The Arcadia Chamber’s annual Planning Conference on Jan. 23, 2014 at Embassy Suites and sponsored by Post Alarm Systems was once again filled with valuable news and information shared with about 60 attendees, including Arcadia Chief of Police Robert Guthrie, Westfield Santa Anita General Manager Ramo Oseguera, School District Superintendent Dr. Joel Shawn, and Olivia Lee from the office of State Senator Ed Hernandez. (Photo gallery below…)
The conference, which began with a delicious and expansive breakfast buffet coordinated by Naomi Briones, Embassy’s director of sales and marketing, who announced to the group that the hotel is in the process of putting new carpeting in the guest suites, which will be followed by new soft seating in all suites in April or May, also included the official announcement of this year’s chosen recipients for the Chamber’s annual Citizens of the Year (Bob and Patsy Harbicht – details here) and Corporate Community Contributor (Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary – details here).
In addition to the annual State of the City address by City of Arcadia Manager Dominic Lazzaretto and plans for the Chamber’s coming year by incoming President Denise Weaver of Weaver & Associates Insurance, presentations were made by Lisa Levy Buch of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, commercial real estate trends by Marie Taylor of Bacani-Taylor NAI Capital, market trends and tourism promotional efforts by Antoinette Lou of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, and updates on Chamber marketing initiatives by Jerry Dominguez of Chamber consultant team Printing Control.
The conference was covered by a global TV network with the videos available here of three news stories produced by NTDTV.
Among the news highlights (click to enlarge photos):
State of the City,
City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto
- Mercedes-Benz Rusnak/Arcadia design for new two-story rounded glass showroom now under construction on Santa Anita Avenue revealed publicly for first time.
- May: New Museum Education Center to open in May
- New City of Arcadia web site to debut this summer
- Arcadia Historical Society Thoroughbred Walk of Champions to be unveiled in official ceremony on Sept. 27.
- New 7-week free Community Leadership Academy to introduce City workings to young people and anyone interested. Call 574-5401.
- Historic and iconic Arcadia signs that hung over Huntington Drive at First Avenue and Baldwin Avenue near Duarte during the 1930s-1950s (Arcadia Chamber donated the one on Huntington Drive – see photo) will be re-created and placed on the new train bridge over Santa Anita Avenue.
<Story continues following the photo gallery below…>
Marie Taylor of NAI Capital said office space vacancy rates of about 4.5% in Arcadia are about half the average of approximately 8.5% in the Western San Gabriel Valley. She provided updates of several major commercial developments in town, including:
- Hale Medical Center well underway across from the hospital at the new address of 289 W. Huntington Drive. The four-story building to be completed in the second quarter of this year offers 72,000 square-feet of space at an asking rate of $2.55 per square foot MG. Most of the first floor is already pre-leased while about 20% of the second and third floors are pre-leased as well.
- Huntington Center at 125 W. Huntington Drive between the WorleyParsons building and Pepper’s Mexican Grill and Cantina on Colorado Place. Getting underway soon by developer Mike Soo with completion scheduled for fourth quarter 2015, the complex will offer approximately 151,000 square feet, including the existing 63,000 SF structure plus two new 19,500 SF medical buildings; a new 25,000 SF office building; and a new 24,000 SF building.
Taylor noted that commercial properties and spaces are available at the Live Oak/Las Tunas corridor and that efforts are being made by a fledgling new non-profit property owner-funded Community Benefits District in the Downtown area centered at First Avenue and Huntington Drive. (Taylor has been an integral volunteer leader of the formation of the CBD for several years.)
Another notable development in town noted by Lazzaretto is the previously reported dual hotels planned to begin construction later this year by Continental Assets Management to replace most of the Santa Anita Inn, Additionally, in the early stages of development are:
- Mixed-use two-story retail/residential building by DornPlatz on the property between Wheeler Avenue and the 24 Hour Fitness on First Avenue, current site of a parking lot and the former Alejandro Alcondez and Arroyo Mexican restaurants. The proposed building just a block south of the Gold Line station to be open for service in 2016 would have 38 residential units on the second floor and more than 16,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
- An 81-acre now-filled landfill on Lower Azusa Road near the I-605 freeway being made available to companies such as Wal-Mart and Amazon.com for a “logistics center” with building space of up to 1.6 million square feet, or significantly more than the entire Westfield Santa Anita mall. The space is north of Lower Azsua just south of the Irwindale Event Center, about six blocks east of Peck Road.
- A two-story 15,000 square-foot addition to the Baldwin Plaza strip mall on the east side of Baldwin Avenue north of Duarte Road near the original Din TaiFung restaurant.
Lazzaretto also detailed the City’s budget, which stands at $51 million, with 58% of all revenue coming from taxes. Of the $31.5 mil in taxes, about $9.75 mil comes from sales taxes, and $2.83 mil. from hotel taxes. Combined with $4.1 mil. in license and permit fees, overall revenue from businesses in Arcadia represents about $16.7 mil., or nearly a third of all City revenue. That nearly covers the entire cost of police services, by far the single largest City expenditure at nearly $17.9 mil., or more than a third of all City expenses. Fire and public works account for another third of the budget, with fire representing $12.9 mil. and public works at about $3.5 mil.
The number of crimes in Arcadia dropped from two years of more than 1,800 incidents in 2007 and 2010 to an anomaly low of 1,479 in 2012 and bounced back up to 1645 last year. But Lazzaretto noted that the crimes are primarily property crimes, with only 1.27 violent crimes per 1,00 residents compared to ratio of 3.9 in the nation and 4.11 in the state of California. And Arcadia Police response times are about 2 1/2-minutes compared to nearly 5-min to 6-min for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
The Arcadia Police Department has also begun implementing new technology to focus police protection on areas of more frequent burglaries. The result has been the reduction of an average of 8 burglaries every two weeks with highs of 18 burglaries during a two-week period in December down to only 1 crime the first two weeks of January.
The City is also stepping up efforts to improve enforcement of codes regarding vacant and deteriorating commercial properties such as the long-closed Sir George’s buffet restaurant and the nearby former Famima convenience store / Wal-Greens Pharmacy in the retail center on the northwest corner of Santa Anita and Live Oak Avenues.
With $3.5 mil. budgeted annually on development, the City also plans to work with the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce to study, identify and encourage the development of specific properties for new business opportunities in under-utilized areas along Las Tunas and Live Oak Avenues, as well as Duarte Road and other areas.
Finally, the City is also working on a series of connected bike paths around town, especially utilizing wider streets such as Campus Drive, First Avenue and Longden to connect to existing bike lanes on El Monte Avenue and bike trails such as the Emerald Necklace that passes the Par 3 golf course south of Live Oak Avenue.
Lisa Levy Buch of the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority said construction on the bridge over Santa Anita Avenue is days away from completion while construction has recently begun on the station and transit plaza at First Avenue and Santa Clara as well as the additional bridge over Huntington Drive at Second Avenue. The intersection at First Avenue and Santa Clara should be reopened at least temporarily this month (Februrary). Construction work is scheduled for completion and ready for testing in fall 2015, although it will likely be many months later before train cars are ready and the 11.5-mile extension to Azusa is opened.
Buch described the many ways the Construction Authority is supporting marketing efforts for Arcadia businesses impacted by construction and pledged to once again provide funding support for a second Christmas Market on First Avenue in 2014 if one is mounted again like the three Saturday events staged in December by the non-profit Arcadia’s Best Foundation.
Meanwhile, efforts continue to get funding by 2015-16 for the next leg to take the light rail line to the L.A. County border in Montclair by 2021, at which point Ontario County has pledged to fund the line to Ontario Airport.
Antoinette Lou of San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership said the San Gabriel Valley is a powerful region that includes 31 cities and 70,000 businesses. Employment, which stood at 650,000 in 2008, continues to rebound after hitting a recession-created low of 597,000 in 2010 to end 2012 at 605,000, led by 3,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, followed by 1,800 in the retail trade and 1,200 in professional and business services.
Health services remains the biggest job sector, accounting for 14% 0f all jobs, followed by professional and business services at 13%, the retail trade at 12%, and leisure and hospitality tied with goverment jobs at 10% each. Meanwhile, the sub-sector categories of greatest job growth over the past ten years from 2002-2012 are:
- ambulatory health care services (11,309)
- food services and drinking places (7,940)
- wholesalers / non-durable goods (4,907)
- couriers and messengers (3,916)
The SGVEP believes there is room for job expansion in the travel and tourism sector and in attracting new businesses to the region. The organization has been expanding its “Discover San Gabriel Valley” marketing campaign with the www.Discover SGV.com web site and related Facebook and Twiiter pages as well as newsletters and advertising.
In regular Chamber board business conducted at the beginning of the Conference, President-Elect Denise Weaver of Weaver & Associates Insurance said her plans when she begins her tenure as President of the Chamber beginning April 1, 2014, include streamlining the efficiency and length of monthly board meetings by taking the following steps:
- Eliminate the extensive packet of printed paper copies of Minutes, agenda, financials and other materials handed to each of the 35 board members at each monthly meeting by going paperless — the packet will be e-mailed to all members before each meeting and projected on the pull-down screen and new TV monitors in the remodeled conference room during the meetings for everyone to follow. Detailed financial reports will continue to be provided no more than quarterly except in special circumstances or upon request, with brief notable financial highlight talking points provided by Chamber CEO Scott Hettrick to continue to be made available monthly.
- Reduce or limit the number of committee and organization reports to those who specifically request to present an important update.
- Designate herself to offer the invocation each month unless someone else volunteers rather than taking time at each meeting to try to recruit someone to volunteer.
- Similarly, designate current President (soon to be immediate Past President Arlynn Robinson) to lead the flag salute each month unless someone volunteers.
- Name cards will be created and placed in front of each board member at the meeting.
Weaver also initiated an interactive discussion to be finalized at the next board meeting on Feb. 27 regarding the consideration of changing the ByLaws to reconsider the current mandatory appointment of an indiviudal to the board to represent six designated “Business Districts,” including North, South, and West Arcadia, as well as Santa Anita Park, Westfield Santa Anita, and Downtown Arcadia. While Weaver suggested replacing the geographical districts with entities such as Methodist Hospital, the Arcadia Association of Realtors, and the Arboretum, board member Dave Finstrom of HUTdogs suggested creating business categories such as Retail. City Manager Lazzaretto, a board laision, recommended that the Chamber continue to include a designated representative of important business district areas in need of attention such as South Arcadia and West Arcadia.
The Chamber will also stage a small ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Chamber office building to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the incorporation of the Chamber on July 17, 1934. (A larger ceremony will be held the following year in November 2015 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Chamber office building with the exciting opening of a time capsule buried at the building’s dedication.)
Finally, Weaver said the Chamber plans to initiate new member-building strategies that include consideration of a $99 rate for some tenants under the umbrella single largest membership by far of Chamber Presenting Sponsor Westfield Santa Anita, and a unique residential membership offer to attract thousands of residential members to whom Chamber business members could then reach via Chamber distribution channels.
Jerry Dominguez of Printing Control presented data indicating how important digital and social media has become to the success of most businesses. His team will be implementing more effective social media marketing for the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce this year and work to engage members to become more transparent and interactive with the Chamber and each other for the benefit of all.
In just the first 90 days Printing Control has already increased the number of attendees and new faces at Chamber breakfasts and mixers, generated a nearly 70% increase in Likes for the Chamber’s Facebook page, provided more professional event photographs and created more sophisticated event fliers and e-mail announcements. A series of direct mail pieces aimed at recruting new members will be going out in February and March, and three new hand-outs have been created: a membership application listing the top benefits of being a chamber member as well as sponsor and advertising opportunities; a more concise member benefits card; and a flier promoting the Chamber’s All Access Pass offering nearly $1,500 in savings to Chamber and local entertainment activities.
He ended by introducing a theme word for the Chamber this year: Inspire.