By Khalida Sarwari
As 2012 comes to a close, Campbellites may realize they have a lot to be thankful for. Despite a few setbacks, the city has come out on top, fiscally and otherwise. And now, Campbell’s successful efforts are being recognized by a Sacramento-based advocacy group.
The League of California Cities and the California City Management Foundation have chosen the Orchard City as the first West Valley city, and one of six cities in Santa Clara County, to profile as part of its “Strong Cities, Strong State” campaign. Campbell joins the neighboring cities of Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, San Jose and Santa Clara.
“I’m proud that we’re able to participate in this program, and of being one of the first ones in not only our county but in the West Valley to participate in this campaign to promote what cities do every day for our residents,” assistant to the city manager Al Bito said.
The Strong Cities campaign showcases local government success stories across California in the form of photos, video and other media explaining how each city works to provide essential services to its residents. In Campbell, the stories that were profiled were suggested by members of the city’s executive team, which includes department directors. The city’s profile on the campaign’s website launched Nov. 28.
“We wanted to include projects or programs that were fairly recent and were fairly easy to understand,” Bito said.
So what makes Campbell stand out?
Residents and visitors alike may be familiar with the ever-popular Downtown Campbell Farmers Market, held every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Despite recent controversies around the layout of the vendor booths, the market is renowned for its location, variety and offerings of fresh, organic produce and foods.
The value of the Downtown Campbell Farmers Market is encapsulated on the Strong Cities website in one statement: “The farmers market is a good example of a successful public-private partnership that promotes the city’s historic downtown, retailers, shops, cafes and boutiques while providing a picturesque central location for local farmers to market and sell their produce.”
Vendors at the market have even begun accepting electronic balance transfer, or EBT, cards, which have replaced paper food stamp coupons, for food purchases. Operated by the Urban Village Farmers’ Market Association for the past 14 years, the market has also served as a gathering spot for the community and an economic boost to the downtown merchants.
It is little wonder, then, that the downtown farmers market has been voted the “Best Market” in the South Bay for the past eight years in the San Jose Mercury News Silicon Valley Readers’ Choice Awards.
Another highlight featured on the website is the renovated Heritage Theatre, the site of numerous concerts, musicals, plays, recitals, performances, lectures and corporate events over the years. Originally built as the Campbell Union High School Auditorium in 1938, the venue is listed on four historic building registries including the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the California Point of Historic Interest in 1985, the County of Santa Clara Historic Resources Inventory and the City of Campbell Historic Landmark in 1986.
Renovation of the facility began in the late 2000s thanks to the support of the Friends of the Heritage Theatre, a nonprofit group of community volunteers dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the historic theatre. The $8.5 million project included the renovation of the theatre’s public entry, lobby, restrooms, backstage, loading dock and outdoor public area, as well as the auditorium, seats, interior lighting and mechanical systems.
The finished product is a 20,229-square-foot theater that seats a maximum of 800 patrons and features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. A grand opening ceremony was held on Valentine’s Day in 2004. That year, the Heritage Theatre hosted 88 events and welcomed more than 36,500 people through its doors.
The website also shines a spotlight on the advent of electrical vehicle charging stations to promote energy efficiency in the city. Amid reports that sales of electric cars and hybrid vehicles will significantly increase in the next six years, and to prepare for the anticipated demand for these types of cars, the city partnered with Campbell-based Coulomb Technologies to receive 10 electric vehicle charging stations. The best part is the stations will be acquired at no cost due to grant funds through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Councilman Mike Kotowski won an 11th charging station at the California League of Cities’ annual conference.
The stations were recently installed at various city-owned downtown parking facilities and the community center. Although the stations are free to use now, a fee will be implemented once the city evaluates the costs associated with the usage of the stations and determines an appropriate cost-recovery fee.
Other accomplishments promoted on the site include the Campbell Police Department’s new online crime reporting service, DORS, which allows citizens to submit police reports online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the renovation of the Orchard City Banquet Hall, which was awarded a LEED “Gold” certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The city is engaging in energy efficiency, meeting conservation goals–these are all things that really do show Campbell’s strength,” said Eva Spiegel, communications director for the league. The campaign will eventually highlight all 482 cities in the state, she said.
To read Campbell’s complete profile, visit strongci tiesstrongstate.com/city/campbell.