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I By THYDA DUONG Long Beach Business Journal F rom limited public budgets to mounting environmental concerns theres no shortage of external pressures on local cities. Their response Shifting their focus inward on internal improvements. Cities are increasingly reinventing themselves both figuratively and literally in order to navigate a multitude of issues and priorities beginning with economic development. Local city administrators agree that the key to economic growth is having both the physical and social infrastructures necessary to support residents and businesses. You cant do proper economic development unless youve got the infrastructure in place said San Gabriel City Manager Steven Preston. If youve got old street systems old water lines or old sewer lines those things are potential impediments to development. San Gabriel recently completed a strategic plan that outlines the citys five core priorities with building and improving the citys infrastructure landing at the top of that list. This past year in fact San Gabriel invested roughly 14 million in new capital improvements with plans to spend an additional 5 million next year Preston noted. Over the next several years ideally wed like to double the amount of money were spending on infrastructure projects in order to make sure that we will meet the needs of the city well into the future he said. The City of Long Beach meanwhile is also continuing infrastructure investments including improving major corridors throughout the city. If you drive the 52 square miles of our city you see some fantastic corridors that are being reborn in front of our very eyes said Long Beach City Manager Pat West who also pointed to the boutique remodel of the Long Beach Airport as a key investment that creates an attractive entry point to the city. Additionally Long Beach has a revived Economic and Property Development Department and a new Economic Development Commission that is working on new initiatives over the next year West noted. Also in December 2014 the city was selected to receive 3 million over three years to create an i-team focusing on economic development as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams program. While economic development is one of its key priorities Long Beach is also placing emphasis on improving the social infrastructure West said. Were not turning a blind eye to our social causes he stressed adding that the city has adopted a Rental Housing Inspection Program a Project Labor Agreement for public works projects to increase opportuni- ties for local hires an aggressive language access plan and a First Source Hiring Program. Weve got a very active mayor and city council who are addressing not only the citys urban fabric but also the social fabric West said noting that the city continues to offer special events and activities that engage community residents. San Gabriel is similarly focusing on community engagement. Were finding ways to take this increasingly diverse community and build civic pride and ownership Preston said. In fact San Gabriels diverse community is one of the keys to its economic growth Preston added. The AsianPacific Islander community accounts for roughly 60 of the citys population which also includes a large Hispanic community and a small but significant Native American population. Part of our effort is to grow the economy in a city where the needs of the residents are changing rapidly he said noting that San Gabriel has capitalized on its demographic shifts. The populations key interests he said have contributed to the citys reputation as one of Southern Californias hot dining destinations attracting visitors from across the region while the populations interest in education has contributed to the emergence of a lighthouse school district one that acts as an educational model for other districts thats highly attractive to potential residents. Offering and maintaining sufficient housing then also becomes an impor- tant consideration for growing cities particularly as California cities are re- quired to adopt housing plans that ad- dress regional housing needs. For instance the City of Cerritos continues to explore opportunities that allow for more efficient building usages within the city including rezoning commercial properties for residential use. We need to look at properties that are under-utilized and are no longer viable Cerritos Mayor Carol Chen told the Business Journal. We encourage re-use and re-tool of some of the existing projects that we have in the city because were 98 built out. We definitely need to look at all the options available to accommodate the population and its need for services as well as the necessary businesses to support it. As a result of limited space some cities are looking to higher-density residential developments. There are areas where land is so expensive that you cant continue to build large-lot single-family homes you have to be able to provide well-planned density said John Reekstin SeniorVice President of Community Development at The Olson Company. In many cases cities are required to rezone prop- erties to provide appropriate housing opportunities for a variety of socioe- conomic and age levels. The Olson Companys Plaza Walk development is in its final phase of selling in the City of Cerritos which also has another 330 residential units currently under development in addition to a 45 million renovation of the former Best Cities Reinventing Infrastructure Improvements Drive Change In Local Cities 14 Part of our effort is to grow the economy in a city where the needs of the residents are changing rapidly. Steve Preston City Manager City of San Gabriel Steve Preston City Manager City of San Gabriel Pat West City Manager City of Long Beach Carol Chen Mayor City of Cerritos Addressing infrastructure needs has become a priority as cities attempt to lure homebuyers. 2015_OlsonCompanyInTownLiving_PortAnniversary 8815 117 PM Page 14