Articles

Overview

Articles

Article Legal Notes Rick Jarvis

Your city’s development fee account could be vulnerable to multimillion-dollar refund claims

New development projects increase demand on existing public infrastructure. To fund improvements, cities often impose development impact fees, which are governed by the Mitigation Fee Act. Recently, courts have interpreted this law in a more rigid manner, suggesting that any fees held unspent for more than five years must be refunded.

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence Jennifer Schoeneck

Escondido’s K-rail murals save businesses, boost community spirits, and lead to permanent outdoor dining

In the early months of the pandemic, Escondido’s bustling, historic downtown turned into a ghost town overnight. The city responded with a creative, collaborative, community-driven program that stimulated the local economy and celebrated the beauty and resilience of Escondido.

Article Features By Caroline Beteta

Cities, regions, tourism agencies collaborate to accelerate the state’s uneven tourism recovery

Tourism is spurring the recovery of lost jobs and revenue in many cities, particularly rural ones. However, those gains have not been felt equally, especially in large, urban communities. It is crucial that cities and other tourism stakeholders, regardless of their recovery level, have plans in place to help them navigate future uncertainties.

Article Local Works By Karina Gonzalez

From rice mills to infill, West Sacramento transforms city’s waterfront into a model of mixed-use

A project decades in the making, West Sacramento has turned what was once a nearly century-old industrial district into a growing and thriving mixed-use community where people can live, work, and play. To make the city’s vision a reality, it helped create a new financing tool.

Article Solutions for Cities By Haig Kartounian

Need help planning electric vehicle charging projects?

From planning and design to permitting, and construction, Southern California Edison has helped its customers install thousands of charging stations for passenger vehicles and hundreds more for heavy-duty vehicles like buses and trucks through its Charge Ready programs.

Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President Cindy Silva

Federal infrastructure package ends a years-long funding drought, and Cal Cities is committed to ensuring all cities get their turn at the faucet

After months of negotiations, Congress passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. If your city is like mine, you have a long list of infrastructure projects that need funding. The challenge is that the federal infrastructure package is incredibly complicated, encompassing hundreds of separate programs across multiple agencies.

Pismo Beach aerial view of street
Article Local Works By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

Outstanding Local Streets and Roads Project Awards showcase local infrastructure projects; Pismo Beach takes top prize

Pismo Beach and Santa Clarita were honored for their innovative infrastructure projects at this year’s Outstanding Local Streets and Roads Project Awards. Both cities show that, when given the necessary resources, local leaders can find creative solutions to statewide problems, even during the worst economic conditions in decades.

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Rhea R. Borja

Windsor builds one of the nation’s biggest floating solar arrays

When the town of Windsor realized that its wastewater treatment facility produced as much as 45% of the town’s total greenhouse gas emissions, it began searching for a cleaner, greener way to power the facility. The resulting project, one of the largest of its kind, has numerous environmental benefits and saves the town about $175,000 annually.

Old bridge
Article Features By Caroline Cirrincione

Congress passed a historic infrastructure law: What this means for California and its cities

For years, the League of California Cities has fought for state and federal infrastructure funding. In 2021, the federal government responded with an infrastructure package, including $45 billion expected for California. Cal Cities is carrying out multiple strategies to ensure cities have what they need to access the funding.

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government By Karalee Browne

Isolated and costly: The unique infrastructure challenges facing rural communities

Rural communities face different infrastructure needs and challenges than many larger cities. And although the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has many cities excited about the upcoming opportunities, rural leaders worry that they lack the staff and matching dollars to compete with bigger cities for their fair share of the bounty.

Apartment complex exterior
Article Features By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

As housing challenges reach new heights, cities pave the way for millions of homes

The supply and affordability of housing is one of California’s most persistent, high-profile issues. Cities are actively planning, zoning, and approving millions of new homes, but even in the highest-producing cities, there is still an acute lack of housing. This begs a figurative, and increasingly literal, million-dollar question: Why?

Article Executive Director's Message By League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman

The real scoop on cities’ efforts to spur housing production: They’re making real progress

While there is a critical shortage of housing in California, there is no shortage of media coverage and commentary on the topic. However, current coverage and commentary often fail to tell the whole story. What’s often missing is the focus of a recent op-ed I authored for CalMatters. Cities are making real progress to spur housing production in their communities.

City officials at ribbon cutting
Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Eddie Fenton

Buena Park Navigation Center transforms shipping containers into new possibilities for unhoused residents

The city of Buena Park is no stranger to the nationwide homelessness crisis. A 2019 Orange County Point in Time Count Report found that 6,860 people in the county were experiencing homelessness. However, thanks to a collaborative, regional effort, the city is now part of an effective, cost-efficient solution that looks to permanently break the cycle of homelessness.

Women on computers
Article News from the Institute for the Local Government By Melissa Kuehne

Planning for the future: New land use and housing resources for cities

To help support planning commissioners, their staff, and other officials interested in land use and planning, the Institute for Local Government has updated its flagship Planning Commissioners Handbook and compiled a list of related resources. The update is intended to help local officials understand the planning process and provide a window into future planning challenges on the horizon.

Aerial view of affordable apartments
Article Local Works By Anita D. Gutierrez

Pomona’s housing toolbox: A holistic, long-term plan for housing construction

To address its housing shortfall, Pomona has adopted a set of holistic housing and land use policies. The tools help address a range of related issues, including housing, racial inequity, accessibility, and transportation. When used together, they can boost production and ensure that housing is safe, affordable, and supports a higher quality of life.

Article Local Works By Jeff Kraus

San Bernardino is breaking cycles of violence with community partnerships and flexible funding

As is the case in many cities, gang connections go back decades in San Bernardino, spanning generations of family members. To disrupt the cycle, the city partnered with community-based organizations to create a program that aims to prevent gang gun violence and de-escalate tensions through personal interactions with gang members and at-risk youth in ways that law enforcement cannot.

Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President Cindy Silva

Going forward, municipal finance will require new levels of leadership resilience

Local leaders are astutely aware that the pandemic is not over and that our local communities continue to reel from its public health and fiscal impacts. Despite this uncertainty, city leaders continue to press forward as we chart a path to recovery. And prudent financial decision-making will be critical in our recovery efforts.  

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Katie Galvin-Šurbatović

How Whittier kept local businesses afloat with targeted funding, relief, and business-friendly policies

Like most communities, the pandemic challenged Whittier’s economy across industries. In the early days of the pandemic, a once buzzing and vivacious Whittier became a shadow of its former self. Small businesses were forced to close their doors and furlough or lay off employees. Amidst considerable uncertainty, the city acted swiftly to implement critical solutions and assist the business community in a variety of effective, innovative ways.

Article Features By Frank V. Zerunyan

The value of local public service

As we reflect on the many projects made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act this month, it is important to consider that which has incalculable value: public service. Put simply, local government is where the rubber meets the road and policy becomes action. This article by Frank V. Zerunyan, Mayor of Rolling Hills Estates and Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, reflects on the unique, vital role that city officials play in keeping our democracy and communities healthy. 

Article Solutions for Cities By Kevin Knopf

Employee benefits: An underutilized recruitment tool

How can cities retain their current workforce and attract new employees when battling against the attraction of a work-from-home model? The answer is total compensation.

Article Features By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

Transformative and desperately needed: The American Rescue Plan Act one year later

In March 2021, cities across the nation breathed a sigh of relief as an economic package that included $65 billion for municipalities finally made its way through Congress and was signed into law. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided badly needed direct and flexible funds to cash-strapped cities on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.

Article Solutions for Cities By Lisa Holmes

New vehicles for the same old budget … or less

With age taking its toll on existing vehicle fleets, many local government agencies are learning how to not only improve the lifecycle of their vehicles but reduce their total cost of ownership with no impact on their current budget.

CalPERS headquarters
Article Legal Notes By Steven M. Berliner

New state law increases pension-related costs for cities: How municipalities can mitigate the impact

A new law went into effect at the beginning of this year that creates new liabilities for public agencies when reporting compensation, shifting exposure for reporting mistakes from retirees almost exclusively to the employer. 

Aerial view of Sacramento and the state Capitol.
Article Features By Melanie Perron

2021 Legislative Year in Review

For many, the beginning of 2021 felt like a continuation of 2020. COVID-19 continued to significantly impact the globe and cities throughout the state were still reeling from the economic impacts of the pandemic. Any guarantee of state or federal relief for cash-strapped cities was tepid at best. One silver lining was that the League of California Cities was able to build upon key relationships in the Legislature to advance top priorities for cities in 2021.

Article Executive Director's Message By League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman

City leaders level up again in 2021, serving their communities and charting a clear path for Cal Cities’ 2022 Action Agenda

2021 was another year of considerable change and challenges for our cities, yet these leaders remained resilient and dedicated to keeping their residents safe, rising to challenges, and taking action to ensure a strong recovery. When many of these same leaders came together late last year to review the achievements and accomplishments that the League of California Cities delivered in 2021 and plan for the year ahead, it was clear that they were ready and more prepared than ever to lead their communities in the new year. 

Article Local Works By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

Lessons in leadership from outgoing or former mayors and council members

Four outgoing and former elected officials from throughout the state shared the most important elements of leadership, their advice for newly electeds, and the local projects that they are most proud of.

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Robert Simmons

How Irvine evacuated more than 100,000 residents during a major wildfire

Driven by unparalleled wind conditions, the 2017-19 wildfires — Tubbs, Thomas, Woolsey, Camp, Kincade, Tick, and in Orange County, Canyon II and Holy Fire — underscored the significant challenges facing police and fire agencies in these at-risk areas and the urgent need for enhanced planning measures.

Article News from the Institute for Local Government By Melissa Kuehne

Breaking the cycle: Steps for reducing negative discourse and incivility in public meetings

According to a recent report from the National League of Cities, more than 80% of local government officials have experienced some form of harassment, abuse, or violence while in office. That same report states that 87% of public officials have observed an increase in such behavior, with many noting a dramatic increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President Cindy Silva

Cal Cities’ equity roadmap can help cities chart an equitable pandemic recovery

On any given day in any newspaper across the country, you’ll most likely find a story chronicling how communities of color have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and how economic recovery in these same communities is occurring at a much slower rate. The facts make it very clear that the pandemic accelerated and exacerbated many of the already-existing inequities in our communities around income, housing affordability, and homelessness.

Article Features By Eric Rosoff, Mike Despain, and Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fire service: Seven steps agencies can take

Firefighters are some of the nation’s most trusted professionals, even more than healthcare workers, first responders, and teachers. However, within the fire service ranks, the trust is more fragile when it comes to creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces. The very things that have made fire departments successful — a strong sense of brotherhood, an emphasis on measurable operational results, and a close living-working environment — are often the very things that make attempts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion inside fire stations uniquely challenging.

Hayward sign
Article Local Works By Alexa López

Becoming your community’s ally: How the city of Hayward continues to move the equity needle by listening and learning

While Hayward had an anti-discrimination action plan in place since the 1990s, city officials realized five years ago that it was in dire need of updating. Hayward city leaders took immediate action to reassure the community that the city was in fact an ally. 

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government By Julia Salinas

Change happens at the speed of trust: Key lessons from ILG’s equity roundtable

The pandemic has brought equity to the forefront of many city programs and services. From updating recruitment practices and hiring equity officers to developing equity ordinances and reexamining public policies and programs, cities throughout California have made notable changes to their daily and long-term operations. 

Article Legal Notes By Amy Oppenheimer and Christina Ro-Connolly

Unintentional misconduct is still misconduct: Tips for investigating unconscious bias

Countless studies have confirmed that bias, particularly unconscious bias, informs our interactions, even in people who are genuinely committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). In the workplace, this is commonly expressed in who we prefer to hire.

Kids eating pizza
Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Daniel Mestizo

Pizza, politics, and tough questions: How Cupertino and others helped foster civic engagement among young adults

How do we engage young voters and inspire them to participate in the civic and political process? Cupertino, located in Silicon Valley, asked itself this question in 2012. The city is well known for its robust education system, beautiful weather, and for being the home of Apple Inc. After much deliberation, the cities of Cupertino and Saratoga — and later Campbell — answered by developing a teen-driven and teen-centered political forum. 

Man flying drone
Article Local Works Features By Don Redmond

Chula Vista’s high-flying first responder reduces costs and response times, improves de-escalation tactics, and saves lives

In the wake of tragedies throughout the nation involving police officers, communities are asking for police reform and better de-escalation tools and training. The Chula Vista Police Department, serving a population of 270,000 in San Diego County, responded in part by developing an innovative drone program that can respond to emergencies and provide officers with the information needed to de-escalate situations.

Article Features By Elisa Arcidiacono

The state passed major police reform bills in 2021: what the new laws mean for cities

Police reform has been a top legislative priority for progressive lawmakers in California for years, and while there have been some significant criminal justice measures signed into law in the past decade, many more bills never made it to the governor’s desk. This year was different.

Police car
Article Features By Deanne Machado

The perfect storm: policing in the era of decriminalization and unfunded budget pressures

In a decade, how might city leaders recall this period of policing in California? Will it be remembered as a period of great reform or one of great posturing? The evidence appears to support the former, as criminal justice reform in the domains of drug decriminalization and property crime have significantly affected the role and expectations of California law enforcement agencies.

Man talking to seniors
Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Erin Barrows

Burbank expanded senior programs to keep vulnerable residents safe — and connected — during the loneliest months of the pandemic

In 2015, Burbank — a San Fernando Valley city of roughly 100,000 residents — launched Project HOPE (Helping Others Prosper Everyday), a Parks and Recreation program with a simple mission: “Promote the independence, health, and dignity of older adults through compassion, kindness, commitment, and positivity.”

House on fire
Article Executive Director's Message By League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman

How Cal Cities is helping city officials prepare for the next big wildfire

Every day, cities deliver an array of public safety services to protect the residents and businesses within their communities. Recent events across the nation have sparked conversations around reimagining those services, particularly in the area of local policing.  However, in many cities in California, local leaders are also reimagining how to deliver public safety services when a wildfire strikes.

Article Legal Notes By Christine N. Wood and Jennifer Ransom

Online services and information: Considerations for ensuring accessible, legally-compliant city websites

The range of information and services available online varies from city to city, as does the level of accessibility offered by city websites. However, as cities continue to transition to internet-based information and services, they should take care to ensure that such information and services are equally accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities

Aerial of Chico, CA
Article Features By Lisa Yarbrough

Elk Grove and Chico use technology to increase public engagement on important housing decisions

For many cities, a key component of addressing the affordable housing crisis includes planning for more high-density projects. However, cities must also ensure that community insight and feedback are front and center when deciding how and where affordable housing is constructed. Two Northern California cities — Elk Grove and Chico — have taken civic engagement to a whole new level.

Man on computer

Irvine’s building and planning portal saves time and trees

As part of an ongoing effort to enhance customer service, the city of Irvine launched a new, streamlined, web-based platform for planning, building, and engineering applications. Launched in 2019, IrvineREADY! is a web-based platform that provides a portal for customers to upload plans and pay fees online using either credit card or electronic check.

Article Solutions for Cities By Gail Beal

Solving tomorrow’s budget challenges now

Municipal budgets in California are experiencing significant new stressors. As cities and counties work to provide equitable access to public programs, address the growing homelessness crisis, and deal with the many other challenges facing their communities, public agencies are again forced to spread limited budget dollars across more programs.  

Fremont streets
Article Local Works By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

Traffic fatalities across the US rose in 2020 but not in Fremont. What did the city do differently?

In 2015, Fremont’s city council committed to a bold goal: Reduce traffic-related fatalities to zero. Even though the city was already a national leader in traffic safety, this new mindset forced officials to rethink their approach to traffic safety. Known as Vision Zero, Fremont’s traffic safety focuses on integrating human error into transportation systems, instead of reducing it.

Cal Cities new president  speaks at podium
Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President Cindy Silva

Finding light in dark times, city officials emerge stronger together

The League of California Cities Board of Directors elected Walnut Creek Council Member Cindy Silva to serve as 2021-2022 President during the Annual Conference and Expo. For Silva’s first “President’s Message,” she talks about the future of cities, and shares her view of Cal Cities as a place where local officials can work together to tackle challenges, capitalize on new opportunities, and move forward for the betterment of all communities.

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

Pension costs: What cities need to know about the discount rate, Asset Liability Management process, and 115 trusts

Public agencies continue to navigate through the damaging effects that COVID-19 has had on their revenues, general fund returns, and the economy. Meanwhile, their pension obligations continue to grow, putting further strain on their impacted budgets. Pension systems face an uncertain economic outlook with discount rate targets that are mismatched with future expected returns.

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

Labor relations, ethics, and litigation: What cities need to know

To the uninitiated, public service seemed relatively straightforward. You run for office and serve your term or you apply for the position, just like any other job. However, due to the nature of their position, city officials are governed by a complex set of laws and principles that do not necessarily apply in the private sector. Moreover, many officials are part of unions or local employee associations, which are also governed by their set of laws and principles. 

Woman speaking at podium
Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker

Hindsight may be 2020, but 2021 gave city leaders a new vision for the future

One year ago, League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker shared her thoughts about the role of city leaders in a time of unparalleled challenges and uncertainty, as well as her vision for the future. Now, as her term draws to a close, she looks back at the successes of the past year.

Article Local Works By Erica A. Stewart, Any Peaase, and Beya Makekau

A roadmap to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in a predominately white, affluent community

After seeing thousands of San Luis Obispo residents march through the streets for George Floyd, the San Luis Obispo community and city council knew that more work needed to be done to create a diverse, inclusive community. While diversity and inclusivity have long been core values of the city government, it became clear that there was much more to be done. 

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

Good governance and partnerships are key to effective city services

The inner workings of a city, including partnerships among elected and appointed officials and adherence to ethical behavior, transcend city hall. The city’s leadership style sets the tenor and tone for residents and the community at large and often informs the level of trust that residents place in city officials. 

Article Features

Climate change, pension costs, public safety, equity, and more: Upcoming Annual Conference and Expo speakers provide a sneak preview

For the first time in two years, city leaders throughout the state will come together in-person to collaborate on shared issues and celebrate the successes of the past year, at the League of California Cities Annual Conference and Expo, September 22-24, in Sacramento. The excitement is palpable: More than 750 officials signed up within the first 10 days of opening registration. Western City invited conference speakers to share key insights from their upcoming talks. 

Diverse hands joined together
Article News from the Institute for Local Government by Institute for Local Government

Connect with ILG — and these local leaders — at the Annual Conference and Expo

At this year’s League of California Cities Annual Conference and Expo, the Institute for Local Government (ILG) will host sessions on a number of timely topics related to our core pillars of work, including leadership and governance, public engagement, sustainable and resilient communities, and workforce and civics education.

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

Digital city hall: How data, social media, and new technologies are changing public service

City leaders have more data and ways to interact with their residents than ever before. However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Many leaders, especially those operating on shoestring budgets and staff, may have difficulty cutting through the noise to find the right data points, if they have the time to do so at all. Additionally, regardless of their ability to leverage data, all city leaders must contend with the legal challenges of an increasingly polarized, negative, and at times, hostile, public discourse on social media. 

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

New challenges, new solutions: How city leaders are creating safer communities

Keeping families and communities safe is one of the primary functions of city government. The last few years have brought new challenges, such as a sharp increase in cybercrimes, a lack of dedicated resources for critical issues, and recent legislative changes that require new ways of approaching old problems. Here are three ways city leaders and industry experts are increasing public safety in California’s cities.

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

Ensuring your city works for everyone: best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion

Issues of equity and inclusion have taken center stage since 2020, with calls for increased diversity, parity, and social justice in every aspect of government and civic life. City leaders are on the frontlines of creating policies and procedures that create an equitable environment both at city hall and in their community. 

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

How the public and private sectors are creating more energy-efficient cities

Even if the world meets the goals set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement, the effects of a warming environment will be felt in California for decades. “Historical and unprecedented” wildfire seasons and droughts are becoming the norm and sea levels are predicted to rise by as much as seven feet by 2100. However, many local leaders are doing more than just hardening their communities against climate change; they are also actively working to reduce its effects.

It takes a village; Moreno Valley partnership creates new afterschool program

One-third of California’s TK-12 students perform below grade level, including students in Moreno Valley, Riverside County’s second-largest city. The city recognized the need to support students, parents’ need to work, and the community overall. Realizing this, Moreno Valley collaborated with local school districts to create an expanded afterschool learning program.

Attendees visit the expo hall.
Article

Meet the Annual Conference and Expo exhibitors

Over 150 exhibitors are scheduled to showcase their products, solutions, and services to the League of California Cities Annual Conference and Expo attendees. Get to know the exhibitors* by exploring them here before meeting them in person at the conference at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in Sacramento. The Expo is open on Sept. 22 and 23. 

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

Tools for California’s housing crisis: Surplus land requirements, sortition, and short-term rental policies

The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated California’s housing crisis, adding even more urgency and complexity to an already dire situation. Land availability and housing affordability continue to dominate local policy discussions, while at the same time city leaders grapple with the best way to implement regulations for the growing short-term rental industry. Moreover, all of these decisions require significant public input. During the League of California Cities Annual Conference and Expo, hear from city leaders and industry experts about ways in which cities throughout the state can tackle the myriad of housing issues facing their communities.

Logo with confetti
Article Executive Director's Message By League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman

Our look may be new, but our commitment to cities goes back more than 120 years

The Cal Cities brand has expanded to reflect the diverse mosaic of the Golden State’s cities. You can see in both the logo and the bright new color palette that our brand identity embraces the concept of coming together as a unified block to promote and protect local democracy and the common interests of California cities in the state and national capitols.

Article Legal Notes by Lee Roistacher and Kimberly Sullivan

Legal releases and city-sponsored youth recreation programs in the digital age

Through sports leagues, camps, recreation centers, ball fields, courts, and parks, local governments play a large role in providing opportunities for youth recreation. To ensure they can continue to offer such valuable programs for youth in their communities, local governments should also take steps to minimize potential liability risks associated with youth recreation.

Aerial shot of park
Article Local Works By Gilbert Livas

Working together for the community: Downey’s Measure S neighborhood improvement program delivers on promises

In November 2016, Downey residents voted to invest in the most robust capital improvement program in the city’s history: Measure S, a 1/2 percent transactions and use tax that generates approximately $10 million per year for the city. Thanks to Measure S, Downey residents now experience increased public safety, benefit from important infrastructure upgrades, and enjoy additional amenities.

Tiny homes
Article Features By Lisa Yarbrough

Livermore’s award-winning inclusive engagement approach is paying dividends for the community

Since 1949, the National Civic League has celebrated the best in American civic innovation by awarding the prestigious All-America City Award to ten communities nationwide. This year, Livermore was the only city in California to receive this honor. The award celebrates the city’s inclusive engagement efforts to improve equity and resilience.

City of Davis’ partnership with local theatre company increases bike safety and fuels its creative economy

The city of Davis set out to find an innovative way to address its long-term environmental, public health, and safety goals by educating and engaging young Davis residents through its Safe Routes to School program. Looking to do something different, the city set its sights on sourcing local, partnering with a local theater company to create a memorable and engaging theater piece that promoted safe biking to young audiences.

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Karalee Browne

Make equity and sustainability decisions with communities, instead of for communities

The stakes are high as cities engage in major planning efforts and adopt new budgets to ensure that they have the planning, infrastructure, and resources to adapt to this new normal. But how do we ensure that the new plans and policies we create will actually make our communities more equitable, environmentally resilient, and economically vibrant? The Institute for Local Government (ILG) offers five strategies for cities, based on recent research, as well as the technical assistance, and capacity-building support.

Folsom Lake bridge
Article Features By Sean Bigley

Beyond the drought
How an integrated approach to water planning is helping the city of Roseville weather the drought with an eye toward the future

Water efficiency is a California way of life, and when the Regional Water Authority in the Sacramento region asked members to start using more groundwater and take other actions to reduce reliance on local lakes and rivers, the city of Roseville responded almost immediately, thanks to its innovative approach to water supply planning called Integrated Regional Water Management, and its partnership with the state.

Redwood Sky Walk
Article Local Works By Jill Oviatt

A bird’s eye view: Eureka’s Redwood Sky Walk takes conservation and education to the next level

It’s hard not to get immersed in the surreal experience of northern California’s latest attraction: Eureka’s Redwood Sky Walk. Incredibly, the city didn’t invest a dime in the $4 million project. While redwood education and conservation are at the heart of the initiative, the potential economic benefits for the area were a huge factor behind community support and funding. 

Dry cracked ground
Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker

Facing climate change head-on: city leaders must act swiftly to prepare for its impacts

The immediate and secondary impacts of climate change can be felt deeply in our communities, but we as city leaders have a responsibility to our residents and future generations to mitigate these impacts as much as possible. Cities are leading the way in finding innovative strategies to protect their communities from climate change and cultivate healthy and sustainable communities.  

Santa Maria develops a hands-on, career-based agricultural education program for high schoolers

When the opportunity arose to create a model program with students and local businesses, the city of Santa Maria stepped up. The city partnered with a local ag-related businesses to create a successful hands-on educational program, from work of planting pumpkins, and networking with community members, to creating fun events.

Bikers on a path
Article Local Works By Jill Oviatt

Arcata rises to the challenge: innovative upgrades to award-winning wastewater treatment plant

Just 34 years ago, Arcata’s pioneering wetland wastewater treatment facility was the talk of the town, winning multiple awards for its integration of oxidation ponds and fresh water marshes to do the dirty work of cleaning the city’s wastewater through a mostly natural process involving bacteria, plants, and sunlight. But the once groundbreaking equipment is breaking down, and the city has developed a two-phase project to not only replace 50-year-old parts, but develop new strategies to face new challenges.  

City of Redlands Police Chief Chris Catren sits with members of the community.
Article Local Works By Brian Lee-Mounger Hendershot

“We look way too similar to Derek Chauvin”: Building public trust in an era of distrust

At Redlands — where Chief Catren has spent his entire career — building trust is as simple as being transparent and following through on every call or complaint, no matter how mundane they may seem. To put it another way, “They know you’re going to do what you say you’re going to do, because you always do it.” There’s practically a non-zero chance that someone will have a neutral encounter with the police. It’s either positive or negative. Every department must “outweigh a single negative experience with hundreds of positive ones.” 

Two people shaking hands with an onlooker.
Article Legal Notes by Shelline Bennett

Bringing back decorum and civility in the public sector

City councils set the tone, tenor, and behavior that agencies look to emulate. Leadership and ethics go hand in hand and require honesty and personal integrity. The age-old adage is true — people follow willingly, with greater productivity, if their leaders are individuals they respect. What can elected officials and senior city management do to help set high standards for employees, elected officials, and the city itself?  

Santa Clarita mascot, Sammy Clarita, poses with children at a local event.

Santa Clarita uses creative mascot to engage youth and instill city knowledge and pride

Open house celebrations at Santa Clarita City Hall, documentary-style videos, and articles about what it took to become a city appealed to adult residents. At the same time, a small, stuffed horse named Sammy Clarita quickly became the city’s unofficial mascot and messenger to engage the city’s younger residents. The “I Found Sammy Clarita” campaign introduces the next generation of residents to their local government and teaches them the importance of being an engaged resident. 

Building blocks with the word 'trust.'
Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

Rebuilding Public Trust

As local leaders chart their city’s roadmap to recovery, rebuilding public trust must be as important a priority as rebuilding our local economies. Leaders at every level of government must do their part to address the pervasive loss of trust that is on the brink of bankruptcy. As the level of government closest to those whom they serve, local leaders are uniquely positioned to be the laboratories for trust-building. This month’s issue of Western City magazine features real-world experiences, resources, and best practices that can help.  

A session of government in progress.
Article Features By Melissa Kuehne

Focus on good government is critical as cities navigate challenging times

The post-pandemic recovery will require city leaders to address significant challenges and make difficult decisions about the allocation of scarce funding, possible reductions in services, and reprioritizing city initiatives. Elected leaders and staff cannot effectively address such challenges without a strong foundation of good government — trust, accountability, responsiveness, and transparency. Now is the ideal time to ensure that your city’s foundation is solid.

Aerial view of the city of Arcata, one of the 10 cities to participate in the 18-month BOOST Pilot Program designed to help California local governments advance climate and equity goals.
Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Karalee Browne

BOOSTing economic development and equity in California communities

The Institute for Local Government (ILG) launched a pilot program called BOOST, in partnership with the Strategic Growth Council, to help under-resourced communities build capacity to advance their climate, equity, and economic development goals. Through this program, ILG worked with 10 cities and two regions to develop projects and programs that promote more equitable, just, and economically-thriving communities. 

The Rylan Project, a five-story mixed use residential and commercial space, located in the downtown region of the city of Vista.
Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker

Unprecedented opportunities emerge for cities in a post-pandemic world

As COVID-19 positivity rates continue to decline and vaccination rates increase, California city leaders are shifting from around-the-clock pandemic response to developing plans for long-term economic recovery. The resurgence of local economies is key to our nation’s recovery from a devastating yearlong pandemic, and as city officials map out equitable recovery efforts in their communities, inclusive economic development strategies must be a core component of these long-term plans. 

A key path to growing local revenue and sustaining local economies is investing in economic development to ensure that businesses are successful.
Article Features By Gurbax Sahota

The pandemic crushed local economies; recovery depends on how cities navigate emerging economic development opportunities

While communities across California and the country excitedly await the disbursement of badly needed relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and potential assistance from the president’s American Jobs Plan, one question is being asked over and over again — how do we make the most of these precious one-time investments?

Soon, California cities will be faced with redistricting requirements to align voting districts with 2020 Census data.
Article Solutions for Cities By Scott C. Smith

Making 2021 holiday travel plans? Check COVID-19 restrictions and the California Elections Code 

California city officials may want to take a close look at their 2021 travel and holiday plans. In addition to personal check lists — COVID-19 vaccinations and tests, pet sitters, and passport renewals — you’ll need to reserve plenty of time this fall and winter for the monumental redistricting effort which will be required to align voting districts with 2020 Census data.  

The city of Glendale has a reputation as a regional tech center, with a diverse local tech economy, a highly-educated workforce, and many attributes needed to attract tech startups and employees.

City of Glendale kick starts local technology and innovation ecosystem

The city of Glendale’s efforts to grow the tech industry including the creation of “knowledge sharing” or places where local talent could go to innovate, inspire, and meet one another, inspired the creation of its Glendale Ecosystem for Tech Startups initiative. This helped focus on attracting new businesses including high-end co-working space operators; developing a strategy to offer more mentorship, business development, and investment opportunities to local startups; and helping tech companies expand. 

Big Bear Lake Director of Planning and Inspections Sue O'Strander, Vista Director of Economic Development Kevin Ham, Corona  Economic Development Director Jessica M. Gonzales, Long Beach Director of Economic Development, John Keisler
Article Features By Jill Oviatt

Local economies were decimated by the pandemic. Now California cities are rolling out their blueprints for recovery

Western City magazine invited California cities of different sizes and different economies to share their top priorities for economic development as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. As California reopens for business, municipal economic development offices are busy analyzing strategies to best position their communities to not only survive – but thrive – as resilient, inclusive, and vibrant places to live. Regardless of size and geography, these cities had a number of priorities in common.

San Diego Central Library Hosts Portrait of Pomeroy Art Exhibit showcasing paintings and drawings by San Diego artists of the 1950s and 1960s.
Article Local Works By Jonathan Glus

An economic engine: San Diego works to support its local creative industry during the pandemic and beyond

Six months into the pandemic, it was clear that San Diego’s creative industry was suffering. By September 2020, 14,500 local artists, photographers, dancers, filmmakers, graphic designers, architects, and computer programmers had lost their jobs. The city of San Diego knew it had to act quickly and purchased visual art by area artists to get badly-needed funds to working artists. 

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

Building bridges to a brighter future with infrastructure investment

As city leaders worked around the clock to lead their communities through a global pandemic, they also dealt with devastating budget shortfalls that forced cuts in local services and delays in much-needed infrastructure projects. However, we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel. The supply of vaccine doses is growing, eligibility is expanding, and assistance for cities in the recently enacted American Rescue Plan is on the way. Cities will now have resources to begin to recover and rebuild from the pandemic. 

The city of Santa Rosa’s “Fulton Road Reconstruction” project repaired approximately 3,200 lineal feet of 4-lane principal arterial pavement and associated bike lanes.
Article Features by Jill Oviatt

Despite pandemic-related challenges, California cities pave the way to award-winning infrastructure projects

Upgrading local streets and roads is critical to communities, and many projects were well underway when the pandemic hit in early 2020. Thanks to the innovation, dedication, and creativity of local officials, the projects were not only completed, but received statewide recognition through the 2021 Outstanding Local Streets and Roads Project Awards.

Storm water flows through drain.
Article Legal Notes by John J. Harris

California municipal stormwater permits: recent court cases cities should consider

One of the primary points of contention between cities and water boards has been the cost of achieving water quality goals – the water boards have steadily imposed more restrictive requirements in municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, while expecting cities and counties alone to bear the costs. This article covers two court decisions affecting cities and the key takeaways for local government officials.

The cogeneration facility at the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility features artwork by Buster Simpson.
Article Local Works by Lisa Yarbrough

Cities of San José and Ukiah lead the way on critical water infrastructure projects

Looking ahead at growing population demands, many cities are embarking on infrastructure modernization projects to ensure water reliability. They are also taking a long view and designing these projects with climate change in mind. As droughts and warmer temperatures become more common, cities are on the front lines working to ensure their constituents have a sustainable source of water now and into the future. 

City of Alameda works to build climate resiliency and advance sustainability

The city of Alameda is an island community in the San Francisco Bay Area that faces an existential threat from sea level rise. The city responded to this challenge by developing a cutting-edge Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, including a roadmap for a “Climate Safe Path,” in which Alameda aggressively reduces its own greenhouse gas emissions as well as raise climate awareness.

Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker

Cal Cities delivers on local control, funding, and resources for cities

The decisions that we make every day as city leaders, especially housing and land use decisions, cannot be made in a vacuum. All city services and programs must be viewed through a lens of equity, and this new Advancing Equity Advisory Committee will play an integral role in identifying how cities can recognize and eliminate disparities in our systems.

Exterior view of Sacramento fourplex.
Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Karalee Browne

Beyond the short term: Land use principles to advance fair housing goals

Over the past year, cities have implemented a variety of programs to help keep vulnerable populations housed, but cities need to look beyond short-term relief. Local planning and policy decisions present some unique opportunities to remedy longstanding inequities, specifically through the housing element update process and activities related to AB 686.

Exterior view of St. Paul’s Commons in Walnut Creek, CA.
Article Local Works by Jill Oviatt

A community partnership brings a transformative affordable housing development to Walnut Creek

A dynamic group of committed religious, community, housing, and local government leaders in Walnut Creek came together to solve one of our state’s most pressing problems: the need for more affordable housing. Working together they created St. Paul’s Commons, a mixed-use, transit-oriented affordable housing development that opened its doors to residents in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

Exterior view of El Centro "tiny home."
Article Features by Lisa Yarbrough

Tiny homes in El Centro provide housing for former foster youth attending the local college

El Centro was one of the first recipients of funding under Homekey, a statewide program designed to house those experiencing homelessness. Through a partnership between the city and a local college, the funding was leveraged to construct 26 tiny homes that will provide two years of permanent housing for college students who are former foster youths and are experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Courson Arts interior of art gallery.

Palmdale’s latest housing innovation: the Courson Arts Colony

In recent years, the city of Palmdale saw housing costs outpace the area’s income levels, resulting in a shortage of affordable housing in the area. The Courson Arts Colony, the latest component of Palmdale’s city center revitalization and housing innovation, provides affordable housing and incorporates an arts component to serve as a healing element for veterans who may be suffering from PTSD.

City of Escondido public works employees remove graffiti.

City of Escondido develops innovative and collaborative program to eliminate graffiti

Graffiti destroys property, costs cities hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and can blight entire communities. To address graffiti issues, the City of Escondido created a custom designed smartphone app to crowdsource information from the community to help keep their city clean and free of graffiti. 

City of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg delivers speech about #ALLINSAC effort.
Article Local Works by Lisa Yarbrough

Sacramento’s Measure U helps maintain critical services and advance equity during pandemic

The City of Sacramento is one of many California cities to put a general sales tax measure on the  ballot to bring in much-needed revenue for local projects. Voter approval to renew or raise local sales tax has given some cities a sustained source of revenue to maintain critical services, invest in local infrastructure, and create additional amenities for the community.

Steve Rogers, Yountville City Manager, Eric Figueroa, Martinez City Manager, and Kim Summers, Murrieta City Manager
Article Features by Jill Oviatt

A fiscal year for the books
Managing city budgets as a deadly pandemic ravages livelihoods and revenues

California cities have been on the front lines for nearly a year taking action to protect their residents and businesses and maintain the delivery of essential city services, despite unplanned expenses and revenue shortfalls brought about by the pandemic. Three California city managers reflect on the past year and how on earth one manages a city budget with so much uncertainty, and so little support from the state and federal governments.

Water supply cover
Article Legal Notes by Michael G. Colantuono

A legal win for city finance – Supreme Court holds utility rates not subject to referendum

Referendum is a power granted to voters, essentially allowing the electorate to put statutes adopted by legislative bodies to a vote of the people. However, the recent California Supreme Court decision in Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir held that water rates are not subject to referendum, making this an important win for public utilities and local governments, and boosting stability in local finance.

Article Features by Lloyd de Llamas

Adding to the challenge – the increasingly volatile sales tax

The coronavirus recession has eroded city budgets in many ways, leaving many tax revenue streams damaged and lasting impacts on cities that will continue to cut deep in the fiscal year ahead. As local governments grapple with the revenue loss and spending increases associated with the pandemic, it’s important to review the trends and forecasts of the revenue streams upon which a city most heavily relies and adjust accordingly. 

Santa Clarita prepares for “silver tsunami” with Gold Star College Internship Program

Through Santa Clarita’s College Internship Program interns get a taste of work life after completing their degree and gain exposure to key aspects of local government. The city benefits because it develops the next generation of public sector employees and provides professional development opportunities for current employees. Santa Clarita’s succession planning strategy has proven to be a success and can serve as a model for other cities as they work to develop future city employees and leaders. 

Article Local Works by Jill Oviatt and Lisa Yarbrough

Lessons in Leadership: Outgoing mayors and city council members share advice on what it takes to be an effective leader

Through their many years of service in local government these outgoing mayors and council members have sage advice about how to be an effective city leader and wise words for new mayors and council members as they embark on their journey to lead their city forward.

Article President's Message by Cheryl Viegas Walker

Cal Cities strategic priorities set a course for 2021

In December 2020, city leaders who serve in leadership positions for the League of California Cities divisions, departments, policy committees, and diversity caucuses convened virtually for the annual League Leaders program, to chart the organization’s priorities for 2021. Developing member-driven and -informed strategic advocacy priorities is key to the effectiveness of Cal Cities’ advocacy efforts on behalf of cities.

Article Features by Melanie M. Perron

2020 Legislative year in review

Many have called this year “unprecedented,” but even that does not seem to capture the unequaled disruption that 2020 wrought upon us all, the California State Legislature included. The the normal legislative calendar was constricted and fierce debates took place over how to legislate during a pandemic. In the end, the number of bills sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature was a mere fraction of what the Legislature typically passes in a year. 

Article Legal Notes by Thomas D. Jex and Denise S. Bazzano

A Refresher on General Conflict-of-Interest Rules

This article provides newly elected officials an overview of some of the key conflict-of-interest rules under the Political Reform Act — and a refresher for more seasoned council members.

Article Features by Erica L. Manuel

Civility as a Tonic for What Ails Local Democracy

Americans’ confidence in government is at an all-time low. Leaders in every level of government will need to do their part to address this trend, but local governments in particular can play a unique and important role to help stem eroding confidence in democratic institutions and principles.

Article Local Works by Jill Oviatt

Rancho Cucamonga: 2020 All-America City Winner One of 10 Cities Honored and the Only City in California to Make the List

The National Civic League recognized Rancho Cucamonga for promoting inclusive civic engagement to address health and well-being in the community. The city’s ongoing efforts have created stronger connections among residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government leaders that have improved the quality of life.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

The Evolution of Western City Magazine: Extending the Voice and Vision of California Cities

The powerful foundation that Western City has built over the last century positions the magazine perfectly to transform and evolve into a new version of itself that will inspire its audience in new ways.

Norwalk Offers Empathy and Critical Support to Teens in Crisis

Developed by a volunteer team of recreation staff, the We Have Project offers a forum for dealing with challenging issues, including depression and anxiety, and links Norwalk teens and youth with professional resources.

Alisal Vibrancy Plan Addresses Equity Issues in Salinas

This plan is the result of advocacy and a collaborative process with city staff, community-based organizations, and residents that increased public engagement, public dialogue, and trust and brought new leadership into planning processes.

Article Features by Rich Garbarino

South San Francisco Develops Equity Solutions Tailored to the Community

As elected officials, we have the responsibility to work toward the goals of equality and justice for all in the services we provide to our diverse residents. It’s imperative that we commit to addressing systemic racial bias wherever and whenever we encounter it and provide greater access, transparency, and oversight to build strong trust within our communities.

Article Local Works by Adam M. Lara

Long Beach Launches Office of Equity to Engage, Educate, and Serve

Long Beach established its Office of Equity in January 2017 to address and improve equity, community health, and safety for those most underserved in its communities.

Article Features by Rita Soler Ossolinski

Advancing Racial Equity in Local Government

The National League of Cities created the Race, Equity, And Leadership (REAL) initiative to strengthen local leaders’ knowledge and capacity to eliminate racial disparities, heal racial divisions, and build more equitable communities. REAL offers tools and resources designed to help local elected leaders create cities where people from all racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds thrive.

Article President’s Message by Cheryl Viegas Walker

Hope Is Not a Strategy, but It Is a Requirement for Leadership

It’s helpful to remember that leadership isn’t always about remaining stoic and displaying optimism. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is both human and acceptable, especially in relentlessly difficult circumstances.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

Bold Approaches and New Ideas to Solve Old Problems

We are committed to supporting city leaders to secure the resources necessary to create an environment where all residents are protected and treated equitably by the institutions created to serve them.

Article Features by Ken Pulskamp

Leadership in a Time of Uncertainty, Fear, and Recovery

In many ways, 2020 has been incredibly difficult for California’s public servants. Learn from city managers and a mayor on the front lines.

Article by Rachael Sanders and Charlie Francis

Is Your City Really Prepared for Rising Pension Costs?

By Rachael Sanders and Charlie Francis Revenues are not keeping pace with pension expenses. Learn how your city can prepare for ongoing economic uncertainty.

Article Features by Michael G. Colantuono

What You Need to Know About Municipal Finance
Recent Major Developments in the Law

California’s appellate courts have delivered three very significant decisions involving municipal revenues.

Article

2020 Annual Conference Expo Exhibitors

League Partners’ names appear in bold. Institute for Local Government Partners are italicized. CitiPAC supporters are marked with an asterisk. The list is current as of Sept. 18, 2020. For an updated list, visit www.cacities.org/expo.

Article Features by Katie Pebler

2020 Annual Conference & Expo
Maximize Your Virtual Annual Conference Experience: 10 Ways to Prep Like a Pro

Get practical tips for a valuable and memorable experience.

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Erica Manuel

Coronavirus Lockdowns Spark a Boom in Online Learning

Don’t miss ILG’s upcoming sessions on virtual community engagement, SB 1383 organic waste requirements, essential ethics training, and more.

Article Local Works by Heather Cousin

Libraries Respond in Crisis and Beyond

Library staff throughout California put on masks and gloves and transformed their work with new processes and procedures and with safety and community service as their top priorities.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

An Unconventional Year

In circumstances as transformative as a global pandemic and a groundswell of civil unrest, effective leadership requires the ability to adapt.

Article Features by Brian P. Walter and Alexander Volberding

Best Practices to Avoid Employment Litigation Related to COVID-19

Brian P. Walter is a partner with the law firm of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore and can be reached at bwalter@lcwlegal.com. Alexander Volberding is an associate with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore and can be reached at avolberding@lcwlegal.com.

Article Legal Notes by Valerie Escalante Troesh and Matthew R. Silver

SB 450: A Path Toward Improving Communities

By waiving environmental review for qualifying projects and incentivizing investments, SB 450 may aid cities’ efforts to combat homelessness.

Article Features by Damien R. Arrula and Aaron France

Regional Partnership: How to Address Homelessness Differently

Twelve cities in northern Orange County collaborated to create a system of regional centers providing safe shelter and supportive services.

Article Web Exclusive by Tim Cook

Five Ways Cities Can Keep Bond-Financing Obligations Painless

Tim Cook is manager of corporate trust national sales for UMB Bank and can be reached at Timothy.Cook@umb.com.


Your city’s revenue bond offering was successful, the proceeds are with your trustee, and now it’s time to rev up the engines and launch your infrastructure project or new program. Here are five practical tips to ensure smooth sailing in your interactions with your trustee.

Article Features by Jonathan Holtzman

Using Big Data to Reduce Catastrophic Impacts of Wildfire
How Local Government Can Help Shape Solutions

The Moraga-Orinda Fire District and tech partners developed innovative software to help meet residents’ and first responders’ critical needs.

Article Features

Tips on Temporary Use of Public Property for Private Business

What cities should know about accommodating businesses in public spaces.

Article Features by Michael Fehner

Expo Exhibitors

League Partners’ names appear in bold. Institute for Local Government Partners are italicized. CitiPAC supporters are marked with an asterisk.

Article Features by Jennifer Whiting

Register Now for the Reimagined 2020 Annual Conference & Expo, Oct. 7—9

This year’s virtual event offers numerous advantages for attendees and cities.

Article Local Works by Rose Kevranian

Virtual Camps and Librarians Printing Face Shields: Not a Typical Summer for City Services

City libraries and parks and recreation departments have transformed their operations to serve and support their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

A New Day: How the League Has Adapted to COVID-19

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the League remains a strong organization that continues providing the resources cities need to make informed decisions for their communities

Article Features by Stephanie Hunting and Liz Moody

From Vision to Reality: Lessons Learned in Complete Street Implementation

These projects can be challenging, but they improve traffic and support healthy lifestyles.

Article Features by Ken Pulskamp

Is a Virtual Workforce Our New Normal?

After employees get a taste for working remotely, they may not want to return to the way things were before.

Article Features by Curtis Wright

Code Enforcement During a Pandemic: Lessons Learned

Many cities have employed code enforcement staff in unique ways to protect the public and advance pandemic protocols.

Costa Mesa Summer Camp Focuses on Sports, Music, and Arts

This camp introduces youths to a range of sports, music, art activities, and extracurricular interests.

Article Features by Michael More

Money-Saving Tips for Your City’s Supplemental Defined Benefit Plan

A city can save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by reducing fees on these legacy plans.

Camp Achieve Provides Summer Fun and Learning for Richmond’s Youth

This summer camp program delivers a diverse array of learning enrichment activities including robotics, chess, the arts, and physical fitness.

Article Legal Notes by Michael Fehner

In California, Some Insurance Policies Age Like Fine Wine

It is a common misconception that old insurance policies are good only for museums and archival research; some old policies are capable of providing substantial coverage even today.

Article Local Works by Amanda Cadelago

Cities Harness Creativity as They Develop Safe Reopening Plans

­While different regions and industry sectors opened at various times, the desire to safely reopen businesses and give residents opportunities to carefully move about their communities was a common theme guiding city leaders’ decisions.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

What COVID-19 Is Teaching Us

As our communities move through the phases of recovery, cities are benefiting from new ways of doing the public’s business and also confronting the challenges associated with COVID-19’s impacts.

Article Features by Wendy Sommer

How Cities Can Build Resiliency and Fight Climate Change With Healthy Soil

Seventeen cities in Alameda County are employing carbon farming, which increases the ability of soil and plants to pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it deep in the soil. Carbon farming also increases water-holding capacity, reduces erosion, creates healthier plants, and increases forage production; it’s an essential part of a resiliency strategy.

Greening the Concrete Jungle: Daly City Partners With Residents

Project Green Space is a robust urban forestry and green infrastructure program convened by the city and driven by residents. The program empowers community members to actively reshape the future of their neighborhoods by adopting new trees and planting and maintaining rain gardens.

Article Features by Karalee Browne

The Environment, Energy, and Equity: How Cities Are Moving Forward in Today’s Economy

Cities are grappling with tough decisions about how to balance the essential needs of their communities with projects that were planned to address energy, equity, and the environment. Despite immediate and looming budget shortfalls, many cities are moving forward with Climate Action Plans.

Article Local Works

Affordable Housing: More Than a Mandate in San Marcos
How San Marcos Leveraged Affordable Housing for Smart Growth

In an area that lacked basic infrastructure, two mixed-use affordable housing developments brought improvements including new streets, drainage, and lighting. A complex mix of federal, state, and city funding, matched with private-sector loans, covered the costs.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

Building Just and Equitable Communities

The impacts of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the injustices his death exemplifies are being felt on our streets, in our businesses, and in every city and town in California, across the country, and throughout the world.

South Pasadena Teens Provide Tech Expertise to Senior Community

This increasingly popular program bridges the digital divide and fosters intergenerational communication.

Article Features by Jill Oviatt

Redwood City’s Quest to Bring Back Missing Middle Housing

Reducing the minimum lot size for duplexes and triplexes and revising current open-space requirements are among the city’s proposed zoning updates.

Article Features by Daniel Parolek and Tony Perez

How to Ensure That Missing Middle Housing Is Not Missing From Your City’s Policy, Planning, and Zoning

“Missing middle” housing helps to address the growing demand for walkable communities, respond to shifting household demographics, and meet the need for more housing choices.

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Nicole Enright

New Clean Mobility Options Roll Out in Arvin

With just a few taps on a smartphone app, residents can check out an electric vehicle, get in, and go.

Article Local Works by Jill Oviatt

Cities Use Technology to Keep Constituents Informed and Engaged During Pandemic

City leaders worked hard to ensure that local government remained accessible and residents were able to participate in council meetings and obtain essential services.

Article Legal Notes by Nora Wetzel

Cyberattacks and Public Agency Response

Taking proactive steps is the key to preventing or recovering from a cyberattack. Cities should implement preventive measures with an emphasis on best practices.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Essential City Services

California cities are experiencing a $7 billion general revenue shortfall over the next two fiscal years from the sharp downturn in economic activity and additional pandemic related expenses.

Dublin Provides Affordable Housing for Veterans

An innovative public-private-nonprofit partnership transformed a former car dealership site into housing for veterans, comprising 66 units that are 100 percent affordable.

Encinitas Retools Planning to Increase Housing Options

The city retooled its existing zoning and standards to make it easier for property owners to add accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats. Encinitas also successfully sponsored state legislation to make the changes possible.

Article Features by Melissa Kuehne

Cities Reframe Community Conversations About Housing

While most people agree that California needs more housing, the conversation often becomes complicated when it turns to how, where, and why in a specific community. Cities are involving their residents and communities in discussions about housing from a new perspective.

Article Local Works

California Cities Demonstrate Resiliency and Leadership During COVID-19 Crisis

With “safer at home” orders in effect in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19 spread, cities were on the front lines maintaining essential services and working to protect residents who were out of work or lost their job because of the crisis.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

In an Unprecedented Crisis, Local and State Leaders Step Up

When early reports of infection showed California was among the states with the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, local and state leaders stepped up, taking action to slow the spread of the virus and protect vulnerable populations.

Article Local Works by Jill Oviatt

League Launches Initiative Showing City Projects Making a Difference in Their Communities

Collectively, California cities are creating hundreds, if not thousands, of projects each year that improve the lives of residents. While many people often lament that other levels of government do not always seem to work, California cities can show powerfully through #LocalWorks that local government works.

Fontana Motivates Residents to Walk More and Improve Health

The city faced alarming rates of obesity in its community and launched an innovative effort to improve fitness among residents of all ages. The program exceeded its goals, and its popularity continues to increase.

Article Legal Notes by Gage Dungy and Savana Manglona

New Law Expands Workplace Lactation Accommodation Requirements for Employers

New legislation significantly expands the obligation of all California employers to provide lactation accommodations for employees. As a result, cities should be aware of these new obligations to ensure their worksites are compliant.

West Sacramento’s On-Demand Ride-share Service Addresses Transit Needs

The ride-share service improves access to critical daily amenities and is helping to change the lives of transit-dependent residents. The program has improved mobility for all, especially seniors and youths.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

Census 2020: What’s at Stake and Why Every City Needs to Drive Participation

California faces unique challenges to achieving an accurate count — 75 percent of its residents are considered “hard to count” and have been historically undercounted in the census.

Article Features by Randi Kay Stephens

Filling the Workforce Pipeline: Targeted Solutions Address Critical Needs

When a public agency needs entry-level professionals and lacks qualified candidates, what can be done? Cities and the public sector now have a number of available options, including apprenticeships, to consider.

Napa Lighted Art Festival Draws January Crowds

The Napa Lighted Art Festival takes a bold, contemporary approach to the visual arts by bringing emerging light technologies into the city’s streets, where buildings function as large outdoor canvases and attract crowds.

Article Features by Gurbax Sahota

Build Economic Development Momentum With Tools, Teams, and Tactics

In most cities, economic development competes for resources and attention as local officials deal with urgent issues that include affordable housing, emergency response, and more. Despite these challenges, many cities are building momentum in realizing their economic development goals. This article explores some of the tools, potential team members, and tactics that can help your city boost its economic vitality.

Article City Forum by Caroline Beteta

Tourism Powers Economic Growth in Local Communities

With the state’s tourism industry on the cusp of unprecedented growth in 2020, there’s no better time to harness your region’s tourism economy.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

New Approaches Build Local Economies

Attracting new businesses, retaining employers, and providing opportunities for a skilled workforce are essential to fostering a healthy economy in our cities. California cities are using diverse approaches, programs, and tools to help support economic development and thriving communities.

Article Features by Maria West

What Cities Need to Know About SB 1383 and Funding Organic Waste Management

Cities should immediately begin planning for and implementing the required organic waste collection and edible food recovery services. This work includes assessing and securing adequate capacity for organics processing and edible food recovery, which can be done individually or in conjunction with counties, other cities and regional agencies.

Article Legal Notes by Stephen A. McEwen

Code Enforcement by Drone: Critical Considerations Before Launching

Because not all potential code violations can be investigated from the public right of way, code enforcement investigations may require access to enclosed or shielded areas of private property. In these settings, code enforcement staff may be strongly tempted to rely on emerging drone technology.

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Nicole Enright

Scrap Your Fears About Food Waste Regulations: Preparing for SB 1383

California cities are preparing to comply with new targets to reduce statewide emissions of short-lived climate pollutants and reduce organic waste in landfills. To help cities with this, the Institute for Local Government is partnering with CalRecycle to raise awareness and connect local governments with resources and expertise.

Article City Forum by Jill Oviatt

Lessons Learned From Utility-Initiated Power Shutoffs

Since October 2019, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company has cut power to Californians more than half a dozen times, with the smallest power shutoff affecting about 30,000 people and the largest affecting nearly 2.5 million. But cities have made it clear that this cannot be the new normal, and power shutoffs are in fact putting residents at real risk.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

League Strategic Priorities Set a Course for 2020

The League board of directors, joined by leaders from each of the League’s divisions, departments, policy committees and diversity caucuses, convened in early December to reflect on city accomplishments in 2019, discuss current challenges and establish the League strategic priorities for 2020.

Article Features by Dan Carrigg

2019 Legislative Year in Review

When the 2019 legislative session began, Democrats had gained historic supermajorities in the Legislature. Yet progress for the progressive Democratic agenda was muted. And in the face of multiple attacks on local zoning authority and other challenges, the League and cities emerged surprisingly well.

San Rafael’s Employee-Driven Effort Focuses on Meeting the Community’s Changing Needs

San Rafael asked city employees, “How would you design your department if you could create it today, rather than as it was created decades ago?”

Article City Forum by Meghan McKelvey

Torch Program Recognizes Leadership in Action and Continued Education

This voluntary program recognizes elected officials for continuing their professional development to enhance their knowledge and skills and for undertaking leadership roles to better serve the public. Since the Torch Program launched in 2003, hundreds of city officials have participated by meeting a series of requirements associated with its three levels of achievement.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

Laying the Groundwork for Success in 2020

Communication and collaboration are cornerstones of the ability to lead, and the League’s positive relationships with legislators are key to cities’ successes in the Capitol. Cultivating open two-way communication with our state leaders is essential to protecting the interests of cities and our residents.

Article Web Exclusive by Kristyn Laurence

The Nightmare Next Door: Elk Grove Takes Action

It was just another quaint suburban neighborhood, but something was missing. On Demonte Way in Elk Grove, no children played together on the sidewalks or rode their bicycles along the street.

Article Legal Notes by Jeff Sloan and Tim Yeung

Investigating Complaints Against Public Employees: New Clarity for Employers

A recent decision from the Public Employment Relations Board provides clarity for employers struggling to balance the need for strict confidentiality with the due process rights of the accused and union requests for information, particularly in cases of sexual harassment.

Article Features by Rod Gould

Beyond Ethics: Establishing a Code of Conduct to Guide Your Council

Local government leaders are adopting codes of conduct to set the rules and expectations for how they govern their cities. Such codes help foster a civil and respectful governing culture consistent with best practices.

Article City Forum by Eve Maldonado O’Toole

California Cities Lead on Affordable Housing and Homelessness Services

A bipartisan coalition of 26 mayors, CEOs and stakeholders representing nearly 17 million residents intends to ignite a national conversation about the fact that strong housing policy is pro-family, pro-jobs and pro-investment — and helps hardworking people.

Article Executive Director's Message by Carolyn Coleman

Building Public Trust in Times of Adversity

When utility-initiated power shutoffs began, city officials stepped up in new and creative ways to provide practical help to residents and communities left in the dark.

King City’s Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Violence

How a city that had the highest per capita murder rate in California turned things around.

Article Features by Erica L. Manuel

Making It Personal: Linking Public Engagement to Public Safety

Any city can increase public safety without major impacts to its budget. An engaged and informed public can help.

Article Features by Michael McLaughlin

Connecting the Dots on Emergency Preparedness, Recovery and Resilience

The challenges associated with disasters include tech-related issues, risk management and the need to create incentives for updating and retrofitting homes to improve wildfire and earthquake resilience.

Article City Forum by Jill Oviatt

Beyond CERT: Neighbors Network Takes Response to the Next Level

Until a disaster strikes, many communities don’t realize that it may be 72 hours to five days before first responders can reach everyone who needs help. A new program in Yountville helps residents be prepared to assist each other in the initial aftermath of a disaster.

Article President’s Message by John F. Dunbar

Partnering With the State to Support Affordable Housing Development: Get Ready

The shortage of affordable housing is a crisis for cities statewide and the focus of a League 2019 strategic goal. The League’s hard work on this issue was boosted by an executive order from Governor Newsom earlier this year.

Article President’s Message by Jan Arbuckle

Tales From the Dusty Trail: City Voices on Statewide Issues

A summary of insights and issues from League divisions statewide.

Article Features by Karalee Browne

Community Choice Aggregation Drives Economic Development

This option reduces electricity costs, provides cleaner energy options, and offers economic opportunity and increased transparency.

Article Legal Notes by T. Peter Pierce

Loaded Questions: Local Regulation of Businesses Selling Firearms

A look at local zoning and safety regulations that cities may adopt and apply to firearms retailers.