A plush Snoopy doll awaited at every banquet hall seat for Buena Park's State of the City Address and Luncheon this Wednesday. Every table had but just a single copy of The City: A Global History by Chapman University Presidential Fellow (and 2015 OC Weekly Scariest People honoree) Joel Kotkin. The real Snoopy served as host, with the luncheon taking place at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel. Kotkin's 2005 book served as guide through the address itself.
Buena Park Mayor Elizabeth Swift and City Manager Jim Vanderpool took to twin podiums while servers delivered standard banquet fare. (What? No Mrs. Knott's fried chicken?) The pair took turns speaking on the state of the city through the three "critical functions" for successful cities, as prescribed by Kotkin's work: sacred spaces, basic safety and hosting commercial markets.
Swift began with public safety, extolling the policies of the Buena Park Police Department, especially in regards to the city's homeless, whom the mayor calls "homeless neighbors" in wanting to keep the focus away from negative frames. She noted a new homeless liaison officers, a partnership with CityNet and the Bright Paths Program which has helped more than 50 homeless folks transition to housing or returned with family.
"I'm glad we're not waiting for the county to handle this because the county has more than they can handle right now," Swift said. "Every city needs to do their part."
The mayor touted the city's new website, especially in regards to transparency with council agendas, financial charts on public employee salaries and pensions all readily available and easily accessible. Unlike Anaheim or Santa Ana, though, campaign disclosure forms are nowhere to be found on Buena Park's website. Turning to civic sacredness, Swift mentioned historic buildings like the Church of the Reflections, built in 1876, which now finds itself on the move again with plans to expand Soak City.
Last, but definitely not least, was the business of Buena Park. Vanderpool highlighted the creation of a Tourism Marketing District in the city with the approval of all 16 area hotels. "This district will generate about $1.1 million dollars annually," the city manager said. "We're confident that the Tourism Marketing District, in conjunction with the corridor enhancements and the new additions to our corridor with create an even stronger destination here in Buena Park."
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Vanderpool beamed with pride about the city winning the Orange County Business Council's 2016 "Turning Red Tape Into Red Carpet" award for its redevelopment of Beach Boulevard. He reported that the $5.3 million streetscape project is "darn near done" with big exclamation point signs and palm trees along Beach Blvd's median. Speaking of redevelopment, Mayor Swift talked about the new kids on the block starting with the Butterfly Palladium, where Movieland Wax Museum used to be. When asked before the address by the Weekly, the city relayed that it bought the plot for $9,095,200 before turning around to sell it for $2,450,000.
The next slide showing the logo for Porto's Bakery and Cafe brought "oohs and ahhs" before the mayor could even get a word out. "We're all so anxious to see this happen," she said of the Cuban eatery's first OC location. Porto's is slated to open later this month and is expected to create 200 permanent jobs. Porto's takes the place of two demolished motels. The city paid $9,087,344 for the big plot and sold it for $1,975,882. Hey, anything for potato balls, right?
And then there's The Source, an open air retail and entertainment shopping center under construction for years on Beach and Orangethorpe Avenue. Vanderpool noted the Hilton hotel is hoping to open by early 2018 before throwing to a video of councilman Fred Smith touring The Source's new movie theater and Hilton with M+D Properties' Katie Wanamaker. She showed where a rooftop pool will eventually be next to a bar. "It will be absolutely beautiful for anybody who comes to visit," Wanamaker said.
"Everyday is a beautiful day in Buena Park," Smith said. "It certainly is," Wanamaker added.