State of the City 2024

State of the City Report
Mayor Victor M. Gordo
February 29, 2024

LEAPING INTO THE FUTURE!

Welcome

Welcome, and thank you for being here tonight.  I want to acknowledge Vice Mayor Steve Madison, my City Council colleagues, and our City employees who each day work hard to keep Pasadena leaping into the future.  Thank you to my wife Kelly, and our children Michael and Emma, for being here and for their love and unwavering support of my service as your Mayor.

I am proud to say tonight—fittingly on leap year—that Pasadena is leaping into the future, and how appropriate, because we are here at the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics’ Hameetman Auditorium where each day research and science is moved forward by leaps and bounds.  Thank you Dr. Thomas Rosenbaum and Dr. Andrew Howard, and thanks to Caltech for its hospitality tonight, for its commitment to Pasadena, and for preparing our next generation of great thinkers who will move our world forward. (I’d like to ask all Caltech faculty, staff, and students in attendance to stand).  Let’s all keep leaping forward!

Taking the Leap

As you saw in the video a moment ago, together we ARE a forward-thinking City.  We will continue to plan for the future, invest in infrastructure, strive for ongoing improvement, and face challenges head on.  I’m optimistic as we leap in to 2024, knowing that Pasadena is continuing to flourish.  I’m looking ahead in anticipation as we work together—residents, businesses, and civic leaders—to ensure every person has an opportunity to be a successful and contributing member of our community.

We have—and will continue—to make good progress.  At City Hall, our new City Manager Miguel Márquez has been on the job for exactly a year and a half today, and a majority of the key Director positions are now filled. In terms of where we were last year at this time, we’ve made a huge leap forward and by working together, we have a great team at City Hall who work hard each day for the benefit of those that live, work, and play in Pasadena.

Thank you to City staff, residents, and community partners for all you have done to help Pasadena leap forward into the future.  Our resilience as One Pasadena gives me great comfort and confidence that no matter what challenges face us, together as a community we will continue to make great strides forward.

Fiscal Matters

Last year inflation was on all of our minds, and while inflation has decreased significantly compared to 12 months ago, that has come at the price of higher interest rates and a general slowing of local and global economies.

Pasadena has weathered the economic cycle better than most.  We continue to see businesses invest in Pasadena as their desired location, we have a stable retail, restaurant, and entertainment economy, and we have strong property values.

Slower revenue growth, primarily from taxes, will present some challenges to maintain services and investment in critical infrastructure while ensuring a balanced budget.  In addition, the state and federal governments are facing significant budget deficits, and this creates greater pressure for us to be in a position to provide local funding to serve the community.

But on a positive note, the City’s General Fund revenue has improved from $303 million in Fiscal Year 2022 to $324 million last year, not counting the $33.9 million ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that were used to support important programs and fund critical infrastructure projects.  For context, in 2019 our General Fund was $267 million.

The City’s General Fund is largely driven by strong property values and sales tax, which account for more than half of our General Fund revenue.  While sales tax revenue has realized tremendous growth from $61.4 million in 2021 to $75 million in the current year, the future forecast provides for much slower growth going forward due both a slowing economy and changes in how sales tax is allocated to cities. In fact, the current year’s revenue forecast is for no growth in comparison to last year.

Transient Occupancy Tax charged to hotel and short-term rental customers has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, but business travel and occupancy has not yet returned to prior levels. Thanks to strong tourism and leisure demand overall, this tax revenue should see improvement going forward with the anticipated 2025 opening of the new AC Hotel in the Playhouse District and two additional hotels that are in the early planning stage.

The Rose Bowl, Brookside Golf Course, and the Convention Center continue to have a positive economic outlook going forward, with a robust calendar of events planned and a continued high demand for golf and golf amenities.

The Federal Reserve’s plan of a soft landing for the economy from high inflation is becoming more of a reality each day, but there is no consensus on when interest rates will be lowered or at what pace.  These high interest rates are likely to continue a slow-growth economic period, with less private capital investment and less new development. Pasadena has historically utilized modest yet realistic financial projections to fund the critical services we provide to the community, and we will continue to do so to ensure our financial outlook remains stable.

The State is facing a $68 billion deficit, and the Governor has proposed significant funding reductions in the areas of climate change, housing, homelessness, transportation, and emergency response.  Additionally, our federal government has been operating under a series of continuing resolutions instead of an adopted budget to fund programs and commitments. These challenges at the state and federal levels are expected to reduce funding critical to services and projects in our City.

Despite these federal and state fiscal challenges, Pasadena is committed to maintaining its high level of service and fiscal well-being to ensure a healthy future.  Each year the City endeavors to build a balanced budget that supports the community’s needs with the vast array of local, state, and federal funds available. While we often focus on the $330 million of the City’s General Fund, our goal is to utilize most appropriately the roughly $1 billion the City has access to for programs and services.

Where We’re Headed

Looking forward to Fiscal Year 2025, the delicate balance will continue as we review where our funds are allocated and how we address critical needs in the community.  I’m hopeful about the future and we all should proudly celebrate the recent victories we just saw in the video a moment ago:  acquiring the Kaiser property, partnering with the County of Los Angeles to bring much needed health and mental health services for our residents, opening of the John J. Kennedy Pool at Robinson Park, our partnership with PUSD, EV charging stations, furthering the work of our PORT team—all of these accomplishments illustrate how we’re leaping forward together.

We will continue to support our local small businesses and celebrate the diversity and strength of our community, and will continue to leap forward on a variety of City projects like the 710-corridor planning process and renovating the cornerstone of our Civic Center—the Central Library.

We’re tackling the issue of affordable housing head on. Some people think we’re not doing enough to address the affordable housing crisis, but consider this: 1,701 of the 1,986 units built in the City during the last four years—over 85%—have been affordable housing units, which includes low or moderate income, workforce, and permanent supportive housing.  About 10% of all Pasadena households now live in affordable housing—either an affordable housing unit or receiving rental assistance such as Section 8—and more affordable housing projects are in the pipeline.

We are continuing to find ways to support our school district, students, and their families, and over the last year I have been working with Pasadena City College, PUSD, and the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building Trades Council on our Career Technical Education initiative to strategize how we can help interested Pasadena residents have successful careers in various trades and professions.  Let’s turn closed school sites into Professional Training Centers.  We also must make certain our youngest residents, our children 0-5, have the early learning opportunities and resources they need for a strong and healthy start.

We are continuing our commitment to issues associated with climate change, and doing our best to protect the environment in a thoughtful and cost effective manner. At City Hall, you can be sure we’re doing everything we can to move Pasadena forward and leap into the future.

What’s Happening in Pasadena?

Last month, The New York Times included Pasadena in its list of “52 Places to Go in 2024”, and I would agree that our City’s natural beauty is clear.

Pasadena is also among the most significant economic hubs in the region, punching significantly above its weight in concentrated employment, retail, and food & beverage offerings, as well as business activity in technology, engineering and healthcare, and regional tourism.

We have a higher employment and commercial space concentration (both office + retail) than neighboring cities, and our City’s retail offerings on a per capita basis far exceed the national average, as well as those of nearby municipalities—which tells me that Pasadena remains a regional destination for shopping and dining, and has a strong diversity of offerings.

The strongest industries in Pasadena, as compared to the County, are computers & mathematics, architecture & engineering, life, physical and social sciences, and healthcare. We also benefit from being part of the larger LA Regional market, which has the fourth largest AI talent pool in the nation. Out of the nation’s top AI firms, 21 are in Los Angeles, and four of those are in Pasadena.

Many businesses have taken the leap and recently came to Pasadena: Wedbush Securities and Erewhon Market opened on South Lake, the AC Hotel by Marriott broke ground on construction, we have a bevy of new restaurants and retail stores, and if you’re thinking about electric vehicles, both Rivian and Lucid Motors recently opened up spaces in Old Pasadena.

Other businesses reaffirmed their commitment to our City by growing their headquarters, renewing leases, or expanding office spaces, and we recently celebrated the grand reopening of Hotel Dena and The Ice House.  There’s a lot going on in Pasadena—there always is—and it is truly a joy to be part of it.

Closing

Through three years now as your Mayor, and nearly three decades of serving our City, I am eager and ready to help us take that leap forward. Pasadena is diverse, dynamic, and complex—and figuring out how to make the leap forward requires not only revisiting where we succeeded and reflecting on how we could have done things differently, but also planning for the future—for a GREAT future, which is what I want for every person in our community.

Together we have done much, and together we will continue to do much more to leap Pasadena into the future.

Again, thank you to all my City Council colleagues and City staff —with a special shout out to my team in the Mayor’s Office—Vannia, Araceli, and Jana —and all residents who work diligently each day to keep Pasadena leaping forward.

In 2021, I said it was “A Time Like No Other”; in 2022 I said we would be “Stronger Together”, and last year I said, “Together We Thrive, Pasadena!”  And we are certainly doing that.  Now, let’s keep that momentum going into the future. Tonight I say, together we will continue to accomplish great things “Leaping Into the Future!”

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your Mayor.  Thank you for that honor and privilege, and good night.