become more climate-resilient.

"The group has so many urgent and important ideas, and I hope many of them will be included in our upcoming revision of the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP)," said Davis.

Updates to the CAP are expected later this year.

Moving Forward with Community in Focus.

The theme of this year's event, "Focusing on our Community," was woven throughout the addresses made by the City Council.

The Council emphasized the need to foster a relationship with community members.

"Listening is one of the most important roles as a leader in the community - not to respond but to really hear what the members of this city need even if it's hard to hear," said Guzman-Lowery.

The State of the City was held at the Fox Event Center in Downtown Redlands on Thursday, September 14. Photo: Courtesy of Redlands Chamber of Commerce.

About Redlands State of the City

Evan Sanford, Executive Director of the Redlands Chamber of Commerce, speaks at the annual State of the City event. Photo: Courtesy of Redlands Chamber

The Redlands Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual State of the City event.

This year's presenting sponsor was Prologis. Additional sponsors include the Rotary Club of Redlands, Viewpoint Advocacy, Alta Vista Credit Union, SoCal Gas, Kaiser Permanente, Redlands Unified School District, Rochford Foundation, Crafton Hills College, Barich & Associates, SoCal Edison, and Fern Cottage Florals.

In addition to the presentations by the City Council, special recognition was given to community members and organizations that show dedication to the community.

To learn more about this year's recipients of the Beatification Award, Hometown Hero Award, and Mayor's Special Awards, click below.

Award recipients at the 2023 State of the City
Community volunteers, local business owners, and an elementary school were honored.

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