DUBLIN — Mayor Melissa Hernandez gave an update on the city during the Dublin Chamber of Commerce State of the City Address last month.
The in-person luncheon included the city council, Dublin business owners and other local stakeholders. Hernandez discussed the current economic state of the city, ongoing projects and the state of business in the wake of the pandemic.
“It’s time to get back to business in Dublin,” Hernandez said to applause. “Over the course of the past year and a half, we often took two steps forward and one step back, never quite being able to escape the COVID virus. As we get closer to what we hope will be the end of the virus crisis, we may continue to feel its lingering effects for some time. Despite that, there is still reason for optimism as we look ahead.”
Hernandez thanked the community for coming together to flatten the curve and help those in need. She acknowledged community members who stepped up during the pandemic to provide meals, goods and services to the underserved. The city held a virtual volunteer recognition event earlier this year to recognize the YOUNG Citizen of the Year, Anya Sengupta; Citizen of the Year, Michael D’Ambrosio; Organization of the Year, Breaking Barriers; the Mayor’s Award recipient, Open Heart Kitchen; and the Mayor’s Legacy Award Winner, Connie Mack.
Hernandez also described the wonderful relationship the city holds with its many nonprofits. Through the community grant program, Dublin was able to provide grants in the amount of $267,000 to 14 Tri-Valley nonprofits during the past year.
In its fight against COVID-19, Dublin partnered with Stanford Health Care - Valley Care and the cities of Livermore and Pleasanton to provide drive-through COVID-19 testing at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, and later, drive-through vaccinations.
The city focused on keeping programming for seniors going, including virtual visits, lunches and a variety of drive-through events from outdoor movies to visits with Santa.
Hernandez said the city also aimed to ensure its small businesses were able to pull through the shelter-in-place restrictions that all but eliminated their customer base. She further noted that city leaders recognized the important role small businesses play in the city’s economy and introduced several programs to help mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19.
“The city council established a small business emergency micro loan program focused on retaining local restaurants and retailers in Dublin,” Hernandez said.
Through this program, the city was able to give 100 small businesses zero-interest, unsecured, short-term loans up to $10,000. There was also a $10,000 grant available through the city’s Recovery Grant Boost Program that benefited 127 Dublin businesses. Other programs included rent relief for small businesses at least $10,000 behind on rent.
During the address, Hernandez played a video with interviews from small business owners in Dublin who had benefitted from city grants. Bradley Wills, manager of Burma! Burma!, discussed the increased costs of shifting his operation to one based only on take-out food, while dealing with a vanishing customer base.
“It was very tough. We had to talk to our front of the house staff and lay off a lot of people because we couldn’t operate as normal,” said Wills. “There was a lot of PPE (personal protection equipment) we had to buy; there was a lot of hand sanitizers — just a lot of things we had to change. We had to do labels, signage, stickers, the barricades we had to have outside, just so we could open.”
Wills and other business managers and owners in Dublin were able to take advantage of the city’s various grant options to pay rent and purchase outdoor dining equipment from chairs to tents to keep their businesses open. The grants helped to bridge the time when they weren’t allowed to operate until this summer, when restrictions finally began to ease. Wills said the city offered many resources and had open lines of communication.
Inge Houston, Dublin Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said the entire chamber was grateful for the variety and scope of the programs the city made available to business owners in need of help.
“The chamber is also excited with the Outdoor Operation Grant Program the city just rolled out, which will provide grants of $10,000 to $50,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act for temporary or permanent outdoor operations,” Houston said. “Kudos to Dublin’s elected officials and city staff.”
In addition, Hernandez said Dublin residents had benefitted from rent assistance through city programs. A total of $154,000 in rent assistance had been given to residents who could not meet their rent obligations.
Hernandez had good news in terms of city finances, saying the virus did not have the negative impact on the city many initially feared it would.
“I am happy to report we are in a terrific financial state,” she said. “This did not just happen; it took years of fiscally conservative leadership by our current and previous council and a responsible management team and a sound plan to keep us financially strong during the pandemic . . . the city is in a surplus position with revenues exceeding operations by $13.5 million.”
Hernandez said funds are intact for projects like the community park near the Wallis Ranch Development, Jordan Ranch Neighborhood Square, library tenant improvements and Village Parkway pavement reconstruction.
Hernandez also listed future improvement projects for the city, including low-income and middle-income housing, new parks, a renewable energy supply, and improved walking and biking paths.
“Despite COVID-19, over the past 18 months, the city has still managed to accomplish quite a lot and to benefit our community,” Hernandez said. “When it came to engaging our residents, the parks and community services team was on it. For a large part of the year, the department pivoted quite a bit, presenting virtual, drive through and finally in-person events.”