ESCONDIDO — The city is a hub for economic activity with housing and new businesses booming.
Mayor Sam Abed, delivering his eighth State of the City speech, told the 450 people in attendance on Feb. 28 at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, the city is bustling with activity.
However, he did note some large obstacles, such as homelessness and the city’s pension liability, but focused on the progress made over the past year.
“We lead the region in business attraction and investment,” Abed said. “We have 35 projects for $1.5 billion and we have zoning amendments to streamline the development process.”
As for housing, the second-term mayor noted the 380-unit project approved at the Escondido Country Club and hundreds more with the likes of Latitude 33 and Latitude II, along with the recent other projects such as Integral Communities’ projects at the old police headquarters and recent purchase of the downtown Palomar Health center.
On the business front, Abed noted the city has seen 723 net new businesses, and 2,200 since 2010, when he was first elected mayor. In addition, he said plans are moving forward with a 10-acre industrial site project at the Interstate 15 and Highway 78 interchange, which will house a Fortune 100 company.
He also championed the city’s low unemployment and vacancy rates, which are 4.1 percent for unemployment, 3.7 percent for retail and a record-low of 2.4 percent for industrial.
As such, sales tax revenue is reach new heights.
“Sales tax revenue is projected for a record-high of $40 million, up from $22 million in 2010,” he said. “We have done this with seven consecutive years of balancing the budget without using reserves or raising taxes. This year will be the eighth year.”
As for the challenges, especially homelessness, Abed said much of the issue stems from AB 109, which released criminals early leaving them with no homes. In addition, he said substance abuse and mental health are also issues with the homeless population.
He said partnering with nonprofits such as Interfaith Community Services and Solutions for Change, is making a difference with the homeless.
Abed also decried California as a sanctuary state, noting his police force will make sure illegal immigrants, especially those who are gang-affiliated, will be arrested and deported.
Continuing with crime, Abed said overall crime is down 17 percent with auto thefts plunging 41 percent over the past year.
He also spoke about the city’s pension liability, which is spiraling and led to the privatization of the public library last year.
“Our pension liability continues to skyrocket,” Abed added. “Our increase in our annual obligation will go from $20 million to $38 million in 2022. The cost of doing business will increase to $40 million in the next four years.”