The Yucaipa Chamber of Commerce hosted the 27th State of the City luncheon, missing three years due to COVID-19.
It was held at the Yucaipa Community Center on Thursday, Aug. 18.
The event was attended by local dignitaries, interested citizens, local business owners and chamber members. Brandy Gomez, 2022 chair of the board of directors of the Yucaipa Valley Chamber of Commerce, welcomed distinguished guests.
Yucaipa City Manager Ray Casey welcomed the group to the 2022 State of the City and asked them to move their chairs one last time because a little movement made a loud screeching noise on the floor. The audience laughed and many moved to make noise.
He stated due to COVID, this special city event wasn’t able to be held the past three years.
“It’s nice to see all of you in person here for today’s event.” Casey introduced Mayor David Avila by saying, “Mayor Avila has served on the Yucaipa City Council since 2014, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority board, which we used to know as San Bernardino Associated Governments, the original transportation agency since 2019, as well as the Omnitrans board of directors since 2017, including serving as the current board president since 2019.”
Avila was met with applause. He said he always starts events with “Good afternoon Yucaipa.”
The audience cheered and Avila added, “This is a great town to be in. I’m glad that I’m a part of the community and I’m glad that you are too!” Avila said while he was preparing for this event, he realized it has been three years since the last State of the City luncheon was held, in order to give the city report. There have been some good and some not so good things that have taken place in the city and also a lot of changes in the past few years.
“Like these changes, our community, Yucaipa, has stood firm and united. I could not be more proud of my Yucaipa. We are Yucaipa strong,” Avila told the crowd.
He said it was an honor and privilege to be at this event and he took a few moments to recognize his fellow council members. Resilience, dedication, hard work and partnership were the key words that came to his mind while preparing to speak at this event.
“Despite the challenges presented by not only COVID-19, but the El Dorado Fire, the subsequent floods that occurred as the results of the fire, our community embodied each of these strong characteristics. Our community’s hard work and dedication helped mitigate some of the negative economic, social and in some cases even the physical impacts associated with the pandemic, fires and floods.”
Avila said this also provided the necessary support and the need to continue the city’s critical strong programs and services, but also helped enhance the economic development throughout the community. It enhanced the quality of life of residents, while maintaining the beautiful hometown feel.
Avila said Yucaipa does feel like a small home-town community. “We all work together to make sure it is kept that way,” said Avila.
Avila highlighted a few of the programs, services, projects: The Science, Technology, Arts, Recreation for Success (S.T.A.R.S) program for the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District and Inland Leaders Charter School; Coun-ty Line Road Project; Upper Wildwood Creek Basin Project; and the Wine Country Specific Plan.
Avila said, “Trust me when I say, the staff at the city of Yucaipa is second to none. I have worked in at least 10 cities, one county government, not including Yucaipa, and there is no better city staff in the San Bernardino, Riverside County areas … During the pandemic they reviewed and approved special permits, building plans, designed and engineered new public works projects, as well as worked to create and develop new specific plan areas to enhance our long-term economic sustainability for our community.”
Economic investment has exploded in Yucaipa even through the darkest of the COVID-19 times, Avila told the audience. The historic Uptown district is now a home to several new dining areas.
Yucaipa Pointe Project is the single largest commercial development underway in the city. Two hotel projects are underway. A warehouse distribution facility has been approved, along with a number of housing projects currently under construction.
“Along with the significant prime economic investment taking place in our town, there are several new public works projects underway which have been engineered to improve transportation, enhance water resources and water availability, improve flood protection, as well as adding or improving parks and public facilities to our community,” said Avila.
County Line Road Project in partnership with the city of Calimesa, who is the lead agency, is a $13 million project which will construct round-about at five different intersections (Fifth Street, Third Street, Second Street, California Street and Bryant Street). This is to mitigate traffic congestion, improve traffic circulation, enhance public safety, encourage economic development and provide opportunities for residents and visitors to ride or walk along the roadways.
The Wilson III Basin Project includes a park and a lake feature. This project was planned, designed and is now being constructed and operated in cooperation between the city, San Bernardino County Water Flood Control District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and multiple other agencies.
Sen. Diane Feinstein and Congressman Jay Olbernolte were instrumental in helping the city secure $1 million in federal grant funding for this project. This project will help make the community more resilient through droughts and flooding but also creates new opportunities for economic development to take place, Avila reported.
The city is beginning construction on the Upper Wildwood Creek Basin Project. “This proposed basin project will not only benefit the surrounding environment by implementing measures to increase erosion and flood control protection within the area, but will also facilitate ground water recharge opportunities. This project wouldn’t be possible without the partnership of the local elected officials,” said Avila.
Assemblymember Chad Mayes secured $1.8 million in state grant funding and San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe secured $880 thousand for the Upper Wildwood Creek Basin Project.
Avila applauded these elected officials as this community investment will help remove downstream properties from the FEMA flood map, as well as help spur the economic development and recharge additional water into the aquifer in the area. Wine Country Specific Plan was mentioned as the city looks into the future of crop developments and wineries in the city with a two-phased approach.
Phase one consisted of research and community outreach efforts. Phase two includes development of the tools needed to implement this vision.
Avila told the audience that he was not seeking re-election. It was an honor and privilege for him to serve the city of Yucaipa for the past eight years and he was going to “follow God’s lead.” He thanked everyone and said, “God bless you.” A video was presented with each council member highlighting the amazing work taking place in the community.
Councilmember Jon Thorp highlighted the surrounding area with the mountains, beautiful vistas, nature and open spaces that are being maintained along with a multipurpose trail system that connects the areas all together.
“One of the things that sets Yucaipa apart from other communities here in Southern California, is that we have invested and take pride in our natural resources and open space community … I’m proud to be a Yucaipa City Councilmember and involved with our community because of the high priority and investment this community takes in making sure we have a high quality of life for our residents. Thank you for your time and please come out and enjoy our open spaces.”
Councilmember Bobby Duncan highlighted the Uptown area in Yucaipa and other economic developments in the city along with the water preservation measures the city is actively involved in and the amenities in the city for family entertainment.
“Here in Uptown, we have invested a significant amount of money to build a beautiful Yucaipa Performing Arts Center and build infrastructure so that business can thrive up here … The new businesses up here are going to help stimulate the nightlife, stimulate the activity up here so we can generate revenue … The city of Yucaipa has one of the most amazing city staffs that I have ever worked with in my life, in my career … Our staff is amazing. They are very well trained. They are very diligent. They work hard. They have good leadership as Ray Casey does a good job.,” said Duncan.
Mayor Pro Tem Justin Beaver highlighted the priority that the city takes in public safety. “Our financial investment in public safety for the city of Yucaipa has directly affected our city being one of the safest cities in southern California. Our residents, visitors and businesses get to enjoy that safety on a daily basis,” said Beaver.
Beaver said he truly believed the city of Yucaipa has the greatest police and fire departments in the state of California. “Working hand in hand, the police department, fire department and city staff effectively serve you, the people of our community.”
Councilmember Greg Bogh highlighted the different projects in the city, especially flood control.
“It has been a true honor to work with my fellow councilmembers and city staff over a number of years on many different projects in our city,” said Bogh. He stated many people move to Yucaipa due to the topography with the mountains and one of the challenges that goes with that is the flooding. “We have turned some of those challenges into opportunities,” Bogh said. He went on to speak of the one project that was turned into two with the Wilson Basin III Creek Project and the Serrano Lake housing project.
“The housing project is actually the funding source to complete the flood control basin and without this partnership (San Bernardino County Water Flood Control District), it would have never taken place. So we used the excess money from the surplus land to construct the new Serrano Lake.”
Bogh reiterated this type of project has removed many homes in the Dunlap area off the FEMA flood map.