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Community Spirit Alive & Well: Mayor Addresses State of the City of Thousand Oaks

Keynote speaker Mayor Al Adam praised residents for their resilience and community spirit during the 2020 Virtual State of the City Thousand Oaks Address presented by the City of Thousand Oaks and the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I am honored to be here with you today and to celebrate a year of achievements for the city of TO—and what a year it has been!” said Adam, broadcasting virtually from the Bank of America Performing Arts Center. “2020 has demanded so much from every one of us. The people of Thousand Oaks are not strangers to difficult and challenging times and we’ve risen time and time again to every call for help, every challenge ahead of us and have answered with strength and dignity.”

Adam thanked the County of Ventura for providing guidance and leadership in its response to the pandemic, the City Council staff for working together to bring assistance and relief to the community, his family for serving as his virtual film crew and the thousands of volunteers who mobilized to serve those in need.

“This community has handled the pandemic with incredible grace and dignity,” noted Adam, the city’s 56th mayor. “Thousands of volunteers activated immediately to deliver meals, donate funds, make masks for health care workers and more. The outpouring of support and spirt of goodwill was overwhelming and the city was responsive to the needs of the community from the outset.”

As the pandemic began to impact the community, the City Council approved a measure to expand delivery hours from grocery stores, helped restaurants provide outdoor dining and approved $345,000 in CARES funding for $10,000 small business grants.

Expanding safe access for customers and helping keep small businesses operational were key goals, Adam said, adding that ensuring housing stability became another top priority in 2020.

The Council approved a $1 million rental assistance program, providing two months of rental relief for Thousand Oaks families impacted by the pandemic.

“It’s critical we do all we can to protect that,” especially now, “when our home has become everything—an office, a classroom, a daycare,” Adam said.

Despite the many challenges presented by Covid-19, Adam highlighted several positive ways 2020 has enriched the community.

“The pandemic created the opportunity for City Hall to pivot to a business model that focused more on virtual services,” including the internet, Zoom and even the telephone, explained Adam.

“Staff leveraged technology and tools to create a customer-focused environment, and it’s now easier than ever to find property information, complete permit applications and other commonly needed services without a trip to City Hall,” he added.

Providing some lighthearted comic relief, Adam shared clips of the many “bloopers” made during the filming of his frequent community updates.

“Making TV magic isn’t always easy!” joked Adam, adding, “a good laugh can make any situation lighter.”

A good book is another great way to ease stress and relax, Adam noted, pointing to the efforts of the Thousand Oaks library staff to ensure library access during these challenging times by being among the first in the county to add a curbside pickup service for patrons.

Adam also gave a shout out to the Public Works Department, whose staff works around the clock to improve city infrastructure, installing 46 miles of new asphalt around the city, enhancing crosswalks on Thousand Oaks Blvd., adding 22 new trees, widening sidewalks, and more.

“I’m looking forward to the future of this area,” said Adam, noting the general plan update to 2045.

“It’s critical we develop a guide to growth with the input and vision of our residents,” said Adams, encouraging everyone to get involved with setting the tone of the city’s growth and development.

“Public participation is the heartbeat of this document,” said Adam, adding that the plan addresses important issues, such as transportation, access to arts and culture, infrastructure, open space and community and residential projects.

Adam called the city’s first mixed-use project, 1710 on the Blvd, “a shiny example of unique and beautiful ways we can continue to add the needed residential and retail space.”

With residential units, retail and restaurants, the project reflects sustainable growth, as does another development at 299 Thousand Oaks Blvd., which will include housing and retail as well as rooftop gardens and dining and a central courtyard.

These projects will bring much-needed housing to the community, which Adam says has developed into a biotech hub that could rival any in the country. With companies like Westlake Bio Partners, Atara and Amgen bringing millions of dollars to the industry and to the city, it’s “critical to meet the demands of this growing sector,” including providing new restaurants, hotels and retail space.

True quality of life, said Adams, requires three key ingredients: environment, jobs and housing. “When in balance, the vast majority of residents can live close to their jobs and enjoy the natural beauty of their surroundings,” however, too many residents are commuting long distances to jobs and are unable to find entry-level housing. The current imbalance of housing and jobs causes extreme traffic that reduces quality of life and has a dramatic impact on the environment, noted Adam.

Currently, Thousand Oaks is “anemic in entry-level and workforce housing,” said Adam, noting the importance of establishing housing “stepping stones.”

“Housing is critical to maintaining the high quality of life we’ve come to enjoy,” he said, calling for “balanced growth along the 101 corridor scaled for our City of Thousand Oaks.”

“Charting a course requires creativity, an open mind, respect for the past and an eye for the future. We can work together to keep everything that is unique and special about our city while working toward adding affordable housing and adaptable mixed-use structures,” he said. “We’ve done an amazing job building this place!” he noted, pointing to the city’s more than 15,000 acres of open space, 60 parks, excellent law enforcement, high quality municipal services and infrastructure, stellar arts community, and 94% good or very good quality of life rating.

In a call to action for the coming year, Adam charged, “We’re in the midst of a time of great opportunity at a critical juncture as a community.” Thanks to the care, flexibility and kindness of the community as we support each other, “we will come out stronger and as resilient as ever. I look forward to the decisions and progress we will make together in the coming years.”

California Lutheran University President, Dr. Lori Varlotta kicked off the virtual address expressing her gratitude for this welcoming community. Hosted by Tom Cohen, Board Chair of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, the event was sponsored by several area businesses. Top sponsors include Conejo Valley Tourism Improvement District, Newbury Disposal Company and Harrison Industries, and Athens Thousand Oaks Sustainability Center; Platinum sponsor Waste Management; and Gold sponsors Kaiser Permanente, SCE, Warner Pacific, California Commercial Investment Group, 1710 on the Blvd., and Townplace Suites Marriot Thousand Oaks. CLU Senior Music Major Izzy Stewart sang the national anthem, and local businesses donated items for “Broadcast Boxes” mailed to viewers prior to the event. Curated boxes included meringues from Chocolatine French Café, caramel popcorn from Celebrate Sweetly, a coaster for a free glass of wine at Sunland Vintage Winery and more.

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