California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence

Colton Modernizes Emergency Access for Gated Communities

Controlled access gates at residential communities can present a formidable obstacle for law enforcement. Nationwide, public safety personnel have been challenged with the task of gaining immediate emergency access to gated private communities. Agencies everywhere are faced with the same dilemma: what to do when access gates delay emergency services. How can municipal administrators assist emergency responders in better serving the public? One solution is to give them the keys to the city, or something even better, the e-keys to the city. 

Lincoln Partners With School District to Improve Infrastructure

The City of Lincoln is one of California’s fastest growing communities. In 1990, its population numbered 7,800; today, it has grown to 27,000. Lincoln has been faced with the challenge of expanding its municipal and recreational facilities fast enough to keep pace with the needs of the community.

Lafayette, Walnut Creek and Contra Costa County Join Forces to Construct a Veterans’ Memorial Building

The San Francisco Bay Area cities of Lafayette and Walnut Creek, together with Contra Costa County, recently cooperated to build an elegant new Veterans’ Memorial Building. This $7.8 million development is one of the most significant projects for veterans completed in Northern California during the past 50 years.

Fairfield and Solano County Collaborate to Meet Community Needs

In 1998, the County of Solano had outgrown its offices in downtown Fairfield and planned to consolidate its operations in another location. The county was considering a site in one of Fairfield’s business parks.This move would have had a major adverse economic impact on downtown Fairfield because the county is the downtown area’s largest employer, occupying an area equal to four city blocks. The move would have also taken prime industrial land slated for private sector job generation and eliminated tax increment revenues from the local redevelopment agency, as the business park was in a redevelopment project area.

Glendale’s Junior Ambassador Program Promotes Environmental Stewardship

For 12 years, the City of Glendale’s Neighborhood Services Department has operated successful environmental education programs in the city’s elementary schools. Continuing this education at the middle school level was the next obvious step to maintaining environmentally sustainable behavior in Glendale youth. Neighborhood Services needed to develop a program that would motivate junior high school students to take civic responsibility for their environment.

La Habra’s Teens Help Turn Things Around

In the early 1990s, the City of La Habra was experiencing rising numbers of drive-by shootings and homicides. The city ranked second in Orange County for gang-related shootings. The increased violence was attributed to several factors, including a lack of organized recreation programs for youth and a recent influx of gang members from outside the area. In response, a concerned group of community members formed a task force to work with the city to address the problem.

Foster City Gives Youth an Advisory Role and a Voice

Located along San Francisco Bay on the peninsula between San Francisco and San Jose, Foster City is a growing community of 28,803 residents, offering the benefits of metropolitan living with small town, neighborly appeal.

Pacifica Improves Beach Facilities and Environmental Quality

The City of Pacifica won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Planning and Environmental Quality category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.


Each year, more than one million people visit Pacifica State Beach, which many consider one of Northern California’s better surfing beaches. Owned by the state parks system and locally operated by the City of Pacifica, it’s the first beach south of San Francisco that is safe for swimming and water sports. Flanked to the north and south by rocky headlands, the beach stretches along Highway 1 in a narrow swath of sand, cobbles and upland dune structures. It was once the site of a historic railroad that traversed the area. But over the years, buildings and construction fill had encroached upon the beach.

Oxnard’s GREAT Program For Groundwater

The City of Oxnard won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Planning and Environmental Quality category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.


Like many California municipalities, the City of Oxnard faces a number of challenges related to water resources, including a growing population, greater demand on water supplies, reductions in groundwater, more costly and less reliable imported state water, and the need to restore local wetlands.

Santa Maria Turns Two Environmentally Sensitive Liabilities Into an Innovative Community Asset

The City of Santa Maria won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Internal Administration category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.


Located in Santa Barbara County, the City of Santa Maria is a fast growing, predominantly agricultural community with a population quickly approaching 90,000. Santa Maria provides a full range of municipal services to its residents, including solid waste collections and disposal.

Cupertino Builds Webcast Studio and Creates Revenue Stream

The City of Cupertino won an Award for Excellence in the Internal Administration category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.


The City of Cupertino’s government access TV channel operation began to outgrow its control room space at city hall when live webcasting commenced. The professional ability of the staff, as well as residents’ appetite for information, had driven ongoing infrastructure improvements, but the city’s budget to support the operation was not keeping pace. The challenge then was to continue to improve, maintain and expand communication infrastructure in light of budget shortfalls and staffing cuts.

Beverly Hills Finds a Better Way to Serve Its Residents

The City of Beverly Hills won an Award for Excellence in the Internal Administration category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.


The City of Beverly Hills consistently strives to maximize the efficiency of internal operations and the effectiveness of its public service. Several years ago, it recognized an opportunity to streamline customer service approaches to better meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors. The city’s efforts resulted in the development of the Online Business Center (OBC).

Los Angeles Forms Partnerships to Clean Up Skid Row

The City of Los Angeles won an Award for Excellence for this project in the League Partners Award category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

Library Gets “In the Zone” for Teens

When the newly constructed 60,000 square foot Mountain View Public Library was opened in October 1997, it was met with great enthusiasm from all segments of the community. It has since become a model for other libraries and welcomes visitors from neighboring jurisdictions seeking to implement a similar cohesion of utility and aesthetics at their library facilities.

Oakland’s Neighborhood Law Corps Puts Young Lawyers to Good Work

Oakland is the eighth largest city in California, and more than 125 languages are spoken within its city limits. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oakland is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States. With this great size and diversity come many challenges. Generations of Oakland residents are caught in a cycle of crime and poverty, with little hope for advancement. Low-income neighborhoods are plagued with the chronic problems associated with blighted buildings, crack houses, toxic pollution and slum housing conditions. To make matters worse, corner liquor stores — which are overly concentrated in these neighborhoods — act as magnets for illegal activity.

The City of Oxnard’s Preschool Goes Mobile

The City of Oxnard has historically been home to numerous recent immigrants, primarily from Mexico and Central America. Many lack formal education, and few speak English. Families often remain uninformed about the need for early educational experiences for their children prior to compulsory school entry at age 6. Because they work long hours as day laborers in agriculture, packing houses, restaurants, motels and construction, these parents do not have the opportunity to transport their children to preschool programs.

Fremont Hears the Housing Needs of Deaf Seniors

Contact: Bill Cooper, housing project manager, City of Fremont; phone: (510) 494-4520; e-mail: bcooper@ci.fremont.ca.us.


America’s population of senior citizens is not only increasing but expected to live longer as well. This trend presents new opportunities and challenges to providers of affordable housing. Some seniors are able to move in with relatives or into age-restricted facilities for care and support. Others cannot, and as a result become isolated and vulnerable as they grow older. The City of Fremont has taken a lead role in identifying housing needs for vulnerable and underserved members of the community, including deaf seniors, who are approximately 3 percent of Fremont’s population.

Glendale Gets Systematic About Rental Housing Inspections

Contact: Elena Bolbolian, administrative analyst, City of Glendale, Neighborhood Services Section; phone: (818) 548-4802; fax: (818) 240-7239; e-mail: ebolbolian@ci.glendale.ca.us.


In 2002, the City of Glendale undertook a demonstration project to ensure that rental housing in a specific neighborhood met minimum habitability standards. From 2002 to 2004, inspectors visited properties with two or more units located in that neighborhood to educate residents and inspect the premises. Even though participation was voluntary, 92 percent of the properties were inspected. As a result of the project, housing standards improved, and the demand on traditional code enforcement services declined.

Goleta Resolves Decades-Old Conflict, Preserves Coastline in Perpetuity

The Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County constitutes approximately 15 percent of Southern California’s shoreline but represents nearly half of its remaining rural coast. This stretch of the coastline offers unspoiled views, numerous recreation opportunities and a refuge for wildlife populations that have been severely reduced or eliminated from much of their former range. One undeveloped area at the southern gateway to the Gaviota Coast, a scenic 137-acre property in Goleta known as Ellwood Mesa, is treasured by residents and visitors for its beauty and abundant recreational opportunities.

Calistoga Helps Families To Afford and Build Their Own Homes

In 2003, Calistoga Affordable Housing (CAH), a new local nonprofit, proposed to the Calistoga City Council a development of 18 mutual self-help affordable houses in the heart of Calistoga near schools, parks and shopping. Self-help affordable housing projects are unique, requiring a commitment from each selected family of 30 hours per week to work with the construction team that builds the houses.